ON THE OCCASION OF THE
FIFTY EIGHTH SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE ‘ULUKALALA LAVAKA ATA
HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER
KINGDOM OF TONGA
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
As I warmly congratulate you upon your assumption of this high office, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to your worthy predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Jan Kavan, for his dedicated and committed tenure as President.
I commend the resolute leadership of our Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, during these challenging and uncertain times. It is a timely reminder of the dedication and commitment to the Charter required of us all as Member States.
Tonga wishes to extend its deepest sympathy and condolences to the Secretary General, the Organization and all affected delegations for the tragic loss of life during the attacks of August 19 and this past week on the UN compound in Baghdad. We are reminded of the courage of Mr. Sergio Vieira de Miello and too many others before him, who have fallen in the line of duty, as the embodiment of the UN’s commitment to and ultimate sacrifice for a peaceful and better world. For its part, my Government will carefully study and examine the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel.
Attacks such as "9/11” and those that befell the UN compound in Baghdad will continue to serve as stirring reminders to all of us, for ever-present vigilance and strength, to combat terrorism.
Security Council resolution 1373 continues to be the beacon that guides the activities of my Government to develop and enhance appropriate measures so as to strengthen our compliance. Tonga continues to support the work of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) and has, to date, submitted all the necessary country reports requested of it. I am grateful to the CTC and the Security Council for their patience.
After careful study of the UN Conventions on Terrorism, Tonga is now a party to all twelve instruments but merely becoming parties to these instruments will not suffice. Concrete steps will continue to be needed for small countries like mine to fully and meaningfully implement these obligations.
We have strengthened our legislative framework and taken other measures so as to give domestic effect to such obligations. We continue to participate in national and regional activities designed to assist countries such as Tonga implement viable counter terrorism measures. The ongoing assistance of our traditional development partners and other organizations such as the Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat has been a boon in this regard.
Last year I referred to the “signposts” that line the developmental path – the Millennium Summit, Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg. They, together with other UN Summit and Conference outcomes, have inspired hope and vision for our collective developmental aspirations. Whilst recent events in Cancun might not be encouraging, it has served to emphacise that implementing these “signposts” will be a critical and deciding facet.
It is a timely reminder, as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) proceed towards implementing Chapter VII of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. This Chapter refers specifically, amongst other things, to the ten year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA+10) that is to take place in Mauritius in 2004.
Indeed, under your Presidency in particular, Tonga hopes that this is one “signpost” that will give further impetus to the achievements in Johannesburg last year as well as to the national efforts and endeavours of SIDS in achieving sustainable development. We will continue to refine our priority and capacity needs to take greater advantage of available financial and technological support. An example relates to our attempts to improve air transport services and aviation links internationally to combat, what has been described as “the tyranny of distance” in our region, by becoming the most recent party to the Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalisation of International Air Transport.
Regional activities which bear upon our sustainable development efforts include the PALM Summit 2003 between PIF Member States (including Tonga) and Japan where mutual developmental issues are discussed and considered. I commend Japan for their ongoing commitment, through this process, to Tonga and the region and look forward to the fruitful results of the Okinawa Initiative.
I commend also the initiative and recent visit to the Pacific this year of President Chirac of France. It’s an encouraging sign and sets a solid foundation for further dialogue and future partnership on developmental issues. I look forward to participating at the next summit meeting in Paris.
As a developing ocean State, we remain interested in the ongoing developments in oceans affairs and the law of the sea. As I have mentioned earlier, Tonga has become party to all the UN Conventions on Terrorism including those that are maritime related.
We continue to value the work and decisions this year of the States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority as well as the work and role of the UN Informal Consultative Process at its fourth meeting.
I am pleased that the second informal meeting of States Parties to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement recently resulted in a framework to enable the concrete implementation of Part VII of the Agreement with particular emphasis to SIDS and their fisheries aspirations. In this respect we urge other Member States to become a party to this important agreement.
As emphacised during the special high level meeting on Monday, HIV/AIDS remains a devastating developmental and public health challenge for us all, particularly in small and remote island communities. Tonga welcomes the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the funding it has recently approved for to assist Tonga and other countries in the region. This complements our own national strategies and programmes to combat these scourges.
Earlier this year, my Government took the necessary legislative, administrative and preventive measures to protect against the spread of SARS . I commend the untiring work of the World Health Organization (WHO) in its committed efforts to address and combat this public health threat. I also commend the recent adoption by the WHO Assembly of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which, as of yesterday, has Tonga as one of its signatories.
I was pleased to have been requested by the Government of the Solomon Islands and by other PIF Foreign Ministers to contribute Tongan troops and police personnel to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to restore law and order. RAMSI has enabled the Government to address urgent and varied concerns such as to formulate new measures to deal with the enormous economic and developmental challenges they now face.
This endeavour, endorsed by the sixteen PIF Member States, is testament to what can be done by a region to bring about peace in their part of the world. Each PIF Member State has contributed to RAMSI in accordance with its own capacity and taken together, with Australian and New Zealand resources and command, it is producing pleasing results. This is not the first such regional effort in the field of security. Small might too readily be considered by some as beautiful, Mr. President, but we too play our role in many fields of cooperation.
Tonga continues to fully support the work of the Security Council and the call for the full implementation of its resolutions to ensure lasting peace in the arena of conflict. In the Middle East, a peaceful and lasting co-existence of two States, side by side in secure and recognized borders will continue to be elusive until the cycles of violence are no more and there is a return to constructive dialogue.
Finally Mr. President,
Iraq is a sharp backdrop for the United Nations. One of the lessons of “9/11” and Iraq is not just that our Organization is in need of reform but the urgency with which that reform is so desperately required. As in my Millennium address to this Assembly three years ago, the Security Council needs reform otherwise we shall be dealing with today’s realities through mechanisms of yesteryear. I continue to support the call for reforming the Council by expanding the number of permanent and non-permanent members. In like terms, I support your call, Mr. President, for a proactive and action oriented General Assembly. Let us hope that between this Assembly and the next, something concrete emerges.
I thank you.