9 Aug 2005

Tongan strikers await royal response

1:48 pm on 9 August 2005

Thousands of striking Tongan public servants are still waiting for a response to their demands to King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

Yesterday, more than 10,000 people marched to his daughter Princess Pilolevu Tuita at the palace to demand pay increases of up to 80 percent.

They have been striking for 19 days after rejecting government offers of up to 30 percent increases.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says a response to their demands is expected soon.

"The King's nephew gave a speech during the rally today. Prince Tu'ipelehake said that the response from the palace regarding the petition yesterday is expected later this evening and that is being awaited by the civil servants."

Meanwhile despite classes being scheduled to restart today, teachers and students have stayed away from school in support of the strike.

The Director of the Tonga Visitors Bureau, Va'inga Palu, says if the strike continues much longer it may give the kindgom a bad international image.

Last week, the Britain and Australia said the strike could disrupt some services and advised travellers to avoid demonstrations and public gatherings.

Some foreign journalists are also in Tonga to cover the strike.

Mr Palu says he hopes to see an end to the dispute soon.

We would like to see the situation back to normal as quickly as possible because if it stays on longer then certainly it will have, I believe, some negative effect on the image of Tonga being a popular and safe tourist destination.

The Director of the Tonga Visitors Bureau, Va'inga Palu.