17 Jun 2003

Tongan prince against planned constitutional changes

4:18 pm on 17 June 2003

A prominent member of Tonga's royal family says he fears his country will end up a banana republic if his uncle, King Taufa'ahau Tupou the 4th, succeeds in changing the constitution.

Prince Uluvalu Tu'ipelehake has told the New Zealand Herald that he was deeply concerned at efforts to curtail freedoms in Tonga and he says he will vote against the move.

The government has put a bill before Parliament which would limit freedom of the press and expression and quash the right to seek review of legislation in the courts.

Prince Tu'ipelehake, who chairs the Legislative Assembly, says he is opposed to the changes which would bring the country into disrepute.

He says a coup was unlikely but civil disobedience could occur if the proposals became law.

Prince Tu'ipelehake says if the judiciary loses its credibility then Tonga would become a banana republic.

Prince Tu'ipelehake says while there is adverse publicity over the King's role in the changes he is in a no-win situation with a split-cabinet.