From: Pacific Leadership Programme Facebook page

THE Legislative Assembly of Tonga can be isolated if they do not relate to the international community on human rights issues for good governance.

Tongatapu 4 constituency MP, Mateni Tapueluelu made the comment after attending a three day meeting on Pacific Members of Parliament Consultation on Human Rights for Good Governance in Nadi last month.

The three day consultation was for parliamentarians from 11 Pacific Islands to share experiences and exchange information on current and emerging human rights issues in the region, Tonga included.

The Nadi meeting aimed for MPs to explore and promote the integration of human rights into Parliamentary systems and thus recognizing human rights as a fundamental building block for good governance.

Issues discussed in the conference included the rights of the people with disabilities, women’s and children’s rights,

Tapueluelu states that Members of Parliament need to be aware of the human rights issues as they are the legislators.

“As MPs, we commit ourselves to explore and promote the integraton of principles of human rights into the Parliamentary systems…and Tonga's Parliament should be able to relate to the international community and these different rights are integrated into our local context,” said Mr. Tapueluelu.

The former Editor of Kele’a said the issue is not entirely new to him for he has written news stories on human rights issues in the past 14 years.

Mr. Tapueluelu was also in a Committee that drafted the outcome of the conference also mentioned that climate change was identified as a real and immediate threat to  human and cultural rights.

Therefore the legislators should affirm their commitment to working collaboratively across sectors of society/government and to be effective at the local, national and international levels.

“Climate change is also a real and immediate threat to the future existence of Pacific people for instance the sea level rising in Tuvalu has prompted locals to consider leaving the island in fear of their land sinking into the sea.”

In the Outcome Documents of the Denarau 2015 Declaration for Pacific Parliamentarians Consultation on Human Rights and Good Government, the Pacific Leaders from Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu recognized the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW).

Tongan MPs and other fellow parliamentarians from the region were urged to act boldly to ensure that women’s human rights are realized through laws, policies, social and community norms and values that reject all forms of discrimination.

Participants also noted that this can be achieved with the full participation of women in political, social, cultural and economic spheres. MPs were also challenged to create further opportunities to increase the participation and voice of women in local and national governance.

Some Parliaments in the Pacific including Bougainville have reserved seats in Parliament for women. However Tapueluelu has some reservation about the introduction of a quota system in Tonga.

“We have to respect the rights of voters. They are free to elect whoever they want to enter politics. I support women candidates to run for Parliament but we have to respect the rights of voters and not to interfere with their own free will,” maintained Tapueluelu.

Tapueluelu also asserted that continued civic education and the wider use of media to disseminate information will help to change the mindset of the voters about women being in politics.

Also attending the Denarau Conference in Nadi was the Honorable Minister of Public Enterprises Poasi Tei thanks to the auspices of the Department of the Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

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