21 Nov 2006

Pro-democracy MPs in Tonga call for foreign soldiers and police to leave

8:18 pm on 21 November 2006

Tonga's pro-democracy leaders have called for the immediate withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand forces, saying their presence is linked to the suppression of democracy.

But they want the two metropolitan countries to broker talks with the government so that the riot-torn country can become fully democratic.

The leading pro-democracy MP, Akilisi Pohiva, says the Australian and New Zealand troops, called in to restore security after Thursday's devastating riots, must leave.

His comments back those of another democracy campaigner, Finau Tutone, who said earlier that the foreign troops are seen as supporters of the monarchy..

Another of the pro-democracy MP, Clive Edwards, says the state of martial law imposed after the riots is suppressing and delaying the democratic process in Tonga.

And he says New Zealand and Australia have become associated with that suppression.

The MPs want the two countries, through their high commissioners and the Commonwealth, to facilitate talks to resolve the dispute between democracy activists and the monarchy.

They had also earlier called for Dr Sevele and his government to resign in favour of an interim administration.