20 Mar 2003

Tongan democracy movement says economic reform has political implication

4:08 pm on 20 March 2003

A democracy advocate in Tonga says the government is being put through an economic reform exercise with the Asian Development Bank to improve accountability and transparency in the delivery of public services.

Lopeti Senituli from the Human Rights and Democracy Movement says included in the reform exercise are requests by the ADB to look at changes to government structure.

Mr Senituli says this comes amid a visit to Tonga by former New Zealand Justice Minister, Sir Douglas Graham, and Commonwealth representatives to discuss democratic reform.

Mr Senituli says the economic reform exercise and Commonwealth visit has provided an opportunity for the movement to push the need for democratic changes.

"The economic reforms will ultimately mean some political reform, so we are hoping that we can ride that wave of the fact that the government is open to some reform, the main theme of the economic reforms is accountability for the dispensation of public resources, and for more transparency and decision making at the cabinet level."

Mr Senituli says the Democracy Movement has directly appealed to the Commonwealth for support in its drive for a referendum on changing the government's structure.