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Tongan Advisory Council - A Call to account

Tongan Advisory Council

19/11/2006

A Call to account

The Tongan Advisory Council

Condemns the recent violence and economic sabotage in Tonga and calls on those responsible to be held fully to account for their actions. These criminal actions will undermine the Tongan economy and quality of life for all Tongans in the medium to long term.

The burden on New Zealand Tongan families will be increased. These actions do not advance the cause of democracy. In fact the focus on basic security and then rebuilding will set Tonga back a long way and will take the focus away from the positive advances already made.

We deeply regret at the lack of a clear communication strategy on the part of the Government. This has meant that the historic agreement announced in October by His Majesty towards implementing democratic reforms as recommended National Committee for Political Reform was not clearly communicated at the grassroots level. We urge the government to move towards improved communication

Misinformation in the media also acted as a barrier to clear communication and we urge all media within Tonga, both government and privately owned to move towards fair and impartial reporting of sensitive issues. With freedom of the media comes responsibility to report events in a balanced way.

It appears that there was some degree of prior planning and deliberate leadership of the riots and economic sabotage. This should be investigated. Any one responsible for such actions has no respect for human rights and have caused hurt to all Tongan’s through their selfish and short sighed actions. We condemn the racial targeting of the Chinese and Indian business community. Many others have also lost their businesses.

We welcome the fact that the pro democracy MPs quickly condemned the violence. Unfortunately they have then gone on to make inflammatory statements in the media such as blaming the government directly for the deaths caused. We call on all MPs to acknowledge that the main responsibility is carried by those who made a deliberate choice to incite and to participate in criminal actions. They also need to stress that economic sabotage and criminal loss of life are not legitimate ways to seek political change.

The council welcomes the arrests already made and calls on the Tongan government to identify and punish all those involved in the tragic events of the last week without fear or favour.

We welcome New Zealand contribution of police and army personnel to assist and to support their Tongan counterparts. Once the perpetrators are identified we call on the New Zealand government to black list all those involved in perpetrating, planning or inciting these events from entering New Zealand such as has occurred with Zimbawbe and the former Yugoslavia, and in the event that they hold permanent residence for the minister of immigration to consider revocation on character grounds.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families and those who have lost their livelihoods.

ENDS

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