The string of political problems even reaches the usually placid and calm islands of Tonga. There have been stirrings for some time now because of the great gulf between royalty and commoners. The build up of anger and resentment has been there even before the king died recently. The Parliament has to know this and make adjustments.
Michael Field, an experienced Pacific journalist writes about the situation.
The website of the Tongan newspaper article is here.
Uneasy calm in Tonga
UPDATED 10.10am Friday November 17, 2006 from New Zealand news.
NUKU'ALOFA - An uneasy calm settled on Tonga's capital this morning after it was reported the government bowed to a wave of violent pro-democracy protests. The AP news agency reported police and troops had taken control of central Nuku'alofa.
The apparent breakthrough came after a day of tension in the capital, where rioting crowds overturned cars, looted and set fire to shops and offices, and stoned government buildings including the prime minister's office. Osi Maama, editor of the Tongan Times, had told Newstalk ZB earlier this morning that the rioting was continuing and had spread outside the capital. Chinese-owned shops were being targeted and the police had been powerless to help, he said.
Tonga's government imposes curfew on capital.
Posted at 8:23am on 17 Nov 2006
Tonga's Government has imposed a curfew on the capital Nuku'alofa after last night's riots which left a large part of the business district in ashes.Tonga Broadcasting Commission says virtually all of the Chinese stores in downtown Nuku'alofa and many areas of Tongatapu were torched.
Its Political editor, George Lavaka, says the only thing moving in or out of Nukualofa this morning are either police or the army. "All the schools are closed today, some of the government departments, the development bank, and defence have stopped school children from going into the main centre today, because it has been cordoned off. We don't know when we are going to have an official estimate of how much damage but they will be going into the millions."
George Lavaka says the army are guarding their building after demonstrators threatened to burn it down yesterday.
Radio New Zealand International
Friday November 17, 2006
By Angela Gregory, Claire Trevett and Agencies
Tonga's capital of Nuku'alofa was ablaze last night after a democracy protest erupted into a riot involving rampaging youths. Mobs roamed the streets, overturning cars, smashing windows and setting fires while police watched. Property owned by Tonga's royal family and Prime Minister were targeted by scores of angry youths, many fuelled by alcohol.
Journalist Mateni Tapueluelu told the Herald from the city streets at 8pm (NZ time) that hundreds of Tongans were roaming the inner-city area smashing windows, trashing businesses, looting goods and setting fires.
Firefighters stood by helplessly as flames raged. "I would say 80 per cent of the CBD is burning."
The violence broke out after thousands rallied in the capital demanding a vote on proposed democratic reforms to the country's semi-feudal political system.
When the vote did not happen before Parliament went into recess for the year, youths began trashing the Prime Minister's office, the court house and other public buildings. The riots had quietened by 8.30pm and a proclamation was issued declaring the downtown area to be "under surveillance" to ensure large groups could not gather.
Dr Sevele had gone on Tongan radio appealing for calm.
As well as the Prime Minister's office, the youths attacked public buildings including the Magistrate's Court, the Public Service Commission Office and the Ministry of Finance, plus the Nuku'alofa Club, offices of the Shoreline power company, the ANZ Bank, the Pacific Royale Hotel and other businesses.
Tapueluelu reported that the rioting and burning continued after the Government held an urgent Cabinet meeting and agreed to the people's demands that 21 MPs be elected democratically by 2008.
At present just nine of the 32 MPs are elected by popular vote. The rest are appointed by the King.
It appeared many of the rioters were not aware the Government had apparently acceded to their demands - because their leaders were not able to communicate with them as the kingdom's AM radio station was off the air.
A blogger from New Zealand has an interesting article about Lopeti Senituli an activist - sometimes called a 'Tongan Revolutionary'. He spent his younger days in Fiji and the writer calls the SCM there (a Christian group) Marxist! The blog article is found here.