Tongan pro-democracy movement slams intervention
November 19 2006
The leaders of Tonga’s pro-democracy movement have condemned the intervention of Australian and New Zealand soldiers and police officers in the strife-torn Pacific island kingdom.
About 150 Australian and New Zealand peacekeepers arrived late yesterday to enforce martial law on the streets of the capital Nuku’alofa, after rioting on Thursday left eight people dead.
The movement says the intervention is further proof of the failure of Prime Minister Fred Sevele and his largely non-elected Government.
Pro-democracy movement MP Akilisi Pohiva says the Government failed to heed the warning signs of frustration among the people of Tonga, and its security apparatus failed to ensure law and order when trouble started on the streets of Nuku’alofa.
Mr Pohiva says the death and destruction caused during the riots is a regrettable part of the process of democratic change that is now sweeping the country.
He and his supporters have called on the King to dissolve Parliament and appoint an interim administration comprising the heads of government departments pending fresh fully democratic elections.
The civil unrest comes just two months after the generally unpopular Prince succeeded his father, King Taufa’ahau Tupou, as ruler of the Pacific’s last kingdom.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says he hopes Australia will be able to withdraw its forces from Tonga soon.
He has told the ABC TV’s Insiders program the situation in Tonga has been quiet since the riots.
“We have around 50 Australian Defence Force personnel and 34 police there assisting with security,” he said.
“The New Zealanders have around 60 defence personnel and police so we judge that is an adequate number to keep the situation quiet and hopefully there won’t be any more problems.”
The parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, Teresa Gambaro, says Australians in Tonga are being warned to stay indoors and avoid volatile situations.
Ms Gambaro says a special flight has been arranged this afternoon for expatriates who want to leave.
“I can’t confirm how many people want to leave, but [a flight is] scheduled to leave today, and we’ll see what the demand for that is,” she said.
“We can’t guarantee to get everyone out that wants to leave, but we’re doing our very best.”
Tongan resident Anna Malolo says the country’s recovery will be slow because the main business centre of the Pacific nation has been destroyed.
“I think the future of Tonga will be a very slow economic one, because all the big supermarkets and hotels and … everything has been burned down,” she said.
Technorati Tags: Tonga, riots, politics