TONGA TIGHTENS CONSTITUTIONAL CONTROLS

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (AFP, Oct. 16) - Tonga's Parliament Thursday passed controversial changes to the country’s constitution that will increase state control of media and increase the power of the near absolute monarch, King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV.

The changes were taken to the 30-seat royal controlled assembly after earlier efforts this year to ban the New Zealand-published Taimi ‘o Tonga weekly newspaper failed when the High Court said the bans were unconstitutional.

After several weeks of debate, the assembly passed the changes 16 votes to 11.

All 12 cabinet ministers, who hold life appointment from the king and are not elected, voted for the changes while all eight common members of parliament who were present voted against.

Unusually, three nobles voted with the commoners.

Taimi publisher Kalafi Moala in Auckland said he believed that as a result of the changes his newspaper would again be banned in the kingdom.

He said the current license they hold runs out at the end of the year and he expected as a result of the changes, it would not be renewed.

"That means we will be effectively banned again, and as a result of these changes, this time we have no legal recourse," he said.

October 17, 2003

Agence France-Presse/Michael Field: http://203.97.34.63/

 

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