‘Akilisi Pohiva, 73, one of the Pacific's most revered politicians, received the Defender of Democracy Award for 2013 by the Parliamentarians for Global Action PGA, it was announced today.
As Tonga’s Opposition Party leader, a letter from PGA was read in the Tongan Parliament this morning pronouncing his award to be received at a ceremony in December 9-10 in Bogota, Colombia.
The announcement of the award bound members of the House together after passing a decision to fund a parliamentary delegation to accompany Pohiva when he will attend the award ceremony.
Pōhiva, who fought for years since 1980s to bring democracy to Tonga, had been referred to by a Tongan respected scholar, Professor ‘Okusitino Mahina in his book, 16/11 Tonga he Fepaki – Tonga in Crisis, as the Maui Kisikisi of Tonga – the Maui believed to have brought the fire from Pulotu – the underworld to Maama – the World. It is a Tongan mythological and poetic name that selectively ascribed to a real heroic figure.
Tonga dramatically reformed its political system in 2010 with some who deemed it as a full democratic change hailed the late King George Tupou V a hero for introducing democracy to his feudal kingdom.
That reformed political system, is not a democratic form of government according to Pohiva, claiming that the power to rule the country and run the government still stays in the hands of only nine nobles in Parliament elected by the 33 nobles of Tonga and not the majority of the taxpayers.
These nine noble seats in the Tongan Legisilative Assembly are strongly backed by five people’s elected candidates who crossed the floor to side with the nobility, after they were promised ministerial positions in government, making the nobles the majority and the powerful party in the House.
“Since 1996, PGA has held the Defender of Democracy Awards in conjunction with its Annual Parliamentary Forum. The Defender of Democracy Award is presented to individuals who, through their own commitment and active engagement, have made significant progress in strengthening democracy and democratic practices.”
Former recipients of the Defender of Democracy Award include, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark (New Zealand), Prime Minister (2004),
Rt. Hon. Don McKinnon , Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth (2008).
Dr. Nafis Sadik (Pakistan), physician and then Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General and Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (2006). Most recently, she spoke out forcefully against the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot because she championed education for girls.
Mrs. Mary Robinson (Ireland), President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (2005). Former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights. Sra. Estela Barnes de Carlotto (Argentina), Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (2000), whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered by the military in Argentina.
The Hon. Bella S. Abzug (1998), awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.