20 Nov 2006

Tonga's PM says few lawless individuals have destroyed work of 131 years

6:15 am on 20 November 2006

After a peaceful weekend in the Tongan capital, efforts to clean up will get underway amid fears many businesses may never re-open.

It is estimated 80 per cent of businesses in downtown Nukualofa were burned down during the riots last Thursday.

Eight bodies have now been found in several of the burnout buildings.

New Zealand and Australian troops are continuing to patrol the airport and help maintain calm.

Tonga's Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Vaka'uta Sevele, made his first public announcement since the rioting on Thursday in a televised speech over the weekend.

He called for calm and said the foreign troops now in Tonga were needed to keep the peace.

Our correspondent Mateni Tapueleuelu says Dr Sevele told the people of Tonga it had taken a few lawless individuals just moments to destroy what the nation had built over 131 years.

"He looked rather tired, rather nervous, but yet he tried very much to appeal for peace to the people. He said to eliminate the element of hatred between classes, social classes, so that we can rebuild Tonga once again"