131 YEARS LATER, TONGA HAS COME OF AGE

Editorial

Matangi Tonga

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (March 28) – Tonga prides itself as the only sovereign country in the South Pacific that was never colonised, and therefore in the 21st century we should have been able to claim the title of the most politically mature, vibrant and stable country in the region. But we are far from it. So what went wrong?

Consider that in the late 18th century Tupou I embarked Tonga on a democratisation program by proclaiming Tonga's Constitution of 1875, freeing the people from serfdom and granting them the fundamental rights of Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion, the right of the individual to own property and land, and the right of all Tongans for an education.

But achieving those lofty goals has been a process in slow motion, until 131 years later, Tonga's democratisation program has finally come of age, and like a youth that has turned 21 Tongans are raving to break out and experience life, and the freedom of making their own decisions.

Unfortunately for Tongans, they have a very possessive dad, who refuses to allow them to live the life of their choice. The king and the royal family want to continue to impose their will on their grownup citizens, but meanwhile it is clear that a majority of the population no longer wants to be treated as children.

The complication of children growing up and parents growing older is practically what is happening in Tonga.

The situation, however, is following its natural course. The king is getting on in age and has spent most of his time overseas on health checkups, leaving important political decisions for his family, the Crown Prince Tupouto'a, the former Prime Minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, and occasionally Princess Pilolevu as Princess Regent, to make.

The royal children also want to live a life of their own, and the Crown Prince and Princess Pilolevu during the past years have become so deeply entrenched in their business endeavours, they have on numerous occasions blatantly made political decisions purely for the benefit of their businesses and their business partners. Such decisions over the years have created a lot of bad feeling toward the royal family.

Worse still are the consequences of such a situation and all of a sudden we find ourselves in a state of stagnation. The number of failed government projects to date, which have lost the country multi-millions of pa'anga are living proof that decisions made by our minority government without the support of a majority of the population will either fail or stagnate.

Tonga's Acting Prime Minister Feleti Sevele hit the nail on the head when he said recently that "Tongans have lost the will to do or die, and to be the best."

Very true, but to restore the Tongan pride, the writing is already on the wall and on banners at Pangai Si'i that the majority, and not a minority must make the decisions on how to run the country.

March 28, 2006

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/

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