Should Tongan Princess have top diplomatic post? | Pacific Beat

Should Tongan Princess have top diplomatic post?

Should Tongan Princess have top diplomatic post?

Updated 2 August 2012, 18:22 AEST

One of the leaders of the Tongan community in New Zealand is questioning the Tongan government's diplomatic priorities.

Melino Maka, president of the New Zealand Tongan Advisory Council has criticised the appointment of the King's daughter, 29 year old Princess Angelika Tuku'aho, as High Commissioner to Australia.

He says the influential New Zealand Tongan community is upset at the closure of the Tongan High Commission in Wellington, while the country still maintains a diplomatic post in London.

Melino Maka says he says he has nothing against Princess Angelika Tuku'aho, but he questions whether she would have been made High Commissioner to Australia if he wasn't the daughter of the King.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Melino Maka, president of the New Zealand Tongan Advisory Council, Alfred Soakai, Tongas' acting Chief Secretary to Cabinet

MAKA: I'm objecting because of the process. Tonga is in a process of democracy and democracy is about transparency and also qualified. You shouldn't be appointed to a position like that because of your status.

HILL: So you're suggesting that she got this job basically because she's the King's daughter?

MAKA: It appears to be the case at this stage. I only saw what was reported in the ?? Tonga. I've got nothing against her but I have issues with the process, we're supposed to be moving forward not going backwards.

HILL: Is this issue of the appointment of Princess Angelika Tuku'aho as High Commissioner, is this of concern to a lot of Tongans outside Tonga or is it an issue inside Tonga itself?

MAKA: Those of us outside Tonga we follow this type of process and it does raise some concerns because we see that the process of transparency is not there. If she was appointed because she was the King's daughter, so be it, just tell us.

HILL: But Alfred Soakai, acting Chief Secretary of Cabinet, says Melino Maka is wrong in assuming the decision to appoint the princess was made by the government.

SOAKAI: Under clause 39 of the constitution the appointment of overseas diplomatic staff to our missions overseas rests solely with His Majesty, it's a constitutional provision, as well as greeting foreign ministers and entering into treaties with other countries. It's there in the constitution black and white.

HILL: So this wasn't a government decision, this was a decision made by His Majesty directly?

SOAKAI: Our government offers its advice, but as I said it's a constitutional provision, Princess Angelika has two masters degrees, so she's academically very qualified and not many diplomats in Tonga have two masters degrees and are fluent in French as well as their own language and English.

HILL: Her degrees are in business and business administration, and I don't think French is widely spoken in Australia?

SOAKAI: Well as a diplomat it helps to have a third language tucked under your belt.

HILL: Melino Maka says what is really making New Zealand Tongans complain is the closure of the Tongan High Commission in Wellington, which has left them feeling ignored.

MAKA: Given that New Zealand, over half of the Tongan population is here based on … changes … New Zealand have a very … to have a diplomatic post here in New Zealand to meet the needs of Tongans. And we are the closest to Tonga from here.

HILL: Well the Tongan government did go through a process of closing down a lot of overseas missions to save money. That's a fairly important objective for the government isn't it to save money?

MAKA: I agree, I agree, but if you look at Australia, the post is still open, Tongan the post … last September and we've still got the … There's no need for us to have a diplomatic post in England because the British closed their post in Tonga in 2006.

HILL: Alfred Soakai says some of those complaints actually have some merit, and the Tongan government is already doing something about them.

SOAKAI: Yeah I think he's got a valid point, we're planning to open up a mission in Auckland, moving it to the largest Polynesian city in the world is Auckland where most of the Tongans live. And there are still proposals being considered for other missions in the United Kingdom and the possibility of downsizing it and moving to Brussels where all the important decisions are made in terms of Europe.

HILL: So in fact the Tongan government's actually doing something about the concerns that he raised about that, that you're actually in the process of sorting that out?

SOAKAI: Oh yes, yes, it's going on as we speak, it's quite a complex process because there are contracts that we need to honour and movement of staff and family, all those arrangements. The government welcomes criticism and views from our overseas Tongans because they form a vital part to the Tongan community as well as our diplomatic relations with other countries.

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