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

Vicious allegations of a sexual nature against the king and his daughter Princess Angelika have triggered a move by government to shut down Facebook in Tonga.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he was seriously concerned at the allegations and the possibility of a Tongan or Tongans publicly making such a serious accusation against the royal family.

He said the government had been long concerned about people abusing Facebook using royal family members.

Hon. Pōhiva said it could take about two weeks before the government reached a final decision about the temporary closure.

Hon. Pōhiva told Television Tonga he believed if nothing was done there could be an unrest in the country.

He said the decision has not been confirmed as the government had to  consider other people who used Facebook wisely.

He said the government was working closely with Tonga Cable on its plan.

Hon. Pōhiva denied claims the move by government to close down Facebook was made because of criticism of his government. He said since he became involved in politics criticism has become part of his life.

He said he believed his critics had no other way to try to bring down his government and now they had made serious allegations against the king to agitate him against his government.

Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu said in a separate interview with Television Tonga this week that the Ministry of Police, the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Information (MEIDECC) were working together to resolve the problem.

Facebook had been formally contacted about the allegations.

The Minister had to act on the allegations because they compromised national security.

He said the problem with contacting Facebook it took too long for the government to  receive a response.

Hon. Tapueluelu described the allegations against the royals as disrespectful and vicious.

The Facebook group

The allegations were posted on what appears to be a fake Facebook group account by the name Mo’oni mo Totonu or Truth and Right.

The post has sparked a public outcry this week with many calling on authorities to investigate and bring those responsible to justice as it has breached the cultural taboo of respect for royals.

The closed Facebook group, which has more than a thousand members, appears to be a political page supporting democrat supporters. The list of administrators of the group included what appeared to be fake names, including Temokalati Ma’a Tonga or Democracy for Tonga and Liukava He Taimi ni or Stage a Coup-d’etat now.

Democrats supporters have accused royal supporters of creating the Facebook group to infuriate the king against the liberal supporters and the Pōhiva government.

At one stage the group published information alleging the page was owned by the Prime Minister’s daughter and wife of the Minister of Police, Lautala Tapueluelu. Lautala went public on Facebook this week and denied the claims vehemently.

However, the allegations have also brought the royal and democrat supporters together this week with many saying no matter how different their political beliefs were there was no place for such allegations against the Hau E Fonua or the Victor of the Nation.

Some people have claimed that analysis of the Facebook account showed it originated in Australia.

Complaints

Facebook and its owner Mark Zuckerberg have been widely criticised in several countries for the way the company operates and for failing to stop inflammatory material being posted.

There have also been complaints that Facebook shows contempt for government concerns.

A British House of Commons report on online abuse said: “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law.”

The main points

  • Vicious allegations of a sexual nature against the king and his daughter Princess Angelika have triggered a move by government to shut down Facebook in Tonga.
  • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said he was seriously concerned at the allegation and the possibility for a Tongan or Tongans to publicly make such a serious accusation against the royal family.

For more information

The law is closing in on Facebook and the ‘digital gangsters’

1 COMMENT

  1. Facebook is a platform, not a criminal organisation. If individuals engage in unacceptable actions, then the people, government or whoever, has the duty to find these people and prosecute them. Making a certain website not accessible, as some dictatorian governments do, only pushes these people to other platform. That is no way to win the battle, let alone the war. Find the people behind those posts, drag them to court.
    There are ways to circumfence a shutdown, and those involved know how. Do not make that mistake, do not escalate the situation by trying to cut the thread; follow the tread and catch the ones weaving it.

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