Prime Minister Helen Clark will travel to Tonga for the coronation of King George Tupou V of Tonga in Nuku’alofa on Friday, 1 August.
Helen Clark said that the presence of New Zealand’s Governor-General and Prime Minister at the coronation reflects the close ties between New Zealand and Tonga.
“Our two countries work closely on matters of regional importance through such institutions as the Pacific Forum, which Tonga currently chairs,” Helen Clark said.
“Over the years, many Tongans have migrated to New Zealand, and many young Tongans have come to study, including in the past Tonga’s current Prime Minister Dr Sevele. New Zealand is one of Tonga’s principal trading partners. New Zealand’s Development assistance is a key strand in the relationship.
“The Coronation of King George Tupou V takes place at an important juncture in Tonga’s political evolution. Steps now underway will modify Tonga’s 1875 Constitution – the first of any Pacific country – and give more power to the elected representatives of the people.
“New Zealand has offered its support to Tonga as it works through its democratisation process. It is welcome news that last week the Tongan Parliament passed legislation to establish a Constitution and Electoral Commission to take forward the next phase of its reforms. It is expected that changes to the Constitution will be enacted in time for a general election to be held in 2010 election,” Helen Clark said.
Prime Minister Helen Clark leaves New Zealand on the morning of Thursday 31 July, and returns on the evening of 1 August.