Tonga's democracy campaigner quits

BY MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 07:44 14/01/2011

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Seventeen days after being appointed to a new cabinet, Tonga's veteran democracy campaigner 'Akilisi Pohiva has quit the noble dominated government.

Pohiva and his Friendly Islands Democratic Party took 12 of the 17 commoner seats in the November general elections which were supposed to give democracy to commoners.

However the nine nobles, who were elected by just 33 nobles, blocked efforts by the commoners to create a government and new Prime Minister Noble Tu'ivakano - who now uses the title Lord Tu'ivakano - created a government.

In a concession to the commoners he appointed Pohiva, who has campaigned for democracy for 30 years, as health minister and gave a cabinet position to another Democratic Party member.

Tu'ivakano also bought two people from outside the Legislative Assembly into cabinet.

Last night Tonga's Information Ministry said Pohiva had resigned in a letter which objected to the appointment of cabinet ministers from outside of Parliament.

Pohiva said his party had qualified members who could have gone into cabinet.

He said he could not sign a cabinet agreement in which he would have agreed not to vote against the government.

"Because of those two reasons, I wish to submit my resignation... I ask that you relay my resignation to His Majesty," the letter said.

There has been an air of confusion in Nuku'alofa since the creation of government.

Cabinet ministers were to have been sworn in earlier this week but when they turned up it was discovered that King George Tupou V had left Tonga without public explanation.

His sister, Princess Regent Pilolevu Tuita, instead opened Parliament but did not swear in members.

They may be sworn in today.

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