Upset in Tonga at end to Sunday opening for bakers
A bakery operator says a ban on Sunday opening by bakeries is not what the people want and will have a detrimental effect.
The manager of one of Tonga's main bakeries says not being allowed to open on Sundays will have a dramatic impact and lead to job losses.
Tonga's Police Minister, Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, has announced no bakery will be allowed to open on Sundays from July 3rd.
This follows a protest by church groups angry at an anomaly that has existed since bakeries were allowed to open on Sundays after a cyclone in 1982, and stayed open.
The minister says operators of businesses that flout the new rule face jail and/or fines.
The manager of A Cowley and Co, Alfred Cowley, told Don Wiseman the impact will be significant.
ALFRED COWLEY: The baking industry in Tonga is actually struggling because of some of the things the government has imposed on business in general here in Tonga. A lot of the bakeries have huge loans and repayments, and Sunday being a big trading day for us - Sunday trading is actually based on our repayments also. The disappointing things is that the government, I think, a lot of the people thought would be doing good for Tonga and would bring in democracy, would let the people vote, to see if they want the Sunday trading or not. But they have just turned around and given us a date and said 'by the 3rd of July, no one is astray.' They had a meeting a couple of weeks ago -- I was overseas -- but a representative from our company went to the meeting and they said that they will come to a mutual agreement between the baking industry and the public to give a certain time that the bakeries will be allowed to open to serve the public. The thing that I'm disappointed in most is that they're using this, in 1982 I think, the cyclone Isaac, they're using that as an excuse that the law had allowed bread to be sold after Cyclone Isaac. You know, that's 1982, that's how many years ago? Tonga should look at moving on with the times, we should learn with our neighbouring islands like Samoa and Fiji.
DON WISEMAN: What's your sense of what the general public feels about it?
AC: I believe that something like probably more than 80 percent of the public are disappointed with this new ruling of the government. What the government should do is differentiate the church from politics.
DW: So you very clearly see it as a detrimental move by the government responding to conservative religious pressure?
AC: They are. They're listening to the minority, and not the majority.
DW: What can you do about it. Is there any recourse for the businesses?
AC: I honestly don't think there's anything we can do. What have they done? They called us to a meeting, they listened to us, we told them what we would like. They didn't listen to us. At the end of the day they have just come to their own conclusions.
DW: When you say that it will put a lot of pressure on businesses. Does that mean that there will end up being smaller operations? What's going to happen? Will staff be laid off?
AC: Oh absolutely. Our staff is based on especially the weekend trade. We would be laying off some of the staff because we would no longer need that for the Sunday.
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