31 Jan 2007

Tongan PM comments on riot-related talks

2:59 pm on 31 January 2007

The Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele, says he agreed to a demand for political reform during the riot on November 16th in the hope it would end the destruction.

At the time the pro-democracy MPs claimed success saying that the prime minister had agreed to their call for 21 of the 30 MPs to be popularly elected.

Dr Sevele says that with some of the pro-democracy MPs under investigation for their alleged role in the riot, it is not possible to say much about this claim, but he did make this comment to our reporter.

"It was something that was demanded of me. It was given in order for them [ the pro-democracy MPs] to say to the crowd let's disperse and don't do any further damage after they had belted the prime minister's office. That is all I am prepared to say at the moment."

Dr Sevele says the government remains committed to political reform and is talking with those who are willing to talk about the way forward.