24 Aug 2005

Tonga's director of education wants 865 teachers sacked

10:11 am on 24 August 2005

A school has been vandalised in Tonga overnight, after the Ministry of Education made a recommendation to the Public Service Commission for striking teachers to be sacked.

The Director for Education publicly announced the recommendation for two thirds of all the teachers in the Kingdom to lose their jobs.

Our correspondent in Tonga, Mateni Tapueluelu, says while the recommendation has yet to be approved, a list of teachers whose jobs are now on the line has been made public.

He says the vandalism of two classrooms at Vava'u High School is likely to have been in retaliation to the recommendation.

"The computer room of Vava'u High School has been smashed last night, and another room was smashed. There had been benzine spilt in those rooms, but it had not been lit."

Our correspondent says there is a sense in Tonga that the royal family may be more amenable to the demands of striking public servants with Princess Pilolevu assuming the role of Princess Regent.

This comes because of the absence of the King in Auckland, and while Crown Prince Tupoutoa and the Prime Minister Ulukalala Lavaka Ata are also out of the country.

Princess Pilolevu accepted a petition from the strikers more than four weeks ago and is believed to be more aware of their concerns.

Our reporter Mateni Tapueluelu says is was Princess Pilolevu, when Regent, who two years dismissed two Cabinet Ministers for the loss of the country's trust fund.

The workers have offered to return to work immediately after the announcement a mediator was being sent from New Zealand, but want to be paid, in the interim, the wage increases which form the basis of the strike action.

Mateni Tapueluelu says the government may well accept this offer.