TONGAN PRIME MINISTER: TOO EARLY TO DISMISS

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Puts brakes on call to take away executive powers

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 19, 2009) – Tonga’s Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele, says it’s too early for the monarchy to lose all of its executive powers and become a purely ceremonial institution.

The role of the monarchy is among the key issues up for consideration by Tonga’s Constitutional and Electoral Commission.

The roles of the Privy Council and Government, as well as the composition of the Legislative Assembly are other aspects that the Commission will consider before making recommendations in November for Parliament to decide on.

Dr Sevele says there is already agreement in the Parliament that there should be a change to having a majority of the House popularly elected.

But he doesn’t support the push by the pro-democracy movement for the King to be stripped of his involvement in the selection of Parliament as well as other executive powers.

"The changes that will take place are quite revolutionary in themselves and I think we should move at a pace that would ensure that the changes that will take place will be for the interests of Tonga long term."

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