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Tonga In A Timewarp

Tonga In A Timewarp

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley today asked why on earth Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff was expressing regret that an official briefing paper, he received in 2001, on Tonga has been made public.

"The real issue is that, on receiving this alarming report from our former High Commissioner Brian Smythe in 2001, the Minister should have made the key points available to the New Zealand public," Mr Shirley said.

"Tonga is one of our Pacific neighbours, and our futures are inseparable. Thousands of Tongans live in New Zealand. Tonga's future success and stability are of vital interest to New Zealand. It is now abundantly clear that Prime Minister Helen Clark's analysis of the South Pacific, as a strategically benign environment, is nothing but a romantic fantasy.

"We see growing tensions throughout the South Pacific, with many island nations experiencing painful, and uncertain, transitions towards democracy and open market economies.

"In many respects, Tonga represents the worst aspects of two conflicting cultures. We have had a European medieval monarchy grafted onto the worst aspects of Polynesian tribal society based on nepotism and chieftainship. This has been underpinned by religious fervour and fundamentalism, based on Victorian morals implanted by missionaries 200 years ago.

"Tongan society and governance is the antithesis of classical liberalism. The monarch is absolute; the individual has few rights; there is widespread graft and corruption and the masses are exploited to sustain the privilege of the noble class.

"It is clear that Tonga is heading for revolution, and the risk of bloodshed is high. New Zealand has a responsibility; we have trained their police and armed forces, and it appears likely that those forces will be used by the nobles to defend their privilege.

"New Zealand needs to do much more to address the intolerable situation prevailing in Tonga. The starting point must surely be the release of information, such as the report by Brian Smythe. It is disgraceful that Mr Goff has sat on this for two years and now argues that it should not have been released" Mr Shirley said.

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