Photos by Linny Folau
A crowd of people from various churches in Tonga led by some church leaders today marched to the Palace Office in Nuku’alofa to present four petitions to King Tupou VI, in opposition to Tonga’s intention to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Waving banners and placards, about 500 marchers were led by Rev. Dr Liufau Vailea Saulala of the Tokaikolo Church, Vicar-General Monsignor Lutoviko Finau of the Catholic Church, Pastor Barry Taukolo and Father Seluini ‘Akau’ola, from the Catholic Basilica to Mala’e Pangai Lahi.
Church leaders presented the petitions to Lord Luani the Master of the Royal Household, inside the Palace Office.
Rev Dr Ma’afu Palu of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, one of the organisers of the march, said the petitions were from the Tonga Catholic Women’s League, Lotu Hufia ‘a Tonga, Tokaikolo Church, and a group of men from the Eastern District who came forward to support their women against CEDAW.
“We had around 15,000 signatures combined from all petitions presented today.”
He said they were marching because they do not want the Government of Tonga, and the Prime Minister Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva to ratify CEDAW. They are also asking the King not to give his consent to this convention.
“If Tonga allows this convention it will take us back to pre-christianity,” he claimed, while placards carried by the marchers proclaimed that “CEDAW is a Secret Agent of Satan,” and “CEDAW = 666! Evil!” and - more simply - “CEDAW go to hell!”. One placard called for “ ‘Akilisi and your cabinet to step down!”.
“This a march of citizens of Tonga, members of Christian churches from the Free Wesleyan Church, Catholic, Pentecostal, Tokaikolo Church, Mo’ui Fo’ou denominations and the Church of Tonga. We also have the support of the church leaders,” Rev Dr Palu said.
Also joining the march were Nobles Representatives to Parliament, including the Deputy Speaker Lord Tu’i’afitu, Lord Nuku, Lord Tu’ilakepa and Lord Tu’iha’ateiho.
The Assistant President of the Catholic Women’s League, Lady ‘Ainise Sevele and members of the Catholic Church joined the march.
This is the second march against CEDAW, the first being the Catholic Women’s League who marched on Tuesday, 19 May to Parliament.
Meanwhile, another group who support the ratification of CEDAW with reservations, will take their own petition to Parliament on Monday.