8 May 2003

Tonga democracy discussed in the New Zealand Parliament

3:58 pm on 8 May 2003

The New Zealand Foreign Minister told Parliament today that New Zealand is not satisfied with the level of democracy in Tonga.

Phil Goff was responding to an enquiry from the United Party leader Peter Dunn during question time.

Mr Goff said while the Tongan constitution provides for many of the freedoms and rights considered essential for modern democracy, Tonga falls short of the criteria which define a fully democratic state..

He said executive government is not elected by universal franchise and restrictions on the freedom of the press are two examples of that.

Mr Dunn then asked whether New Zealand would withdraw its three million US dollars of annual aid until the state embraced democratic principles.

"the answer is no because the people that the member is presumably concerned about that may be deprived of the rights that he supports would if we withdrew our aid, also be deprived of basic education, health and good governance provisions that are designed not to help the government but to help the people"