NATION

Meet Tonga’s Youngest Speaker Of the House

  Where else can you study about diplomacy in the Pacific then at ground zero in the University of the South Pacific. Most of the regional and international organisations engaged
13 Aug 2016 07:30
Meet Tonga’s Youngest Speaker Of the House
Lord Fatafehi Kinikinilau Lolomana‘ia Fakafanua (right) and Lady Fane. Photo: Facebook

 

Where else can you study about diplomacy in the Pacific then at ground zero in the University of the South Pacific. Most of the regional and international organisations engaged in the Pacific Islands are present in Suva.

This was what made Lord Fatafehi Kinikinilau Lolomana‘ia Fakafanua to further his studies in Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomacy and International Affairs at USP Laucala campus for the first semester this year.

Lord Fakafanua has an interesting background.

At the age of 27, Lord Fakafanua became the first youngest speaker of Parliament in Tonga – and the world – in 2012. Lord Fakafanua embarked on his political career early. At 24, he became one of the youngest Member of Parliament in Tonga’s history.

“Telling the Prime Minister to sit down or the Minister for Justice that his time was up is a perk only the Speaker of the House can enjoy. Surprisingly, they responded well to commands from someone who is easily their grandson’s age.

“It wasn’t a position I was pursuing. On the morning I was elected to the post (speaker to Parliament), our Prime Minister at the time, Lord Tu’ivakano, asked me to nominate one of my peers for the position and so I did,” he said.

“To my surprise the Minister of Lands, Lord Ma’afu, had other views on the matter and nominated me for the same position.

“With two nominations on the floor, I got more votes than the candidate I’d nominated that same morning.

“With my new responsibility as Speaker, I took it upon myself to do the best I can, especially as not to disappoint the trust bestowed on me by the elders.

“During my term as Speaker it was apparent at every international forum I attended who the junior was in the room and most Speakers took it upon themselves to mentor me, which I really valued.”

Lord Fakafanua comes from one of the most prominent and influential noble families in the Kingdom of Tonga.

He has been instrumental in diligently spearheading monumental changes in the Tongan Parliament, including presiding with integrity over political reform, passionately advocating for greater representation for women in Parliament, and conserving Tonga’s unique land tenure system.

During his term as Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua sat on international fora such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Executive (CPA – EXCO) as a representative of Australasia, and entered the Tongan Parliament into the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) as the 164th member.

“The Legislative Assembly of Tonga and the Fijian Parliament are similar in that they’re both derived from the Westminster style of parliaments found in the Commonwealth.

“A direct comparison of the Fijian experience with the Tongan would highlight the influence each countries’ historical and cultural context had in shaping the political landscape. Acknowledged by most proud Tongans, our monarchy has played a pivotal role in the evolution of our Parliamentary democracy since the inception of our written Constitution.

“Today, I would say the Fijian and Tongan Parliaments are both struggling with the same issues as relatively new democracies often do.

“It would be unfair to expect both parliaments to operate on par with western parliaments that have practiced for over a hundred years. Both of our Parliaments will at some point need to bridge our traditional forms of government with a modern democracy. The challenge will be maintaining an experience unique to our culture and how we are as a people whilst adopting internationally accepted norms,” he said.

For him the year 2006 – defined the highest and the lowest points in his life.

“2006 was a particularly a hard year for me when I lost several members of my family who were all mentors in my life.

“It was a coming of age that resulted in my appointment as a Noble of the Realm.

“In contrast, meeting Fane soon after resulted in the highlight of my life, which was marrying her. My wife’s humility and intelligence has been a great source of stability and strength throughout the years.” 

Lady Fakafanua’s most recent position was as private secretary to the Ambassador of Japan in Tonga.

“It feels a little back to front, given the trajectory of ones’ career path to return to school after achieving certain heights in the work place but it’s never too late to study nor do you ever stop learning,” he said.

“I think once you accept how much you actually don’t know, it’s easier to realise how much there is to learn. Going back after over 10 years of leaving university, this time around I felt a lot wiser and with more focus, having experienced how a good education can benefit whatever it is you set out to do.

“These days the edge school used to have on me as a student is lost, now replaced with the harsh reality of real life experience. Discerning the difference between practice and academic today comes a lot easier.

“It’s easier to network and collaborate on many levels while studying here. The calibre of lecturers available is excellent and more civil servants from the region should take the opportunity to further their understanding at USP.

“Overall it’s been a very rewarding experience and I’m grateful to have been accepted to this programme.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here although Cyclone Winston was very disruptive in that it killed my mac and caused intermittent power disruption for weeks, class pressed on and we managed to squeeze some productivity out of what remained of the semester.

“Making new friends in a class with most notably a former magistrate judge and working ambassador adds a welcomed dynamic to class discussions.

He and Lady Fakafanua were awarded scholarships to study in India. They are  studying Masters in Arts in Diplomacy, Law and Business at Jindal Global University near Delhi, India.

“I’m very excited to immerse myself in a new culture and engage India on many levels. The recent visit of India’s Prime Minister Modi to the Pacific has renewed interest between our regions and I believe there’s a lot to be garnered for the future.”

Asked if he could be anything in life, what  would it be, he responded with: “I would combine the two things I’ve always wanted to be since I was a child; an architect and a pilot.

“An architect that also flies in his spare time. I still dream of attaining my private pilot’s licence and as for being an architect, it’s too bad I couldn’t draw even if my life depended on it.”

His advice to young people who wish to become a Parliament speaker: “Don’t compromise your message, always take good advice and once you’re elected, to be firm, impartial and fair to each party in the House.

“The Office of the Speaker is an important institution that ensures the smooth running of a parliament by conducting its affairs according to the standing rules and orders of the house.

“The House will always appreciate you for upholding impartiality.”

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

 



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