23 Aug 2010

Tonga Government says emergency laws likely to stay until poll

7:36 pm on 23 August 2010

The Tongan government says emergency regulations will likely remain in force leading up to Novembers elections, four years after they were first introduced.

The regulations, which were put in place in Nuku'alofa after riots in November 2006, give the police and military extraordinary powers and apply to a specified zone in the heart of the city.

Civil Society groups say there is no further need for the regulations, and they could stifle public discussion leading up to the election.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office, Lopeti Senituli, says the Government was caught by surprise in 2006, and doesn't want it to happen again.

"It's most likely they will be in place until the elections that are held on the 25th of November this year. We are just being cautious here, in the sense that we want to be able to react promptly to any civil disturbance that may arise between now and the 25th."

Lopeti Senituli says the emergency regulations will not hinder political discussion.