APPARENTLY NOTHING NEW FROM TONGA CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE CONVENTION

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (January 21, 1999 - PACNEWS/Radio Tonga)---A convention on constitutional change held in Tonga last week discussed recycled ideas with no innovative resolutions on a constitution for the next century, according to organizers.

Tongan political activist and politician Akilisi Pohiva's pro-democracy movement had organized the convention, which discussed constitutional reform issues.

Among the proposals was the elimination of the King of Tonga's authority to nominate cabinet ministers to parliament, instead of the nominees being democratically elected. The convention recommended that a referendum should be held on the issue before the March general election, when the people of the kingdom will elect nine members to parliament.

Pohiva says the issues were new when discussed at the first convention in 1992. The pro-democracy movement has discussed them so much since then, he said, that the issues have become too familiar.

He cited this as one of the reasons for what he called a low turnout at the four-day convention last week. Pohiva also blamed police contact with some of the convention speakers for affecting attendance.

The police department confirmed that some of its officers held informal talks with some of the speakers, as a way of fostering understanding, as well as for security reasons.

Former New Zealand Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves, who chaired Fiji's Constitutional Review Commission from 1995 to 1996, was the convention's keynote speaker.

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