Lopeti Senituli-Tongan Revolutionary


One of the key revolutionary activists in Tonga is Prime Ministerial advisor, Lopeti Senituli.

According to a Commonwealth Foundation Bio

He started connecting with people as a high school pupil in Fiji. Through his membership of the Student Christian Movement, which was concerned about social justice, he was introduced to Suva’s ‘shoeshine boys’. These lads, commonly regarded as social derelicts, had dropped out from school and were earning a meagre living by cleaning people’s shoes.

The Student Christian Movement, was then, as it is now, a Marxist organisation. In the absence of any organised communist parties in the Pacific, the SCM has been one of the communist movement’s major recruitment and training organisations in the region.

Then, as President of the Student Association at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 1979/1980, his activism found expression in mobilising student support to denounce French nuclear testing on Mururoa Atoll; and to support the struggle for self-rule in New Caledonia and East Timor. The USP, being a microcosm of the Pacific, became the nesting ground that nurtured his empathy for indigenous rights and causes, and enabled him to make lifelong friendships across the Pacific.

The University of the South Pacific was partially founded by NZ Maoists and leftist NZ foreign affairs officials. It was at the time a major hotbed of Marxist activity. Any President of the students association in that era, would almost certainly be a Marxist.

Lopeti was born a Tongan, but his outlook bears the marks of a cosmopolitan experience, shaped by his involvement with Pacific-wide issues and connections. After six years of service for the Tonga government following the completion of his degree course, in 1987 Lopeti became the Director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) and remained with the organisation for 14 years.

The PCRC was the secretariat to the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement; and under Lopeti’s leadership it became the dominant force behind the local and international awareness campaigns about all forms of injustice across the Pacific. The Centre established a vibrant network of interest groups from virtually all Pacific islands, connecting people committed to advocating for a nuclear free environment and self-rule for oppressed peoples.

The PCRC did indeed play a major role in co-ordinating socialist, peace movement and subversive activities throughout the Pacific.

From linking citizens, the PCRC moved on to linking governments. It strengthened the resolve of Pacific peoples tofulfilll their national dreams of self-determination through organising international appeals and campaigns. For instance, it offered unwavering support for the calls for independence of New Caledonians from France, the East Timorese, and the West Papuans from Papua New Guinea.

Advocating on controversial issues had its costs, including a ten-year ban by the French government in 1987 which prohibited Lopeti from entering any of its colonies. In 1996 he was also declared ‘persona non grata’ by the then Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, which did not approve of his outspoken support for the right of Bougainvilleans to self-determination.

In October 1987 Senituli represented the PCRC at a World Peace Council Bureau meeting Auckland, New Zealand. The WPC was of course the Soviet Union’s largest “front” organisation.

Attendees included;

Soviet Union
Vladimir Oryol-First President, Soviet Peace Committee
Vladimir Ivanov-Institute of World Economy and International Relations and Soviet Peace Committee
Vladimir Kariuk-Soviet Peace Committee

USA
Glen Alcalay-US Peace Council

Bulgaria
Alexander Alexiev-Director, International Relations Department Bulgarian Peace Committee
Georgi Dimitrov-Goshkin-Central Committee Bulgarian Communist Party, President National Peace Committee

Cuba
Orlando Fundora-President Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of Peoples

German Democratic republic
Renata Meikle-Deputy Secretary General, GDR Peace Council

Japan
Mitsuhiro Kaneko-Member of House of Representatives and Japanese Communist Party.

Poland
Herionim Kubiak-Central Committee Polish United Workers Party (Communist Party) and President Polish Peace Council

Vietnam
Phan Anh-Vice Chairman, Vietnamese National Assembly, Chairman Vietnam Committee for Defence of World Peace

Others came from Australia, Portugal, Finland, France, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Senagal, Mali, Thailand and the Malagasy Republic.

Besides Senituli from Tonga, other Pacific representatives came from Kiribati, Papua-New Guinea, Tahiti, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. The Fijian delegation included Ravind Prasad, Secretary of the University of the South Pacific Students Association.

New Zealand participants included;

Sonja Davies-Labour MP and World Peace Council Vice President.
Ray Stewart-Socialist Unity Party and WPC Secretary.
George Jackson-President Socialist Unity Party, NZ Council for World Peace.
Ella Ayo-Socialist Unity Party, NZ Council for World Peace.
Peter Wills-Scientists Against Nuclear Arms.
Keith Locke-Philippines Support Group.
Maire Leadbetter-CND.
Bunny McDiarmid-Greenpeace.
Jacquie Barrington-Greenpeace.
John Hinchcliffe-Greenpeace.

Lopeti Sentuli was also listed as an NZ delegate, representing the executive of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) organisation.

In September 1988, senior Communist Party of the Philippines member Joy Balazo (codename Fred)was brought to NZ by Keith Locke’s Philippines Support Group.

Drumming up support for the revolution, Balazo met with several government figures, peace activists and socialist groups, including the Communist Party, the Workers Communist League, the Socialist Unity Party and the Revolutionary Communist League.

Her itinerary also lists meetings with several well known activists including, under the heading, “Pacific Groups”;

a PCRC/NFIP

meeting with LS

Interestingly, the webite of the University of New South Wales’ Diplomatic Training Program lists several alumni who “are now found making a difference in key positions throughout Asia and the Pacific, both in civil society and government“.

They include;

Ms. Joy Balazo, Australia. Uniting Church of Australia.

Mr Lopeti Senituli, Tonga. Director, Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement, Former Director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, Fiji, which has a membership of almost 100 NGOs throughout the Pacific.

By July 2000 Lopeti Senituli was back in Tonga, working as Director of the Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement ,”arguing for political rights and social justice, a cause very close to his heart.”

The Human Rights and Democracy Movement In Tonga was formed in the late 1970’s by a small group of Tongans, led by Akilisi Pohiva “who believed that changes were needed to bring about more democratic governance in Tonga”.

While it attracted a wide cross section of people from the ultra conservative and religious Kingdom, the movement was always tainted by a radical image.

The Tongan King regularly claimed that Pohiva had been converted to Marxism during his time at the University of the South Pacific. Certainly the movement enjoyed the support of various Pacific Marxist groups including the Australian Democratic Socialist Party’s Green Left Weekly.

Pressure from the Human Rights and Democracy Movement has been responsible for virtually all the political changes that have occurred in Tonga over recent years. However, the organisation has also responsible for most of the violence and much of the discord that has plagued Tonga in recent times.

When the King decided to allow two of the commoners, elected to the parliament to serve in the cabinet, Lopeti Senituli, described the move as “revolutionary”.

“This is the beginning of more democratisation, the complete democratisation of Tonga. There’s no way, no going back from here. and, in fact, if he does go back from here then there’ll be real trouble.”

Senituli himself experienced some discord in March 2004 when he fell out with his comrades in the “Democracy Movement” and quit his post.

According to Matangi-Tonga Online

Senituli said that his parting from the “Democracy Movement”, “was not a very friendly affair, I could say that I was effectively kicked out of the job.” He said there were differences in perspectives and in visions for the movement between himself and some members of the executive board of . “My vision is that we have to work with all sectors of the Tongan society, most importantly we must work with the nobles, we must work with the churches, town officers , even with the heads of government departments. We cannot achieve any political change through confrontation all the time.”

Senituli immediately became Director of the Tonga Community Development Trust, a post he held until May this year. He was then appointed press secretary and political advisor to Tongan Prime Minister, Dr. Fred Sevele

Dr Sevele is Tonga’s first commoner to serve as Prime Minister. He was a leading member of the Human Rights and Democracy Movement and a colleague Senituli’s.

According to the official website of the Kingdom of Tonga;

In order to ensure that Civil Servants remaian unbiased, and to forge a closer link with the community at large, and with various interest groups in the society, Cabinet has approved the appointment of Mr Lopeti Senituli, to be the press secretary and political advisor to the Prime Minister, the hon. Dr. Fred Sevele.

Mr Senituli, will not be a member of the Public Service, but will operate as a link between the Prime Minister and the media, the civil society and community groups itongsga. The appointment outside the Public Service ensures that the Public Service function is nopoliticizeded, and that the Government continues to serve the public equally, regardless of political belief and affiliations.

The appointment of Mr Lopeti Senituli will be for up to as long as Dr. Fred Sevele is the Prime Minister, and will be terminated when the Prime Minister is no longer in office.

Whichever way the Tongan revolution unfolds, it is a safe bet that Lopeti Senituli will play a significant role.

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