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Tonga hosts CPA Post-Election Seminar for Pacific Parliamentarians

New and returning Members of the Parliaments of Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji took part in a Post-Election Seminar co-hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Legislative Assembly of Tonga from 21 – 23 March 2023.

The seminar examined the core elements of democratic governance and identified examples of best practice from Tonga, the Pacific and the wider Commonwealth.

Lord Fakafanua, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, gave a keynote address at the opening ceremony. He said,

“This seminar is valuable and opportune as there is never an expiration date on the importance of capacity building, institutional strengthen and professional development for both new and veteran MPs. We have constitutional mandates, roles, duties, and responsibilities that we must adhere to.”

Gloria Pole’o, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, also spoke at the ceremony, which included a moment of silence for the passing of Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, former Prime Minister of Tonga, who passed away earlier in March.

At the seminar, Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Clerks from New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Niue gave presentations on parliamentary practice and procedure. Local experts on climate change and gender equality were also invited to the seminar to offer specialist insights on how Parliamentarians can support progress in these areas.

CPA Post-Election Seminar: Legislative Assembly of Tonga

Browse photos from our three-day seminar in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

CPA Post-Election Seminar: Legislative Assembly of Tonga

Browse photos from our three-day seminar in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

CPA Post-Election Seminar: Legislative Assembly of Tonga

Browse photos from our three-day seminar in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

CPA Post-Election Seminar: Legislative Assembly of Tonga

Browse photos from our three-day seminar in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

CPA Post-Election Seminar: Legislative Assembly of Tonga

Browse photos from our three-day seminar in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The shared fiscal, environmental and political challenges facing small jurisdictions was a particular focus for the programme. Tonga and many other Pacific Parliaments are members of the CPA Small Branches network, which empowers small Parliaments to “overcome national and global challenges through cooperation, advocacy and the strengthening of parliamentary democracy and good governance.”

Joy Burch MLA, Chairperson of the CPA Small Branches network and Speaker of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, attended the seminar to provide insights into how small Parliaments around the Commonwealth are responding to these common challenges.

Reflecting on the sessions, which covered everything from behaviour and ethics to communicating with constituents, CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg said,

“This CPA Post-Election Seminar was an excellent opportunity for new and experienced Parliamentarians to think collectively about how they can develop their performance as representatives, scrutineers and educators, with support from their colleagues in other Commonwealth Parliaments. I was impressed by the appetite for learning and interest in new ideas shown by Members from Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji.”

In addition to the seminar, the CPA Secretary-General visited two schools in Tonga, speaking to over 1,000 young people and answering students’ questions on issues including the Commonwealth, global conflicts, mental health and youth empowerment. After speaking to students at the school visits, the CPA Secretary-General said,

“One of the pleasures of my job is that I get the opportunity to visit schools across the world to meet with young people, to meet with children and to hear their voices.”

He also met with local and regional NGOs and the British High Commission in Tonga during the three-day programme.

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