17 Dec 2013

Tonga's Pohiva says Defender of Democracy Award important

7:03 pm on 17 December 2013

Tonga's long time campaigner for democracy, Akilisi Pohiva, says it's important to him and for Tonga that he has been given a Defender of Democracy Award by Parliamentarians for Global Action.

The body held its annual meeting last week in Bogota in Columbia and Mr Pohiva, who has been at the forefront of the campaign for democracy in Tonga for 35 years, became the first Pacific Islander to receive the award.

Don Wiseman asked Mr Pohiva what the award means to him.

AKILISI POHIVA: Well I think what is very important to me is that I know the people and especially the Parliamentarians for Global Action, a worldwide organisation recognised my work and my service for Tonga during the past 35 years or so. I think that is the most important to me, a recognition of my service for the country and for the Pacific I think is very very important. And to me it is of historic importance for Tonga and also for the Pacific.

DON WISEMAN: How well do you think the elite in Tonga react to someone like you getting an award like this, do you get patted on the back?

AP: Well it was first announced in parliament by the speaker three weeks before it came, I think it came as a shock, as a surprise to the elite and also to the government and cabinet ministers. Some of the members stood up after the announcement of the award, they stood up and they spoke, it sounds to me that they appreciated what happened and the recognition of my service in Tonga, that's what came up during the meeting.

DW: As you say 35 years pushing for democracy in Tonga and I guess there's a fair degree of democracy now with this new form of government that came in in 2010 but you still want changes don't you, what are the most pressing things for you in terms of democracy reform at this point?

AP: Well I think we have so far achieved most part of the reform programme that has taken place. To me I think we have achieved 80 percent. We still have a small unit of nobles inside the structure, inside the parliament and we have to really work hard to make sure that this small unit is accountable to the people of Tonga. We have to work very hard because if they continue to remain in the house we will continue to have problems but I think so far we have achieved a lot more and to me I feel satisfied and I think most people in Tonga they are proud, and they are happy with what has been happening.