Overseas Tongans to have say on democracy, development

Tongans living in New Zealand will this weekend be able to have their say about what sort of democracy should prevail in their home country.

 A national dialogue on democracy and development is being held in Māngere in South Auckland on Saturday.

Organiser, political scientist Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, said it followed on from a similar event he organised in Tonga just ahead of a snap election in 2017.

The Tongan diaspora was very keen to have its say over what is happening in Tonga, he said.

"Firstly, of course, the population of Tonga - there's more Tongans overseas than in Tonga itself.

"That's one thing and other things is economically, the diaspora is helping to keep the government and the country afloat economically, in terms of the remittances being sent back, in terms of the support to individual families and individuals in the village and so on and so forth," Koloamatangi said.

The aim of the event was to have ideas from the dialogue filter back to MPs in Tonga before their elections next year.

Koloamatangi said there had long been a desire within the diaspora, and in Tonga itself, for overseas representation in the legislature.

He said it was just a matter of political will.

"For example Tonga has a government representative resident in Auckland and also in Canberra, so if it was instituted it could conduct and run this from overseas. So it is not a problem that's insurmountable, it needs political will to resolve the issue."

Koloamatangi said the dialogue would include speakers from throughout the Tongan community in New Zealand, including the church and business.