Tonga bishop leads people's power protest against King

Bishop Soane Foliaki of Tonga took a leading role in yesterday's mass protest against the country's royal family, according to New Zealand's One News.

The TV channel says thousands of people took to the streets in a rare protest against the royal family, demanding democracy and public ownership of key assets.

Public demonstrations are virtually unheard of in the small South Pacific kingdom where the royal family, headed by 87-year-old King Taufa'ahau Tupou, controls a semi-feudal political system and owns major businesses.

Protesters, led by Bishop Foliaki and pro-democracy campaigners, carried placards demanding democracy.

"We cannot tolerate dictators, we want selfish leaders out," a banner read.

The protest in Nuku'alofa, the biggest ever in Tonga's history, followed a move by the country's sole power company, owned by the heir to the throne Crown Prince Tupouto'a, to raise electricity prices.

Tonga, dubbed the friendly islands by British explorer Captain James Cook, has a population of around 105,000 spread over 170 coral islands 2,000 km north of New Zealand.

Tonga's economy depends on subsistence farming, tourism and fishing.

Bishop Foliaki led a similar protest in October 2003.

Historic protest against Tongan royals (One News 26/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Soane Lilo Foliaki SM (catholic-hierarchy.org
TONGA: Demonstrators - politicians and statistics (Go Asia Pacific/Radio Australia 8/10/03)

Thousands in protest march demand democracy (Australian Associated Press/news.com.au 26/5/05)
Tongan Catholics mourn loss of John Paul II (Matangi Tonga Online 4/4/05)

27 May 2005