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Bishop leads Tongans in rare protest against king

Tonga's Bishop Sioane Foliaki has led more than 6000 marchers in a protest against changes to the Pacific Island nation's constitution which they say would limit the freedom of the media and give even greater power to King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

Protest marches in the kingdom of 104,000 are rare and the last of any significance was in 1991 when 1500 people marched on the palace to protest against the sale of Tongan citizenship to non-Tongans.

The head of the Catholic Church, Bishop Sioane Foliaki, led the march and presented the petition.

Hundreds of people remained outside the tiny assembly building waiting to see what would happen to their petition.

The king (pictured) has sought to change the constitution allegedly after earlier this year failing to ban the New Zealand published Taimi o Tonga newspaper.

The proposed changes to the constitution give the king the right to control newspapers and limit the right of courts to review royal decisions. Tupou, 85, controls the 30-seat parliament.

He appoints the 12-man cabinet for life terms, led by his youngest son Prime Minister 'Ulukalala Lavaka 'Ata, 43. The kingdom's 33 nobles control nine seats while commoners have another nine.

Sydney Morning Herald

Taimo 'o Tonga Online
Thousands protest over power plan (The Australian)
Thousands of Tongans march against constitutional changes (Radio Australia)
Tongans protest against their king (SBS)
Tongans march against royal grab for power (ABC)
Thousands protest over power plan (Daily Telegraph/AFP)
Diocese of Tonga ( | Soane Lilo Foliaki, S. M., Bishop
Signis Pacific
Tonga - Royal Family Inc. (ABC TV Foreign Correspondent 29/7/03)

7 Oct 2003