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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (January 4, 2000 – Radio Australia)---In a surprise move, the King of Tonga has appointed his third and youngest son as prime minister, following the retirement of Baron Vaea.

King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV has appointed 41-year-old Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata to the position.

He becomes only the kingdom's fourth premier in 51 years.

Tonga is a near absolute monarchy and by tradition the appointment is for life.

Prince Ulukalala will remain as foreign minister and will take on the portfolios traditionally held by the Prime Minister, including Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Marine.

Prince Ulukalala has a Master's degree in International Relations and observers say he is strongly opposed to Tonga's fledgling democratic movement.

Crown Prince Tupouto‘a had been widely expected to take over the role as prime minister, although he had said he wanted to end the king's right to make lifetime cabinet appointments.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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