TONGA LAWMAKER SAYS NEW MEASURE TARGETS NEWSPAPER

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, June 4) – A Tongan member of
parliament says a new government bill to amend the constitution is aimed at
permanently banning the Taimi O Tonga newspaper from Tonga.

The New Zealand-produced paper has faced three months of bans,
which the Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional.

But sales of the paper are still not being allowed in Tonga.

Isileli Pulu, one of the People’s Representatives, says while
the government wants to push the legislation through immediately, it has agreed
to delay debating it for about a month.

Pulu says during this time the elected members of parliament
will go to the people and also raise a petition to voice opposition to the
government clampdown.

He says they are also want to meet church leaders to ask them to
use their influence to oppose the bill.

The publisher, Kalafi Moala, says they spent the last week
waiting in good faith, after the government told them that it was only paperwork
that was holding up the distribution.

But, he says instead it was a delaying tactic in order to
introduce the amendments with clause seven a big problem.

"A person can be free to speak and to print anything as
long as it complies with cultural traditions, as long as it doesn't violate the
rights of people," Moala said. "They do not specify what cultural
traditions are, but it leaves open for the government, to come up with the whole
list of things, including that you cannot criticize the royal family, because
that would be against cultural traditions, you could not criticize the
government or the leadership of Tonga, so we're looking into a situation where
there is a major movement to make the government of Tonga, far more dictatorial
than it's ever been."

June 4, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: http://www.rnzi.com/ 

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