Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How it works in Tonga

Tui’ilakepa, Tu’iha’ateiho, and Lasike are all Tongan nobles, and Members of the Tongan Parliament. They are all also facing firearms charges after a series of drug raids last year (Lasike is facing charges over a separate incident). So they did what any corrupt, self-serving aristocracy does when faced with being equal under the law: changed it:

In a year that has seen a dramatic increase in armed robberies in Tonga, parliament voted to massively reduce the penalties for the illegal possession of firearms - slashing the maximum penalty from $5,000 to only $1,000 and from five years imprisonment to only one year.

Tonga's first fully elected parliament voted 12-9 to stop public consultation on the Private Bill to reduce the penalty on the illegal possession of firearms, before going on to pass the Bill 10-8 on Tuesday, 11 October.

The House bypassed public consultation by defeating a motion that the Bill for the reduction in firearms penalties should go to public consultation first.

Naturally, those facing charges voted on the bill, and without their support it would not have passed.

This shows how far Tonga has to go before its a real democracy. Yes, they have elections (though the continued presence of noble representatives undermines this) - but they do not yet have democratic norms and respect for the rule of law. But hopefully this incident will cause enough outrage to force change in that direction as well.