HUGE TONGA RALLY DEMANDS NEW GOVERNMENT

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 6) - In the largest protest march in Tonga's history, more than 10,000 people gathered outside the Royal Palace today calling on the King of Tonga to dismiss the Prime Minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, and all of his 14 Cabinet Ministers.

A petition with the demand was presented to King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV's private secretary at mid-day today, by the Chairman of the Public Servants Association, Finau Tutone.

He was supported by a huge crowd that had marched down the main street to Pangai Lahi waving banners declaring "The people want a new government of the people, by the people, for the people;" "Let Freedom rule!" and "The Kingdom is ours!"

Local businesses supported the march with heavy vehicles, concrete mixers, and taxi ranks joining in.

The march brings to an end a six-week strike of civil servants that paralyzed the country.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the PSA's Interim Committee for Dissatisfied Civil Servants was signed on Saturday under which the government agreed to pay demands and to consider setting up a Royal Commission to review the Constitution with a view to allowing a more democratic form of government for Tonga.

Today's march, which was organized by the PSA and People's Representatives to the Tongan Legislative Assembly, went further in its calls to dismiss the Cabinet appointed by the king. They want the King to appoint a new Prime Minister, 12 new Cabinet ministers, and the two Governors for the Vava'u and Ha'apai island groups.

The petition also called for the establishment of a commission to review the Tongan Constitution within a period of 12 months, and for the Tongan Government to be more democratic.

The petition also wanted the return of government assets, which they said have been taken away by the King's sons and daughter, such as power generation, Tonga's orbital slots, and the Internet domain address too.

The petitioners gave an ultimatum that if government would not meet their demands within one month they would hold a referendum on their requests.

The petition also called for the dismissal of the secretary of the Public service Commission, Kelepi Makakaufaki.

This first letter of petition though presented by the chairman of the PSA, but it was declared to be from all the people of Tonga and the People's Representatives to the Tongan parliament.

A second letter of petition was presented by the No.1 Ha'apai People's Representative, 'Uliti Uata, to the King's private secretary Noble Ma'afu. The petition was from all the nine People's Representatives.

The petition calls on the King to authorize a referendum to take place, on the establishment of a commission to review the constitution, and to make the Tongan government more democratic.

September 7, 2005

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

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