Monday, November 29, 2010

[pima.nius] TONGA: Pro-democracy publisher favoured as post-ballot PM

10:57 AM |

Title – 7144 TONGA: Pro-democracy publisher favoured as post-ballot PM
Date – 30 November 2010
Byline – None
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Pacific Media Centre, 29/11/10
Copyright: PMC
Status – Unabridged
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By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch): A former broadcaster and publisher is the most likely man to become Tonga's new Prime Minister after a historic Parliamentary election.

'Akilisi Pohiva is also a former democracy movement freedom campaigner, who became a Member of Parliament in the 1980s, as a People's Representative. While in Parliament, he spent time in jail in 1996 for reporting on Parliament's proceedings, and then again 2007, for being implicated in the "Black Thursday" riots of 16 November 2006.

A founding member of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement, Pohiva was reelected for an eighth term as the Tongatapu People's Representative in 2008. He then founded the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands this year in the lead up to the election.

The new party won 14 of the 17 seats for ordinary citizens in Saturday's election, putting Pohiva in the box seat to become the nation's next Prime Minister.

In Tongatapu, Tonga's largest island, Pohiva's party won nine out of the possible 10 seats.

Pohiva's position marks a new step in Tonga's road to a more accountable and effective democracy.

It may also mean that freedom of the press would be higher than it has ever been on the agenda of the new Parliament.

Pohiva told the New Zealand Herald he intended to lift the ban on New Zealand journalist Michael Field from entering the country.

"I did not see any reason why the Tongan government imposed such a severe penalty on him," he said.

"Since freedom of the press is an important part of democracy, why not?"

However, the editor of the Tonga Chronicle, Josephine Latu, wrote that it would not be plain sailing for Pohiva.

Writing for Pacific Scoop, Latu observed that Pohiva would "need help."

"Nine of the 12 elected from their group – Paati Temokalati 'a e 'Otu Motu 'Anga'ofa – are new to Parliament and at least three have no experience at all in civil service," she wrote.

Latu, a former Pacific Media Watch contributing editor, also noted that Pohiva's prospects for the position of Prime Minister were not a fait accompli.

"The issue of the moment is one of unity, and whether all the newly confirmed MPs – the winning party, independent representatives and nobles' representatives – can agree on the choice of Prime Minister," she wrote.

Pohiva was a contributor to the pro-democracy movement's monthly radio programme Matalafo Laukai in the 1980s. He then published the newsletter Kele'a, constantly campaigning in favour of a more democratic Tonga.

Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch.

* Josephine Latu's article:

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