17 Oct 2005

Tongan lawyer plans sit-in to back his calls for constitutional change

11:18 am on 17 October 2005

A lawyer in Tonga is planning to stage a protest in support of his plans for constitutional change.

Mr Niu says he wants the constitution to be amended because under the current political system the people of Tonga are slaves.

Mr Niu walked into a cabinet meeting on Friday unannounced to present his model for a new democratically-elected parliament.

He says he did not represent any political party or movement, but was simply doing so in the interests of the people of Tonga.

"I want to be a free man, unlike my ancestors and unlike the people of Tonga today. They are slaves. They are governed by laws and decisions which are made by few people they have no choice in selecting. I want my freedom and I want it now."

Laki Niu says under the proposal, parliament would have 30 members, 6 elected by nobles and 24 by the remaining voters.

The members would then elect a speaker, deputy speaker and prime minister, who would then select his cabinet.

The King would retain the right to veto any appointments.