Tonga Hopes To Ratify Anti-Corruption Convention By 2019

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New Zealand, Samoa, Niue other Pacific countries yet to approve UNCAC

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 23, 2015) – Tonga is one of four Pacific countries that have not ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), along with New Zealand, Samoa and Niue.

During the past months the Tongan government has made a move to ratify UNCAC before 2019. Parliament has formed a Standing Committee on Anti-Corruption, chaired by Lord Fusitu’a.

The Tongan Parliament has been represented at an Anti-Corruption Workshop for Pacific Parliamentarians that was held in Nadi, Fiji in July, hosted by the Global Organization of Parliaments against Corruption GOPAC, attended by Lord Fusitu’a and another member of the committee, Mateni Tapueluelu.

After making an initial move to counter corruption by enacting an Anti-corruption Act in 2007, Tonga has since failed to appoint an Anti-corruption commissioner, and the previous government, 2010-14 was proposing a new structure.

The new structure was to amend the Public Relations Act 2001 and turn it into an Ombudsman Act 2014. The Ombudsman and the Anti-corruption Commissioner then would come under the management of a new Commission to be established, the Good Governance Commission.

However, the amendment to the Public Relations Act has not been enacted by His Majesty in Privy Council and a Good Governance Commission has not been formed, and an Anti-corruption Commissioner has not been appointed.

This means that Tonga does not have a recognised structure in place to counter corruption.

Ratification of international conventions has been an issue for Tonga during the past few months.

After the current Government came into power at the end of 2014 it made a commitment to the United Nations that it would ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). But then on 15 June the King asked the government to annul the move toward ratification.

A decision by His Majesty in Privy Council stated "We remit to our Ministers forthwith to proceed as may be necessary to annul the kingdom of Tonga’s signature or ratification of the CEDAW Treaty."

So for Tonga to ratify UNCAC it has to be an agreement between Cabinet and the Privy Council or else it might end up like Tonga’s stand on CEDAW - lost in no man’s land.

As of 29 August 2013, 169 countries have ratified UNCAC.

A two-days workshop on UNCAC Awareness Training for Pacific Media was held in Nuku’alofa from 10-11 August and was attended by participants from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Palau and Tonga.

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