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Letters

Political Reform An Educational Process

Auckland, New Zealand

Dear Editor

The recent threat by teachers to go on strike is understandable and fully justified to me. If the claim is true that teachers who took part in the strike are treated unfairly (and I have evidence to believe that this is the case) then I’ll only have to say “Let us heal the psychological and spiritual wounds of the 2005 strike first. Further, it’s about time for some heads to roll, particularly those in Education who intentionally stirred up this unnecessary commotion.”

But Mr Editor, what I continue to find extremely hard to understand is the way political reform is practiced in some quarters of the government. Political reform is, among other things, an educational process which encourages participatory decision-making. The Friendly Islands Teachers Association (FITA) has been in existence for more than ten years to represent the welfare of teachers, yet, their executives (or representatives) have not been called to participate and provide inputs to the annual exercise of re-shuffling teachers. It is high time some people graciously get down from their high horse and do the proper consultations, consultations, consultations rather than the usual passing of the buck “it was the honourable minister’s decision or it has been approved by the honourable minister.” A few years back, Rev Taliai called for the annual reshuffling of FWC ministers and stewards to be done by a committee rather than by the president only. Do we still see the same practice in the churches? Ta koe lau ki Tofua kae tuku ‘a Kao!!

We are in the third millennium now and the way government (churches, NGOs, private sector, village group committees, etc, etc) is conducting its business has to change, if we are serious about political reform. ‘E ‘ikai ‘unu kimu’a e political reform ‘o kapau ‘e ‘ikai ‘unu fakatou’osi e Ongo ‘Olive.

Government is presently at the early stages of formulating its 8th Strategic Development Plan (SDP 8) …ˆ 2006/2007 & 2008/2009 from which it’s budgeting for the said periods shall be based. The 2006/07 budget is currently being drafted. Speaking of budgets and consultations, it is about time that the budgets of the government ministries / departments are first discussed with the relevant non-government and related government entities before they are finalized for Cabinet and then Parliament. For instance, the budget of the Tourism Visitors…‚ Bureau should be first discussed with the Tonga Tourist Association (the association of owners/providers of tourism facilities/services in the Kingdom). The budget of the Ministry of Agriculture should seek inputs from the Squash Exporters Association, Tupou Young Farmers Association, etc. The budget of the Ministry of Labour should be discussed with the Association of Retail Shop Owners, Chamber of Commerce and the like. The sports budget of the Ministry of Education should be first discussed with the various sporting bodies (soccer, boxing, rugby, netball, etc, etc) in the country. All too often Mr Editor, there is a wide gap between where the government is spending it scarce financial resources and what is actually needed on the ground. For instance, the Tourist Association may think that it’s more productive for TVB to fund a youth string band to play Tongan melodies at Fu’amotu airport to welcome every incoming international flights rather than spending the Bureau’s scarce budget on attending overseas tourism marketing fares. The Association of Retail Shop Owners may ask the Ministry of Labour to increase its provision for regular inspection and monitoring so as to root out illegal practices and allow a level playing field for fair competition to take place. While the Soccer Association may tell the Ministry of Education to strengthen its assistance to rugby since soccer is currently over-supported financially by the FIFA.

All too often we hear and see in every development document the golden phrase “private sector led development.” This is not to say that the private sector must do everything by itself. It simply means that, first and foremost, government must set the enabling environment for the private sector to function fairly, effectively, efficiently and profitably. And to set this environment, government must first consult and listen to the private sector.

Mr Editor, the Central Planning Dept has posted the draft SDP 8 in the PMO website (www.pmo.gov.to ), seeking inputs from anyone who is interested. I would encourage overseas-based Tongans, particularly the protest marchers of NZ, to make full use of this opportunity. Hange koe lea fakatalutalu mei he kolotau ko Velata ” ‘Ai mai homou lelei ke ‘osi mai hena”!!! It is very encouraging that in Appendix 2, it shows a list of the names of town and district officers, village/youth/women groups representatives, NGOs, Private Sector, faith-based organisations and government officials who have been consulted on the draft SDP 8. One can only hope that the consultations on the annual budget would be equally as extensive. If this can be done, then one would hope that the people’s representatives would find less room to continue with their year-in-year-out unnecessary politicization and prolonging of the debates over the government’s budget.

Lastly Mr Editor, political reform not only involves educating people about their rights but also educating them to be fully engaged and to directly and productively contributes to the langa fonua. This takes time and patience is needed. The consultative processes that the SDP 8 and the parliamentary reform committee are taking are perfect examples of the education process that the country must go through in its political reform. Amending the constitution and changing the leaders are necessary but not sufficient. There is no room for the Fakaanga mei he Tefito’i Niu. Submitting suggestions and setting deadlines and conditions for the reply and then mobilizing and feeding people with anger and hatred through skillfully crafted newspaper articles and speeches is the counter productive way of going through political reform.

Firstly, it was a public endorsement of Tutone to replace Sevele. The public voted in Edwards. Secondly, it was a march to reduce the power tariff and to return Shoreline to govt. The only viable solution was for govt to give money from the public purse in its left hand to its right to subsidize the power. Thirdly, a new banana government was to come into office on Nov 5. People went to march for Jesus on Nov 5. Fourthly, a reply or else on Jan 16. The king went to NZ for his medical treatment. Good knows what is planned for April 1st. Hange koe taliui ‘a e finemotu’a mei he Maka Hili Taha - Teu leveleva he ‘Eiki mo e fakalanga ta’aki atu ‘emau ngaahi fakaoli ‘oku fai!!!!!

‘Ofa atu

Sailosi Finau

sailosifinau [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au