19 Feb 2007

Tongan government says threat to public safety behind extension of state of emergency

2:44 pm on 19 February 2007

The Tongan government says it has extended the state of emergency for a third time because of a report which states there is still a threat to public safety and the rule of law.

The prime minister's adviser, Lopeti Senituli, says the Privy Council took the decision after a report from the Tonga Defence Service and the Police which stated that circumstances weren't that different from those which warranted the state of emergency in the first place.

Mr Senituli says there were two recent incidents, one involving a firearm and the other bush knives, which were concerning.

He says those were only part of the reason for the extension.

"Police investigations into the violence and the deaths of 16th November are still continuing and the court cases are starting to be heard, and therefore, there is still the need for securing the central business district where most of the court houses are located."

Mr Senituli was unwilling to comment on whether the government believed there were still troublesome elements or violence could flare again.

A pro-democracy MP, 'Akilisi Pohiva, does not believe there is a need for the state of emergency and says they may consider court action over the decision.