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Churches seek political reconciliation in Tonga

Last November protestors frustrated at the lack of political reforms in Tonga took to the streets of the capital, Nuku’alofa. Rioters burned and looted shops and eight people were killed.

The alleged leaders of the riots include several parliamentarians and they are soon to face trial on charges of sedition and treason.

Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga representatives to the MCCP, Rev Tevita Mohenoa Puloka and Rev ‘Ahio talked with Touchstone about the current situation in Tonga.

They said the Wesleyan Church is a member of a national forum of churches that is seeking reconciliation between the opposing factions in the conflict. The forum of churches meets monthly, and it has sought a special meeting with the prime minister and the cabinet to discuss the issue.

“The charges facing the politicians are very difficult to prove. Even if they are not found guilty, they may not be able to run for Parliament again,” Tevita said.

“The Free Wesleyan Church supports to government and wants the law to run its course. At the same time the church wants reconciliation between the parties. We are not saying the charges should be dropped.

“Church leaders have met with the people accused of leading the young people and masterminding the riots. Most of them are Methodists. We need to help them to accept the consequences of what they are doing.”

Tevita says a lot of people don’t understand that American-style democracy will not work in Tonga. Democracy will come to Tonga but it will be democracy Tongan-style.

“The king changed the constitution of Tonga in 10 minutes. Other countries would have required a bloody revolution to do this.

“No doubt things need to be changed but change takes time. The Free Wesleyan Church is supporting the king. The former king brought a lot of change to Tonga including schools and economic development.”

The church now has a lot of work to do to understand what a Tongan democracy would be like, Tevita says.