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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, September 4) – Tongan protesters who have been camping at Pangai Si'i in central Nuku'alofa for the past 11 months have told the Ministry of Lands in a letter, that they will not leave Pangai Si'i "until political change takes place in Tonga."

Tevita Malolo, the Secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources, said that he wrote to the group of about 20 men on August 21, asking them to leave the park, to enable access to the area by other groups who also have the right to use the park, but who have not been able to because of the Political Reform Protesters with their tents and their banners.

He said that in addition to the protesters blocking out other people from using Pangai Si'i a Cabinet sub-committee, that is headed by the Minister for Vocational Training, Youth and Sports Hon. Tu'ivakano, also wanted the protesters at Pangai Si'i to clear out in preparation for a possible funeral of the king, when Pangai Si'i will be needed as a gathering point for mourners coming in from the outer islands.

Tevita said that his letter was, "a humble request, and it was not an eviction order".

"I do not have the authority or the power to evict anyone from the park, our job at the Ministry is to make sure that the park is properly maintained and is evenly distributed amongst other regular groups who occasionally use the Pangai Si'i such as the Public Servants Association, church, youth and sports groups."

Tevita said that he wrote back to the protesters and told them that he did not hate them, but it was the responsibility of his ministry to look after Pangai Si'i.

September 5, 2006

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