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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, June 3) - Tonga's royal
family has launched a bid to cancel the right of the country's courts to review
the King's decisions.

The move came in the Legislative Assembly a week after the
government - which is controlled by the royal family - resisted a court-ordered
end to a ban on the Times of Tonga newspaper.

The bill presented in parliament amends the constitution to
exclude laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and ordinances passed by the
King from judicial review.

It says freedom of the press in the kingdom shall not be used to
"infringe upon the rights of others and the cultural traditions of the
Kingdom, or to violate public law and order and national security".

Tonga, a former British protectorate that gained independence in
1970, remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.

King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV appoints his cabinet without election
and for life terms.

The cabinet takes up 12 of the 30 seats in the assembly.

The kingdom's 33 nobles control nine seats while commoners elect
nine representatives.

The editor of the Times of Tonga, Kalafi Moala, said
there are likely to be public protests against the moves, which have
implications beyond the newspaper.

"It's specifically being introduced because of the
difficulties we've had, but I think it is so broad that unfortunately it's the
worst action that could have been done to gag freedom of speech in Tonga,"
he said.

June 4, 2003

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