18 Oct 2005

Tongan government response to protestors not expected for some time

4:38 pm on 18 October 2005

The Tongan government is not expected to respond to demonstrators demanding political reform in the kingdom until the prime minister returns from holiday.

The protesters, led by prominent lawyer, Laki Niu, are holding an ongoing rally in the main square of the capital, Nuku'alofa, and say they will remain there until there's a formal response to their demands for a fully democratic government.

Last week, Mr Niu showed up unannounced at cabinet to present his model for government.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the rally of 200 people is expected to grow throughout the week but the government is remaining silent at this point.

"It is the trend that we do not have a final, formal response from the government until the prime minister is back. After all, this whole thing is about discussing the shift of power from the royal family to the people, and the prime minister is the king's youngest son. So, they'll have to wait for him to return."

Mateni Tapueluelu says the prime minister is not expected back until next week.

He says in the meantime, a meeting is being held tonight by the protesters which is expected to be attended by members of the business community and the law society.