Unlike the United States and Washington politics, the Kingdom of Tonga is undergoing another history-making election as the country builds its’ political identity and marches down the path of reformation, action, and fair representation. In 2010, an amendment was made to the Tongan Constitution that gave citizens the right to vote and introduced democratic ideals in a highly antiquated, monarchical system. This introduction of democratic ideals to Tongan politics has opened the ‘lion’s den’. It has brought to light the work of the country’s most notable and politically fervid catalyst. And here he comes. With a track record built on trust, community, and commitment to the belief that the Kingdom of Tonga needs to move forward and the Tongan people deserve better – Clive Edwards is stepping up and speaking out. From the halls of Tonga High School to the law books of University of Auckland and governing councils of New Zealand, he stands firm on a robust legal career of over forty years with a formidable political career of nearly fifty years and still counting. In recent years, he has served as the Representative of the People from 2005 to 2010 and is currently serving as the Minister for Justice in the Cabinet of Tonga.
With the haste approach of November 27th, the time for the Kingdom to elect its’ leaders is near. As a premier exclusive, TWID nabbed an interview with Clive Edwards as he runs for District 3 Representative. Follow along as he shares with TWID his political platform for the current election and sheds light upon the economic future of the Kingdom.
TWID: You state in your campaign booklet that women and youth are important demographics to cater to. What are your ideas for creating more jobs for the 2000+ youth who will be entering the workforce after graduation?
CE: The economies in the western world have been built by tradesmen and a highly skilled labour force, not by people holding degrees. Although the pathways for scholarships and tertiary training have always been present (Universities) the same pathways have been given little assistance to create licensed plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. These are the people that build economies. It is my vision to strengthen and increase the training centres and assistance to skilled labour programmes. At the same time, the skilled labour force can build Tonga or be employed or taken overseas as there is a high demand for these vocations abroad and they will send monies back to their families in Tonga, and the cycle begins.
The other part to it is to create world class sporting facilities within the district and for the whole of Tonga so that there is an opportunity to create a nursery for our sporting talent so they, too, can go overseas. This will start with the rebuilding of our national stadium, teufaiva, so that we can host rugby and sporting events. Hopefully by 2016, the New Zealand All Blacks will come to Tonga to open the stadium. The teufaiva will also host cultural and music festivals and events which helps tourism.
TWID: Can you expand on your proposed policy against domestic violence in the home as it pertains to women and children? (i.e. Harsher punishments for those who violate the law, Literature or counseling/therapy for abusers/abused?)
CE: A law has been finally put in place to protect women and families. The formulation of training programmes strengthen these areas of assistance to families so that at all times, a woman and child can feel safe in our society without being threatened or subjected to abuse of one kind or another. Strengthening NGO work, police work, advertising and awareness campaigns are just a few ways we effort to make this change. It is time to bring it out into the open strongly and say enough is enough. Work here is still in it’s infancy but it’s a matter of changing the mentality as quickly as possible. It’s a matter of accepting there is a problem in our society and dealing with it rather than discouraging coming out or hiding it.
TWID: If elected, how do you think you would differ from the incumbent?
CE: I plan to have an electoral office and full time secretary (as there isn’t either at the moment), work together with the town and district officers as well as community groups, and listen to and respond with action in regards to the needs of the community and businesses within Tongatapu 3. If elected, I will possibly be a Government Minister of the people and have the power to address these needs as well. As an independent candidate (no party affiliation) I can work with anyone elected to Parliament (as was the case from 2005-2010 in the lead up to the constitutional changes).
TWID: You obviously have great pride for your district and want to work to make things better. Beyond the changes highlighted in your campaign booklet, what other changes (perhaps in coalition-building with other districts) do you think you’d want to make that would produce a more successful Tongan society?
CE: By addressing the needs of Tongatapu 3, we are addressing the needs in our own backyard, first, which is the most important thing. Only then can we look beyond and spread what we have done in the other areas. I think the legacy of having electoral offices in each district and tending to people’s requirements on a daily basis is a simple but necessary thing for the democracy in Tonga. The platform issues will then have greater significance to creating a stronger Tongan society, within Tonga and abroad.
TWID: Any final words?
CE: The elections are very important in the infancy of Tonga’s new democracy. Other than addressing issues above, the institution of the Anti-Corruption Commissioner in the first year of my potential return to Parliament will go a long way to keeping the democracy on the straight and narrow, making Tonga an attractive place to invest for both Tongans (local and overseas) as well as foreigners. It creates a level playing field for anyone wanting to undertake their dreams and opportunities to make a living. Tonga must be a place (like America) where a person’s aspirations and hard work are given freedom to fly; not hidden, put down, or never given a chance. This is all big stuff, but it starts with a strong foundation of which I have the ability to be the ‘Cornerstone’ (Pou Tuliki) if the people of Tongatapu 3 decide true on 27 November 2014.
For any system of ideals, there is no change without purpose and there is no greater purpose than inheritance, deliverance, and hope. As John Donne notes, “No man is an island, Entire of itself”… Unless you are Clive Edwards then you are a country, entire to others.
TWID offers best wishes to Clive Edwards, as well as the rest of those in the political arena, as Tonga moves closer to its second-ever democratic elections. We also encourage every Tongan citizen eligible to get out there and make your voice heard! Keep in mind that a closed mouth does not get fed. And that’s WhatTongaDo.
Interview By: T.H.