By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – The People’s Committee for Political Reform in Tonga hopes to present a petition to the King requesting for a new Prime Minister. The petition is in accordance with the Tongan Women’s National Congress, who also seeks the replacement of the current Prime Minister, Dr. Feleti Sevele.
The leader of the protest for women’s rights, Mele Amanaki, has continued to pray and fast until Sevele is replaced. Amanaki and other members of the Tongan Women’s National Congress have been fasting for almost two weeks in a protest against the poor governance of Sevele. They argue that the Sevele administration’s blatant failure to recognize women’s rights and the injustices they suffer must come to an end.
On October 22, 2009. Amanaki started drinking water after eight straight days of fasting. However, the King did not respond to her petition seeking the replacement of Sevele. In response, Amanaki stated: “I have faith in God that he’s going to grant what we want and it’s amazing the strength that he gives me. It’s not that I could go and run a marathon but to be able to go without food for 10 days I just praise the Lord because he’s the one who gives me strength.”
Currently, approximately 800 women are fasting one day a week in support of the protest.
On October 23, 2009, the People’s Committee for Political Reform in Tonga announced that it hopes to present a petition calling for the replacement of Sevele. The petition has close to 6,000 signatures, and follows the petition of Amanaki and the Tongan Women’s National Congress.
A representative of the People’s Committee for Political Reform, Isileli Pulu, criticizes the current administration’s handling of various issues, including the rising crime rate against women. She states that the two organizations are supporting each other, and they are “hoping that the King will make a wise decision on how to handle this because this is not the first time for us to submit a petition for the Prime Minister to resign and hopefully the King will concede our petitions and act likewise.”
Opponents to the hunger strike do not believe that protesting in this manner is the appropriate way to overthrow Sevele. The chairperson of Tonga’s Civil Society Forum, Drew Havea, stated that the Forum does not “condone a protest hunger strike aimed at toppling the Prime Minister.”
The Civil Society Forum opposes the same issues as does the Tongan Women’s National Congress, but it does not agree with the approach the Congress is taking. Havea stated that the Civil Society Forum belongs to “a Christian denomination and we don’t think it is God’s will for us to take our lives. I mean the issues we need to work in whatever ways, we can support, but not to commit suicide.”
For more information, please see:
Islands Business – The People’s Committee for Political Reform in Tonga says it hopes to present a petition calling for a new Prime Minister to the King this afternoon – 23 October, 2009
Pacific Islands News Association – Tonga People’s Committee for Political Reform poised to submit petition to King – 23 October, 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Tonga People’s Committee for Political Reform poised to submit petition to King – 23 October, 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Tongan hunger striker now drinking but still determine to fast until death – 22 October, 2009