By Joyetter Luamanu In Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Corruption undermines the rule of law and that is why the role of the media is important.
So said Tonga’s Minister of Justice and Prisons, Vuna Fa’otusia, at the opening of the 5th Pacific Media Summit, 2018.
He welcomed the journalists from across the Pacific and representatives of the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-P.R.A.C.) Project and the Pacific Islands News Association.
“The workshop here aims to build the skills of our Pacific media in undertaking investigative journalism professionally, to create a common understanding of anti-corruption and the economic, social and political impacts,” he said.
“Corruption is not entirely a new concept. Since the beginning of time, corruption has been there. It exists in every country- to varying degrees but it is fundamentally, the same evil.
“Corruption diverts public funds that would otherwise have been used for public services such as education and the building of hospitals. It undermines the rule of law.
“It encourages serious organized crimes such as drug trafficking and money laundering. At the end of the day, it weakens and erodes our people’s trust in leaders of the country.”
He said the media in the Pacific have played a key role in providing a space for citizens to understand the important role of integrity agencies such as the Ombudsman and Auditor-General.
“As Minister for Justice, my Department has a key role in ensuring that the agencies of government, in particular the integrity agencies, are proving effective in ensuring one of the key Sustainable Development Goals, S.D.G. 16, does indeed provide “justice for all”.
“Though Tonga has yet to accede to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), our Government is committed to implementing good practices in corruption prevention and co-operation with other integrity agencies across the Pacific and our region.
“It is also notable to say that the Office of the Auditor General over the past few years has been reporting to Parliament directly, instead of to the prime minister.
“This ensures that this office is accountable to the People and their functions are carried out. This allows for Parliament to make sure that public funds and public policies are used and carried out effectively and wisely.
“However, like most small Pacific nations, we often lack the capacity to perform these roles efficiently. This is why we require and always appreciate the assistance of the international community and our development partners such as UN-PRAC.” He reminds that Good Governance is an important platform that we as leaders of this country stand on.
“And I hope that the media will continue to work tirelessly in cooperation with the integrity agencies, parliament and governance strengthening institutions to ensure that the fight against corruption remains a priority.
“We look forward to listening to the good practices of media in investigative journalism across the Pacific and in Tonga that have helped to create meaningful oversight, transparency and accountability in governments, the private sector and civil society.”