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New Zealand needs to support democracy in Tonga

New Zealand needs to support democracy in Tonga

Green Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke, who visited Tonga last week, wants New Zealand to be more supportive of that country's democracy movement.

"I applaud New Zealand's efforts to mediate the dispute over state service pay," Mr Locke says.

"But we are not looking at an ordinary pay dispute. The public servants' strike has energised and broadened the campaign for democracy - and there is no turning back.

"New Zealand now needs to put its weight more squarely on the side of the majority of Tongans, who want to move to a constitutional monarchy, where representative government replaces aristocratic rule. Civil servants know that one of the reasons their wages are so miserable is that much of the wealth of the country is going to support a luxurious lifestyle for their rulers.

"They know that this will continue unless there is democratic change and more transparent and accountable government. It is not like New Zealand, where a pay dispute finishes and everyone goes back to work. Tongan union activists fear that without democracy they will be victimised, and perhaps lose their jobs, when the dispute is over.

"The movement for democracy now has unstoppable momentum with workers, pro-democracy politicians, and many business and church leaders all working together. These people welcome support for democratic change, and think it can make a difference. They really appreciated my going to Tonga with a solidarity message from the Green Party.

"The ruling group needs to feel the heat, not only from the Tongan people, but from governments like New Zealand's."

Mr Locke will be meeting leaders of the striking civil servants when they visit Auckland this weekend.

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