7 Aug 2013

Tonga opposition MP says new grouping fills gap

6:23 pm on 7 August 2013

A opposition MP in Tonga, Dr Sitiveni Halapua, says the Pacific Islands Development Forum will have to stay connected to the people if it is going to survive.

But Dr Halapua says he feels empowered after attending the inaugural meeting of the Fiji-instigated body which wound up in Nadi on Wednesday.

The new grouping of Pacific Island countries will concentrate on sustainable development and is Fiji's response to its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Dr Halapua says its is not a substitute for the Forum but fills a gap by letting civil society, business in on decision-making.

"I think it is our responsibility to make sure that this arrangement remains that way because it could easily move in a different direction. But I feel empowered to speak my mind and be heard."

Dr Sitiveni Halapua says the new body gives him hope isolated communities will be put on countries' national development radar.