MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 3) - Commoner politicians in Tonga have reportedly endorsed a boycott of Royal Tongan Airlines, whose mounting debts are threatening the economic viability of the Pacific kingdom.

"We are telling the people to now stop using Royal Tonga because sooner or later it will die out," leading commoner politician 'Akilisi Pohiva told news agency AFP.

The boycott was also in protest at recent changes to Tonga's constitution which opponents say will muzzle free speech, AFP reported.

A year ago, the airline began service six days a week between Tonga and New Zealand using a leased Royal Brunei Airlines Boeing 757.

The government-owned airline flies between Tonga, New Zealand and Australia twice a week and between the Cook Islands and New Zealand once a week.

The deal has caused a severe drain on government finances, but the government has not revealed how the shortfall is being met.

Last week, commoner politicians leaked a report for the Tongan government by the accountancy firm KPMG. The report says the airline is running at only 34 percent capacity and needs an infusion of US$10 million.

November 4, 2003

Radio Australia:


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