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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Dec. 30) – The vice-chairman of the Parliamentary National Committee for Political Reform in Tonga [Honolulu-based Sitiveni Halapua] says the group will start canvassing peoples’ opinions on reform in the outer islands by the end of January.

The Parliamentary committee was set up earlier this year in response to increasingly vocal calls for democratic change.

Halapua [who is director of the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu] says brochures on the process of kingdom-wide "talanoa" or talks on reform are bring distributed across the country and in [Tongan] communities in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

"While that work, particularly focussing on distribution of information is happening, the plan is for us to meet in Tonga most probably on the 16th of January to do some briefing and preparation before we travel throughout Tonga," Halapua said.

Halapua said he is confident the group work [will bring positive results].

"One has to be optimistic. We cannot afford to sit back and throw our hands up and say - oh dear, we can’t do anything about this. We, as Tongans, have to work together and try to something about this because the Tongans have to be responsible. We cannot afford to let this situation spin out of control and expect foreigners to come and put our house together."

January 2, 2006

Radio New Zealand International:

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