20 November 2006
Listen to the Tongan democracy movement
The New Zealand Government should take note of concerns that the presence of New Zealand troops in Tonga could be seen to strengthen the hand of the monarchy, Green MP Keith Locke warns.
Leaders of Tonga's democracy movement have expressed concerns that Australian and New Zealand troops in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa could in practice reinforce the political system that caused unrest in the first place. Meanwhile, the New Zealand joint defence force commander in Tonga says troops are likely to increase their presence.
"The most useful contribution New Zealand could make to law and order in Tonga would be to push the King's government to uphold the agreement reached just before the riot broke out for 21 of Tonga's 30 MPs to be democratically elected," Mr Locke says.
"We should also support the democracy movement's call for a new interim government, pending next year's election under new rules. The present government does not have the support of the majority of the people.
"If we take the side of the people, rather than the regime, there will be little need for New Zealand troops to stay. The riot was a result of frustration with the slow pace of change, and is unlikely to be repeated if people see that democracy is truly around the corner," Mr Locke says.