Tonga more corrupt than ever - Kalafi Moala
A long time campaigner for improved government in Tonga says the country is making no progress in dealing with long standing corruption issues.
It has been claimed that Tonga is more corrupt now than ever before.
This claim as made by well known journalist and political activist Kalafi Moala at a Transparency International meeting in New Zealand earlier this month.
Tonga and corruption are not typically mentioned in the same sentence but Don Wiseman spoke with Mr Moala who has said corruption is rife in Tonga at the moment.
KALAFI MOALA: Yes I think there are things we need to look at. Previous administrations of government have always been accused and criticised of corruption. I don't think this are issues that have to do necessarily just with government, but it is so embedded in the way things are being done in Tonga, either by companies, with trade, with contracts, with the way the law is being viewed. If you can get away with it fine, and if you can get money from that infringement better. So there are things that we need to look at in Tonga.
DON WISEMAN: Can you give us an example of where this is happening?
KM: To give you an example the common and very, very clear criticism for corruption in Tonga has been the issue of this illegal selling of passports. This goes all the way back to the 1990s and the current government, the current prime minister has been very instrumental in raising this issue. And some of us who have worked in those early days in media have been very instrumental in exposing this area. What happens they have made some proposals and resolutions about what needs to be done. But as we are talking right now the corruption concerning passport sales is still there. There are people who have been charged and are in jail for illegal dealing with passports. There is still cases that have not been brought to courts. There is still allegations about leadership in terms of passports that are not registered.
DW: Are these sales of passports still happening, right now?
KM: They are still happening right now. They are still happening right now. I think what complicates the matter is that we have a very active and strong Chinese community in Tonga and one of the weaknesses associated with this community is that they're the ones who are very much involved in trying to obtain passports. For example there is a couple who are still not yet brought into the courts that are known to have been in possession of 7 diplomatic passports. These are not civil servants or people who have any kind of authority in government but they are diplomatic passports that have been given or sold to them. So those are the situations say you look back say 10 - 20 years ago we were talking about it, but today 1/still hasn't been solved, and 2/ the practice is still going on. Part of the problem in Tonga is that we haven't been able to solve the problems of yesterday and then when we get to today it's just on going new corruptive measures are being practiced in our community, or in our institutions and it just adds on to the complication of the things that have not been resolved in the past.
DW: What needs to happen? I mean in terms of the sorts of watch dog organisations that some countries have in place and some parts of the Pacific are putting in place around now, these are not there yet are they, in Tonga?
KM Well one great attempt has been made by Transparency International is been the fact they've been involved in Tonga to set up anti-corruption committees. They've started in Parliament and one of the official of Transparency International that I have talked to said 'Oh yeah we came into Tonga we set it up about two years ago it's in place' but nothing has been done yet. I think Don, this is pretty typical of the kind of things we do in Tonga. We set up measures we set up systems to deal with the problems, whether it's corruption or anything else and yet we do have a hard time delivering the kind of things that are expected from those things. And it's just the saying yeah, we made a reform in 2010 and we've changed out system of government to be more democratic than ever, but we still have not delivered the goods that democracy is supposed to of brought in so we have allowed the continuation of the problems, including corruption, that have been prevailing over the past years.
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