Press release: Friday 2 August 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji
A 3-day national consultation on the rights of persons with disabilities organised by the Tonga Ministry of Health and Department of Women’s Affairs (Ministry of Internal Affairs) in partnership with Naunau’o e’Alamaite Tonga Association Incorporated, Tonga Red Cross and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) is concluding today in Nukualofa, Tonga.
The consultation participants are calling for stronger commitment and recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities.
‘This consultation is timely and appropriate. Tonga must not continue to turn a blind eye to the many challenges faced by persons with disabilities and their organisations, such as negative attitudes, prejudice and lack of recognition of the contribution people with disabilities make to society,’ said Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Lopeti Senituli at the opening of the consultation this week.
Mr Senituli is confident the partners can work together to enable the Government of Tonga to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to have Cabinet adopt a National Policy for Persons with Disabilities as it had agreed to do in 2011.
‘I hope that the outcomes of the consultation will guide us to work together and to take responsibility in making a link between practical problems that our persons with disabilities have and fulfilment of their rights. We must also acknowledge the limited funding, and lack of educational, training and employment opportunities available for them and commit ourselves to improving those conditions,’ Mr Senituli said.
Mr Senituli also acknowledged the various non-governmental and civil society organisations, such as the Alonga Centre, the Ofa, Tui mo ‘Amanaki, the Mango Tree Centre, the Naunau ‘a e ‘Alamaite Tonga Association and the Tonga National Disability Congress, for the critical services they provide for persons with disabilities and the Ministry of Education and Training’s Inclusive Education Class at Ngele’a GPS and the Ministry of Health’s work in looking after persons with mental disabilities.
The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities promotes, protects and ensures the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and promotes respect for their inherent dignity.
The consultation is attended by government civil servants and non-government organisations in Tonga and is one of various SPC RRRT activities that complement the support to the Government of Tonga in the area of disability rights by other development partners such as the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Pacific Disability Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].