22 Nov 2006

Tonga parliament to close amid tight security

7:30 pm on 22 November 2006

The New Zealand high commissioner to Tonga, Michael McBryde, says numbers for the closing of parliament tomorrow will be restricted for security reasons.

The annual parliamentary session was to have ended last week but was put off amid the pro-democracy protests which developed into a violent riot.

Dr McBryde says the last day of the session is normally held in a hall to accommodate more people, but will now be held at parliament.

"Because of security worries at this time it's being held in a much smaller form than usual but it will still show the people that the institutions of government are still operating. The king will make a speech, he always makes a speech at the closing of parliament but this time the significance will be somewhat greater because the people will be listening for some guidance."

The Tongan government has told businesspeople affected by last week's riots in Nuku'alofa that it might be able to provide soft loans to help them restart their businesses.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says insurance companies have already said that their policies would not cover damage arising from the riots.

They told me that the best they can do because of the scale of damage is that they might make some extra provision and help out the businesses in Tonga in order to kick start but that would be a small amount of money. And the government also made it clear that it would try and help they best they can and they have indicated that they may be able to establish some policy of soft loans.