Reasons and reason to celebrate Tongan achievements in 2016

In the run-up to New Year’s Eve, Kaniva News looks back on the good news from 2016 and the achievements of Tongans around the world.

This has been a grim year in many respects, but there were smiles and reasons to celebrate as well. The year began and ended with news of royal weddings, Tongans showed they could excel academically, there were tales of family love and support and court decisions that ensured justice was done.

There were also anniversaries and acts of remembrance.

Archaeologists and historians have continued digging into Tonga’s past, even while others were saying that the kingdom’s language and culture (not to mention its kava) were the key to the future.

There have been sporting triumphs as well, including at the Olympics where even being selected to compete is a triumph because it means you are a part of the world’s sporting elite. The Tongan team may not have brought back any medals, but they gave their best.  And one highly oiled Olympian, however, did wonders for the kingdom’s image and tourism potential.

And Kaniva News made the news as well, with the long overdue official launch of Kaniva Pacific News and the Taʻangafonua Trust by founder Kalino Latu in front of an invited audience during a function held to celebrate his daughter’s graduation.

We’ve selected the highlights of the best stories from each month so you can follow them through the year.

Royals steal the show in Fiji and the economic news is good

  • January

Dancing in Fiji

Tongan royals stole the show when they danced at a wedding ceremony for the Queen Mother’s niece at the Shangri-La resort on Yanuca Island in Fiji on January 6.

Odette Inez Kilinalivoni Tupou-Moheofo Taumoepeau married Ratu Penaia Kamisese Tuivanuavou Ganilau of Fiji.

Taumoepeau is a daughter of the late Lord Sonatane Taumoepeau Tupou and the late Latunuia ‘Ahome’e Taumoepeon Tupou, the Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho’s young sister.

Ratu Tui is the eldest grandson of Fiji’s former Prime Minister and President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the son of former Fiji Military Forces Commander, Brigadier Ratu Epeli Ganilau and Adi Ateca Mara.

Tau’olunga (ladies’ dance) and tu’ulafale (man dancing behind the female dancer) are normally performed by commoners at Tongan celebrations and observers said it was unlikely the royals would have been so informal at home.

Royal tomb

A self-styled American traveller and explorer claimed he had evidence that Tongans built a huge fort on the Wallis and Futuna Islands and a royal tomb on Easter Island.

Vic Stefanu, who described himself as an “environmentalist, historian, ethnologist and historian,” claimed he spent 14 months  touring the Pacific Ocean. He said he recorded video images of the fort and tomb and had “no doubt” Tongans built them.

After spending three weeks on Easter Island Stefanu said he found what locals call an Ahu. He said it was a “replica” of the Langi ʻo Tuʻitonga (Tongan Kings lines’  Royal Tomb) in Lapaha.

“I am an expert in these matters and there is no doubt in my mind,” Stefanu said.

  • February

Rugby wedding

The standout Tongan player in the Japanese team which humiliated South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup married his Japanese fiancee in Auckland’s Botanic Gardens.

‘Amanaki Mafi married Azusa Arita after flying in from Japan.

Arita’s parents, Tetsuya and Kanako Arita, accompanied them and ‘Amanaki’s parents, Uilini and Tevita Puli Mafi, travelled from Tonga for the ceremony.

Mafi become a rugby star in last year’s World Cup Tournament after he fended off South Africa’s five eighth, giving him more space to run further down the corner before passing the ball to Harumichi Tatekawa, who scored.

There’s money in the bank

Inflation is down, the economy is growing and there’s money in the bank.

That was the news from the National Reserve Bank of Tonga, which said that Tonga had enjoyed a year of economic growth and there was more good financial news to come.

The Reserve Bank said the kingdom experienced 2.5% real GDP growth in 2014/15 and could expect stronger growth of 3.3% in the next financial year.

Foreign reserves had risen to $319 million, a sign of Tonga’s competiveness with its major trading partners.

Reserve Bank governor Sione Ngongio Kioa said import payments rose to $306.8 million in November 2015. Imports of construction materials more than doubled due to major work in Nuku’alofa.

Wholesale and retail trade increased by 5.9% and foreign reserves reached $330 million in the New Year.

Adams engaged

New Zealand’s Tongan-born shotput queen Valerie Adams announced her engagement to fiancé Gabriel Price.

Adams, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, posted the news of her engagement online.

The announcement was accompanied by two photographs.

One apparently showed a diamond solitaire engagement ring and the other featured Adams sitting next to Price who is shown holding a bouquet of flowers.

Their engagement came one year after a near miss they had with an aircraft in Tonga which they had boarded to fly to the nearby island of ʻEua.

  • March

Work opportunities

Nurses and apprentices in Tonga learned they could now go to New Zealand and practice what they are being trained for in Tonga.

The opportunity followed an agreement signed by New Zealand and Australian Trade Ministers and representatives from Pacific nations at the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus talks in Brisbane in February.

Tonga’s Customs and Revenue CEO ‘Anisi Bloomfield said all apprenticeship-type training in Tonga, including welding, fishing, building and plumbing, would benefit from the agreement.

He said this was a great opportunity for Tongans and academic institutions which ran technical training in Tonga such as the Fokolo ‘o e Hau Institute, the ‘Ahopanilolo and Tupou Tertiary Institutes.

Children’s court

Tonga’s Minister of Justice, Vuna Fa’otusia, revealed work was underway to establish a Children’s Court and a restorative justice system for victims.

Hon. Fa’otusia said the current justice system dealt only with punishing offenders and nothing was done to make sure the lives and welfare of victims of crime were restored to the way they were before the crime took place.

Speaking in Parliament, he said the need for a new justice systems for Tonga was long overdue.

Lord Vaea told the House he was concerned that children under 18 were sentenced in Tongan courts with the same laws used to sentence those regarded as adults.

we will publish the next part in the next 12 – 24 hours

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