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Goff address to meeting on Tongan situation

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

27 August 2005

Speech Notes

Goff address to meeting on Tongan situation Auckland University Marae Midday, 27 August 2005

Tonga is a proud, sovereign, independent country.

Its future will be determined by the people of Tonga, not by outsiders.

Tonga and its people have to own the challenge and the problems it faces, and also the solutions. They can’t be imposed from outside.

What New Zealand can do is be a good friend, neighbour and member of the Pacific community and work alongside you, to assist and facilitate the parties, and providing a solution where that is asked for and welcomed by both sides.

You have our assurance that where we can help, and the help is asked for, we will be there to help, together with other Pacific countries, the Forum and the Commonwealth.

There are two issues to be resolved:

The first and immediate issue is the industrial dispute involving public sector workers and the government.

Our mediation team led by Judge Goddard and supported by Ross Wilson of the CTU, Andrew Ladley from Victoria University, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have met to try to help the parties find a way forward and to reach agreement.

Unfortunately this has not been possible at this point. The team is returning home today. However New Zealand assistance remains available at any time to help if this is requested.

The second issue is political reform and is about when and how Tonga may move to becoming a constitutional monarchy and a democracy. Part of political reform will be the question of economic reform and sustainable economic development that can support Tonga’s status as a sovereign nation.

New Zealand supports a peaceful process of reform and Tonga’s adoption of a full democratic system. So too do Tonga’s other friends in the Pacific, the Forum and the Commonwealth.

But this is neither a gift we can bestow nor an obligation that we can compel upon Tonga. It is something that the people of Tonga and its government must determine for themselves.

We are ready to respond positively to requests for advice and assistance, alongside others who are ready to help.

The close people to people and cultural links that exist between New Zealand and Tonga are a strength on which we can draw.

There is clearly a mood for change in Tonga and reform is something that Tonga can benefit from.

The people of Tonga have different and sometimes conflicting views about reform and how it should come about. But they are nevertheless one people, in a small and intimate society and united in their strong Christian beliefs whatever the churches through which they worship.

We urge both sides to engage peacefully and constructively to find their way forward, and to avoid the risk of violence or destruction. That applies to our Tongan community in New Zealand as well as in Tonga itself.

I acknowledge that overwhelmingly people in Tonga seeking change have done so in a reasonable and peaceful manner.

I wish you well in your discussions and in making progress towards building a better and fairer Tonga.

New Zealanders are your cousins. We cannot solve the dispute within your family for you, but we are here to help you find a process and to help you down the path to change where our assistance is welcome.

ENDS

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