Prime Minister sets out agenda for greater democracy and political reform

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Prime Minister of Tonga. Akilisi Pohiva. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Commentary:

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva goes into the new Parliamentary year with an agenda that is set firmly against the kingdom’s traditional power structure, with the nobles already attacking some of his ideas.

Speaking to Kaniva News at ‘Atalanga recently, the Prime Minister said he wanted to focus on completing his political reforms.

Many powers, such as the authority to veto decisions, declare marshal law and close parliament still reside with the king.

At a press conference in Nukuʻalofa last week he said Cabinet had discussed  a proposal for the people to elect the nobles’ parliamentary seats, but have not put it on the agenda for Parliament.

He said the focus of their discussion was to revert to Tongaʻs old constituency system under which MPs were elected according to the district or islands group they lived in.

This would involve all voters in the main islands of Tongatapu. Eua, Haʻapai, Vavaʻu and the Niuas.

Radio New Zealand has reported that the government is proposing to take the power to elect the Attorney General and Police Commissioner from the Privy Council to the Prime Minister and cabinet.

Kaniva News believes that the Prime Minister’s proposals are in the interests of civil society and democracy.

In 2006 a survey conducted by the Late Princess Tuʻipelehake and Dr Sitiveni Halapua showed the majority of Tongans in the Islands and overseas agreed to change the political system to a democracy.

Hon. Pohiva’s suggestions are prudent. They do not threaten the existence of the Nobles and he has always made it clear that he regards the royal family as a symbol of stability in Tonga.

A carefully planned democratic transfer of power offers a surer way forward than that found in some other Island nations which have suffered unrest.

The coups d’etat that have marred Fijian history for the past 30 years are a warning of what can happen when the growth of democracy and the orderly transfer of power to the people and their elected representatives is stifled.

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