HONOURABLE FATAFEHI LAPAHA TUITA AND MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY,
HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER LORD TU'IVAKANO, HON SAMIU VAIPULU DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND HON LISIATE ‘AKOLO MINISTER FOR FINANCE AND NATIONAL PLANNING, AND MINISTERS OF THE CROWN,
LORD FAKAFAKANUA, SPEAKER OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY & CHAIR OF CPAD,
MR THOMAS ROTH, THE AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER, THE AMBASSADOR FOR THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, AND MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,
LORD TU'IHA'ANGANA AND MEMBERS OF THE NOBILITY,
MR GARY WISEMAN, UNDP PACIFIC CENTRE MANAGER AND MEMBERS OF DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
I feel very pleased and privileged this evening to open these National Consultations on the Reviewed National Policy on Gender and Development 2012, and the National Consultation on the Strengthening Capacities for Peace, Unity and Development in Tonga.
Why is there a need to strengthen Capacities for Peace, Unity and Development in Tonga? "Is there conflict in Tonga?" "Why is there a need to strengthen peace and unity in Tonga, when it is a Christian, peaceful and unified country already"
You need only to flick through the internet pages of media outlets to learn about the so called political turmoil in Parliament. "MPs pressuring government to continue the harvesting of sea cucumber", "three people charged during a porn crackdown", "parliament adjourned vote of no confidence amid confusion".
In the next three days, participants will be deliberating over how to advance peace and unity in Tonga through inter sectoral collaboration on peace building. You would set the scene and map peace efforts and initiatives, you would consider tools for addressing social issues, coordinate to build peace, and set out to link this to the opportunities of developing a national peace building policy.
Six years ago, the Public Service strike was a clear indication of disunity in Tonga, followed by the burning down of the Central Business District of Nuku'alofa.
In Tonga, Peace, Unity and Development would be the protection and security of an individual to be able to make choices in the home front, within a family, within a village, youth groups, women's development groups, churches, regions, organisations, at the workplace, in Government, in church, and at the national level.
At the Regional and International level, Tonga has participated in peacekeeping efforts in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Tongan troops have also contributed to the peace building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Tomorrow, issues relating to the protection and security of families proposed by Government Agencies, Youth Groups, Villages, Church Leaders, the Outer islands, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations will be heard and discussed.
There will be proposals on how to support the empowerment of individual members of the families, how to increase women's leadership and political representation, and how to create an enabling environment for mainstreaming gender across Government Policies, Programme and Services.
In humble homage to the late King, His Majesty King George Tupou V, I wish to share his last statement following the establishment of the new government;
‘At sunrise on Election Day you will feel the warmth of the sun as well as the gaze of your ancestors from the past and those of countless unborn generations in the future turn towards you. For a few brief moments in our meagre lives we shall occupy the attention of history itself and we will be judged on how we have kept its trust. It will be at this moment that our true character as a nation will show'.
With this in our hearts and minds, and to understand the responsibility and the faith entrusted on us to commit to the development of our country, in respect to our ancestors and the champions of our past, I wish you all the best in your consultation sessions this week.
Malo ‘aupito, ‘ofa atu.