Tuesday, September 12, 2006



Hope for change in Tonga?

Following the death of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, the media have now turned their attention to his successor, now King Siaosi Tupou V. Siaosi is a corrupt kleptocrat who has personally profited at the expense of his people via privatisations of Tonga's electricity and telecommunications monopolies and internet domain, and control of royal monopolies over air transport. And he reportedly has nothing but contempt for his people, being quoted as calling them "squatters" who

left to their own devices they would urinate in the elevators. As it is, they see nothing wrong with allowing their pigs to run all over their townships leaving pig droppings everywhere.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, he also reportedly recognises the need for democratic reform:

King Tupou V has said he does not fear change. In 1990 he was sympathetic to democratic reforms, favouring a Westminster model. He is partly credited for his father's move last year to allow for extra Cabinet ministers, two elected by the people and two by the noble families, to supplement the hand-picked Cabinet of 12.

In March King Tupou IV also appointed Dr Sevele as the first commoner Prime Minister.

On Australian radio last year the Crown Prince suggested all future Cabinet ministers apart from the Prime Minister would come from those winning seats in Parliament.

If he follows through on this, then it will be a significant step forward, though obviously not far enough. But reform takes time: it took Britain over 300 years to make the shift from a toy Parliament to responsible government by a process of incremental reform. The process in Tonga will go much faster, partly because Tongans can see how democracy works overseas, but it's still not going to happen overnight unless the king is foolish enough to resist it.

2 comments:

Just a point, I/S. The Tongan people are grieving right now for a beloved monarch. The last thing they want to engage in is a debate about the future of the monarchy. That kind of insensitivity will inevitably lead to a massive backlash against the democracy movement in Tonga.

Give them time. See what happens.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 9/12/2006 02:13:00 PM

Don't you think it's a little telling that a "corrupt klepocrat who has personally profited at the expense of his people" favours the Westminster model?

"Responsible government" is a misnomer if ever I heard one. Britain doesn't have a "responsible" government.

The government may sometimes be accountable to parliament (although Blair has proven this doesn't have to be the case), but, even so, that does not make it a substantive democracy, responsible to the people. Parliamentary governments ultimately answer to those who pull the investment purse strings. If the government doesn't tow the line then "investors" will pull their money out of the country and there would be a run on currency (as has happened in Britain before).

The Westminster system in Tonga, as it has elsewhere, will help further to legitimise kleptocrat's like Siaosi Tupou V. Siaosi, and help further to legitimise the gap between rich and poor (in terms of resources and power).

I hope the pro-democracy movement in Tonga will see this and push for a (substantive) participartory democracy instead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_democracy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_economics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parpolity

Posted by Anthony : 9/13/2006 10:09:00 PM