29 Mar 2005

Former Tongan cabinet minister says appointments to cabinet a way to silence critics

7:13 am on 29 March 2005

A former Tongan cabinet minister says the appointment of two people's representatives to cabinet is a way of silencing government critics, not a step towards democracy.

Clive Edwards, a former police minister, was forced from his post after he opposed Crown Prince Tupouto'a's moves to set up a one airline policy, which created a monopoly that the Crown Prince had had a major business interest in.

Mr Edwards says the new move to put MPS into cabinet is flawed as the two have had to resign as MPs to take up the cabinet posts.

"Where is the first step to democracy in this appointment? They've got to resign, immediately they're appointed certain rules are given to them to choose whether they want to accept those rules. Once they've accepted, they've got to resign from being a representative for their people, and then become a minister."

Mr Edwards, who's standing in the by-elections created by the resignations, says they should have been able to retain their positions as MPs because cabinet posts can end at any time, according to the king's discretion.