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TONGA: PRACTICE PARLIAMENT


First page: An aerial view of the capital city of Tonga, Nuku’alofa; This page: Members of the Practice Parliament voting against the Bill that was introduced.


Applications


Through the public forums listed above, women in Tonga were encouraged to apply and were informed that the selection criteria followed closely to that required of candidates in a general election.7 When the deadline arrived, the Secretariat received 91 applications from different women throughout Tonga.


The selection criteria was carefully tailored to account for factors such as: the applicant’s intention to run for Parliament; current engagement with her community; important issues she wished to raise during the PPW and its relevance to her community; the issue related to existing laws or to make amendments; and how she intended to use the PPW platform to voice those issues.


Most importantly, the Committee also considered whether the applicant


had any intention of running in the upcoming November 2014 General Elections.


Twenty-nine women were subsequently selected, and included bankers, businesswomen, lawyers, consultants, environmentalists, teachers, former politicians,8


public


servants, non-governmental organization workers and those who were self-employed – a truly diverse group.


The candidates


The PPW was fashioned to follow the current parliamentary setting of 26 seats. There was an addition of four seats for the non-elected Members, which are traditionally reserved for the Prime Minister’s appointment.9 For the purposes of the Practice Parliament, those four seats were taken up by two representatives who did apply through the normal method


184 | The Parliamentarian |2014: Issue Three


of application and they took up the seats of the two current non-elected Members.10


for a representative from the Youth and Persons with Disabilities. This allowed a platform for these minority groups to be represented.


The youth representative, 24 year old lawyer Adi Talanaivini Mafi said that “the gathering of 30 odd women from all walks of life bringing with them diverse skills and knowledge to debate on national issues…I participated at 24 years of age, so going through that experience was very empowering and I have no doubt that it is also the case for other young women in Tonga.” *(It should be noted that the Tongan Government has committed to provide financial support for Persons with Disabilities in the 2014-15 budget following a plea from the Persons with Disabilities Representative during the PPW.)


Two seats were reserved


The position of Lord Prime Minister was assigned to the PPW’s Tongatapu Noble’s Representative Number 1 and the Ministers of Cabinet were allocated to the Members who represented the constituencies of the real-life Minister. Representatives from the outer islands of Tonga were also fortunate to participate, as the outer island constituencies make up for seven of the constituencies of the electoral roll. Loisi Halaliku, a member of the PPW and a board member of the Queen Vanilla Vava’u Association reiterated that the programme empowered her to speak on behalf of the women of her district. She also emphasized that the PPW motivated her to run for and hopefully become the first female district officer in Tonga. Ms ‘Emeline Fatai Veikoso, who took up the seat of Minister of Education as a non-elected Member,


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