Two Kiwi socialists?/anarchists?/Trots? have travelled to Tonga to report on the revolution.
Nuku’alofa (Tonga) – We, two indymedia activists, arrived at Fua’amato International Airport early on Friday morning from Aotearoa. After leaving the plane we had to walk to the arrival hall past three Tongan soldiers, two of which were carrying large rifles and the other a hand gun. A police officer walked around with his dog while people where waiting at the immigration desks. More members of the Tongan Defense Force (TDF), armed and in camouflage gear, stood around in the arrival hall. On our way into town we past a military checkpoint at the turn-off to the airport. They didn’t pull us over and we drove the 20kms into the city.
In the morning we made contact with members of the Friendly Island Human Rights and Democracy Movement (FIHRDM) and arranged to meet up later. In the interim we went for a two hour walk through Nuku’alofa. On our way towards the city we came across a building which was completely destroyed from Thursday’s fires. It was the headquarters of Tonfön, a telecommunication company owned by the royal family.
We came across two NZ police officers and one NZ firefighter who were busy investigating ‘arson crimes’. They told us that there are two teams, made up of one firefighter, one police photographer and two investigators (all from New Zealand) along with Tongan police, operating at the moment. “We are here to help to assist the Tongan police” said a NZ police officer.
We then had the opportunity to interview five people who are involved in the democracy movement: Finau Tutone, an organiser with the Friendly Island Teachers Association; Akenete T. Lauti, the director of FIHRDM; ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Leopolo Taonesila, both Members of Parliament (two of the nine representatives elected by the people – in a parliament of 30); and Tevita Tui Uata of the National Tongan Business Association.
Finau talked about last year’s strike and the connection between the trade union movement and the pro-democracy movement. He said the system needs to change in Tonga. Akenete informed us about the FIHRDM’s activities. They organise workshops and meeting to educate people on human rights issues. While she advocates for non-violence, she does not blame the people but the Government for Thursday’s riots. ‘Akilisi put the movement into a historical context and talked about the progress, or lack of, made inside parliament.
Tevita, who has been blamed for the riots, thinks that representative democracy will get Tonga out of a system that only works for 1% of the population. He was strongly opposed to Tonga joining the World Trade Organisation and says that the wealth needs to be shared more equally among the people.
Many shops have slogans painted on them. Across from the market, someone wrote “THE NU FACE OF YOUTH REBELLION” and “REVOLUTIONARY NOT EVOLUTIONARY” on a burnt-out shop. Other slogans are “Freedomfighter”, “Fight the Power”, “Democracy not Hypocrisy”, “You had it coming” and “Fuck Prime Minister”. Many of them are signed by ‘Ezekiel’.
The police have set up two checkpoints on both sides of town. They pull most cars over and search the boot. We were told they are looking for weapons and stolen goods. They say it is illegal for people to carry weapons and they claim to have confiscated eight .22 riffles over the last few days.
We walked to the King’s mansion which is guarded by four Tongan soldiers. The huge house is around 300 meters off the road. While taking photos a black SUV left the premises and the gate was opened for a few seconds. One of the soldiers was prepared to say a few words on camera. He said he does not want democracy in Tonga, he wants peace.