I acknowledge the presence of the Almighty in our midst. Distinguished guests,
CEO and members of Tonga Youth Leaders, and the youth of Tonga
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am deeply honoured and pleased to be here to celebrate and congratulate Tonga Youth
Leaders in partnership with UNFPA on the launching of the TONGA YOUTH VOTE
HANDBOOK – a proud milestone for the Young People of Tonga.
I momentarily reflected on my parliamentary journey upon receving today’s invitation. Having entered politics at a very young age, I would have deeply appreciated having access to tools such as this youth initiated handbook. Early guidance into Tonga’s electoral processes would go far for most young people, even though amongst the Lords we have a slightly different process, it’s important never the less that our youth understand the overall electoral process and the potential impact their single vote will have on the shaping of our government.
Around this time next year, the Tonga Electoral Commission, candidates vying for a seat in parliament and registered voters across Tonga will all be actively preparing for the next General Elections, to elect our 9 representatives of the Nobles and 17 representatives of the People into the Legislative Assembly of Tonga. By launching this handbook today, I am pleased that through this youth lead initiative our youth can have a head start for the upcoming 2021 General Election.
When young people are disengaged, disillusioned, or disenfranchised from the political processes, a significant portion of the population is excluded from decision making. They will have little to no influence on the laws and policies that shape their environment, local communities and their every day lives. This seriously impacts and undermines the ability of the Legislative Assembly to be truly representative of citizens and registered voters.
In order to fully participate in Tonga’s political and electoral process, our youth must first understand their civic duty and the system they are actively involved in and I anticipate that this handbook outlines, step by step, a walkthrough for our youth to follow, from how to register at the Electoral Commission Office through to how to cast their ballot on election day! So congratulations to Tonga Youth Leaders and your partners, as well as the Tonga Electoral Commission for creating this important tool for the youth of Tonga.
Tonga’s Strategic Development Framework 2015-2025 aims for a more progressive Tonga supporting a higher quality of life for all. Investing in young people as the future political, business and community leaders of tomorrow, is central to that vision.
At the Legislative Assembly, our vision for 2020/2021, the final year of this parliamentary term- is a more RESILIENT and INCLUSIVE PARLIAMENT- Resilient in that we must ensure our parliament continues to function despite the global pandemic and external influences on our lives, Inclusive means that parliament belongs to everyone and we should not leave anyone behind, HE KO HOTAU FALE ALEA!
To make a difference, our young people need to be given the space and opportunity to have a say in formulating their future. This is why Parliament and its stakeholders have continually supported programs such as the Parliament Outreach Program (visiting schools across Tonga), Tonga Youth Parliament (TYP) and of course She Leads. Our objective in Parliament has always been to support, empower and inform the population and especially the youth on civic and parliamentary engagement.
Voting is still the most basic and arguably the most important democratic act in a participatory government system. It remains a decisive and critical element of stability and legitimacy in the governance of our country.
Once again, I wish to congratulate Tonga Youth Leaders and the Youth of Tonga for launching this programme.
SPEAKER OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY