22 May 2017

Tonga government accused of power grab

4:20 am on 22 May 2017
Celebrations for King Tupou VI of Tonga's coronation

PM accused of seeking powers held by the king Photo: RNZ/Indira Moala

A former justice minister in Tonga says by attempting to amend the constitution, the government is trying to grab absolute power.

'Akilisi Pohiva's government is proposing an amendment that would see top roles such as the attorney general, police commissioner and anti-corruption commissioner, appointed by the prime minister and cabinet.

Currently, such appointments are made by the privy council and the king.

A former justice minister Clive Edwards said the current system provided an important balance against the power of the prime minister in a nascent democracy.

He said while he was not entirely against the proposal, it comes in the light of recent scandals surrounding Mr Pohiva's attacks on the public broadcaster.

"They're wanting more power. They want power, they want control, and they want absolute power - that's what it is. Not democracy that they were clamouring for and that was given by the king. Having given that right they want every power that's left, all under the control of the prime minister", he said

Clive Edwards said when similar proposals were made in previous parliaments, Mr Pohiva was an ardent opponent.

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Photo: 123RF

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