Tongan politician urges MPs to work together
A prominent Tongan politician explains his ideas on the need for MPs to work in a more collaborative way.
A Tongan MP and academic Sitiveni Halapua says it is important parliamentarians do not preclude the possibility of working with others.
Dr Halapua, who had been deputy leader of the Democratic Party, was dropped by its selection committee last month over what leader, Akilisi Pohiva, called a doctrinal clash.
Three others were dumped along with Dr Halapua and last week another two MPs sided with him.
Dr Halapua told Don Wiseman there are no policy differences but he is advocating a more collegial approach to politics.
DR SITIVENI HALAPUA: The difference between him and me, he does not agree on working together with anybody outside the party and that way of working which is I think the equivalent of a coalition in a party system, but because we don't have a party system, we use the word kafataha, which simply means we have to work with, you know, whoever available, within and outside the party and work with them to form a government. Because, to me this is the trend, this is what is the best for Tonga, and this is the trend around the world, the idea of one party winning and getting the majority and running everything, I think that's an old fashioned way of thinking. I think the world has changed and I've seen that in New Zealand and Australia and other Commonwealth countries where it is important for people to think about forming a coalition and working together. It's a group, you know? What does the [Democratic] Party stand for? It stands for justice, for democracy, honesty, transparency, accountability, I'm not arguing anything against that, all I'm saying is we have to look outside the Party and we have to work together with the other independent members including the nobles.
DON WISEMAN: There are clearly a number of people within the Democrats, or who were within the Democrats, and they think the same way.
SH: Absolutely, people who believe in democracy, transparency, accountability, justice, it's just a different way of looking at how to do it. I think in Tonga, we must not preclude the possibility of working with others who would agree with what we want to achieve. Which means, that we have to listen to them and see what we can combine with them what is best to move forward with this country. That's what I'm talking about. It's about building, development, and working towards some common goal, and that common goal has to be negotiated with others who are willing to work with us. And that's why I use the word kafataha, I don't want to use the word coalition because we don't have a party system, there is no law, there is nothing in the constitution which recognises political parties. So even though we formed this group and call it a party, but in fact we still run as individuals, when we go around it's as an individual but we formed this group, and we call ourselves a party. There's nothing in the constitution or in our law that recognises that. That's why I don't want to use the word coalition, I use the Tongan word kafataha, which simply means working together with others.
DW: In the 2010 election, there were a couple other parties that were in the process of starting to emerge, and I know at least one of those is going to contest again, so do you imagine that there are going to be a lot more parties and independents in the next parliament?
SH: I think there will be more independent members, they may call themselves parties but when they run, people will still view them as an individual, there'll be more independents in this one than the last one.
DW: I know you are yet to decide whether or not you'll run, but if you do run it will be as an independent?
SH: Yes, and there is absolutely nothing in the MOU, in fact I asked Akilisi twice at our meeting to tell me if anything in the [Party} MOU that we signed, or what he called our manifesto, that is inconsistent with or violated by this kafataha idea... But it's convenient, it's convenient to say because people don't really know what is meant by party manifesto because what we signed was an MOU that we had to nominate one person to be Prime Minister, and we have to be honest, and against corruption, and transparency, all these sort of nice things, we all agree on that. That's nothing. It's just this idea of working with people outside the group, that's where the difference is, that's the fundamental difference. It means we have to work with the nobles, we have to work with the independents to form a Government and try to uplift the wellbeing and standards of living for the people. I'm more of a pro-development kind of person.
DW: So you haven't decided whether or not you'll run but if you run as an independent, in your seat there on Tongatapu, how do you think you'll go? Would you expect to win it under those circumstances?
SH: Oh yeah, I have no doubts because what has happened in the electoral system, has divided Tonga into a number of small constituencies which is very different from previously and as a result, people tend to think more in terms of their own local situation, constituency and they relate their own representative to their own constituency. So the idea that one party can cut across all these constituencies is fairly strong in terms of people talking about it but in terms of the election, people tend to identity with their own representative in their own constituency. Before the change took place in 2010, it was one constituency for Tongatapu, which is the largest, more than 60 per cent, now it's been chopped up into ten constituencies so people now tend to identify more with their own representatives rather than a party, rather than a group, and that's what I think, that's what I've heard, that's my view and that's my prediction.
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