Government has withdrawn its decision to ratify CEDAW.
The Hon. Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva emphasizes this in Parliament after a petition was read in the House earlier today supporting Government’s decision to ratify CEDAW.
Petitioners called on Government to ratify the convention to stop all forms of discrimination against women. They maintained efforts from the Women Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs will continue to lobby support from the public through public awareness programs on CEDAW in the media and other outreach programs.
Since previous petitions were submitted to Parliament and the King in opposition to CEDAW the Hon. Prime Minister told Parliament it is evident there is division among people on the much controversial issue.
The Hon. Prime Minister says Government has withdrew its decision to ratify CEDAW so the public can be consulted. He also iterates that while Government awaits the outcome of such public dialogue, Parliament has no mandate to stop people from discussing the issue nationwide
“It will be a waste of time for Parliament to discuss the petition. We (Government) step back to provide opportunities for a public forum to discuss the matter. This issue has been preached in Tonga for 14 years,” explained Hon. Pohiva.
He says Government has intention to legislate referendum in Tonga for this cannot be exercised unless it is legalized.
“Government believes the two opposing sides have rights to form public opinions but the hardest part is making decision on what is right and what is wrong. The best thing Government can do is to legislate referendum so the public is consulted on their opinions on the matter,” said the Hon. Prime Minister.
The Cabinet decision is to provide an opportunity for a national forum on the CEDAW issue. The PM clarifies Cabinet will not finalize its decision on CEDAW unless the due process completes.
Pohiva also points out the outcome of such referendum will decide the fate of the matter. However he also reassures Parliament the majority rules with the conclusion of the matter finalized by the King.
“In clause 41 of the Constitution the King finalizes everything including all legislation passed from Parliament. The outcome of a referendum will be tabled for consideration by Parliament before King finalizes whether approving it or not,” explained the Hon. PM.
PM Pohiva says it will be a waste of time for MPs to discuss the petition further in the Whole House Committee.
“We should continue on with other agenda of the House’s until this is sorted out after consultation with the public on the matter. The King has the final say,” advocated the PM.
Meanwhile the Acting Speaker of Parliament Lord Tu’i’afitu ruled that the Whole House Committee consider the CEDAW petition. This is after an opposition from Tongatapu Number one Noble Representative Lord Vaea who reminded Parliament about its Resolution on the matter.
Earlier in June this year, the House approved a Resolution which instructed Government against further action on the controversial international convention.