6 May 2005

Tonga's only female MP sees role as advocate for women's issues

3:35 pm on 6 May 2005

The only female member of parliament in Tonga sees her role as an advocate for women's issues in the country.

A schoolteacher, Lepolo Mahe Taunisila, has won the by-election for the two Niuas, replacing Sione Haukinima in the assembly who resigned from the seat he won in the general election in March, after being made a minister.

Mrs Taunisila says she didn't stand on a platform of women's rights - but now she's an MP, her priorities have changed.

"I have a feeling that it would be part of my role in the house, to represent women, because I know that women have been trying a lot to have a representative in the house. And, even though they did not support me in my... I had to campaign by myself, the women did not support me. But since I have now, I have won the election, I am ready to do my best."

Mrs Taunisila says her immediate problem is travelling south to the opening of parliament at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the other by-election was won by a former police minister, Clive Edwards.

Mr Edwards says he's thrilled to win after what he calls five months of campaigning, firstly for a general election in March, and for yesterday's by-election in which he stood for the People's Democratic Party.

He says he'll work with the Human Rights and Democracy Movement to achieve democratic reform.

Well we don't see it, I think if they're genuine in their stand for democracy, then of course we should be joining forces and pushing that issue, but if they're only going to pay lip-service, and use it as an election gimmick, then there will be a difference.

Mr Edwards says the royalty needs to cede some powers, and the people want the government to explain the recently-introduced consumption tax.