Finger Pointing in Tonga

Kololiana Naufahu, general secretary of the Tonga Tourist Association, has laid the blame for the recent rioting in Tonga on the leaders of the country's pro-democracy movement. I beg to differ. The Government of Tonga should have seen the trouble coming, and it was their inept handling of the situation which led to the rioting which saw 80 percent of Nukualofa's central business district burned to the ground. The spark which actually ignited the fires last Thursday was the adjourning of parliament for the year without the question of democratic reform being discussed. Prime Minister Fred Sevele and his government must accept responsibility for this mistake and they should resign.

On September 11, 2006, I posted the news of the death of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV on this blog, and commented that how his son and successor, King Siaosi Tupou V, “handles the situation will determine whether the inevitable transition is peaceful or turbulent.” Well, King Siaosi seems to have handled the situation rather badly.

In Tonga today, only nine of the 30 members of parliament are elected by the people. The other 21 and the prime minister and the cabinet are all appointed by the king and nobles. This has to change. You can't put the genie back into the bottle, and if the royalist party tries to hold onto power through backroom dealings or by force, the bloodshed and destruction we saw last week will have been only the beginning. Until the transition to democracy is complete, I'd advise tourists to avoid visiting Tonga as you never know when the trouble may start again.

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