23 Oct 2002

Tongan MPs who walked out of Parliament say bills should be debated before voted on

5:48 pm on 23 October 2002

The nine MPs that walked out of the Tongan Parliament on Monday have put forward an amendment that would make it law to debate a bill before it is voted on.

All nine elected members walked out after measures they wanted introduced into law were voted down at the first reading and before Parliament had a chance to debate them.

The measures included making defamation a civil offence only, and another that would widen the chances for ordinary citizens to bring lawsuits.

The proposed amendment will be voted on next week and may stop a repeat of Monday's walk-out, but one of the elected MPs, pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva, says the real issue is the imbalance of power within parliament.

"People's representatives in the House are outnumbered so the or allocation of power among members is really unfair, it doesn't really matter how good or how reasonable, or sensible any petition or resolution, or private bills submitted by the people, in the end it will be put down ...in a sense there is no meaning in having people's representatives"

Tonga has a Parliament of 30 MPs, 21 of whom are appointed by the King or drawn from the 33 Noble families.