It is an honor and privilege for me to be invited to this Forum.
May I acknowledge the presence of God in our midst
May I also acknowledge the kind contributions made by AusAid, UNDP, SPC, RRRT, Without your support we would not have been able to embark on this very important move towards more transparency and a Government who is accountable to its People,
As Chairman of the Cabinet Steering Committee on Freedom of Information, I would like to thank you all on behalf of the lord Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government and the people of Tonga.
Since 1875 Tonga embedded in its Constitution the Freedom of the Press which reads
"It shall be lawful for all people to speak write and print their opinions and no law shall ever be enacted to restrict this liberty. There shall be Freedom of Speech and of the Press for ever but nothing in this clause shall be held to outweigh the Law of Slander or the laws for the Protection of the King and the Royal Family"
This Freedom of Expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and also recognized in the International Human Rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights
Article 19 provides that
" Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference"
" Everyone shall have the Right to Freedom of Expression, this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers either orally, in writing or in print in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice"
Article 19 goes on to say
" that the exercise of these rights carries special duties and responsibilities"
" Therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary " for respect of the Rights or Reputation of others or the Protection of National Security or of Public Order or of Public Health or Morals"
This government in June 2012 launched the policy of Freedom of Information, this program will complete by September 2014 when it will be submitted to the legislative Assembly for its deliberations.
Freedom of Information is a tool to achieve the MDGs.
Today you are here to continue the discussions, now from the view point of the receivers of information.
This is the right to information, on Saturday morning, I opened the Digital Media and there I concluded my opening speech by saying, "any government that is afraid of the media is afraid of its people."
Everyone has a Right to Information that is as per the Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration.
As you will see that by July-August of this year 2013 that is, and we will still continue this programm and as mentioned earlier it should be out from parliament by September of next year 2014.
Thomas Jefferson once said, ipid
"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty"
A creative Government is motivated by the desire to achieve, and not by the desire to beat others.
In conclusion I say on behalf of the Cabinet Sub-Committee, and on behalf of this Government, with this Rights to Information, is the secret of getting ahead is getting started"
May I declare this Workshop open.
May god bless you all
Malo tu'a 'ofa atu.
Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2013. Authorized from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, April 23, 2013.