TONGA’S King Tupou VI inherits the only kingdom in the Pacific at a time when its deeply conservative society gradually turns towards greater political freedoms.
Early this year Tongans elected fierce pro-democracy campaigner ‘Akilisi Pohiva to the position of Prime Minister.
For more than 40 years Pohiva criticised the monarchy – in particular the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV – over allegations of corruption, questionable policies, mismanagement of funds and human rights abuse.
“I have a deep respect for the monarchy and our traditional systems,” Pohiva told Islands Business before the election, “but when the systems fail to work we must speak out.”
“We need to build a Tonga in which there is respect for the king and nobles but also in which the people are treated fairly and justly.”
Late last year Tongan civil servants threatened to quit over the government’s failure to increase salaries. The public service association made claims of misuse of funds and breach of trust against the nobility-controlled cabinet.
Common Tongans have also seen successive, spectacular failures of passport sales schemes, ownership of satellites and a national airline which went into tailspin even before its first flight.
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by Netani Rika