TONGAN CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS RESURFACE

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Jan. 29, 2001 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---A former New Zealand policeman is alleging that widespread corruption and drug smuggling are occurring in Tonga.

Josh Liava‘a, who claims to have had affairs with two Tongan princesses, is publishing a book entitled "The Pumpkin Patch Kingdom." In the book, he claims that high-level Tongan officials are involved in corruption.

He said some Tongan officials in the kingdom tried to have him assassinated in Australia a few years ago.

He is now at an undisclosed location in New Zealand.

Liava‘a, who currently owns a nightclub in Sydney, said he will not be forced into silence.

"There is huge corruption in the Tongan government in relation to money laundering and extravagant use of government funds (such as) when the Tongan government goes overseas," Liava‘a said in an interview with Pacific Beat’s Bruce Hill.

Liava‘a also said the kingdom has been a central location for smuggling huge container loads of "hash" and cocaine.

"Last year before the Olympics, there were two syndicates that brought large quantities of drugs from Tonga to Australia in preparation for the Olympics. It was done by major figures in the Tongan government," he added. "I have proof that in April 2000, a high-standing lawyer in Sydney took several drug dealers to Tonga to finalize ways of bringing drugs to Australia."

He said Tongan citizens are not blind to some of the government’s dealings. "Unfortunately, they don’t have the guts or the independence to open this case up," he added.

"I have had my problems with the Tongan government and have been reluctant to come out and say these things. But they can’t expect to keep kicking me in the head for the rest of my life without me standing out of my shadow and standing up to them," he said.

Liava‘a’s claims have been made public over the past month in the Tongan language newspaper, Times of Tonga.

The newspaper’s editor said he hasn’t received letters from readers regarding the issue. However, he has gotten calls from Tongans who are "outraged" over the allegations.

"They are beginning to question the status and credibility of some of the Tongan leaders," the newspaper’s editor said.

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

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