Kingdom of Tonga
Joined United Nations: 14 September 1999
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 08 October 2012
106,146 (July 2012 est.)
King since 18 March 2012
The monarch is hereditary and holds that position for life or until
abdication. The heir apparent is his son.
Next scheduled election: None
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Lord Siale'ataonga Tu'Ivakono
Prime Minister since 22 December 2010
prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from
the members of parliament and appointed by the monarch
Elections: last held last held 25 November 2010
Next scheduled election: 2014
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)
Constitutional monarchy with 3 island groups. Legal system is based on English common law
Executive: Monarch is hereditary; the heir presumptive is a prince and brother of the king as he has no legitimate
children; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of parliament and appointed by the
Legislative: Unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (32 seats - 14 reserved for cabinet ministers sitting ex
officio, 9 for nobles selected by the country's 33 nobles, and 9 elected by popular vote; members serve three-year
elections: last held on 25 November 2010 (next to be held in 2014)
Judicial: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal (Chief Justice and high court
justices from overseas chosen and approved by Privy Council)
Archaeological evidence shows that the first settlers in Tonga sailed from the Santa Cruz Islands, as part of the original
Austronesian-speakers' (Lapita) migration which originated out of S.E. Asia some 6000 years before present.
Archaeological dating places Tonga as the oldest known site in Polynesia for the distinctive Lapita ceramic ware, at
2800—2750 years before present. The Lapita people lived and sailed, traded, warred, and intermarried in the islands
now known as Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji for 1000 years, before more explorers set off to the east to discover the
Marquesas, Tahiti, and eventually the rest of the Pacific Ocean islands. For this reason, Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji are
described by anthropologists as the cradle of Polynesian culture and civilization. This was part of the Austronesian
expansion that spread people from southeastern Asia across the Pacific to the east and across the Indian Ocean to
Madagascar and eastern Africa in the west. These Polynesian people brought with them on their boats dogs, pigs,
chickens, pottery and agriculture (especially root crops). They rapidly spread throughout the Tongan Islands, and in
modern times (but before the arrival of Western navies and missionaries in force) had achieved population densities of
210 to 250 people per square mile (80 to 100/km²). By the Eighteenth Century, Tonga had unified under tribal leaders
and had forged a maritime empire that included conquered parts of Fiji. By this time the Tongan Empire had a population
of about 40,000. The Tongans dominated their inter-archipelagic realm with war canoes that carried up to 150 fighters
each. Centuries before Westerners arrived, Tongans created large monumental stoneworks, most notably, the Ha'amonga
'a Maui and the Langi (terraced tombs). The Ha'amonga is 5 meters high and made of three coral-lime stones that weigh
more than 40 tons each. The Langi are low, very flat, two or three tier pyramids that mark the graves of former kings. By
the 12th century, Tongans, and the Tongan paramount chief, the Tu'i Tonga, were known across the Pacific, from Niuē to
Tikopia, sparking some historians to refer to a 'Tongan Empire'. A network of interacting navigators, chiefs, and
adventurers might be a better term. It is unclear whether chiefs of the other islands actually came to Tonga regularly to
acknowledge their sovereign. In the 15th century and again in the 17th, civil war erupted. It was in this context that the
first Europeans arrived, beginning with Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire in 1616 (when they shot a
Tongan off a swift sailing vessel near Niuatoputapu). On 21 January 1643 Abel Tasman was the first European to
discover the islands. The most significant was Captain Cook visits in 1773, 1774, and 1777, the first London missionaries
in 1797, and the Wesleyan Methodist Walter Lawry in 1822. Around that time most Tongans converted en masse to the
Wesleyan (Methodist) and Catholic faiths. Later other denominations followed like: Pentecostal, Mormons, Baha'i,
Seventh days, and still more. In 1799 the 14th Tu'i Kanokupolu, Tuku'aho was murdered, which sent Tonga into a civil
war for fifty years. Finally the islands were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845 by the ambitious young warrior,
strategist, and orator Tāufa'āhau. He held the chiefly title of Tu'i Kanokupolu, but was baptised with the name King
George Tupou I. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy, at
which time he emancipated the 'serfs', enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press, and limited the
power of the chiefs. Tonga became a British protected state under a Treaty of Friendship on 18 May 1900, when
European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. The Treaty of Friendship and protected state
status ended in 1970 under arrangements established prior to her death by the third monarch, Queen Sālote. Tonga joined
the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970, and the United Nations in 1999. While exposed to colonial forces, Tonga has
never lost indigenous governance, a fact that makes Tonga unique in the Pacific and gives Tongans much pride, as well as
confidence in the monarchial system. The British High Commission in Tonga closed in March 2006. Tonga remains the
only monarchy in the Pacific, and its current king, Tupou VI, traces his line directly back through six generations of
monarchs. The previous king, George Tupou V born in 1948, continued to have ultimate control of the government until
July 2008. At that point, concerns over financial irregularities and calls for democracy led to his relinquishing most of his
day-to-day powers over the government.
Source: Wikipedia History of Tonga
Tonga has a small, open, South Pacific island economy. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash,
vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops. Agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports.
The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on
external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit. Tourism is the second-largest
source of hard currency earnings following remittances. Tonga had 39,000 visitors in 2006. The government is
emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing
increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well developed social
services. High unemployment among the young, a continuing upturn in inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and
rising civil service expenditures are major issues facing the government.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Tonga)
In 2005 the government spent several weeks negotiating with striking civil service workers before reaching a settlement.
A constitutional commission met in 2005-2006 to study proposals to update the constitution. A copy of the
commission's report was presented to the late king, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, shortly before his death in September 2006
and is currently under study by the present king, George Tupou V, and members of parliament.
The Tongan Speaker of the House was found to be guilty of bribery.
Prime Minister Prince Lavaka Ata 'Ulukalala resigned suddenly on 11 February 2006, and also gave up his other
cabinet portfolios. He was replaced by the elected Minister of Labour, Dr. Feleti Sevele.
The public expected democratic changes from the new monarch. On November 16, 2006, rioting broke out in the
capital city of Nukuʻalofa when it seemed that the parliament would adjourn for the year without having made any
advances in increasing democracy in government. Government buildings, offices, and shops were looted and burned.
Eight people died in the riots. The government agreed that elections would be held in 2008 in which a majority of the
parliament would be elected by popular vote. A state of emergency was declared on November 17, with emergency
laws giving security forces the right to stop and search people without a warrant.
On 29 May 2008, in the speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament, Princess Regent, Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu
Tuita announced that the government would introduce a political reform bill by June 2008, and that the current term of
Parliament would be the last one under the current constitution. In July 2008, three days before his coronation, King
George Tupou V announced that he would relinquish most of his power and be guided by his Prime Minister's
recommendations on most matters.
Following the official announcement of the passing of King George Tupou V and giving the Proclamation of the New
King, Tupou VI, His Majesty's Cabinet set up a Committee for the organization of the state funeral of the late King.
Lord Vaea became the Chairman of the Committee. The late King's body arrived on 26 March 2012, then laid in state
at the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa for a day. he funeral, originally announced for 28 March 2012, was rescheduled to
27 March 2012.
Source: Wikipedia Politics of Tonga
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
|2011 Human Rights Reports: Tonga
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy under King Siaosi (George) Tupou V. Political life is dominated by the king,
the nobility, prominent commoners, and democratic reform figures. The most recent parliamentary elections, held in November
2010, were deemed generally free and fair, and in December 2010 Parliament elected a nobles’ representative, Lord Tu’ivakano, as
Domestic violence, discrimination against women, and government corruption were the most prevalent human rights problems.
The privileged status enjoyed by the royal family and nobility contributed to a lack of government transparency and socioeconomic
mobility. The government also at times restricted media coverage of certain political topics. A state of emergency imposed after a
2006 riot in the capital of Nuku’alofa was in effect at the beginning of the year but was lifted in early February.
There were no reports that government officials committed human rights abuses during the year.
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Thursday, 18 February 2010
Tonga lashing sentence for teenagers sparks anger
Law officials and rights groups have condemned a judge for sentencing two teenage boys in Tonga to six lashes and 13 years in jail.
The boys had committed theft after escaping from jail, and were sentenced in November in a case only recently reported.
The sentence was imposed by judge Robert Shuster but is currently subject to appeal.
Flogging has not been used as a punishment in Tonga since the 1980s.
The prisoner is held down and lashed on the buttocks with a nine-stranded whip known as the "cat-o-nine-tails".
Tonga's Law Society president Laki Niu told New Zealand television on Wednesday he regarded flogging as barbaric, "inhumane"
and "a form of torture".
Amnesty International said the sentence was "deplorable".
Its Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose said: "Amnesty opposes flogging as it is a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment which has
been banned by international law.
"We strongly urge the government of Tonga to repeal the legislative provisions which allow for flogging.
"We also hope that the Tongan Court of Appeal will allow the appeal against the sentence."
The teenagers were said to have had long criminal records for petty offences.
Prime Minister Feleti Sevele had refused to comment on the case because there were still legal proceedings, the Associated Press
news agency reported.
But he said he did not see "any reason" to change the laws on corporal and capital punishment.
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FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012 REPORT
Political Rights Score: 3
Civil Liberties Score: 3
Status: Partly Free
Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano named his new cabinet in January 2011; the appointment of two cabinet members who did not
hold any elected positions at the time stirred controversy, and a prominent party leader quit his cabinet position in protest. In
December, House Speaker Lord Lasike, who was facing a charge of unlawful possession of ammunition, violated the conditions of
his bail agreement and traveled to the United States; a warrant was issued for his arrest.
In January 2011, Tu’ivakano’s 12-member cabinet was announced, with 7 members selected by the king and 5 by Tu’ivakano.
Two of Tu’ivakano’s selections were not members of parliament, including former lawmaker Clive Edwards, who was named
head of the public enterprise and revenue portfolio and a female academic, ʻAna Maui Taufeʻulungaki, with no previous government
experience, as head of the education, women’s affairs, and culture department. Just one day into his term, Pohiva quit the cabinet
to protest the cabinet appointments of these non-elected officials.
On February 3, the prime minister officially lifted a state of emergency that had been in effect since the 2006 protests.
In December, House Speaker Lord Lasike, who was to face a court hearing on one charge of unlawful possession of ammunition,
breached his bail agreement and defied a court order by traveling to the United States, where he was married. A warrant for his
arrest was issued on December 23, and he had not returned to Tonga by year’s end.
The economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid and remittances from Tongans living abroad. The global economic downturn has
reduced tourist arrivals, overseas remittances, and returns from government investments. In October, the government imposed
steep increases for many compulsory government license and service fees in order to raise revenues. In November, China pledged
$8 million in technology and economic assistance to Tonga.
Tonga is an electoral democracy. The unicameral Legislative Assembly has 26 members, including 17 popularly elected
representatives and 9 nobles elected by their peers; all members serve four-year terms. The king retains the power to appoint the
chief justice, judges of the court of appeal, and the attorney general on the advice of the privy council. The privy council, whose
members are appointed by the king, lost its power to pass legislation following changes to the government structure in 2010.
Additionally, the Legislative Assembly—rather than the king—now selects the prime minister.
Prodemocracy candidates have typically aligned with the Human Rights and Democracy Movement, which is not a formal party.
Several new parties were formed to compete in the 2010 general elections, including the DPFI, the Democratic Labor Party, the
Sustainable Nation-Building Party, and the People’s Democratic Party.
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US: Ratify Women’s Rights Treaty
30 Years on, Obama Administration, Senate Leaders Should Press for Action
July 15, 2010
(New York) - The United States' long delay in ratifying the global women's rights treaty undermines fulfillment of the US
commitment to women's rights at home and abroad, Human Rights Watch said today.
Former President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
on July 17, 1980, but the treaty has never been brought before the full Senate for a vote. The Obama administration has expressed
support for ratification, but has yet to take the actions needed to secure ratification, Human Rights Watch said.
"Women's rights - the right to be free from domestic and sexual violence, the right to equal treatment in education, employment,
and access to health care - are not back-burner issues," said Meghan Rhoad, women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"But for 30 years the major international treaty on women's rights has been treated like one."
Since Carter signed the treaty, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice voted favorably on the treaty, but a lack of
political will has kept the treaty from reaching the Senate floor.
The Senate has made few moves to ratify international treaties in recent years. As a result, ratification of CEDAW will require
strong and consistent leadership from the Obama administration and Senate leaders, Human Rights Watch said.
In May 2009, the Obama administration put the women's rights treaty on a list of treaties that were priorities for ratification. In
March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women that the administration
would "continue to work for the ratification of CEDAW." But with the months passing and no progress, more concrete action is
needed, Human Rights Watch said.
"We are past the point of passive expressions of support," Rhoad said. "Moving this treaty forward will take public pressure on the
Senate by President Obama to begin considering the treaty and stepped-up action by the Senate to schedule hearings and move
toward a vote."
The treaty has been ratified by 186 countries. Only seven countries - the United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Nauru, and
Tonga - have not ratified it. Human Rights Watch said that ratifying the treaty would both boost US efforts to improve the status of
women internationally and provide an important mechanism for advancing women's rights at home. If CEDAW were ratified, the
US government would periodically review progress made on issues like violence against women and participate in a dialogue with a
UN committee of experts on ways to improve policies and programs.
The CEDAW committee, which monitors implementation of the treaty, is currently meeting in New York. The committee will be
discussing the status of women in Russia, Argentina, India, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Albania at this meeting.
"The global conversation on women's rights is moving forward, and the US should be at the table," Rhoad said.
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5 September 2011
Last week, a team of United Nations (UN) Agencies officials were in Tonga from 1 - 2 September, to engage in an
extensive process of government and non-government consultations on Tonga's UNDAF (United Nations Development
Assistance Framework) for 2013-2017.
This country visit included representatives from five UN agencies, namely the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations International Children's Emergency
Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women.
The first session of the two-day consultations involved preparatory meetings held at the Loumaile Lodge last Thursday, for UN
agencies to meet with Chair and Facilitators, development partners and stakeholders from Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
Nine of these NGOs and CFOs are Tonga's National Youth Congress, Women's Community Center, Langafonua Ma'a Fafine,
Tonga Trust, Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT), Ma'ae Famili moe Fanau and the Friendly Islands Human Rights, who were
given an opportunity to discuss immediate NGOs development priorities with the UN agencies representatives.
On Friday 2 September, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr Mahe'uli'uli Tupouniua addressed the opening session of the United
Nations Consultation Programme of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (INDAF) 2013-2017, which was held
at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre in Nuku'alofa.
In his address, Mr Tupouniua commented that the UNDAF consultations will, "further strengthen current and future development
partnerships between the Kingdom of Tonga and the United Nations."
He also expresses his gratitude to the United Nations Team led by the UNDP and representatives from the UNESCO, UNICEF, UN
Women CEDAW and the UNFPA for committing time and efforts to conduct these valuable consultations.
The Secretary further added that the meeting with national stakeholders will ensure that the UNDAF appropriately reflects the
Kingdom's development challenges and priorities in a responsive, effective and efficient manner.
Such consultations will further validate the country analysis in alignment with the Kingdom of Tonga's national plans and priorities
and agree on possible areas of support in terms of comparative advantage and the mandate of the United Nations.
During the consultation, Mrs. Sharon Sakuma from the Government of Palau presented an exchange of Palau country experience
on UN Joint Presence and UN Joint Programming. This has stimulated many discussions on coherent delivery mechanisms and
Tonga's perspective on UN Joint Presence and UN Coordination.
The UN Consultation Programme was jointly chaired by Tonga's Lady ‘Eseta Fusitu'a and the UN's Samantha Cocco-Klein,
where nearly 50 representatives from the Government, non-government organisations, civil societies, development partners and
partake in the two-day consultations.
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Prime Minister Tu'ivakano: Statement at UNGA 67th Session
28 September 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are pleased with the convening earlier this week of the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International
Whatever the setting or the circumstances of States like Tonga, the rule of law, is a core pillar and fundamental component of the
Tongans take much pride in the enduring qualities of the 1875 Constitution and the early legal codes of 1839 and 1850 as
instruments of visionary nation building and, with reform over time, lasting peace and stability.
It also laid the foundation for firmly setting Tonga's international relations with the global powers of the time and set us on a path
that ultimately has led to membership of the global body of our time, the United Nations.
As such Tonga was pleased to join other Member States in adopting the Declaration of the High Level Meeting.
To expand and improve the role and impact of the rule of law at national, regional and international levels requires the expert and
technical assistance available from the UN system, relevant intergovernmental agencies and interested development partners to be
coordinated, continuous and coherent.
This week's outcome is a positive development for small jurisdictions like Tonga in strengthening its capacity to address the
political, social, economic and environmental challenges of our time.
Tonga joined other Member States of the Pacific Islands Forum in adopting, as an important part of the PIF Communique this year,
a Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.
It sets a valuable political platform for investing in empowering and encouraging women and young girls as a vital part of Tongan
society and the region's future.
We thank Australia for her investment in ‘Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development'.
Steps taken to promote and protect the interests of Tongan women and gender equality include:
* the extension of paid maternity leave within the Public Service from 1 to 3 months,
* Government approval to draft legislation on Violence Against Women and Children to be tabled during this Parliamentary session,
* Government approval for the conduct of nationwide consultations to reach a consensus with a view to considering the ratification
of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),
* the launch of a National Study on Domestic Violence Against Women, and
* most recently the launch last week of a Social Welfare Scheme for the Elderly, for those over 75 years of age.
Without genuine improvement in gender equality, Member States will continue to struggle to achieve real progress towards meeting
their MDG commitments and beyond.
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Comment from the Director
There is a reason why pornography is on the rise in Tonga
There is a reason why pornography is on the rise in Tonga. There are also reasons why our young are getting involved in such
practices. Yet everyone is quick to judge the youth of our country and point fingers and shake heads in disapproval of why our
youth are so different compared to the youth of yester-years.
Aside from pornography, the WCCC continues to see an increase in the reporting of incest, sexual harassment and sexual abuse
among our children. Why? Are our laws insufficient, are they not being implemented well? Are our monitoring systems weak? Is
our education system empowering our young to know what the consequences are? Are we educating our young to understand
respect, gender equality and the rights and dignity of every single human? Are we as parents spending enough time with our
young? Are we engaged in meaningful dialogue with them, are we preventing and protecting them from abuse and long-term
exposure to violence? Are we tackling the issue of youth and unemployment and poverty in Tonga? Do our most disadvantaged
youth have non-barrier access to key services and support?
The Tonga Family Health Association continues to report an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) among our youth and
we have seen reports published by the Tonga National Youth Congress and Tonga Trust where it clearly highlights the issues and
struggles our youth are facing –have we bothered to listen? In these reports we have found that there are too many of our young
girls getting married for no reason other than ‘because there is nothing else to do,’ too many of our young women and men are
experiencing several periods of depression whilst in school with no-one to talk to about it and yet we still don’t have proper
counseling programs in our school systems. Suicide rates of our youth are too high for our small population, access to
pornography over the counter is as easy as buying bread and students are let out of school during lunch breaks to wonder aimlessly
around town. Hundreds if not thousands of students own mobile phones and take these into school, into church and into all the
spaces that we once used to see as taboo for such spaces. Entering nightclubs for a 13 year old is not a problem, checking for age
eligibility is unheard of. We have alcohol and tobacco purchasing laws in place but no one is really implementing it, neither
Our schools are continually fighting and school-violence has escalated over the years. We allow our young to surf the net without
any restrictions in the ever-growing domain of the public internet cafes and fail to recognize the explicit sites that are being visited
and the engagement in sexual-chat spaces. We allow sexual harassment among young people in the workplace to be brushed off as
a ‘joke’ pea ke tau poto he fe hua’aki and not being able to see the correlation of such behavior to sexual assault, incest and rape.
And yet we still point the finger and shake our heads and say “we were never like that…” But here is the challenge. Let’s not dwell
on how we were once like as youth but let’s ask ourselves, what have we done in terms of prevention? What are we doing to
ensure a better tomorrow is there for our youth, how are we protecting our children and youth from the endemic of physical and
sexual violence and the abuse of their dignity and rights?
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TONGA TO REVIVE ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION
Justice Minister: Government to be transparent, accountable
NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 19, 2012)
Tonga's defunct Anti Corruption Commission will be revived soon, according to Tonga's Minister of Justice and Public Enterprises,
Hon. Clive Edwards.
During a National Consultation Workshop on Freedom of Information Policy, on Monday February 13, the Minister said the
government wanted to be transparent and accountable to the public, and part of this process would be the activation of the Anti
Tonga's Anti Corruption Commission was formed when King George Tupou V assented the Anti Corruption Act on 13 September
2007. The recently appointed Attorney General, Neil Adsett, was Tonga's first Acting Anti Corruption Commissioner.
But after the initial fanfare to introduce an Anti Corruption Commission, and the official opening of a new office, within a few
months by mid-2008 Tonga's Anti Corruption Commission had slipped into oblivion.
During this week's workshop to develop a Freedom of Information Policy for Tonga the Minister of Justice promised that the Anti
Corruption Commission would start its operation soon.
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Prince Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala
Heir Apparent since 18 March 2012
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Samiu Kuita Vaipulu
Deputy Prime Minister since 01 January 2011