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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Mar. 21) – Tonga has for the first time appointed two popularly elected members of parliament to the king’s 12-member cabinet.

Tongan Prime Minister and Prince ’Ulukalala Lavaka Ata last night told TV Tonga that Fred Sevele would become labour minister, and Peauafi Haukinima would take over the forestry portfolio.

[Both Sevele and Haukinima are incumbents who were reelected to the Legislative Assembly last week as People’s Representatives.

The cabinet has until now been occupied solely by members of an elite class of "Nobles" in Tonga. The king’s historic move to allow People’s Representatives among the Nobles in his cabinet is seen by some as a significant compromise to growing political discontent in the kingdom. Others have approached the development with skepticism.]

Mr Sevele says the ministerial post is both an honour and a challenge for him. He says promoting the private sector and reducing unemployment will be among his main aims.

Mr Haukinima says he’s prepared to face the challenges ahead and he will do everything to the very best of his ability.

Two other new Cabinet members have been chosen from amongst the ranks of the nobility.

The Honourable Tu’ivakano becomes minister of works, and the Honourable Nuku becomes police minister.

Sevele is one of four new cabinet members who will be formally sworn in to their posts on Thursday.

Dr Sevele says the private sector has been ignored for too long.

"The greatest priority as I see it is to inject confidence into the business community, to the private sector, and to make them believe that they are wanted, that their money is needed for investment. And, also to look at areas that could be developed that would lead to additional income and additional employment."

Dr Sevele says the three areas he believes could be developed are fisheries, agriculture and tourism.

He says he expects to attend his first cabinet meeting next week.

March 22, 2005

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