30 Aug 2010

Emergency regulations still in force in Tonga

1:04 pm on 30 August 2010

Emergency regulations are likely to remain in force in Tonga until the next elections on 25 November.

The regulations, which were put in place in Nuku'alofa after riots in November 2006, give the police and military extraordinary powers and apply to a specified zone in the heart of the city.

Radio New Zealand International reports the riots wrecked much of Nuku'alofa.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister says the Government was caught by surprise in 2006 and does not want it to happen again.

Lopeti Senituli says the government is "just being cautious" so it can react promptly to any civil disturbance that may arise before the election date.

However, Ofa ki-levuka Guttenbeil Liki-liki, the head of Tonga's women and children's crisis centre says it's got to the point where people don't even question the regulations any more.

She believes the regulations have been deliberately left in place to stop civil society raising awareness about some issues, like the Princess Ashika ferry inquiry by a Royal Commission.

Po'oi Pohiva, the director of the office of Human Rights and Democracy Movement, says it has been some time since people have even been told the regulations are still in place.