29 Aug 2005

Tongan justice minister says strikers holding country hostage

10:13 am on 29 August 2005

The Tongan justice minister, Siaosi 'Aho, says striking civil servants are holding the people of Tonga hostage with unreasonable demands.

The strike's now in its sixth week and there's no sign either the government or strikers will approach each other for further talks after a New Zealand arbitration team left at the weekend.

The government agreed to give strikers the salary rises they wanted, for the duration of a two week negotiating period.

This was rejected by the strikers.

The online news service, Matangi Tonga, reports justice minister 'Aho as saying this was unreasonable, given at that point arbitrators had already arrived.

The interim public service association is leading the strike and chairman Finau Tutone says he doesn't trust the government to honour any agreement that may be reached.

Mr Tutone calls for a change in government, and cabinet made up entirely of MPs elected by the people.

The King appointed two directly-elected MPs to Tonga's 12-strong cabinet after the general election in March.