Tonga should be suspended over media gag, says Locke

Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke says the Commonwealth should consider suspending Tonga if that country’s king succeeds in ramming through a law eliminating freedom of the press.

“The Commonwealth could not stand idly by while press freedom disappears in Tonga,” said Mr Locke.

“The draconian bill before the Tongan Parliament would enable the monarchy to suppress any criticism of its rule, or anything it deems to be against the ‘public interest, national security, public order and morality.’ It also means that the courts would lose the right to review any decisions made by the Legislative Assembly or the king.

“Three years ago, the Commonwealth suspended Fiji for violating the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration on Human Rights. The situation in Tonga is no less serious.

“For New Zealand it is also a matter of being consistent. We’ve pushed strongly for Commonwealth action against Mugabe. We should be just as firm against repressive measures in our Pacific backyard.

“Meanwhile, the regime is still defying a Court ruling that the Taimi o’ Tonga newspaper, produced in Auckland, be allowed into Tonga. It is still being held up in Tongan Customs. This is not acceptable,” said Mr Locke.