STATEMENT FOR GENERAL DEBATE
146th IPU GENERAL ASSEMBLY
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF TONGA
12 March 2023- MANAMA, BAHRAIN
HIS MAJESTY KING HAMAD BIN ISA AL KHALIFA
MR. PRESIDENT OF THE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER AHMED BIN SALMAN AL MUSSALAM
MR. PRESIDENT OF THE IPU PACHECO
MR. SECRETARY GENERAL MARTIN CHEUNG
FRIENDS & COLLEAGUES
Firstly, on behalf of the Kingdom of Tonga, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to our generous hosts, the Kingdom of Bahrain for the wonderful reception our delegation has received since arrival in your beautiful country.
The Legislative Assembly of Tonga attaches great importance to the IPU’s mandate of empowering Parliaments and Parliamentarians to promoting peace, democracy and sustainable development.
Tonga welcomes the call to confront and stamp out the roots of intolerance. If intolerance is ignored and tolerated, it would fester and threaten peaceful coexistence, not only within our countries but would transcend borders and threaten the peaceful co-existence of our family of nations- as history reveals, time and time again.
Tonga remains committed to strengthening respect for individual human rights and peaceful coexistence (which is not only enshrined in our 1875 Constitution but is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Tongan man and woman.
These core values being MUTUAL RESPECT (Fefaka’apa’apa’aki), HUMILITY (Loto To), MUTUAL COOPERATION (Feveitokai’aki) and COMMITMENT TO OTHERS (Tauhi Vaha’a). These inform the fundamental pillars of Tongan society and the Tongan parliament has always endeavored to create a legal framework that builds on these norms supporting an environment that is intolerant of persecution and prejudice.
During my tenure as Speaker, The Tongan Parliament’s vision has been to build a more INCLUSIVE & RESILIENT Legislature that commits to passing national laws that safeguards and guarantees important rights for its citizens including fundamental freedoms of expression, association and religion, the integration of minority ethnicities and the protection of individuals against any manifestations of intolerance.
The Tongan Parliament believes that through awareness and education, we could build societies where differences are not only TOLERATED, but they are
RESPECTED & EMBRACED.
Speaking from one of the most vulnerable countries to external shocks including climate change; more frequent and more severe climate change induced natural disasters, is a threat to peaceful coexistence; and we must collectively act and prepare with unprecedented action and cooperation. Without Climate action there is no future for our youth. Peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies is equally under threat by state actions of aggression, terrorism, systemic inequality and climate change inaction.
We remain committed to the 146th General Assembly’s call. We must continually foster and establish countries and societies void of racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination and intolerance. This is inextricably linked to the democratic principles of free & fair elections, rule of law, peaceful coexistence transparency & accountability.
It requires ongoing shifts in attitudes and positive development of legal frameworks that promote peace and stability, that would ultimately lead to economic prosperity and sustainable development. I mirror the statement made by the IPU President Pacheco, whether “we regulate social media? Yes”. The proliferation of fake news, hate speech and misinformation with impunity directly undermines democracy, due process and only promotes further intolerance. We must not allow this to continue.
As a young Parliamentarian, I also strongly believe in changing societal attitudes toward intolerance by mobilizing the youth to help create a genuine change of attitude towards Intolerance.
AT THIS 146th IPU General Assembly, we are pleased to have travelled from the other side of the world (21 hours in total) to join IPU member states in reaffirming the ongoing commitment to Promoting Peaceful Co-Existence and Inclusive Societies by Fighting Intolerance. On that note, Tonga hopes that the convening of this high-level conference around Tolerance will be a springboard to generate political will and chart a course of action for IPU member states for years to come.
We wish you success Mr. President at this 146th IPU Assembly.