2 Jun 2006

Tongan government says pro-democracy march pointless

6:36 pm on 2 June 2006

The Tongan government says yesterday's pro-democracy march in the capital, Nuku'alofa, was pointless.

Demonstrators broke through a police line during the march, sparked by calls for political reform.

A stand-off between the police and the crowd, which was estimated to be about 1,500-strong, developed as anger spilled over on the day when parliament was officially opened.

The prime minister's political aide and adviser, Lopeti Senituli, says the march had no real purpose.

"They've run out of purposes, you see. If they took into acount the message from the throne that was delivered by the Princess Regent yesterday in the opening of parliament, it dealt with a lot of the issues that they are concerned about, not only about political reform but also about the future of the economy."

The People's National Committee for Political Reform, which led the march, wants to force a parliamentary debate on the issue.

But Mr Senituli says the organisation's demands for amendments to the Constitution are already being considered by the government's reform committee.