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Political reform in Tonga

The world has changed a great deal in the last 50 years, and you can still see changes almost from month to month.

Nearly everyone now has access to radio, and TV is common. Internet, Google, Facebook and blogging are spreading in many countries: this is globalisation.  These days not many people can be said to be “isolated”.

Indeed, one might expect that before long people will speak not just of Tongan citizens, or Samoan citizens, but of Pacific citizens: we are all Pacific citizens.

Good citizens should be aware of these changes, should consider the implications and be quick to seize the opportunities now opening up to them.

In this Tongans are at a great advantage.  Many of them have family members living overseas with whom they communicate, and who keep them in touch with developments elsewhere.
In Tonga a big change this year, of course, is that on the initiative of His Majesty the King a new Constitution is to be adopted, which will give people more voice and more responsibility in the election of the government.  It is a responsibility because the government has to manage not only domestic and national affairs, but also Tonga’s relations with its own neighbours, with other countries of the Pacific Basin, and with fellow members of the UN and the Commonwealth.

It will be concerned too about air connections, shipping, about export and import trade, and with tourism – all of which are likely in future to make more impact on everyone’s life than it did only a few years back. At one level, that is the government’s business. In a democracy the people, the citizens of Tonga, men and women, elect the government.  In their own interest, therefore they must be concerned that good people are elected to the positions of responsibility which will affect their own daily lives.  At best they can they should themselves keep up to date with, and have some modest understanding of many and various issues the government will have to deal with, and then cast their votes for people they judge best able to deal with those issues.  They owe it to themselves and their country that they elect only those who will maintain the highest standards of honesty and accountability.

That is what these days is called good governance which involves decision-making, and how it includes various groups and processes.  Good governance calls for both inclusiveness and participation: the political system should include all citizens, and individual citizens should play an active part.

By Roger Peren, board member, Centre for Citizenship Education.10 April 2010