Commentary: Tongans stranded overseas say they need more information from the government about the costs of getting back to the kingdom.
They want to know especially about why the government was not subsiding quarantine in New Zealand, whether New Zealand would still pay for Covid tests and how money from donor organisations and countries was being used.
Tongans who wanted to return to the kingdom were also anxious to find out whether Hon. Tu’i’onetoa’s statement in June last year that New Zealand would pay for Covid-19 testing still stood.
Tonga budgeted TP$60 million for its fight against Covid-19.
Kaniva News believes the government has a responsibility to give Tongans stranded overseas for months the full picture and show that it is accountable to its own citizens.
Part of that explanation may be to detail the restrictions and rules around how donor money can be spent.
Yesterday Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa’s government announced that Tongans stranded in countries other than New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific had to pay for quarantine fees in New Zealand out of their own pocket.
Passengers stranded in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa and the kingdom’s neighbouring countries will travel to Tonga before continuing to go through the 14-day quarantine process there. These people will enjoy their time at these isolation facilities free.
We believe there is an issue here for the government to look at in regard to fair distribution of the country’s budget being set aside to help fight against the Covid pandemic.
In the past 24 hours Kaniva News has spoken to people who say they want more details about the government’s announcement and the payments they have to make.
Tongans stranded in the US, Europe and elsewhere can travel to New Zealand and complete the 14-day stay in Covid-19 managed isolation there before being repatriated to Tonga.
This is part of a plan for more repatriation flights to Tonga which is expected to run from February until June this year.
Flights from Australia will be chartered and paid for by fruit pickers’ employers and will be used to repatriate fruit pickers, as well as other passengers.
Only Tongans from Brisbane and Canberra will be repatriated, due to the status of Covid-19 in other Australian states.
Tonga remains Covid-19 free, but has repatriated less than 30 percent of the more than 7000 people overseas. It has been very slow in comparison with other Pacific countries.
Some people told Kaniva News they wanted the Tongan government to explain why they did not subsidise the quarantine fees in New Zealand because most of them were not working and had no source of income.
In New Zealand, the quarantine payment is quoted as “NZ$3100 for the first or only person in the room (whether that is an adult or a child) with NZ$950 for each additional adult and NZ$475 for each additional child (3-17 years old, inclusive) sharing that room, all GST inclusive. There will be no charge for children under the age of three if they are staying in a room with another person.”
Some people have also asked how the money supplied by donor organisations like the World Bank and outside countries to fight Covid-19 in Tonga has been spent. They have also asked why it has not been used to help bring people home.
The reality is that most donor money is very specifically targeted
In May 2020 the World Bank gave US$2.9 million to support health-sector preparedness for Covid-19 and to buy critical health equipment, including ventilators, monitors and personal protection.
The IMF has just approved a US$9.95 million under its Rapid Credit Facility, to help meet Tonga’s urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and Cyclone Harold.
In December the World Bank approved a $30 million package to help Tongan businesses, workers and vulnerable households.
Repatriation flights are scheduled to depart every three weeks from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.
|Date of Repatriation to Tonga||From Country|
|4 February||New Zealand, Fiji|
|25 February||New Zealand, Fiji|
|18 March||New Zealand, Australia|
|8 April||New Zealand, Australia|
|29 April||New Zealand, Australia|
|20 May||New Zealand, Australia|
|3 June||New Zealand, Australia|
‘Oku ‘i ai e faka’amu ke fakamahino pe ‘oku kei tu’u pe fanongonongo ‘a e ‘Eiki Palēmia’ he ta’u kuo ‘osi’ ‘o pehē kuo fakahā ‘e he palēmia ‘o Nu’u Sila’ ‘e totongi ‘e Nu’u Sila ‘a e sivi Koviti 19 ‘a e tokotaha kotoa ‘oku ‘amanaki folau ki Tonga’. ‘Oku NZ$300 tupu ki he toko taha ‘a e sivi ko ‘eni. Ko e kau Tonga tu’u vakā ‘i ‘Amelika mo ‘Iulope ‘e pau ke nau feinga mai ki Nu’u Sila ‘o kolonitini ai pea te nau fua pe ‘a e fakamole ko ia’. ‘Oku ‘i he NZ$3000 tupu ‘a e toko taha ki he kolonitini ko ‘eni’. Faka’amu e tokolahi ‘e kolonitini ‘i Nu’u Sila na’a lava fakamahino ko e hā ‘uhinga ‘oku ‘ikai lava ai e pule’anga’ ‘o sapusitaisi pe totongi ha konga ‘o ‘enau fakamole’ he ko e tokolahi heni ‘ikai ke nau ngāue. ‘E ta’etotongi kinautolu ia mei Nu’u Sila mo ‘Aositelēlia mo e Pasifiki ‘e kolonitini ‘i Tonga’. Kuo ‘i ai foki mo e tokanga he ‘oku ‘ikai ngata he lahi e ngaahi tokoni lau miliona kuo ‘o hake ki Tonga ke tokoni ki he Koviti 19 ka ne ‘osi ‘i ai ‘a e patiseti ‘a Tonga $60 miliona ke tau’i’aki ‘a e vailasi’ ni. ‘Oku ‘i ai e faka’amu ke ‘ata ki tu’a ‘a e ngaahi fakamatala fekau’aki mo e ‘ū tokoni ko ‘eni’.