Pōhiva sticks to Sunday trade ban as Tonga continues to rely heavily on foreign aid

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Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said yesterday his government would not change its stance on restoring the Sunday Trade Ban unless there was a strong reaction from the public.

He told a press conference in Auckland that while the ban had really affected the business community, the decision was made after strong pressure from the public and the church.

“Whether the government likes it or not, you have to listen, especially to churches in Tonga. They are very powerful,” Hon. Pohiva said.

Hon. Pōhiva was responding to a question from Kaniva Pacific News during a news conference at the Government House pavilion.

The Prime Minister was asked: “You have said Tongans should copy Chinese work habits and the kingdom accepts millions of dollars in economic aid money from other countries. How do you think those countries react when they see you restoring the Sunday Trade ban which puts people out of work and takes away from the Tongan economy?”

The Prime Minister, who is currently in New Zealand on his first official visit, did not say how he thought foreign donors would react.

He remained silent and then said: “Tonga will not refuse to accept any assistance from any country.”

Nearly half of Tonga’s $545 million budget for 2016/17, or $266.2 million, comes from overseas grants.

New Zealand has donated $22.1 million in 2015 – 16 to Tonga, mostly spent on energy systems, law and justice, education and tourism.

Critics say the ban does not reflect well on a country that relies heavily on overseas aid money while at the same time it restricts an opportunity for its people to help boost its economy.

The owner of the largest bakery in Tonga, Alfred Cowley, told Kaniva News his bakeries produced most of its bread during the week for people to buy on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

He said the restoration decision was not fair because cigarettes and alcohol were sold to customers at certain restaurants on Sunday.

Meanwhile a petition asking for the Sunday ban to be reversed has been presented to the king.

The petition is strongly supported by the Public Service Association.

The petitioners have told his Majesty the decision to close down the bakeries on Sunday was unfair as some businesses were exempted and allowed to open.

Tonga’s Public Service Association has issued a statement on the Sunday ban, saying: “We all have common Christian Values that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord.

“The one Golden Rule Jesus brought with him was that you love your neighbour as Jesus loved you;

“We feel for the workers whose livelihoods are affected by this unfair decision;

“The Bakeries’ Association stood for us for six and-a-half weeks in Pangai Si’i when we fought the governmnt in 2005 for their unfair decision against us.

“They donated over $20,000 in cash and containers of flour and sugar to feed us.”

The main points

  • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said yesterday his government would not change its stance on restoring the Sunday Trade Ban unless there was a strong reaction from the public.
  • He told a press conference in Auckland that while the ban had really affected the business community, the decision was made after strong pressure from the government and the church.
  • “Whether the government likes it or not, you have to listen, especially to churches in Tonga. They are very powerful,” Hon. Pohiva said.
  • Critics say the ban does not reflect well on a country that relies heavily on overseas aid money while at the same time it restricts an opportunity for its people to help boost its economy.

For more information

Bread ban will affect most people on Tongatapu, including churchgoers who are big customers

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