News Release

Office of the Lord Chamberlain

Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga

Sept. 26, 2006


King Siaosi (George) Tupou V, the new ruler of Tonga, is well prepared to guide the tiny State along the path of political and economic reform.

The 58-year-old bachelor ascended the throne of the only Polynesian Kingdom following the death on September 11th of his father, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.

He inherits the mantle of a monarchy with its roots deep in Tonga’s past. But his eyes are fixed firmly on the future.

He will hasten appropriate changes to the system of government in response to the democratic wishes of the people.

There will be royal support for reform of the civil service, improvements to infrastructure, and prosperity driven by private enterprise.

An avid follower of the I.T [information technology] revolution, the King sees Tonga overcoming its isolation in the Pacific by wiring-in to the global market through digital and broadband technology.

The Kingdom’s success in the modern Siaosi era will be partly measured by how far it can advance in lifting standards of living as recorded by the United Nation’s Development Programme.

Tonga is ranked at 54th place by the UNDP in a survey of social and economic achievement among 177 countries. This rating makes Tonga the only Pacific Island country to attain the UNDP classification of high human development.

King Siaosi is a sophisticated and intelligent person shaped by many influences. He is a product of a proud indigenous culture, a distinguished lineage, international education, and comprehensive experience in local and world affairs.

After his primary schooling in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa, he received further education in New Zealand and Switzerland, attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and completed a foreign service course at Oxford University.

The King is multi-lingual. He speaks eloquently in his own language, has immaculate English, can converse in French and German and has a smattering of Chinese and Japanese. He is an accomplished pianist, and widely read.

King Siaosi is a student of history, diplomacy and statecraft, and has expert knowledge of military strategy and tactics and modern armaments.

His more than 20 years of service as Tonga’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence brought the former Crown Prince into contact with numerous world leaders. He pursued a foreign policy, established by his father, of preserving the sovereignty of a small nation that survived Western imperialism with its independence intact. Tonga was never conquered, or colonized.

On numerous occasions King Siaosi acted as Prince Regent and presided over meetings of the Privy Council, especially when the late Monarch’s health began to fail.

He acquired a deep understanding of Parliamentary procedures and development issues during his membership of Tonga’s Legislative Assembly.

King Siaosi is Colonel-in-Chief of the Kingdom’s battalion-sized military, the Tonga Defence Services, and has been closely involved in its modernization. Today the TDS has a reputation for professionalism; it has acquitted itself well in Iraq, peacekeeping in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville, and in a multi-national deployment exercise in Mongolia.

The King is proud of his role in starting a TDS technical training scheme and computer school, which is also open to the public.

He was instrumental in the TDS acquiring a Beech 18 aircraft for surveillance of Tonga’s exclusive economic zone. The King felt aerial patrol would be more efficient than covering over 640,000 square kilometres of ocean with the three patrol boats of TDS.

There has been much discussion of the King’s commercial investments in Tonga. He has made the point previously that Tongans did not mind members of the Royal family going into business, as long as this was limited to agriculture. But, according to King Siaosi, he has no interest in farming. He decided therefore to invest in other areas of the economy.

Shortly after he was proclaimed King, the Office of the Lord Chamberlain announced that he would dispose of all his commercial interests in Tonga. This was in conformity with the obligations and demands of his high office.

King Siaosi had felt for a long time that Tonga’s political system was not evolving quickly enough and that it should keep pace with the broadening of the economy. He is committed to the reform process adopted by Parliament for extensive public consultation to form a basis for change.

He made recommendations for a more democratic approach by the late Monarch over appointments to Cabinet. These were accepted, marking an important shift in power.

This has led to the appointment of Tonga’s first popularly-elected commoner Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele. Other Cabinet Ministers now come to office only on the advice of the Prime Minister, rather than through the exclusive power of the Monarch. This has been achieved within the framework of the existing Constitution.

According to King Siaosi, there is now a binding precedent for monarchical authority to be exercised on Prime Ministerial advice.

King Siaosi regards the monarchy as an agent of change. He cites the emancipation of commoners from the bonds of feudalism by King George Tupou 1. King Taufa’ahau launched an age of radical and transformative reform when he came to the throne in 1965.

The new King strongly believes Tonga’s Constitution is the keystone of the Kingdom’s peace and stability. He has described it as a social contract that created unity after Tonga’s civil war of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In his view the Constitution does not have to be fundamentally changed for representative democratic government to be introduced speedily.

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