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Tonga: Akilisi Pohiva Detained Over 16/11

'Akilisi Pohiva Detained Over 16/11

By Kalafi Moala

NUKU'ALOFA (KM/Pacific Media Watch) - ‘Akilisi Pohiva, controversial leader of Tonga's pro-democracy movement and No. 1 People’s Representative to Parliament, was arrested yesterday at 5pm on charges relating to 16/11 - “Black Thursday”.

Akilisi Pohiva - Scoop Media Image by Selwyn Manning.

Pohiva is the highest profile leader arrested so far, accused of being one of the ringleaders of the riot that led to the burning of downtown Nuku’alofa on November 16, 2006.

His friend and No. 2 People’s Representative, ‘Isileli Pulu, is still in police custody, charged with sedition and abetting public disorder. He may also face other charges as the investigation continues.

‘Ofa Simiki, of OSB businesses, a well-known businesswoman and ardent supporter of Pohiva, has been released on bail. She faces sedition charges as well as charges of abetting arson.

These high profile arrests have been expected for some time, as police have assured the public that sooner or later their investigations will close in on the alleged ringleaders of 16/11.

Pohiva is no stranger to jail. He was charged and found guilty of contempt of Parliament together with publisher Kalafi Moala and former Taimi ‘o Tonga editor Filo ‘Akau’ola in 1996.

The three were released after 26 days imprisonment when the Supreme Court declared their jailing had been “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

In recent years, Pohiva has been taken in for questioning on a variety of allegations, all relating to his work as Tonga’s chief campaigner for political reform.

However, the past two years have found the ageing campaigner a lot more radical and incoherent in his demand for political reform in the island kingdom.

The call for reform became more aggressive. Despite the fact that a pro-democracy prime minister was leading government, and that the monarch as well as government had declared their commitment to political reform, Pohiva and his supporters impatiently lifted the level of their demonstrations, resulting in the burning of downtown Nuku’alofa.

Reform no longer became the issue. The question of whose reform model became the bone of contention.

Specific charges for the MP have not been released, but security precautions are expected to be on high alert as the arrest is the highest profile from among those accused for 16/11.


Leading Tonga Pro-Democracy Mp Detained In Connection With Riot

NUKU'ALOFA (RNZI Online/Pacific Media Watch) - Police in Tonga have arrested the country’s highest profile pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva, in connection with the November riot.

He is the second pro-democracy MP to be implicated in the November 16 riot which resulted in seven deaths and major damage to the capital’s central business district.

Our correspondent in Tonga, Mateni Tapueluelu, says Pohiva was arrested around 5pm yesterday and his family were asked to provide bedding for him.

“That’s when they knew that he was going to be detained. So they’ve finally arrested him - he’s not the only one. The second representative of the people of Tongatapu, Isileli Pulu, has also been detained for about a week now and with the fact that the government have also extended the period for the state of emergency in Tonga, it’s predicted that a lot of other politicians and high figures in the political movement will be arrested as well.”

Mateni Tapueluelu says no charges have been laid yet against Pohiva.

Some 700 people have been arrested in connection with the riots so far.

Police can keep suspects up to seven days for questioning under the emergency powers put in place since the riot.

Meanwhile, 12 New Zealand and three Australian police officers remain in Nuku’alofa to assist local police with their investigations into the riots.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.

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