HIS Majesty King Tupou Vi is thankful Tonga is still safe from COVID 19. However, he is mindful of the need for his kingdom and people to be ready for the pandemic and the likely impacts of climate change.

His Majesty made the remarks when he officially opened the Legislative Assembly’s 2020/2021 sessions today.

The King for the first in Tonga’s history delivered his royal address from the Royal Palace to the Parliament’s Chamber via a Livestream feed using a Zoom video conference calls. The move is due to the threats of coronavirus and also the COVID 19’s restriction under the State of Emergency and the Public Health Emergency declaration.

King Tupou VI said “the rest of the world is battling with the coronavirus and national lockdown. Roads and towns are deserted for people stay indoors, borders are closed, closure of businesses and many deaths from COVID 19. And it has no cure or vaccinations.”

Today, according to his Majesty King, Tonga is fortunate as it is free of COVID 19.  

The king also commended the public’s support in obeying the restrictions’ order for our safety and for the best interest of the public.

He said while Tonga was trying to cope with the impact of COVID 19, Tropical Cyclone Harold has devastated beach resorts in Hihifo, Tongatapu, Ha’apai and ‘Eua. Nafanua wharf and villages along with the coastal areas in ‘Eua also suffered severe damage.   

His Majesty said the changes in our weather pattern is likely to impact Tonga more with increasing challenges in the future. Therefore, he believed a country’s preparedness through its people is the key to withstand the effects of climate change.

King Tupou VI believed that climate change and COVID 19 are posing threats to food security and likely famine in Tonga. This is evident from the destruction left by Tropical Cyclone Harold on the environment. Hence, he said the hard-working ones will overcome the situation for laziness and sleep are not their agenda.

“Their families trusted them for they are strong and brave. Despite the challenges they may face, they will not waste money and resources. Whether in situation there is a storm, power blackout, water shortage or shortages of fuel, they will have plenty in supply like the good wise nuns,” said his Majesty

To overcome future challenges, he urged legislators to work together for the good of its citizens and the development of Tonga.

He also acknowledges with deep gratitude the medical supplies from donor countries for health workers and the people.

The King also stressed the need for Tonga to be ready for the impacts of climate change and the socioeconomic consequences of COVID 19 in terms of livelihood, local economy, travel, tourism, sports, businesses and communication among others.

Meanwhile, six Members including Lord Tu'ivakano,  Lord Tu'iha'angana, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, Hon. 'Amelia Tu'ipulotu,  Saia Piukala and  Losaline Ma'asi have been tasked to respond to the King’s royal address.

They have met after the state opening’s formality. Their Committee report will be tabled in Parliament on Monday before an audience with his Majesty King Tupou VI.

This is usually the first agenda of the House following the official opening ceremony.

It will convene next Monday to discuss the Committee’s report prior to the discussion of the budget.

Speaker happy with Zoom Livestream feed

In another development, the Lord Speaker was happy the Livestream feed of the King’s royal address from the Royal Palace to the Parliament’s chamber was a success.

Lord Fakafanua revealed this when he spoke with the media after the state opening. He said this is the first time for Parliament to use Zoom video call technology to deliver his Majesty’s address.

“We ran a trial test from Monday up to 5:00 am yesterday morning from the Royal Palace to Parliament. I am happy, it was a success, things go as planned. It did go as planned. It is the first time for us to use Zoom and I believe we will embrace more technology in the future. The more our staff are familiarized with the new emerging communication technology, the better they deliver the work,” said Lord Fakafanua.

Lord Speaker added the live stream feed was a must option for the King’s address and appropriate to fit the restrictions due to COVID 19.

MPs to access documents using electronic devices & other platforms

He also mentioned this is part of the Legislative Assembly’s efforts to embrace the e-Parliament project moving towards a paperless office.

“MPs will use more of the availability of technology such as screens, portable tablet computers, and laptops. Not only it is environment user friendly but it will help legislators to follow up on the House debates and on legislations.

During the debate, MPs usually asks for the page reference of legislation. Through technology, Clerk can guide them by specifying pages and clauses on a particular piece of legislation. It will also assist them, especially with their proposed amendments to the existing law. There is hope we can use technology for the discussion of the new budget tabled by the government,” said Lord Speaker.

Lord Fakafanua also added radio is the traditional means of providing information on the work of Parliament. However, technology has today offered other mediums of transmitting information to the public not only in audio but visuals as well.

He said Parliament will eventually provide documents in the future for use by MPs on different social media platforms such as Zoom video conference calls as we have started today, FaceBook and YouTube. Other means include the Parliament website for the free download of the daily Hansard.

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