ARRESTED TONGAN SPEAKER PUBLICLY CRITICIZED

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Lord Lasike ‘endangered’ critical economic talks with Israel

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 24, 2012) – The decision by the Speaker of Tonga's parliament to abandon a delegation of senior officials visiting Israel has embarrassed the country.

That's according to Melino Maka, Chair of the New Zealand Tongan Advisory Council, one of the people who organized the delegation.

The Speaker, Lord Lasike, did not lead the Israel delegation as planned, instead going to the United States to get married.

He was arrested on his arrival back in Tonga on charges of possessing ammunition.

Melino Maka says Lord Lasike's behavior endangered a very economically significant overseas visit.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Melino Maka, Chair of the New Zealand Tongan Advisory Council

MAKA: I was so excited when I heard that Israeli invite the Tonga speaker and some of the parliamentary to visit Israel, because I don't really think that they realize how important the trip in terms of Tonga future economic development, because Israel as we all know had the technology that will help Tonga achieving some of their economic development goals. But it was sad for me to hear that the speaker did not realize how important the trip and make the effort to pay respect the effort that Israel without the trouble to invite them to Israel.

HILL: Lord Lasike was supposed to head up this trip, but he ended up going off to America and getting married I understand?

MAKA: That is very sad, very sad for Tonga in terms of the future development and I don't think that some of the Tongan parliamentarians realize how important this trip for Tonga in terms of the future development. Because as we all know, at the moment, that Tonga want to export their agricultural products and Israel is the best in the business in terms of biosecurity, and the irrigation and also the energy. Tonga is trying to rely on fossil fuel by 50 percent in 2012, and we all heard that the latest conference in Abu Dhabi. That's fine, but the stuff that Israel, that you see that coming up in terms of capturing the energy, not only just to draw them during the sun, but also to preserve them and use them when there is not enough sun around. And that's the third thing for me to hear that Tonga didn't really understand how important the trip in terms of for future relation and future development.

HILL: What was the affect on this trip to Israel of Lord Lasike just blowing it off and going off to Los Vegas and getting married?

MAKA: Oh, I think the affect that from Israel will be thinking that Tonga didn't appreciate having a diplomatic building development relations between the two country and the loser at the end will be Tonga is not Israel. And it is sad for those of us who actually working and looking at ways that we can help Tonga.

HILL: Well, Lord Lasike was taken into custody by police. He's been charged with possession of ammunition. One of the reasons he was apparently less than keen to return to Tonga after his overseas trip. Has Lord Lasike blotted his own copy book or do you think it has wider ramifications?

MAKA: I think it has a wider ramification, because he's the law maker and if he can think that he can get away with just breaking like the law, that what else for the ordinary Tongans to think of his action.

HILL: Is this a matter that just affects him or do you think it reflects on the nobility as a whole in Tonga?

MAKA: It will affect the nobility and will affect the country as a whole in terms of their ability to make the law and also adhere to the law.

HILL: What about the Tongans in New Zealand? Do you think as a result of this they've lost a bit of respect for Lord Lasike or for nobles as a whole?

MAKA: I think it's both, but I think its hope that the nobility and also Tongan Government can actually trying to restore the damage from Lasike's saga.

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