27 Aug 2004

Tonga authorities refuse comment after ministers axed

8:38 am on 27 August 2004

Authorities in Tonga are refusing to comment on the sackings of three cabinet ministers.

The police minister Clive Edwards was one of three who lost his job in a shake-up prompted by the prime minister, Crown Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata.

It's reported that the dismissals were fall-out from a row between the prime minister, and his elder brother and heir to the throne, Crown Prince Tupuoto'a.

Each prince had backed a different airline to provide domestic services, after the collapse of Royal Tongan Airlines earlier this year.

A diplomat in the capital, Nuku'alofa, told the news agency AFP that Crown Prince Tupuoto'a had 'struck back' against his younger brother.

It's reported he ordered the grounding of planes operated by his younger brother's airline.

This is reported to be what triggered the cabinet resignations

Neither the former ministers nor the royal family could be reached for comment.

Crown Prince Tupuoto'a reportedly left yesterday for the United States.