Exploring the Tongan perspective on corruption, transparency & integrity - second session

By Mary Jane Kivalu
TINZ Pacific Outreach Coordinator

Following the first Talanoa session there was a genuine interest from participants, in the topics that were discussed.

The turnout for the second Talanoa session was greater. There was a diverse group of people in the room; Tonga-born parents, NZ-born parents, youth-aged parents, youth who were yet to marry etc.

This Talanoa session set out to find out what participants would do in certain situations around the key concepts. We provided different scenarios for participants, and they were asked to express their response through an activity; each side of the room was allocated a response and you were to stand at the side that matches the action you would do.

There was a lot of discussion and weighing up decisions, some even changed their minds during the discussions. The most important thing is that the activity triggered thinking and discussion – Talanoa Session 2 In Times of Corruption, Transparency & Integrity: A Tongan Perspective.

Scenario 1: You are a public servant. Your boss asked to contract a company to build a new office. You selected a Tongan-owned company because they have a good reputation and track record. One day the owner’s family visits you at your home, and they brought food to give thanks to you and show their appreciation for the opportunity. What is your response?

Many participants admitted that they would accept the food as it is culturally rude to decline it. Accepting the food is showing that you value reciprocity and collaboration within the or relationship.

The one person who insisted they would refuse the food stated that they view it as a form of bribery or a transaction that ensures future obligation between them. One response suggested accepting the food and informing your boss of what happened; it’s no different to someone sending a gift basket to say thank you.

Scenario 2: A Tongan woman is campaigning to be elected as an MP. The woman asks for your vote and vows to help the community and the Tongan people. You have yet to research on the policies and work of her party. What is your response? Is her request appropriate? Is it best that you cast your vote for her based on this conversation?

Some participants agreed that they would not think to do research about the candidate and their party, and are most likely to vote for them out of respect for them as a Tongan. Some said they would say no to the candidate, that her request is not appropriate and that it is not ideal to cast their vote based on the conversation just had. Many made a good point that there may be many other MPs out there, and it just depends if this candidate is the only MP that bothered to reach out to them. “The effort should count for some points”.

Scenario 3: You are a Primary School teacher, and you are also a Sunday School teacher at church. Sunday School has no resources but your Primary School has more than enough resources. The Reverend of the church asks you to consider using some resources from Primary School if they are available (pens, printing, etc.), to help with Sunday School. What is your response?

Almost all participants agree that they would tell the Reverend that they will go and ask the Primary School for the resources. As opposed to just printing something or taking the resources without asking. Many noted that as long as they ask it should be fine, however there was a discussion highlighting the position they get put in when similar questions are asked of them – is it okay to be asked of these things? No answer is the right answer.

Scenario 4: You really need a job. Your friend manages an organisation and tells you that they can get you a job. You would not have to go through the recruitment process and you would get the job over many others who applied for the job. What is your response?

There was disagreement around whether it’s okay to take the job or not. Some felt that because there’s an urgent need to put food on the table, they would accept the offer even though they may be by-passing multiple HR laws. Others felt that the process isn’t right and so you wouldn’t be rightfully getting the job.

It was clear that decisions came down to whether you were okay with putting yourself and your family first, or not.

The scenarios triggered a lot of debate and discussion in the room. However the participants were able to do so using humour and understanding of each other’s perspectives.

Most disagreements were between NZ-born and Tonga-born participants, which is to be expected. (My next blog post will be about my insight on the differences of the opinions of participants given their different backgrounds.)

It was amazing to witness the level of self-awareness that the participants had – they understand the choices and the outcomes but it was a matter of priority. What is important to me and my family.

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