7 Oct 2003

Tongan government plays down significance of protest march

4:50 pm on 7 October 2003

The Tongan government says in deciding to change the constitution parliament has to take note that a majority of citizens did not join Monday's protest march on parliament.

Its spokesperson, Eseta Fusitua, says there are varying claims about the size of the crowd which was led by the Catholic bishop, Soane Foliaki.

She says the numbers were not unprecedented and she says the march was mainly one by Catholics.

Ms Fusitua says parliament has to take into account not only the views of those against the planned crackdown on some media.

"The first thing you've got to give serious attention to, is the public statement that it is now, and the public statement is that you have about ninety five thousand of the people of Tonga, not commenting."

Eseta Fusitua says there are no plans to hold a referendum on the proposed amendments to gauge public support.