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46. Tonga (1970-present)

Pre-Crisis Phase (June 4, 1970-November 15, 2006):  The Kingdom of Tonga achieved its independence from Britain and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations (CoN) on June 4, 1970.  Tonga had been a British protectorate under a Treaty of Friendship since May 18, 1900.  King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV became the head of state of the Kingdom of Tonga, and Prince Fatafehi Tu’ipelehak was appointed as prime minister on June 4, 1970.  Parliamentary elections were held in 1972.  The 23-member Legislative Assembly included seven representatives elected by hereditary nobles and seven representatives elected in popular elections.  The other nine seats were filled by the King and members of the Privy Council.  Parliamentary elections were held in 1975, and thirty candidates competed for the seven elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Parliamentary elections were held on April 14, 1978, and independents won seven out of seven seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Seven representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.

Parliamentary elections were held on May 1, 1981, and independents won seven out of seven of the elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Seven representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 7, 1984, and independents won seven out of seven elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Seven representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  A mass protest for peace and justice was held in Tonga’s capital, Nukuʻalofa, on December 30, 1986.  Parliamentary elections were held on February 18-19, 1987.  Fifty-five candidates competed for the nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly, and pro-democratic reform candidates won five out of nine elected seats.  Nine representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1987, presented a petition signed by 700 individuals, which included allegations of illegal actions by the minister of finance, to King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV on November 4, 1988.  Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, and the other eight elected members of the Legislative Assembly, boycotted the parliament for two weeks in September 1989.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 14-15, 1990, and pro-democratic reform candidates won seven out of nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  Siaosi Tuʻihala ʻAlipate Vaea Tupou was sworn in as prime minister on August 22, 1991.  A pro-democracy movement was established in Tonga in 1992.  Parliamentary elections were held on February 3-4, 1993, and pro-democratic reform candidates won six out of nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  Parliamentary elections were held on January 24-25, 1996, and pro-democratic reform candidates won six out of nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  On September 20, 1996, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, along with two journalists, were sentenced to 30 days imprisonment for contempt of parliamentary procedures (the journalists had prematurely reported that the parliament was going to impeach the minister of justice).  On September 24, 1996, the Legislative Assembly voted 11 to 10 in favor of a writ of impeachment against Minister of Justice Tevita Tupou for taking a leave of absence without the permission of the parliamentary speaker.  On October 14, 1996, Chief Justice Nigel Hampton overturned the decision of the parliament and ordered the immediate release of Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the two journalists from prison.  Parliamentary elections were held on March 10-11, 1999, and members of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) won five out of nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine representatives were elected by the hereditary nobles.  Prince ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho was sworn in as prime minister on January 3, 2000.  Parliamentary elections were held on March 7, 2002, and members of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) won seven out of nine elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine representatives were held by the hereditary nobles.  Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the HRDM, was arrested and charged with sedition following the parliamentary elections.  Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and two other individuals were acquitted of sedition charges by the Tongo High Court on May 19, 2003.  Parliamentary elections were held on March 17, 2005, and members of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) won seven out of nine elected seats in the 30-member Legislative Assembly.  Nine members of the Legislative Assembly were elected by the 33 hereditary nobles of Tonga and twelve members of the Legislative Assembly were appointed by King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV.  Pro-democracy demonstrations took place in Tonga’s capital, Nukuʻalofa, on May 26, 2005.  Dissatisfied with recently-approved salary changes, Tonga’s civil servants voted to go on strike on July 21, 2005.  Acting Prime Minister Cecil Cocker refused to consider the demands of the striking civil servants on July 22, 2005.  After their demands were met by the government, civil servants ended their strike on September 5, 2005.  On September 6, 2005, several Tongans delivered a petition to the government requesting constitutional (pro-democracy) reforms within twelve months.  Several thousand Tongans participated in a pro-democracy demonstration in Nukuʻalofa on September 12, 2005.  The demonstrators delivered a petition demanding democratic reforms and the dismissal of the prime minister.  Prime Minister ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho resigned on February 11, 2006, and Dr. Feleti Sevele was appointed as interim prime minister on February 12, 2006.  Lord Sevele of Vailahi (Feleti Vakaʻuta Sevele), a member of the Tongan nobility, was elected as prime minister by the Legislative Assembly on March 6, 2006.  Lord Sevele of Vailahi (Feleti Vakaʻuta Sevele) of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) was sworn in as prime minister on March 30, 2006.  King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV died in New Zealand on September 10, 2006, and he was succeeded by his son (Crown Prince Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Manumataongo Tukuʻaho) as King George Tupou V.  On October 5, 2006, the chairman of the National Committee for Political Reform, Sitiveni Halapua, recommended that all 32 members of parliament be elected, rather than mostly appointed by nobles or the monarch.

Crisis Phase (November 16, 2006-February 3, 2011):  Pro-democracy demonstrations that turned violent occurred in the capital city of Nuku’alofa on November 16, 2006, resulting in the deaths of eight individuals.  Some of the targets of the violence were ethnic-Chinese.  On November 17, 2006, the government declared a state-of-emergency, and announced that 21 out of 30 seats in the Legislative Assembly would be filled through democratic elections to he held in 2008.  On November 17, 2006, Commonwealth of Nations (CoN) Secretary-General Don McKinnon condemned those individuals responsible for the violence in Tonga.  Following a request from the government, the New Zealand-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF-Tonga) was deployed in the country on November 18, 2006. The CJTF-Tonga consisted of 228 peacekeeping personnel, including 117 personnel (72 soldiers and 45 police) from New Zealand and 111 personnel (50 soldiers and 61 police) from Australia, commanded by Lt. Colonel Darren Beck of New Zealand.  The mandate of the CJTF-Tonga included assisting in re-establishing law & order and providing protection for the airport.  United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed for peaceful negotiations on November 28, 2006.  The New Zealand-led CJTF -Tonga was disbanded on December 2, 2006.  Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the pro-democracy movement, was arrested for his role in the 2006 Nuku’alofa riots on January 18, 2007.  Parliamentary elections were held on April 23-24, 2008, and the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) won four of the nine elected seats in the 33-seat Legislative Assembly.  Fifteen of the members of the Legislative Assembly were appointed by King George Tupou V, and nine of the members of the Legislative Assembly were elected among the 29 hereditary nobles of Tonga.  George Tupou V was formally crowned as king of Tonga on August 1, 2008.  Five members of the Legislative Assembly, including Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, were acquitted of seditious conspiracy charges by the Court of Appeal of Tonga on September 13, 2009.  The Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands (DPFI) was established under the leadership of Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva on September 6, 2010.  King George Tupou V dissolved the Legislative Assembly on September 30, 2010.  Parliamentary elections were held on November 25, 2010, and the DPFI won 12 out of the 17 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Nine of the members of the Legislative Assembly were elected among the 29 hereditary nobles of Tonga.  Australia and New Zealand sent 14 observers (nine Australian and five New Zealand) to monitor the parliamentary elections, and the two countries issued a joint statement on November 26, 2010.  Lord Tuʻivakanō (Siale ʻAtaongo Kaho), a member of the Tongan nobility, was elected prime minister by the Legislative Assembly on December 21, 2010.  Lord Tuʻivakanō was sworn in as prime minister on December 22, 2010.  On December 31, 2010, Prime Minister Tuʻivakanō announced his cabinet members, including Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva as minister of health.  Prime Minister Tuʻivakanō accepted the resignation of Health Minister Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva on January 14, 2011.  The government lifted the state of emergency on February 3, 2011.

Post-Crisis Phase (February 4, 2011-present):  King George Tupou V died at a hospital in Hong Kong on March 18, 2012, and Crown Prince ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho became King Tupou VI.  Three cabinet ministers, including the ministers of Labour, Police, and Health, resigned on June 25, 2012.

[Sources: Agence France Presse (AFP), September 9, 2008: Associated Press (AP), November 19, 2006; Australia-New Zealand Joint Statement, November 26, 2010; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), February 13, 2006, September 11, 2006, October 6, 2006, November 16, 2006, November 17, 2006, November 18, 2006, April 24, 2008, April 25, 2008, July 29, 2008, August 1, 2008, November 25, 2010, November 26, 2010, December 20, 2010, March 18, 2012 Commonwealth of Nations (CON) press release, November 17, 2006; New Zealand Herald, December 2, 2006; Radio New Zealand International (RNZI), June 2, 2007, August 29, 2008, September 13, 2009, September 6, 2010, June 25, 2012; Reuters, November 17, 2006.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Campbell, Ian C. 1992. “The Emergence of Parliamentary Politics in Tonga,” Pacific Studies, vol. 15 (1), pp. 77-97.

James, Kerry. 1993. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 5 (1), pp. 163-166.

James, Kerry. 1995. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 7 (1), pp. 164-167.

James, Kerry. 1998. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 10 (1), pp. 236-239.

James, Kerry. 1999. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 11 (1), pp. 236-239.

James, Kerry. 2001. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 13 (1), pp. 258-260.

Young Leslie, Heather E. 2007. “Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events – Tonga,” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 19 (1), pp. 262-276.