TONGA BROADCASTER CHARGES PROGRAM SABOTAGE

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Dec. 23) – Tonga’s Oceania Broadcasting Network (OBN) has been off the air since December 22, an act of sabotage says General Manager Sangstar Saulala.

He said that early yesterday evening that there was a power cut to an area near the OBN television station, which included the National Reserve Bank, the Dateline Hotel and the office of the Australian High Commissioner.

"But a short while later, their lights came on, and the Shoreline workmen were working on the power connection to our station" Saulala said. "Then they left and said they were going to their Christmas Party."

Sangstar said they had paid their power bills.

The power cut left OBN TV in a desperate situation because they had been advertising all week that there would be a live television panel discussion by former police minister Clive Edwards and Member of Parliament ‘Akilisi Pohiva about the increasing price of electricity.

Clive Edwards, the recently sacked Minister of Police who was the former Chairman of the Tonga Electric Power Board, had said he wanted to reveal some secret information about the working relationship between the Tonga Electric Power Board and Shoreline Power.

Shoreline is subsidiary of Shoreline Holdings, of which Tongan Crown Prince Tupouto'a is chairman.

Sangstar Saulala, ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Clive Edwards are all candidates for the coming parliamentary election.

The situation became even more intriguing when OBN staff rushed over to the Tonga Broadcasting Commission to broadcast a public announcement that there was not going to be any live panel discussion on OBN because of power failure but the government-owned Radio Tonga, according to Sangstar, refused to air their message.

The three television stations which broadcast a public service on the main island of Tongatapu and the capital Nuku’alofa are Television Tonga of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission, Tonfön Television, a subsidiary of Shoreline, and the OBN.

By 5 pm on 23 December the electricity supply had not been restored to OBN, and Sangstar said that Shoreline workmen had told him that they had not been directed to reconnect the OBN electricity.

Meanwhile, at the Shoreline office, a linesman taking calls told the Matangi Tonga Online that the people who did the disconnection had left and gone home for the Christmas holidays and he did not know anything about it.

December 24, 2004

Matangi Tonga: www.matangitonga.to/nav.html

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