13 Feb 2006

Air of expectation in Tonga after Prime Minister resigns, replaced by pro-democracy MP

9:36 pm on 13 February 2006

The resignation of the Prime Minister of Tonga, Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata has created an air of expectation regarding democratic change in the kingdom.

The resignation was announced on domestic radio and television this afternoon.

Cabinet minister Fielakepa told the nation that the Crown Prince Tupouto'a accepted the prime minister's resignation letter last Saturday.

The resignation includes all of Prince 'Ulukalala's ministerial portfolios of communications, civil aviation, marine and ports and disaster relief activities.

A commoner, Dr Fred Sevele was appointed acting prime minister.

Our correspondent in Nuku'alofa, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the appointment of Dr Sevele has been seen as a positive move by the democratic movement.

"Overall people expect a little bit of improvement, perhaps dialogue between those pushing for democracy and the Government, because Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata was deemed to be somewhat a hardliner against any push for democracy"