THE Speaker of the Legislative Assembly yesterday thanked the New Zealand Government and its people for reaching out to Tonga in times of need.

Lord Fakafanua extended Tonga’s appreciation when he warmly welcomed the visiting Aotearoa leader Jacinda Ardern in Parliament this afternoon.

The New Zealand leader and delegation visited Tonga as part of her 2018 Pacific Tour.

On behalf of the Tongan Parliament and its people, the Speaker thanked the people of New Zealand for their partnership and friendship.

“In our darkest hours of need these past few weeks, you have been a light and a beacon of hope,” said the Lord Speaker.

Lord Fakafanua also thanked the New Zealand Government for its generous contribution to the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme.

“The PPEI has supported us in coordinating the immediate assistance from other assemblies to our Parliament in the aftermath of TC Gita – including donations from the Parliament of New Zealand,” said Lord Speaker.

He also mentioned that since 2016 the program has made significant contributions to strengthening the parliament of Tonga, supporting it to become more efficient and to work closer to the aspirations of Tonga’s citizens, and to share good practices with other parliaments of the Pacific.

The Speaker also noted that through PPEI, Tonga Parliament plans to organize a Youth Parliament later this year aims at challenging negative stereotypes on politics, and breaking down barriers to the political participation of women and young people.

On social issues, he said as citizens of the Pacific Prime Minister, while we enjoy the fruits of modernization, globalization and technology we must also appreciate the challenges and the impacts on our people of Non- Communicable Diseases (NCD), rise in obesity, youth unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse related crimes, and other social costs.

For this reason, the Speaker was appreciative of New Zealand’s partnership with Tonga for the greater welfare and betterment of its people.

He referred to New Zealand as one of Tonga’s closest friends and allies.

Lord Fakafanua concluded Tonga is confident that through New Zealand’s continued support and much needed response, it we will recover quickly and build a more resilient nation.

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