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TONGA: PRACTICE PARLIAMENT


This page: A Member of the Practice Parliament debating in favor of temporary Special Measures for Women; Right: Two former female MPs, Lepolo Taunisila (left) and Lady ‘Eseta Fusitu’a (right) converse on matters relating to the procedure of the House.


Motions


The following motions were drafted for discussion: • A motion to re-introduce the Youth Diversion Scheme; • A motion to seek government’s financial and technical assistance for Women’s handicrafts and other works to encourage activities which women are not usually involved in such as fishing and agriculture; and • A motion to introduce a quota system for reserved seats for Women in Parliament.


Petitions


The two petitions included one calling for government’s assistance in building coastal protection measures for Ha’apai and a second that requested the government to find new and improved methods of transportation to and from the remote islands of Niua.


Gabriella ‘Ilolahia, a Member of the PPW and notable human rights activist indicated that she immensely


enjoyed the live debates, particularly when given the opportunity to make a point of order or to correct the Opposition.


She stated that “….this meant that I was able to ensure that the opposing side’s opinions were confronted. I wanted to ensure that all diverging views would be halted in case everybody would believe them instead of what I wanted them to believe. This to me was and is still exciting because it made me, unconsciously pull out all the information from the back of my mind, which I had gathered over the years….”


There were heated debates over the Temporary Special Measures Motion that would ensure women representation in Parliament through the introduction of a quota system. However, the general consensus was that even though the odds are against all women in Tonga and that there may be discouragements along the way, it


186 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


was realized that women have an important role to play in Tonga’s development.


The Members agreed that if they remained as spectators, the ideas and the gifts they possess would be wasted and complaining would be pointless given they were not willing to actively work together to make a change.


At the conclusion, the majority of the PPW Members indicated strong support for the establishment of a body to investigate the feasibility of Temporary Special Measures for women in Tonga and they called on the Legislative Assembly of Tonga in consultation with donor partners to take the lead with this initiative.


It was also reassuring to see the confidence and self-assuredness of the women increase or prompted during the week-long event. They argued competently, disagreed professionally and made


compromises in matters that they knew would be in the paramount interests of the public.


The Practice Bill, motions and petitions all received passage through the Practice Parliament, but nevertheless were appropriately critiqued, dissected, debated and properly assessed by both Government and the Opposition. Although the outcomes of these motions, petition and the Bill does not become Law, they are a reflection of the important views and thoughts of the women of Tonga, and could be tabled if taken up by a current Member of Parliament.


Outcome


The Practice Parliament was a necessary first step in the right direction that sought to encourage Tongan women and in ensuring that all potential candidates are given the opportunity to become more engaged with Parliament and learn of its functions, roles and processes


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