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Referendum is not a 'canoe counting' exercise

Auckland, New Zealand

The Editor

James Tapueluelu from Broome, Australia has made the point that a

referendum would be a better indicator of whether Tongans are indeed

seeking political change and I agree but great care must be taken to

ensure that the referendum clearly asks questions that will not only

reflect the wishes of the nation but in a logical order. His use of the

latest election results - only 39 percent voted for the HRDMT and 61 did

not - to suggest that those who are seeking change are not all paddling

in the same political canoe is correct but the referendum should not be

a …“canoe counting…” exercise, if we follow his analogy. A more accurate

read of the last election results as well as what we are seeing today is

that many different canoes have left the fleet and some are charting a

course they want the rest of the fleet to consider. Many are

clearly heading off in the same general direction and that’s an

indictiment of the admiral and his management of the fleet.

The Afeaki initiative as well as Mangisi…’s proposal are two canoes and

neither one is with the HRDMT yet they all share a common destination …–

a more democratic form of government than what we have at present.

Afeaki wishes to retain the monarchy in some form of power whereas

Mangisi prefers not. The HRDMT sits somewhere in between. There are

other proposals which we will get to see when the NRCPC tours the

Kingdom and Tongan communities off-shore.

I’m not looking for unity in the details as I don’t expect to find it

and it’s not that important now. It’s enough for me to see unity in the


If we were to hold a referendum to ask which form of government we

prefer and put these three models up against the status quo, the

pro-democracy movement will be split amongst three choices and the

status quo is most likely to come out as the preferred choice still. Or

it may not. But if we were to ask the nation whether they prefer to

continue to live under the current system as an initial first step, the

answer whatever it may be will be unequivocal. If the majority votes for

the status quo then the matter comes to an end.

Sefita Hao’uli

sef [dot] haouli [at] ihug [dot] co [dot] nz