10 Aug 2009

Tonga Minister defends King's departure after tragedy

7:56 pm on 10 August 2009

Tonga's Education Minister is defending King George Tupou the 5th's decision to leave the country shortly after last week's ferry tragedy.

The Princess Ashika, with 149 people on board, sank north west of Nuku'alofa.

Only two bodies have been recovered.

Relatives of the missing are calling for the Tongan government to be more accountable and for the Transport Minister to resign.

The King's decision to attend the Edinburgh Tattoo in Scotland despite being informed of the ferry sinking before his departure has been criticised by some Tongans.

But the Education Minister Tevita Palefau says the King was obliged to go as it is an official visit.

He says he believes the King's heart goes out to those who are missing and their families.