Tonga's PM Thanks NZ For Supporting Drive For Democracy

NZ PM visited Tonga from June 15-17 looking at New Zealand aid projects in Tongatapu and meeting King Tupou VI, PM Pohiva and other officials

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga June 19, 2017) – Tonga's Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva praised the New Zealand government for its support in the drive for more democracy in Tonga, and said that he and the New Zealand Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Bill English had "an excellent meeting" in Nuku’alofa last week.

The New Zealand Prime Minister visited Tonga from June 15-17 looking at New Zealand aid projects in Tongatapu and meeting King Tupou VI, PM Pohiva and other officials.

At a press conference held at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre on Friday, PM Pohiva said that during the week Tonga had been honoured with the visit of the New Zealand Prime Minister, and had also hosted the signing of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement (PACERPlus).

PM Pohiva praised the New Zealand government for its support in the drive for more democracy in Tonga. However, he stressed that Tonga needs to undergo a social reform, “move away from the old mind-set into a new informed Tonga, taking ownership of our resources, skill, talents and strength that we have.”

He said that there is a need to build a new Tonga without corruption, poverty and inequality, and that is why it is important for Tonga to strengthen its relations with countries like New Zealand.

Development of government

Prime Minister Bill English, in response said that the New Zealand Government would like to work in partnership with the Tongan Government on “Political development and the development of government…New Zealand certainly would like to work in partnership with the Tongan Government…”

With regards to the PACERPlus Free Trade Agreement, Mr English said that the agreement provides a framework for detailed efforts to boost the economies of all Pacific Island countries, including New Zealand.

After the two PMs made their statements, the press conference was limited to ask a total only two pre-submitted questions - one question from local media and one question from international media.

No protection

Mr English was asked by Matangi Tonga why a clause relating to the Protection of Infant Industries in the island countries was deleted from the PACERPlus Free Trade Agreement, taking into account that industries in Tonga’s case are under-developed and can't compete with duty-free imports.

He responded that it would have been a matter for negotiators to address during the six or seven years of negotiation. "I understand that was not debated in that context".

He said that all the parties to the agreement were certain that they had signed a successful recipe for stimulating trade and economic development that has been tried in a number of Free Trade Agreements throughout the world. He said that discussion over the issue was thorough and "the terms pretty balanced".

Teufaiva Stadium

While in Tonga the New Zealand Prime Minister visited the Teufaiva Stadium in Nuku'alofa. The New Zealand government is funding a $1.9 million upgrading project to improve Teufaiva so that Tonga can host international rugby test matches, and ahead of the 2019 Pacific Games.

The upgrading of the Teufaiva Stadium has become a controversial issue.

Even though two Prime Ministers, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Rt. Hon. Bill English cut the ribbon to reopen the Teufaiva sports field, an event marked with a few kicking trials, it was unfortunate that a blind eye was turned to the toilets.

The Public Facilities underneath the grandstand remain in an appalling state, and for this reason the stadium definitely should not be allowed to be used by the public.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2017 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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