Nuku’alofa, Tonga (16 March 2020) – The Fale Alea To’utupu 2020 (2020 Tonga Youth Parliament) was officially opened yesterday by Her Royal Highness, Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Halaevalu Mata’aho Napua ‘Okalani Tukuʻaho at the Chamber of the Fale Alea o Tonga (Legislative Assembly of Tonga), who stressed the importance of using the youth parliament concept, as an opportunity to represent the voices and views of youths at the national level.
The 2020 Tonga Youth Parliament is the second in the series of youth parliaments and draws on the same theme as the first: “Our Parliament: Bringing Parliament to You,” designed by the Tonga Legislative Assembly. It was aimed at encouraging young people to actively engage in the civic and political processes.
“You are in Nuku’alofa today to represent the voices and the views of your peers from throughout the 17 electoral constituencies of Tonga,” said Her Royal Highness, Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Halaevalu Mata’aho Napua ‘Okalani Tukuʻaho while addressing the youth participants.
“I am confident that you will use this opportunity wisely and responsibly. At the end, I wish to see that you would continue to work to encourage other youth, inspire your communities and use the knowledge and skills you learn here to build our beloved country.”
Her Royal Highness added, “I know for sure that sitting amongst you are future parliamentarians, future church leaders, future teachers, future fathers and mothers. Maybe a future first female Prime Minister. Anything is possible! But in all, you are already influencers for the collective good of not just the youth, but for everyone.”
The 27 youth MPs aged between 15 to 34 make up an impressive representation of the cross section of Tonga’s youth and society. Part of the programme includes meeting senior Members of Parliament as well as men and women who are considered influential leaders in their respective fields.
The Youth Parliament provides a grounding platform for the understanding of Parliamentary practice and procedure and demystifies the process for others who may never serve in the Parliamentary Chamber.
Proceeding before the official opening, the youth parliament participants have taken part in the orientation week where they learnt parliamentary procedures, national development plan, human and rights, Sustainable Development Goals. They will spend the next two-days in sittings, where youths will debate on two Motions and two Petitions
The two Motions include: the Motion for the LA to establish and administer a youth council for each electoral constituency in Tonga, and that this youth council works in partnership with the electoral constituency offices to address relevant youth development issues that are youth focused as well as the Motion for the LA to order the government to establish a separate juvenile detention centre in Tonga for the detention, custody or rehabilitation of youth offenders and to consider passing legislation that would effectively restrict and control cyber bullying in Tonga.
The two Petitions include: exploring opportunities that would improve the wellbeing of youth, equitable access to education and strengthening vocational institutions to improve access to alternative employment options for youths as well as the promotion of the adoption of good health through effective legislation.
The 2020 Tonga Youth Parliament is organised by the Legislative Assembly of Tonga with support from the Tonga business community, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) project funded by the Government of New Zealand.
The selection process of the youths was done through a competitive process which also stipulated that all applicants must be a citizen of Tonga and between the ages of 14 – 34. The participants represent all electoral constituencies.
The Tonga Youth Parliament ends on Friday (20 March).