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Government should support a democratic Tonga

25 August 2005

Alliance calls on Government to support a democratic Tonga

The Alliance is calling for the replacement of the Tongan monarchy by a democratically elected parliament.

Alliance co-leader and Manukau East candidate Jill Ovens says the Alliance stands with the Tongan people in their struggle against their monarchy.

"This is more than an industrial dispute requiring mediation. It is history in the making. This is a pro-democracy struggle and the New Zealand Government should be supporting it," Ms Ovens says.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff has responded to the Tongan crisis by sending a mediator, retired Employment Court judge Tom Goddard, to the island kingdom.

"The situation has progressed far beyond a simple wages dispute and in any case Tonga has no relevant industrial law for the judge to invoke," Ms Ovens says.

"The King must relinquish all powers and a parliament of the people must be established - one that is democratically elected under universal suffrage."

Striking civil servants, including teachers, doctors and nurses, have surrounded the King's residence in Tonga, while supporters in New Zealand besiege his Auckland residence where he is staying.

Alliance Mangere candidate Len Richards says the Tongan people are standing up to the monarchy for the first time.

"There will be no just solution to this crisis while King Tupou IV continues to rule. His regime is based on nepotism and is an anachronism in the 21st century."

He says Tongan people everywhere are fund-raising in support of the more than 1000 public servants who have been on strike for over five weeks.

"There was a huge outpouring of support last Saturday in the Otara markets."

Mr Richards says the New Zealand Government should demand the resignation of the King from power and the creation of a genuine democracy.

"The attempt at mediation in the current circumstances can only serve to shore up the corrupt and increasingly shaky Tongan monarchy," he says.

"The King shows no inclination to give in to the striking workers demands for a big jump in pay, let alone allow the Tongan people any democratic input into their own destiny."

The late pro-democracy advocate Finau Kolo was the Alliance Mangere candidate in the 1999 General Election.

ENDS

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