Tokelau considers reserving General Fono seats for women
New Zealand law professor Tony Angelo has been facilitating discussion in Tokelau on various constitutional questions, including whether the island should have reserved sets in the General Fono for women
Tokelauans have been considering a number of constitutional questions ahead of the next General Fono or parliament.
These include clearer prescriptions on who, or which body, is responsible for reprimanding leaders who commit offences, and whether to formally bring senior village elders into the Fono.
The current practice is that the senior elders sit in the Fono and are available as a cultural resource.
But a consultant to Tokelau on constitutional issues, Victoria University Professor Tony Angelo, says there has been discussion for many years, that is now coming to a head, as to whether the Tokelau Constitution should recognise this cultural feature.
He told Don Wiseman the merits of reserved seats for women has came up.
TONY ANGELO: What the General Fono may decide on that to me is less clear. There were a variety of views - I think virtually no-one with an anti-woman stance and quite a lot of support for reserving a minimum number. But the argument is that in some villages there is quite strong representation of women in the governing councils, why mightn't this just happen naturally, we shouldn't be forcing it - those sorts of arguments. But that's one to watch.
DON WISEMAN: And another issue that people are focusing on is how to ensure the accountability of the members of the Fono.
TA: Yes. And the focus of that is on those six members of the General Fono who are in the council for the ongoing government, which is running the government day to day, and particularly has the interface with the outside world, so that you have, in the General Fono and in its council, a body of national politicians. So they're dealing with national matters, not with the villagers. At present, it is the villagers who control their membership. The village appoints them, the village alone has power to remove them. Because these are national matters the question was should the national bodies themselves have some ability to control the membership? And probably fair to say it was a general feeling in the discussions that it would be appropriate, because these are national matters, that the national bodies have some ability to deal with their members. And that may not be. The obvious thing you'd say, perhaps, would be misbehaviour. But it may not be that. It may be simply the situation has arisen where the national interest is compromised because something has happened which means the performance of duties by one member is not proceeding as would be best in the national interest. So the general feeling was that the council and the General Fono should each have a power of suspension of exercises of portfolio, for instance. So don't take the power from the villagers at this stage - have a power to suspend performance of duties, inform and advise the relevant village immediately, and receive advice and take it from there. That seems to be the way things might go. So it's a gradual empowering, if you like, of the national authorities.
DW: These should all be up for discussion when the General Fono next meets in July?
TA: Yes, it's my understanding.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: