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Tongan Advisory Council moderates its position

Tongan Advisory Council moderates its position

A harsh press release condemning the perpetrators of the Nuku’alofa fires was released by the Tongan Advisory Council yesterday. This was an angry gut reaction to events we felt devastated by. The Tongan Advisory Council was not unanimous in this anger and after much dialogue it seeks to moderate its position, to one advocating peace, sense and calm at a time of tragedy.

While we call for an end to violent acts, we acknowledge that this will only happen if brave leadership is demonstrated by all: Leadership by the Monarchy, leadership by the Government, leadership by the Pro-Democracy groups, by the business, media, church and traditional leaders, leadership by all those in positions of power to work for peace.

Members of the Tongan Advisory Council view the events in Tonga differently. Some argue that the momentum for change and political reform had begun and that Tonga was on the cusp of major reform and economic development. There was international recognition for Tonga being the Pacific Island nation with the highest human development in the Pacific. The potential and positives were within reach. They believe that this criminal act has taken lives, destroyed the capital and mortally wounded us all as a people. They are full of anger and liken the unexpected and violent assault to how Americans must have felt when Pearl Harbour was attacked.

Others see fault in the lack of communication from the Tongan Government and acknowledge complacency in response to the NCRP Report and proposed democratic reform. They attribute the rioting to poor communication strategies from those in power.

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Others see the burning of targeted businesses as the culmination of years of anger at arrogance, corruption and monopoly. They see the burning fires as purifying Tonga – offering it a precarious but new beginning - hopefully based on the participation of all.

As a small group, we are divided in our responses but this press release calls for unity instead of fuelling anger. As Dr ‘Okusi Mahina says, “All parties involved should be immediately called upon to give up their differences: personal beliefs, political convictions and emotional feelings and look into the common problem to all, i.e., the current social conflict, with a sense of independence and consider all the causal conflicting relationships leading up to - and including - the current conflict, which is a culmination of years of economic exploit and political neglect on the part of especially the leaders.”

Tonga’s future is too precious to be split into factions of pro-monarchy and pro-democracy. We see that Tonga’s hopes lie in wise and responsive leadership, not retribution, vengeance or blame. All factions must take responsibility for their part in either inciting – or not being able to prevent or manage – the tragic events. The pro-democracy movement has no right to eschew responsibility and to blame Government, and nor can the Government solely blame its opposition.

What is certain is that the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the disaffected youth who carried the torches of fire. They are the least powerful and the most vulnerable scapegoats within this arena. It appears that the riots involved elements of deliberate planning and organisation. Those who orchestrated and led the riots should take responsibility for their actions instead of hiding behind ‘delinquents’. But at the end of the day, all factions must take responsibility for their part in the tragic Nuku’alofa fires.

We call for wisdom and guidance from those in influential positions, asking them to examine the roles their actions – or inaction - had to play in this loss of life - and own responsibility for the consequences. We also seek wisdom within ourselves. We acknowledge the contributions from New Zealand and Australia and are grateful for assistance from friendly neighbours. However, Tonga’s future is in the hands of Tongans.

We understand that our hope lies in leadership that can lay everything aside – except “what is best for Tonga”. Ego, anger, power, righteousness, ‘old scores’, resources, retribution – all these need to be set aside. We are at a critical time in history. It is our only hope for peace.


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