15 Apr 2004

Civil society groups reject criticism from Fiji and Tonga

10:39 am on 15 April 2004

Civil society groups have rejected criticism that they often tout foreign ideas and some should not be given a greater role in the region.

Last week Pacific leaders agreed to give civil society more say and input into the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

But Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says some NGOs are funded by foreign governments or organisations and impose foreign values on Pacific societies.

Tonga's acting Prime Minister Clive Edwards expressed similar concerns saying groups such as the Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement is involved in highly questionable activities and is making trouble, not helping.

But the Rev Simote Vea, the spokesperson for the Movement, says Clive Edwards comments are typical of leaders who will not allow the participation of the people in the governing process.

"And I think that is very true of the sort of leadership we have in Tonga - we have been trying for years to establish a dialogue, to invite the leadership to consulations we have been having but they have been turning it down"

Rev Vea says the Human Rights and Democracy Movement carries out a wide range of education and awareness programmes on human rights issues.