10 Mar 2005

Tuvalu hopes for referendum by June on whether to drop Queen

2:32 pm on 10 March 2005

The prime minister of Tuvalu says he hopes to hold a referendum by June on whether to replace the British Queen as head of state.

Maatia Toafa says only the people of two outlying atolls are yet to be canvassed as part of a year-long constitutional review.

Mr Toafa says it's not a question of maintaining a link, but rather Britain's financial obligation to its representative.

"The people know very well that the monarchy, which is the government of the United Kingdom, is not supporting the office of the Governor-General, who is the representative of the Queen. I think that is the main concern of the people of Tuvalu concerning our meagre resources."

Mr Toafa says the present system restricts Tuvalu's ability to have some bilateral relations.

He says if people vote for a presidential system, there wouldn't be enough time to change the constitution to a republic ahead of elections due by the middle of next year.