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Nuku’alofa – October 6, 2021: 9.20am (Nuku’alofa Times): His Majesty King Tupou VI has described it as Tonga’s “biggest challenge” at this time, and added he wants action, as he opened the two day National Symposium on Illicit Drugs, here in Nuku’alofa this  morning.

“Oku ou fiema’u ha ngaue vave ki he faito’o konatapu ‘oua toe tatali,” His Majesty said this morning at the King Taufa’ahau Tupou 4 Domestic Wharf terminal.

Loosely translated His Majesty said that he wants quick action and does not want anymore delay in the work that needs to be done.

The symposium has brought together a whole of nation participation, focused on stopping and reducing the supply of illicit drugs in the Kingdom, its use and effects on Tongans and residents here.

Over the next two days stakeholders and the public will present ideas that can help inform a national response under the theme, “Working Together for a Drug Free Tonga.”

“This is a transnational problem and is now a problem for Tonga. It is NOT a problem for the police only or the courts only or teachers or church leaders only. It is everyone’s problem and we must address it as such. We must approach it together,” Lord Fielakepa, Acting Commissioner of Police and Chairman of the National Action Planning Committee on Illicit Drugs, said.

Prime Minister Hon Dr Rev Pohiva Tuioneto’a welcoming their Majesties, guests and participants at the opening ceremony this morning. Photo: Nuku’alofa Times

Following the official opening ceremony, panel discussions will focus on the three strategic focus areas of Demand Reduction, Supply Reduction and Harm Reduction will feature key figures from agencies such as Police and Prisons, Health, Education, NGOs, Youth and Faith Based Organisations.

“This is a national problem and it calls for a national response. We have received ideas from the public and look forward to constructive dialogue for a way forward,” added Acting Deputy Commissioner Ashley Fua, Secretariat for the National Action Planning Committee.

The two-days symposium welcomes registered participants.

The symposium will be broadcast and streamed live.

“We are encouraged by the response so far. This is a real and difficult problem but people are sharing ideas and while we will not be able to answer everything over the two days, we are committed to working together and that requires us to hear one another. The symposium moves towards an inclusive national response,” explained A/DPC Fua.

His Majesty King Tupou VI addressing the National Drug Illicit Drug Symposium this morning. Photo: Nuku’alofa Times

His Majesty King Tupou VI officially opened the event. He was accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u, Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita and Baron Tuita.

Prime Minister Hon Dr Rev Pohiva Tuioneto’a welcomed Their Majesties, guests and participants at the opening ceremony, which was also attended by Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, church leaders, business owners, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, civil society members and other stakeholders.

The symposium will end tomorrow.

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