TONGA REFORM EFFORT SLOGS ON

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Honolulu scholar Halapua to represent People’s Representatives

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 20, 2008) - Honolulu Tu‘ivanuavou Vaea was named today as the representative of the nobles to Tonga’s Commission for Political Reform.

However, Noble Luani, the secretary of the Nobles’ Executive Committee said this afternoon that they were awaiting a reply from Tu‘ivanuanou, but in case he would not be able to be a member of the Commission, the nobles had also selected Noble Tu‘i‘afitu as a second option.

The Chairman of the Nobles’ Executive Committee, Prince Tu‘ipelehake, at a press conference said that nobles were not very supportive of the move to establish a Commission but once the King gave his consent to the Act then all they could do was to support the reform program.

Prince Tu‘ipelehake said that he was not in the House when the bill was passed and he agreed that there were issues that needed to be clarified. He was convinced that it was more important for the Commission to be formed and start working and "any anomalies could be fixed later."

He disagreed that there was a consensus agreement by the House that neither foreigners nor a person with an established political belief could be a member of the Commission. "Nothing like that was stipulated in the Act."

A concern was expressed by the Prime Minister, Dr. Feleti Sevele in the House that there were principal issues relating to the political reform that the House must agree on first before the Commission began its deliberation or else there would be further delay if the House disagreed with the recommendation of the Commission.

But Prince Tu‘ipelehake explained that one of the reasons why the notion of a Commission was accepted was because the House could not agree and it would probably be better to hand the issues over to another body to deal with, "because it will still have to come back to the House for its approval."

On the question of whether 2010 was a realistic deadline for a new system of government for Tonga to be introduced, the answer from the two nobles was a loud "No". They also proposed that there should be a referendum.

Luani expressed an opinion that since the Cabinet and the Privy Council will have to approve members of this Commission he thinks there is a conflict of interest by Cabinet ministers because they are not politically neutral.

Meanwhile, the Vava‘u No. 1 People’s Representative ‘Etuate Lavulavu announced that the People’s Representatives have appointed Dr. Sitiveni Halapua as their representative to the Commission for Political Reform.

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