20 Oct 2007

Secrecy surrounding China loan key reason for pro-democracy protests in Tonga

7:12 am on 20 October 2007

The lack of detail surrounding a huge loan from China has been a key motivation for a four day protest by pro-democracy supporters this week in the Tonga capital, Nuku'Alofa.

The protestors say that already agreed to democratic reforms should be put in place next year, not in 2010 has the government has decided.

They say the mystery surrounding the Chinese loan, which is intended to help businesses destroyed by last year's riots back into operation, shows a lack of transparency.

But, Transport Minister, Paul Karalus, says the Peoples' Representatives heard the loan explained in Parliament and they should have conveyed this to the people.

The leading People's Representative on Tongatapu, Akilisi Pohiva, says they asked for detailed information but the government refused.

"And that is why we are very concerned and very disappointed because we expected government to explain to us. To submit to Parliament how this loan is to be used and implementation of that reconstruction programme. We have the right as People's Representatives to know the details of the loan and how it is going to be used."