25 May 2005

Tongan government proposes power price cut on eve of protest

8:27 pm on 25 May 2005

On the eve of a planned protest march, the Tongan government has proposed to lower power prices for three months.

This come as thousands of people are expected to march on parliament over high electricity charges.

The Democracy Movement organised the protest and called for the power supply to be taken from the Shoreline company which is partly owned by the Crown Prince.

The Chief Secretary to Cabinet, Eseta Fusitua, told Tongan television that the fuel surcharge introduced last year will be absorbed by either Shoreline or the government for three months.

Ms Fusitua says in that period the government will discuss the possibility of regaining control of the electricity supply.

However our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says an organiser of the march, MP Akilisi Pohiva, has described the announcement as a stalling tactic.

"He's not buying this. He says that it's like the people want their cow back and the Crown Prince is saying he will milk us a certain bucket for the next three months. What the people want is the cow back because it belongs to them. Now that's what he's said."

The government says the march will disrupt a parade by school children.

The Mormon church has also spoken out against the march.