Tonga's Democratic Party in Tonga focuses on rule of law
The Democratic Party in Tonga says its emphasis going into this month's election is on accountability and restoring the rule of law.
Tonga goes to elections in a little over two weeks for just the second poll under political reforms brought in in 2008.
Those changes meant the people could elect 17 MPs with the nobles choosing nine from among their number.
The only party functioning in the current Parliament is the Democrats, which has made up the opposition for the past four years.
Their leader Akilisi Pohiva says they have been focussing on the November the 27th poll for months and have released a manifesto outlining their aims if they get into power.
He told Don Wiseman there are two key elements to the manifesto.
AKILISA POHIVA: The first part is to make sure that the cabinet members are selective from only people elected by other people. And the second part is to get all the representatives to parliament, including representatives of the nobles to be elected by the people. And there are of course other matters, economic policies.
DON WISEMAN: Why is it so important to have all of the cabinet members elected by the people?
AP: Only because we need a fully elected government, that is the ultimate goal we are striving for, we have been pursuing during the past 30 years. Because accountability is very important, members of cabinet have to be accountable to the people. Now we have split accountability. The Prime Minister as a member of parliament, as a member of the nobility, he was elected by the nobles. And he is not accountable to the people. That is why we have to have a fully elected government so that every member of cabinet is accountable to the people. It is as simple as that.
DW: Would you see this as the key thing for your party going into this election?
AP: Well, the problem is now governance. Governance is now the major thrust of our campaign. We have to make sure we have good governance before we can build a good and reliable government. And components of good governance is accountability, transparency, rule of law and also justice. These are very, very important for our party. We have to make sure we have all these key elements of good governance put in place before we can start, build our government.
DW: What specific things are you proposing should happen in this next spell of parliament?
AP: Well as I said earlier, we cannot, it doesn't really matter how good the policies are, we have to make sure that we have good governance. Because we can only start off with better governance if we have all these governance elements put in place.
DW: What are the things in terms of good governance that need to be put in place so you can do that?
AP: The rule of law is very weak, very, very weak. Very weak. And we have to make sure that the rule of law is strong and there is a lot of work to be done to make sure the rule of law is there to provide to people justice, for everybody. It's very, very important, the rule of law. We cannot build a strong and effective government if rulers are not accountable to the people. The same thing applies to transparency, they are old things, they are not new. The problem is the implementation, there has been a lack of real power to make things happen, that has been the problem.
DW: So what is it that you're going to do differently to ensure that these very general principles are put properly into practice?
AP: Well we have been organising ourselves, during the past six months, we have had meetings to discuss what we have to do, to discuss our agenda, and we also try to make sure that governance is very, very important.
DW: But if we are talking about a very, very weak rule of law, then there has got to be very specific changes made, so what are the changes that you would make?
AP: It goes back to the structure of government. We have to have a government that is fully accountable to the people. The problem that we have now, because of the Prime Minister and a few nobles, a few members of cabinet, are not accountable to the people. And how can we have good governance if the leader of our government is not accountable to the people. Accountability is very, very important.
DW: Yes. But that still remains very vague in terms of what it is you would do. You must have specific plans in place if you're going to make changes. It's not just going to be a matter of saying well, the people are now electing the cabinet, there's more to it than that.
AP: I think it's not vague. I think the details of what we have been doing is yet to be pronounced publicly but I know, as you know I have been working with government for so many years and think I have the experience. I have been working with five different Prime Ministers and eight speakers and also a number of nobles representatives. I know I have that experience and I can tell you I know the problem. It is really difficult for me to explain in detail to you. But I know how to handle it. How to work with the rest of the members of our party to make sure that what we put on paper can be implemented and also the translation of our mission into a framework that would enable us to make things happen. I know that and I think we have been working together in the past six months with all our members and think we are quite prepared to make things happen.
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