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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 11) – In a surprise announcement last night, Tonga's Prime Minister promised that four new ministers will be appointed from elected members of Tonga's Legislative Assembly following the triennial elections in February, 2005.

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has agreed to a recommendation by the Prime Minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, for the appointments.

The king's decision is a departure from usual procedure. He has traditionally selected cabinet ministers from outside parliament. They then become members of the House by virtue of their ministerial positions and do not have to seek election.

In a statement released following the closure of the 2004 parliamentary session yesterday, the Prime Minister said the new Ministers will be "Grace and Favor" appointments. "They will differ from the current holders of Ministerial office who were appointed by the Sovereign without recommendation from the Prime Minister."

Their tenure of office will depend on their re-election.

Two of the new Ministers will be selected from the nine noble members of the Legislative Assembly elected by the Kingdom's nobility. Two will be chosen from the nine elected representatives of the people.

The appointments, to be based on the advice of the Prime Minister, will increase the size of Cabinet to 16.

According to the Prime Minister, "the widening of Cabinet membership will be a natural progression of the Kingdom's political system. It will reflect the democratic principles of Tonga's Constitution. The changes will be in line with a comprehensive agenda for reform of Government and the economy, including privatization. A restructured Cabinet will reflect the social change brought about by the new policies.

"The proposed appointments will enable Parliament to make a greater contribution, through Cabinet, to the agenda for progress," he said.

The Prime Minister said the king was influenced by, "His desire to serve the welfare of the Kingdom and his subjects."

November 11,2004

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