TONGAN PROTESTS COULD AFFECT FORUM MEETING

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, July 28) – The Pacific Islands Forum has been warned of potential violent political protests by a coalition of pro-democracy groups in Tonga, where the Pacific Islands leaders are to hold their annual meeting in October, Radio Australia reported Thursday (Tahiti Time).

Akilisi Pohiva, a member of Tonga's Legislative Assembly and chairman of a coalition of groups known as the People's National Coalition for Political Reform, made the warning in a letter sent to Greg Urwin, Forum secretary-general.

Radio Australia said Urwin was unavailable for comment on Pohiva's warning.

But Radio Australia reported obtaining a copy of the letter, in which Pohiva says his group has planned a program of demonstrations and civil disobedience that will continue up to the Forum summit.

However, violent political protests appear to depend on whether a report from a Tongan parliamentary political reform committee recommends a democratically elected parliament, the position taken by the pro-democracy coalition.

Pohiva's letter, Radio Australia reported, described Tonga as having a despotic regime, which the people can no longer tolerate. He wrote that Pacific leaders must see for themselves why the region must put pressure on Tonga's government to accept more democracy, Radio Australia reported.

The Pacific leaders "can't continue to sit on the fence and turn a blind eye to what is happening in our country," Pohiva wrote.

The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum represents the heads of government of all independent and self-governing Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand. The 14 other member countries are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

July 31, 2006

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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