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Tonga's Nationality (Amendment) Act 2007, not retrospective

Suva, Fiji


I refer to Sitani Masima’s letter of June 14, 2011 and the Editor’s note on the same letter. Sitani’s letter raised some issues that I too have been stewing about since I learned of Mara’s Tongan passport.

The only ‘legitimate’ way in which Mara would have gotten a Tongan passport was through ‘naturalization’ a process that we all know can be quite complicated and lengthy, and which we expect to be more so in a ‘complicated’ case such as Mara’s. It only took Mara three weeks to get naturalized in Tonga! That has got to be a record - that is some fast-tracking because we all know that with all the red tape at Immigration and the Tongan Public Service the process can take many months to complete.

As for Masima’s comment about the ‘difficulty’ in obtaining Tongan passports for children of Tongan women in Tonga, perhaps the following will clarify that comment. I am a Tongan woman married to a non-Tongan man and I cannot get Tongan passports for my children who were born in Tonga and another country in the 1990s. Why? Because the Nationality Act’s definition of ‘Tongan subjects’ then did not include children born to Tongan mothers married to foreigners, so my children, born in Tonga were ‘disadvantaged’ by the fact that I was married to their (non-Tongan) father. On the other hand, if they were born in Tonga ‘out of wedlock’ (which to some degree is still frowned on in Tonga) but still with the same non-Tongan father, my children would have been able to get a Tongan passport and be recognized legally as Tongans. As for my children born overseas, the long and short of it, is that, Tongan law did not recognise them as Tongans.

With the amendments in the Nationality (Amendment) Act 2007, my children and indeed other people born in Tonga or overseas whose Tongan mothers were married to non-Tongan fathers, are still not entitled to apply for/obtain a Tongan passport. This is because the amendments to the Act only apply to those born on or after the day the Act commenced which was 14 September 2007, in short, the amendments are not retrospective. I have been told by Tongan Immigration officers that for my children to get Tongan passports, they will have to go through the process of applying for ‘naturalization’.

I would of course be overjoyed to be corrected on the above by the Tongan authorities (as it would be easier to just apply for a passport and not have to go through naturalization).

Since my children cannot just apply for a Tongan passport like ‘Tongan subjects’ as of right, I do hope that when they do apply for naturalization they would get the same speedy processing of their applications as we have recently witnessed in the past weeks.


Tupou Taiamoni Finau

tupousolo [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au (mailto:tupousolo [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au)