KING TAUFA'AHAU TUPOU IV OPENS 2002 SESSION OF TONGA’S LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (May 30, 2002 – Government of Tonga)---The 2002 session of the Legislative Assembly was officially opened by His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV at Queen Salote Memorial Hall at 10:30 this morning.

In his address from the Throne, His Majesty expressed his gratitude to the Almighty for the well being of the Honorable Speaker, the Honorable Prime Minister and Ministers of the Crown, nobles of the realm as well as representatives of the people.

He also acknowledged the well being of the High Commissioners of Britain, New Zealand and Australia, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, as well as the Honorary Consuls, Church leaders, and Heads of Government Departments.

He also noted with gratitude the well being of all Tongan people in the Kingdom and abroad who might be listening to the broadcast of the opening ceremony.

His Majesty then focused on efforts being made to strengthen the Kingdom's economy, highlighting four key matters: communication, industry, agriculture and education.

On the subject of communication, the King said the commission that administers Tonga's International satellite communications has been successfully established and will provide another revenue channel for the government.

On sea transportation, His Majesty said the MV Fuakavenga Two is now serving routes between Tonga, Australia and New Zealand. He said the newly commissioned barge, the MV 'Otu Tonga, is ready to operate domestic sea transportation services. A similar barge, according to His Majesty, is being planned to complement the service of the MV 'Otu Tonga.

Touching on air transportation, the king said the government has signed a contract with Australia, New Zealand and Samoa as well as Fiji regarding direct flights from these countries to Tonga, except Australia. He said Polynesian Airline operates a direct flight to Australia.

Still on aviation matters, His Majesty’s negotiation is expected to be completed in July with the government of Brunei for a new aircraft for Royal Tongan airline to service routes from Brisbane, via Tonga, and Hawai‘i to Los Angeles and return.

He was confident the economy will be strengthened through the success of sea, air and satellite communications with overseas countries.

Regarding industry, the king applauded growth in this area and the production of such local products as noodles, biscuits and other snack foods. He said this is the beginning of a way forward.

Also pertaining to industries, His Majesty said efforts are being made to obtain a mechanical apparatus to grind wheat into flour. Once this is successful, foodstuff such as spaghetti, macaroni, etc. could be processed from flour. Feed also could be locally produced from flour for chickens, ducks, pigs and other livestock.

His Majesty said there now also are bio chemical facilities set up in Tonga to improve the quality of crops, such as aloe. This factory can produce powder products from squash pumpkin and other food crops as well as produce soft drinks.

On fishing, the king said the government has sold its shares in the Sea Star fishing company to a Hawaiian corporation, which will arrange for air transportation of fish to that American state, fetching extra foreign currency.

His Majesty then referred to the Dateline Hotel extension and upgrading, with the first phase to be completed in a few months time, to be followed by the second and third phases. Tonga, he said, will then be better equipped to meet accommodation needs of tourists.

Another matter His Majesty highlighted was agriculture, focusing on the importance of increasing vegetable production. He said vegetable seedlings from the United States are being sought to meet demands for western type vegetables. However, His Majesty said there are vegetables from China and Japan that can grow well in Tonga and Tonga could sell them to Korean, Chinese and Japanese restaurants in this region.

The king then showed samples of Japanese taro, which could be grown in Tonga and exported to Japan during the six coldest months there, from September to March, at the end of Tonga’s squash season. Seedlings of this taro species are being sought for cultivation so Tonga can fill in those six months with taro export and two to three months with squash. Tonga can cover nine months of export with these two products and the rest with other crops.

His Majesty said he hopes the restructuring of the squash industry will continue to yield better results.

He said a Chinese company, which specializes in vegetables, will help improve the production of both eastern and western types of vegetables in Tonga. This company, which is providing technical assistance to Tonga, will also be given samples of the soil from Tonga's leased land in Hawai‘i, for laboratory testing in China. The company’s recommendations should help improve farm crops and vegetable production on that piece of land, which targets Hawai‘i and U.S. mainland markets. His Majesty said he believes this project has the potential of contributing greatly to Tonga's economy.

The king then reiterated his idea of a flourmill to produce animal feed and other food products. He also revealed a plan to introduce sheep farms on uninhabited islands, such as Fonualei, Late and 'Ata, as this will help reduce Tonga’s reliance on imported mutton.

He said Tonga can use both local and imported feed to raise pigs, chicken, frogs, turkeys, geese, fowl and doves for export.

The final matter the king focused on was education. He acknowledged the successful development of education in Tonga at the high school level, with assistance from both the Japanese and Chinese governments. Japan has funded the high schools in Vava'u and 'Eua while the Chinese government has funded the Ha'apai school and the proposed new complex for Tonga High School.

His Majesty said work has been completed in raising the school curricula for the Niua fo'ou and Niua Toputapu high schools, although they are not as advanced as in Nuku'alofa.

He said technical studies also should be increased.

He emphasized that Tonga is tirelessly developing the fields of communications, industry, agriculture and education to further enhance the kingdom's economic growth.

In conclusion, His Majesty expressed his hope that all of Parliament’s commitments for the year will be achieved successfully for the benefit of the whole country.

NOTE

The route to and from the palace to Queen Salote Memorial Hall was lined with secondary school students to honor the annual Opening of the Legislative Assembly annual ceremony.

The first official task of the assembly is the election of a committee to draft a formal reply to the address from the Throne.

The house is expected to officially sit down to business next Tuesday.

This will be the first session for the newly appointed Speaker, Hon Tu'ivakano, and newly elected members of the noble's and people's representatives to exercise their oratory skills in the assembly’s deliberations.

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