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$572,000 facility funded by Australian government

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 12, 2010) - A TOP1.1 million [US$572,000] headquarter of the Tonga Royal Guards was officially opened by HM King George Tupou V, at the Tonga Defence Services Headquarter, Sene, on Friday afternoon, April 9.

The two-storey headquarter is a landmark in the development of the Tonga Defence Services over the years, said Colonel Siamelie Latu, the MC at the opening ceremony.

TDS Commander, Brigadier Tau΄aika ‘Uta΄atu said that the development of the TDS began to take shape following the return to Tonga from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Surrey, United Kingdom in 1969 of His Majesty King George Tupou V, who was then Crown Prince Tupouto΄a. He said that the Tongan Royal Guards, which was then attached to the Tonga Police Force had its headquarter at former printery office near the Palace grounds. In 1971 the Royal Guards then severed its tie with the Police Force and was attached to the TDS.

Brigadier Tau΄aika ΄Uta΄atu said that plans for the development and the construction of new buildings for the TDS started in 1995 with the assistance of the Australian government. Plans were reviewed and changed over the years, and of the 18 buildings, the Australian government had contributed 85 percent of the cost.

Brigadier ΄Uta΄atu said that the TDS development plan was reviewed in 2003 because of the need to increase the number of soldiers from 400 to 580, because of Peace Keeping duties in the Solomon Islands, and to support the Americans in Iraq. The development plan was further reviewed and changed following the riot on November 16, 2009.

The Brigadier spoke with pride when he said that the new Royal Guards Headquarter was constructed by the Rural Development Unit of the TDS, and it took them a year to complete the task.

The new two-story building provides rooms for a dormitory,

two offices for the TDS Transport Division, storage rooms, offices and a conference hall.

The opening ceremony was also attended by HRH Princess Pilolevu, the Prime Minister, Dr. Feleti Sevele, the Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Viliami Tangi, and other Cabinet Ministers and foreign diplomats.

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