By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – Democrats in Tonga demand that the Tongan government immediately endorse a report on democratic reforms to ensure that no more violence ensues in the country.
Starting in late 2006, massive rioting in the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, caused significant damages in the immediate area. The Tongan people were protesting the lack of democratic reforms. Most of the district was destroyed.
In 2008, King George Tupou V stated that he would relinquish the monarchy power in hopes to introduce democratic reforms.
In early 2009, Tonga’s Commission for Reform announced that it would start holding public consultations and hearing petitions on democratic reform. Former chief justice Gordon Ward was the chair of the Commission, and wanted to determine the nature of political reforms to be put in place by 2010.
Although the public in Tonga remained somewhat skeptic, this was an important step in the process that would allow democratic reform to take place.
Currently, what is now known as the People’s Committee for Political Reform, has recommended a “popularly elected parliament and reducing the monarchy to a largely ceremonial role.”
Akillisi Pohiva and his co-chair on the People’s Committee for Political Reform, Uliti Uata, stated that they are willing to accept the Constitutional and Electoral Commission’s report and recommends that the Tongan government accept the report as well.
They contend that it is important for “every sector of society [to] embrace the report in full so that the reform process remains peaceful.”
They also stated that it would be a “token of respect to King George Tupou V for his role as the architect of peaceful political change.”
Pohiva and Uata fear that if the reforms are not supported that more violence will occur. The riots that happened three years ago erupted because of the opposition to the government, and they fear that this may occur again if these reforms are not accepted.
For more information, please see:
Pacific Islands News Association – Tonga democrats want immediate acceptance of report on reform – 01 December 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Tonga democrats want immediate acceptance of report on reform – 30 November 2009
BBC News – Timeline: Tonga – 16 November 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Tonga Commission for Reform beings public consultations – 15 January 2009