Topic: Pacific Affairs

Jonah from Tonga series to still go ahead

By Aroha Treacher

Māori Television will continue to broadcast a comedy series called Jonah from Tonga despite criticism from Pacific Peoples Minister Alfred Ngaro.

The Minister says the series reinforces negative stereo types but members of the tongan community confirmed they support Māori Television's decision.

"I think actually it reinforces negative stereotypes about young Polynesian men," he says.

However elected Tongan community leader Will 'Ilolahia says "There is no harm in having a laugh a lot of people are surprised that the Tongans that watch the show were actually laughing at the character trying to be a Tongan."

The Tongan community in Auckland was consulted with by Will 'Ilolahia who says the minister's criticism is a double standard.

"This underlines institutional racism that we have here in New Zealand that basically hey, there was no real issue when mainstream TV One ran it, but when our whanaunga Māori TV do it 'oh no no' it's a no go," says 'Ilolahia.

"It's not my place to comment on what Māori Television does I was asked about my opinion about Jonah on the programme, I've seen parts of that and from my point of view there's more positive things that I'd rather see," reiterates the minister.

Jonah from Tonga was one of the the characters in the Australian hit series Summer Heights High, first appearing on TVNZ. 

"We're glad that people have voiced their concerns but feel overall that we should go ahead with this series it's an important conversation to have around immigration and racism and we're happy to have that conversation with the community in Aotearoa," says Mike Rehu, Head of Content at Māori Television.

The Spin Off series Jonah from Tonga will be launched on Māori TV tonight 9pm.