DPM Sovaleni points to cybercrime challenges

NUKU’ALOFA – May 23: 4.15pm (Environment News): Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister today told regional delegates at a law officers’ meeting here in Nuku’alofa that the region has to appreciate the seriousness that cybercrime pose to our populations, including ransomware, identity theft, phishing attack, money mules, cyber bulling, and stolen credit card numbers.

Opening the PACIFIC ISLAND LAW OFFICER’S NETWORK CYBERCRIME WORKSHOP at the Tanoa Dateline International Hotel this morning, Hon Siaosi Sovaleni said that many of the Pacific Island States face a threefold challenge when it comes to dealing with cybercrime and electronic evidence.

Hon Sovaleni and guests at the opening ceremony this morning. Photo: R2R MEDIA

He said these challenges included:

(a) putting in place a comprehensive legislative framework in line with international standards,

(b) improving capacities and know-how within the criminal justice sector to effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate cases of cybercrime and other offences involving electronic evidence, and

(c) engage in efficient international cooperation.   

He said the conference is a great opportunity for countries to work together on finding solutions as no country can face the cybercrime challenges alone.

“One country cannot do it by itself, whether we want to or not. Cyber space is a new frontier, with little or no rules, and no boarders, that we have to deal with whether we like it or not,” Hon Sovaleni said.

“And Cybercrime is now becoming a reality that governments of the region need to cope


The Cybercrime Workshop is being hosted by the Pacific Islands Law Officers Network (PILON) here in Tonga, with a theme of “The Pacific Response to Cybercrime: effective Tools and Good Practices”.

Hon Sovaleni said the Government of Tonga is honoured and proud to host the event.

Australian High Commissioner Mr Andrew Ford speaking at the opening ceremony this morning. Photo: R2R MEDIA

He added that Tonga has, since the 1990s, been active in engaging the benefits that information and communications technology offers and at the same time recognising and addressing the challenges that is attached to those benefits.

The development of the Tongan ICT sector,  commenced with the wide computerisation of the public workforce and also the teaching and provision of overseas scholarships to study IT.

Significant development included the:

1.  liberalisation of the telecommunications industry to allow competition;

2. the establishment of the Department of Communications to regulate telecommunications service providers;

3. and the corporatisation of Government’s domestic telecommunications service provider, Tonga Telecommunications Commission, and merging it with the assets  for international communications purchased from Cable and Wireless, to form now what is called Tonga Communications Corporation. 

“With those significant developments in 2000, Government recognised that it also had to be prepared to meet the challenges of the new development pathway it was taking. Hence the enactment of the Computer Crimes Act 2003 based on the Commonwealth’s model law on computer crime, and also consequential amendments to provide for the use of electronic evidence in Court and also the introduction of new computer enabled crimes such as child pornography,” Hon Sovaleni said. 

A further significant advancement was the connection of Tonga to the Southern Cable  fibre optic submarine cable in 2013, which gave an opportunity for service providers to provide the same technologically based opportunities provided in advanced jurisdictions, such as live streaming, video conferencing, and eCommerce. The main objective was to give citizens of Tonga the opportunities to advance themselves through education, dissemination of information, access to advanced markets, and eCommerce with the hope that they develop their own skills and knowledge to participate in digital economy or create their own IT enabled commercial opportunities. But with these benefits come the need to be safe in cyberspace, to strengthen our security to address new cyber threats, and to recognize and deal with misuse of ICT for criminal purposes.

Council of Europe rep Mr Branko Stamenkovic speaking at the opening ceremony this morning. Photo: R2R MEDIA

As part of addressing these growing cyber challenges, Tonga setup the Cyber challenges Task Force with three working committees; Cybersafety, Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Committees.

An MoU with Netsafe from New Zealand  was recently signed to help Government provide a safer cyber experience for people of Tonga.

Hon Sovaleni, on behalf of Government, also recently signed an MoU with Waikato University to enhance the country’s CyberSecurity capacity and capability.

Tonga also recently signed the Budapest Convention and became the 55th State to accede to the Convention.

The Convention will come into force in three months-time.

Hon Sovaleni said that he hopes other regional countries will also follow Tonga’s lead.

“I hope that this would trigger and encourage our friends in the Pacific region to also consider doing the same, so that they may also benefit from the training and technical assistance provided, but more importantly they be another strong link in the international chain required to combat cybercrime and protect not only all their citizens but also everyone else,” he said.

“By successfully acceding to the Budapest Convention, as mentioned earlier, Tonga now has a good practice model to offer to the Pacific Region.”

The Tongan Government has also established the Tonga Computer Emergency Response Team (TonCERT), a 24/7 Points of Contact personnel and is in the process of finalising legislation to replace its Computer Crimes Act with the assistance of the Australian Attorney General’s Department, and also the formulation of national cybercrime and cybersecurity strategies.

Group photo after the opening ceremony. Photo: R2R MEDIA

Hon Sovaleni thanked the Council of Europe’s and European Union’s Project on Global Action Taskforce on Cybercrime Plus (GLACY+ Project) and the Australian Government for supporting this workshop and making it possible to bring together experts from around the world.

The opening ceremony was blessed by Rev Penisimani Tonga and speakers included Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu, Australian High Commissioner Andrew Ford, Deputy Head of the European Union in the Pacific Mr Corrado Pampaloni and Council of Europe rep Mr Branko Stamenkovic.

The Tupou Tertiary Institute choir sang at the opening event.

Members of the TTI choir singing at the opening ceremony. Photo: R2R MEDIA

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