Tonga snubs New Zealand, Australia

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 21:46 16/01/2014

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In a remarkable diplomatic snub Tonga’s government has held a ceremony to thank China for its modest cyclone aid but has said nothing about greater New Zealand and Australian aid.

Tonga is deeply in debt to Beijing and is trying to persuade China to cancel the debt.

Intense Cyclone Ian struck the Tongan islands of Ha’apai last weekend, killing one person and destroying the homes of around 70 percent of the island’s 7000 inhabitants.

New Zealand immediately gave $50,000 to help as well as providing air force surveillance.

China’s ambassador Huang Huaguang gave the Tongan Government emergency supplies worth just T$10,000 (NZ$6400) today.

Tonga’s Ministry of Information tonight issued a press statement and photo showing a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Siale’ataongo Tu’ivakano in which the supplies are handed over.

No similar ceremony or press statement has accompanied other nation’s aid.

The statement says the event was “a signing ceremony to signify the support and assistance of … China towards the people of Ha’apai affected by Cyclone Ian.”

Most of cabinet appeared to attend.

“This is a significant contribution to providing shelters for tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by the cyclone.”

It hailed the Chinese communities of Tonga who have continued “to show their support towards the people of Ha’apai in providing food supplies and water…”

Tonga has been on the verge of debt default for the last year with 64 percent of its foreign debt, T$209 million, owed to China. Beijing has continued to refuse to waive what is described as a low interest loan.

In another statement, the government say the police on Ha’apai have arrested three male teenagers for looting the Matafonua Lodge on the island of $190,10 of goods were stolen from the place.  

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- Fairfax Media

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