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A proud Tongan

Auckland, New Zealand


I have to agree and disagree with Senituli Penitani’s letter dated March 30, titled “God and Tonga are our heritage”. A few notes:

Firstly, there is no such thing as an “absolute democracy”. Neither the Greek, American, nor the Tongan version is “absolute” and perhaps the closest you can come to such an idea is socialism or communism (classless population equal under the state).

Secondly, democracy does not equal 16/11. There is a big difference between democracy as an idea and one group’s interpretation of it. Many of us believe in democratic reform but don’t believe in how things took place on 16/11. Different parties - the PDM, PDP, FIHRM, NCPR etc who all call for reform often get lumped together - overseas media like drama rather than analysis and tend to focus on the disruptive cases.

Finally, I agree that we mustn’t idolize democracy, but I think Senituli just turned around and idolized monarchy instead. I’m proud to be a Tongan too and I am proud of our culture, but the argument for democratic reform isn’t just about the king, it’s about the whole hierarchical social system that comes with it. And yes, I do question a system where people are expected to “voluntarily submit” to others, not because they can bring the most benefits to Tongan citizens, but just because they are related to so-and-so (rank).

I do commend some of our current government on trying really really hard to find a middle ground and to lead the nation in a significant cultural adjustment. The big obstacle is truly educating the masses about what democracy really is about, so they don’t get misled by cut-and-paste versions in the race for so-called modernization, nor the blind veneration of old tradition.

Thanks for the dialogue,

Josephine Latu


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