22 Mar 2005

Tongan government willing to appoint more people's representatives to cabinet

3:23 pm on 22 March 2005

The Tongan government is reported to be willing to appoint more people's representatives to the cabinet and the Crown Prince is said to believe that eventually Tonga will have a fully democratic elected government.

The 12-member cabinet is appointed by the king but for the first time, two elected people's representatives have been chosen to take part.

A leading pro-democracy MP, Akilisi Pohiva, says the prime minister, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, told him at a cabinet meeting he attended, that there could be other such appointments in the future.

Mr Pohiva says it's not known when this would happen but the pro-democracy MPs will introduce a motion or a private bill in parliament to encourage the government to commit to a time frame.

"We will continue to push harder for government to speed up the process of making appointments from the people's representatives, and as the Crown Prince said the other day, that eventually Tonga would become a fully democratic elected government."

Mr Pohiva says by-elections are expected within 28 days for the seats vacated by the peoples' representatives and the nobles will also choose more representatives as two of their number were appointed to cabinet.

In the 30-member parliament, nine representatives are chosen by the nobles, the king appoints 12 to what becomes the cabinet, and only nine are elected by the people of Tonga.