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Why disown Tongans who make us proud?

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


Editor’s Comment

By Pesi Fonua

The schools’ graduation ceremonies during the past weeks, and the recent youth activities, such as the Youth Parliament, the Face of Tonga and the Sila Pelu-ua Rugby Tournament remind us again of our huge resource of talented young women and men.

Tonga has made a name for itself in the academic world and in the world of sports, particularly rugby. The old saying that Tonga has no mineral resources but it’s main resource is its people, is very true. Tonga is producing more Ph.D.s and top class rugby players per head of population than most countries can dream of.

But in this age of globalisation and Free Trade we are told we need to label our precious products. Therefore we should make sure that our “Made in Tonga” stamp sticks as Tongan youth move overseas to pursue their careers.

A Tongan rugby player, whether he is playing for New Zealand, Australia or a club in France, Wales, or anywhere else, is still, proudly, a Tongan.

A Tongan Ph.D. scholar who speaks in Sydney, Auckland or Washington stands tall because he or she is a Tongan.

These sports people and scholars who are making their mark on the world are invaluable promoters of a positive image of Tonga to the world. But most valuable of all is that they open up the doors of opportunities for others, and keep the flow of millions of dollars in foreign remittances coming into the country annually. Because these Tongans earn their livings in foreign countries they have also become citizens of those countries, but they still regard themselves as Tongans forever.

The problem that we are facing today is that the Tongan government is actively taking away the Tongan citizenship of these proud Tongans, by not renewing their Tongan passports, and by seizing Tongan passports at the airport. We can imagine the pain in their hearts when they are told that they are no longer Tongans.

Tonga has to handle its citizenship issue carefully. After years of being relaxed with the dual citizenship issue, why is government now disowning Tongans who have made us proud in the world sporting arena?

Why is Tonga asking foreign governments to cancel the dual passports of sports people who have carried the flag for Tonga?

When we start disowning our very own children, then something is drastically wrong in our thinking.

See also: Wednesday, September 10, 2008,  House approves Dual Nationality regulations


Tongan passport loss, sad and shortsighted - Meleane Connor:
It is incredibly sad to read your article on the Tongan government confiscating passports of those who are representing the nation. The shortsightedness of the government officialdom is so incredibly apparent.

In summary, the government has sold Tongan passports and Tongan nationality to foreigners and are now confiscating passports of Tongan nationals who hold dual citizenship in other countries. If you get my drift, it appears that government officials do not want our people back, and that they would rather sell everything Tongan to foreign aliens. I don't understand the logic behind this, or could it be that those in government have an inferiority complex and are threatened by Tongans abroad.

For economic reasons, the solution from the beginning was to sell back Tongan passports to the Tongans abroad. Has the government made a count of Tongan nationals living abroad and how much income would be generated from sales and renewals? Make the cost affordable for everyone to purchase one or renew their existing one. I am led to believe to buy a Tongan passport like those (red ones) sold to the Chinese is about $10,000 and that anyone can apply for one. Now, if that is not enough to fill the government coffers why not then create an incentive programme for Tongans abroad to come back and setup business and training programmes bringing their knowledge and skills and their assets. Make the public aware if such a programme is running, utilise our foreign consulates to reach out to our people.

Why has the government allowed foreigners who come and set up small, small businesses? Take a look at all the corner shops, its owned by Chinese.

If the government were to change the Naturalization Act to allow Tongan nationals abroad to hold dual citizenship there has to be a proper unbiased body to regulate and to interpret the law correctly, a place where people can appeal and their appeals be heard.

The subject of whether you are a Tongan national or not has touched many families. In my case, under the current law I am a Tongan national and can hold dual citizenship as both my parents were born in Tonga and I was born abroad. But not everyone interprets it that way. In 1974, both my parents decided to return to their home in Tonga and enrolled me to attend Tonga High School. The principal accepted my application, but I was refused entry by the then Minister of Education and his deputy on the grounds that I was born overseas making me a foreigner. The school had a great number of foreign students as their parents were expats working in Tonga at the time, despite that, I was still not permitted to attend regular classes. The principal who was from NZ, was absolutely shocked at their decision and made several appeals on my behalf but to no avail. I was only permitted to sit the end of year exams at the school.! The only avenue my parents had to appeal this decision was to go directly to the Prime Minister's office. My traditional parents did not want to bother the PM with what they thought was a trivial matter, so they opted to have private tutoring at home.

As 'Akilisi Pohiva has stated, the government has to be accountable, and transparent. So how do you clean up a government body that is rife with nepotism, corruption and conflict of interest? The machinery of government would rather sell the kingdom to foreigners. So for now, all those that have their passports confiscated their only way of appeal is to pressure the Prime Minister and parliament to amend and include rights for dual citizenship in the Naturalization Act. On the otherhand, what is a Tongan passport worth? The only time we Tongans abroad would have a need to use this passport is when we travel back to Tonga or to prove to others our genetic background.

But it should be Tonga for Tongans - Meleane Connor

Tonga will remain a 3rd world country until it changes its ways - Kitione Fale:
I thank Meleane Conner “Tongan passport loss, sad and shortsighted” for bringing up two very important issues lately in her letter.

Firstly, it's regarding the Tongan Government confiscating the passports of local nationals who hold dual citizenship.

Talk about screwed government policies that spits flame in the face of those who financially keep Tongan families and government afloat through remittances. If the government had any real business sense or common sense (instead of reflecting the short-sighted ignorance and individualistic selfishness of those holding office), they should have encouraged the Tongans abroad to “give” more via inducements (such as dual citizenship) and to “re-invest” their finances in new Tongan business start-up initiatives etc. within Tonga by allowing dual citizenship to make things easier for these people.

What's with the small-minded separatist larger than life ego thing anyway that's been rife in Tongan government circles for so long now? Isn't it but a real reflection of those who hold office in government and their personal insecurities and inadequacies?

The government is a mess because the people holding office can't even tidy up their own personal lives first. It then makes it very hard for the minority few good people in government to influence anything when the minority are hell-bent on living immoral irresponsible lives starting from royalty down to ha'ame'avale who are holding office. It's simply disgusting!

They don't want us to possess dual citizenship, yet every year we have plague-like hoards of Tongan groups, church schools, government schools (including the government owned THS and Atele) harassing us Tongans overseas with ha'i-kapa shameless fund-raisings every year (which triple after Aceh hurricane). And after each wham-bam-thank-you-maam shameless Tongan fund-raising group money begging effort on our Tongan overseas communities, they treat us like criminals at Fua'amotu airport by confiscating our Tongan passports. What a way to treat your most valuable asset -your people!

Secondly, you're not alone there, Meleane, regarding your double-standard treatment when trying to get into THS. I've known others who have also suffered treatment like that as well by the arrogant MOE at the time. Yet, children of others whom they know / close to their parents; went and came into THS as they wished several times during the year like they owned the place.

For a country that prides itself on being a devoted Christian nation, and government leaders who love their long-winded to'eto'e prayers during public ceremonies on local TV and radio…it's really quite a pathetic state of affairs, and no wonder why all its brighter graduates have left the country, and why Tonga will remain a 3rd world country, until it changes its ways. - Kitione Fale