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Relevant Stakeholders decide the fate of CEDAW

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


The current incessant pressure applied by proponents to ratify CEDAW takes me back to Mary Fonua’s account (Feb. 12, 2015) - that CEO Lōpeti Senituli assembled a group of “relevant” women to decide the fate of CEDAW. The group was made up of so-called educated and prominent ladies from the community as “relevant stakeholders.”

Mr. Senituli is the CEO and a small fish in the bigger pond of the Internal Affairs Ministry, runs by Hon. Minister Fe‘ao Vakatā.

Hon. Vakatā was supposedly the secret emissary sent to New York City, with Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s signature, that Tonga has accepted and had ratified the CEDAW Treaty.

“De-facto” Ratification

But after MP Samiu Vaipulu questioned the legitimacy of such “de-facto” act – usurping the King’s authority – Prime Minister ‘Akilsi Pōhiva replied: We can always recall the ratification. Really?

I would like to know with which criteria did Mr. Senituli select his “relevant stakeholders”?  It is now apparent that this was a “de-facto” setup to stage a well-represented group of women to push for the ratification of CEDAW. But were they true representation of the women’s population of Tonga

First, is it true that these were “educated” and “prominent” women? Or were they CEDAW ardent supporters only?

Second, the definition of “stakeholders” is supposed to include everyone and everybody that has a “stake” or interest in CEDAW. It appears to me that this group was not a random cross-section representation of the women population of Tonga.

Were there women selected from the villages, who had no education, or are high school dropouts, and those who were not lucky to attend college or university-level studies overseas? Who elected these “relevant” women to represent the female population of Tonga, anyway?

Aren’t men relevant stakeholders, too?

Thirdly, “relevant stakeholders” should also mean everyone, including Tongan men. From the report by MTO Mary Fonua, (Feb. 12, 2015) it seems to me that there was but one male who was invited - a clergyman. The report did not specify.

Aren’t Tongan men part of the “relevant stakeholders” population in the debates of CEDAW? Men as a group accounts for about 50% of the population comparatively to women. They do have concerns and interests in CEDAW as “stakeholders.”

Fourthly, random selection is the fairest way to determine unbiased and unbalanced sample of the citizenry. CEDAW is a crucial treaty with foreign countries, and it is more important to Tongans than Kiwis, Aussies, Brits, Germans, etc. They have nothing to lose. But Tonga

This gathering of “relevant stakeholders” was a hoax and a gathering of a biased and tainted sample from the general population. Mr. Senituli should be ashamed of himself. Misleading the public is a fraudulent attempt to railroad a foreign and complex ideology on the credulous people of Tonga who treasure their traditions with great respect.

Until Mr. Senituli learns to conduct a scientific study to determine a true sample representation of  “relevant stakeholders,” the only legitimate place to determine Tonga’s true stand on the CEDAW issue is at the Legislative Assembly of Tonga. Otherwise, his makeshift assembly of so-called “relevant stakeholders” in February was a hoax, and an insult to the democratic form of public discourse we should have about CEDAW.

Sione Ake-mei-hakau Mokofisi

Director: English, Journalism & Languages
Tonga International Academy

Editor's comment: Please go back and read our report Tonga ready to sign CEDAW and move forward