Nuku’alofa – September 28, 2020: 10.55am (MEIDECC): Tonga stands in solidarity with all United Nations member states who have been affected by the global outbreak of COVID-19, resulting in the loss of lives and loved ones, Prime Minister Rev Hon Dr Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa told the 75th Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25.
In a pre-recorded statement during the session’s General Debate Hon Dr Tu’i’onetoa expressed the Kingdom’s sympathy and heartfelt condolences to all who had lost people to the virus, while at the same time adding that Tonga had taken steps to ensure the virus does not get into the country.
“While the virus has not arrived on our shores, Tonga is not immune to the overwhelming global challenges that beset us at this juncture. We have activated emergency measures to that effect while undertaking risk assessments and prioritizing the procurement of medical equipment to strengthen our health system preparedness and response,” the Hon PM said.
He thanked all Development Partners and the international community for their generous financial and humanitarian assistance, in addition to logistical support, which have helped Tonga’s response to remain vigilant amidst this global pandemic.
Hon Dr Tu’i’onetoa said the economic impacts are affecting different sectors of Tonga’s economy.
The Asia Development Bank (ADB) says Tonga will encounter a zero economic growth in 2020, however, the Hon PM told the UN the situation is astutely managed within, through activation of financial stimulus while priority is given to health-related activities.
In regard to education, digital divide is made more evident by COVID-19, requiring accelerated solutions for the new norm of teaching via internet, radio and television considering thousands of students in Tonga that will be affected if education is disrupted by COVID-19 or a similar pandemic in the future.
He said that given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders invoked the Biketawa and Boe Declaration, pronouncing the pandemic a major crisis to our Pacific peoples and economies.
“The activation of this declaration has expedited assistance and cooperation between member countries as well as cooperation with the international community in response to the COVID-19, including facilitating the timely repatriation of our stranded Tongan people abroad,” he said.
“Mr. President, Allow me to conclude by reaffirming our commitment to a revitalized post COVID-19 multilateralism in support of the theme for this session. A multilateralism comprised of global solidarity and cooperation, empathy, inclusivity and resilience, noting the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals, addressing inequalities and ensuring universal access to affordable COVID-19 medical vaccine, while building back better, and leaving no one behind.”
Meanwhile, Hon Dr Tu’i’onetoa said “it is a distinct honour for me, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga, to address the United Nations General Assembly, for the first time, as Prime Minister”.
He told the UN that Tonga pledges “our unwavering support towards the success of your term, and we welcome the theme for this session “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.