17 Aug 2005

Conflicting claims in Tonga about number of striking public servants

8:30 pm on 17 August 2005

There are conflicting claims in Tonga about the number of public servants who are still on a strike which is about to enter its fifth week.

The government's Public Service Commission has told the Matangi Tonga website that the number of people on strike is now in the hundreds.

But our correspondent in Tonga, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the interim Public Service Committee which has been leading the strike for massive pay rises disagrees.

"According to the committee it's about two thousand. You have to remember it's not just Tongatapu. The outer islands are on strike as well and they are holding their own rallies in their main central business districts. In fact the government is still putting out announcements on radio appealing for the teachers to return to their respective schools because some schools are being damaged."

Meanwhile nearly two hundred students from Atele College were questioned by police after they allegedly vandalised school property in protest at staff being disciplined for strike-related matters.

Charges have yet to be laid.