Tuesday 2 June 2015 | Published in Regional
Tonga is the latest country to sign onto GOPAC after the Cook Islands and Kiribati.
The organisation’s chairperson, John Hyde, says tackling corruption in the region cannot be achieved without including those in power.
“You can have well meaning activists that say we’ve got to do this, got to do this – but if you
don’t bring the government, if you don’t bring the elite, the decision makers, the big business
people that control the economy. If you don’t bring them on board, then you are not going
Hyde says corruption is a serious problem in the Pacific with 60 percent of business people saying they expect to have to pay a bribe within the next year so they can carry out their normal business activities.
The United Nations is singing Tonga’s praises after the country’s recent steps towards developing stronger anti-corruption mechanisms.
The nation’s MPs have signed on to GOPAC and set up a standing committee on anti-corruption – the fi rst of its kind in the Pacific. GOPAC chairperson Hyde said, considering Tonga’s recent transition to democracy, it has made great strides fighting corruption.
“GOPAC is a non-partisan organisation of parliamentarians who appreciate that corruption
is one of the most important issues in terms of holding back development and stopping our
communities from enjoying their full freedoms and proper development.”
He was asked what can the parliamentarians can do to halt corruption.”
“Well, as anti-corruption advocates they work to promote anti-corruption policies in their own parliaments and a key part of that is to encourage their governments and their parliaments to have an active role in signing on and ratifying the UN convention against corruption.
He said Tonga ranks in most reviews as being on a par with other Pacific countries in terms of perceived corruption. “There is a consistent figure from small business people – about sixty percent of small business people – who expect that in the coming year, to do business, they’ll be either paying some sort of bribe or some sort of incentive to government official. So it’s a very, very serious issue.
“If we look at Tonga, it has virtually in less than seven years moved to a functioning democratic parliament and government.
“So what they have achieved in seven years is quite incredible.
After they formed the GOPAC chapter the next Monday in parliament, last week, they actually formed the fi rst standing committee in any parliament in the Pacifi c.
“We don’t even have one in New Zealand of that. So that is a really big step forward.”
Once operational, the Standing Committee is expected to press for the signing of the United
Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Also among anticipated committee activities is the creation and appointment of the country’s
fi rst anti-corruption commission and an anti-corruption commissioner.
Legislative Speaker Lord Tu’ivakano recently commented that as lawmakers, “MPs must recognize the importance of combatting corruption”.
“Our support towards the enactment of good governance legislation aimed at fighting corruption is a priority and as such would be instrumental in stamping out corrupt practices
and upholding the rule of law that should underpin our democratic society.”