5 Dec 2005

7,000 people in rival marches in Tonga

4:21 pm on 5 December 2005

There have been two rival rallies through the streets of Tonga's capital, involving up to 7,000 people.

One group of protesters is calling for political change, and the other, headed by the Methodist Church, had direct support from the King.

Our reporter in Nuku'Alofa, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the religious march was aimed at countering the push for reform.

"About 2,000 people actually joined that march and they went right past the people rallying at Pangai Si'i - about 5,000 people rallying there. It was a very delicate scene when the two groups exchanged some very hard words and the police were there to stop them from changing sides or getting into a physical conflict. But a very dramatic scene today to see His Majesty leading the March for Christ, seeing his people split into two camps. On the other side you have the more people pushing for change."

Mateni Tapueluelu in Nuku'alofa.