Friday, May 27, 2005

Democracy in Tonga

This morning's Dominion reports (offline) on a massive democracy protest in Tonga - between 10 and 20 thousand people, out of a total population of 100,000. And can you blame them? Tonga is one of the world's last absolute monarchies. It is ruled by a corrupt kleptocracy of aristocrats who use their control of state monopolies and even the tax system to enrich themselves at the public's expense. Ordinary Tongans want change, and an end to corruption - but this is impossible under their current political system.

Given the overwhelming weight of numbers on the side of the "commoners", change in Tonga is almost inevitable. The only question is how. Moving to a more democratic system where the government is accountable to the people will allow the change to be managed in an orderly fashion and without bloodshed. Delay will simply increase the backlash against the nobility when the dam finally bursts. At the moment, people are simply marching. but if things don't change, they'll start building guillotines. And at that stage, the Tongan nobility will either have to resort to vicious repression or flee a bloody revolution. Neither is particularly palatable.


Tonga is a very strange state alright. Generally the royalty won't reform unless it has to, and is highly resistant to change; this was shown by the Royal Tongan Airlines debacle.

The news item on TV One the other week on the Tongan government cracking down on the importation of fake cigarettes proves this point: the Tongan cigarette importer is half-owned by the Crown Prince of Tonga (as is the local Beer manufacturer, Ikale)

It's worth noting that the Tongan royalty and most of the Tongan nobility spends most of its time outside of Tonga. From memory, the Tongan King spent only two months in Tonga the year I was there.

Possibly something that the protestors would have in mind.

Posted by Lewis Holden : 5/29/2005 01:51:00 PM