By Pesi Fonua
Addressing a stunned nation at about 6:30 pm on Thursday November 16 after the supporters of a rally organised by Pro-Democracy People's Representatives' and the Pangai Si'i Committee had sacked central Nuku'alofa, 'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Uliti Uata, Lepolo Taunisila, Clive Edwards and 'Isileli Pulu went live on Radio Tonga to make their victory speeches to the nation.
'Akilisi in an upbeat mood thanked their supporters for their support, which he said had enabled them to achieve what they had been pressuring government to accept during the past few years.
He said that the damage to properties “was enough” and that they should stop. “We have achieved what we asked for, and unfortunately government and the rest of the country did not fully understand where we were going to end up at. I think there is a good reason… ,” 'Akilisi told a town that was still burning.
Another People's Representative 'Uliti Uata, said, “I am asking the people of Tonga not to be angry with us because of what we have done… we are asking you to accept all the hardship.”
“I think government leaders have got the message”, said Lepolo Taunisila the only woman People's Representative.
By the time the PRs proclaimed their “victory” on Radio Tonga their supporters had inflicted massive damage to the properties of private businesses in Nuku'alofa, which they carried out in two waves. The first assault consisted of smashing and looting of business properties, followed by a second wave of setting fire to properties, ranging from multi-million businesses such as Shoreline Group, the ANZ Bank and supermarkets to a small beauty saloon owned by a solo mother, and any other weak and unprotected targets they could find in an orgy of destruction.
Unscathed, was 'Uliti Uata's own building the Walter Trading Co., standing out while his neighbours properties lay in ruins.
The following are excerpts from an English translation of the Victory Speeches of the People's Representatives originally broadcast in Tongan:
“Forgive us…we will deal with it tomorrow”
'Akilisi Pohiva - “Today there was an agreement between the nobles, Cabinet Ministers and us, the representatives of the people in a meeting that was chaired by the Prime Minister to accept our proposal, and that government will implement it in the 2008 election. The agreement was for the people to elect 21 representatives and for the nobles to elect nine representatives, making up a total 30-member parliament, and no more. Because government has accepted our proposal, we are hereby appealing to you to stop.
“I am here with Clive Edwards, 'Isileli Pulu, 'Uliti Uata and Lepolo Taunisila to broadcast this program. We apologise to the people about where we have got to, we have nothing else to say about it, we have reached this stage and what has happened has happened. To rebuild this country is what we will get into next together with the government, may be tomorrow or Monday, and onward.
“This program is to inform the public that we have achieved what we asked for, and we are asking you, that there is already enough damage to our country, and we are asking you to stop and let's work together. Stay calm for we have achieved what we asked for, and unfortunately government and the rest of the country did not fully understand where we were going to end up at. I think there is a good reason, and that we have asked numerous times, but we will not talk about that, today it was accepted, but unfortunately, it was accepted but the damage has been done. We are asking for the people of Tonga to forgive us for what has taken place, we will deal with it tomorrow and next week, together with the government and the nobles. I will now hand over to 'Uliti Uata.”
“Accept the hardship”
'Uliti Uata - “I would like to thank the people for their participation in completing our obligation at Pangai Si'i, and that we have achieved what we strived for, like what 'Akilisi has explained. We have achieved what we wanted, and that is to elect all the members of parliament. That was something that we have been striving for, for a number of years. But something has happened, and a lot of damage has taken place at the end of the island, houses and properties have been damaged, and houses have been burned down. We are asking you that what has happened is enough, government has heard our voice and we are asking you to stop. Stop the damaging of properties for we have achieved our aim.
“I am asking the people of Tonga not to be angry with us because what we have done, we have talked about it numerous times, but no one could hear it. Therefore, that was the cause of the damage that occured this evening and today, and we are asking you to accept all the hardship so that we can rebuild our country, and I tell you it will be fast to rebuild our country.
“Please forgive us if there is damage because of how we carried out our duties, but we have achieved what we [PRs] could do, before we left it for you, the people of Tonga, to assist, and with your help it made it possible for us to achieve our objective. We ask you, the people who came to Pangai Si'i and all the people who supported us to achieve our objective, it is enough, and stop any further damaging of properties. We will continue tomorrow with a program at Pangai Si'i with a fund-raising program to finance our working program.”
“Got the message”
Lepolo Taunisila, Niuas People's Representative -I would like to thank the public who are listening to this program, I would like to convey my heart-felt thank for your support and your bravery in helping us to gain victory on this very day. I would like to convey to the government that I don't think there is time to look to the side and backward, and blame each other. What has happened was something that we all hoped would not happen. I am pleading with you mothers, and you have my trust that what has happened, (was the work of our children) they are our children, and I believe that our children will only listen to us. We have won, and thank you for your support which enabled us to gain victory, something that we have been hoping for, for a number of years, and we have got what we wanted, but I ask you, the women folk to control your children who are doing a lot of damage in Nuku'alofa and through out the country, we need your help to stop our children. I think government leaders have got the message and what is needed for us to come together and rebuild our government and our country. I am looking forward for all of us to meet tomorrow and to make plan on how to rebuild our country. Thank you.”
Clive Edwards - I am Kalaivi 'Etuate, the Tongatapu No. 3 People's Representative, and I am pleased to be here together with the other People's Representatives this evening.
“I am appealing here to the people of Tonga, men and women of Tonga, don't allow your children and drunks to burn the country. Stop them, what they have done is enough because there will be damages that we will later try to restore, and it will affect us all, not only those whose houses have been damaged and burned, but we will be all affected by these actions. Please stop, and we should all support those who try to stop the destruction. It is enough and let's minimise the damage. That is all I am asking for.”
“It has been done”
'Isileli Pulu, Tongatapu no. 2 People's Representative - “I am very thankful for a job well done today, it has been done, and my request, similar to that of the others, if you think you can help in any ways to stop what is happening then we are asking you to please help. At the same time, there are drunks, and we are asking you to be thoughtful, because after tonight. Our main concern is tonight, it is getting darker, and there are already damages to the country. So please try and stop it. The rest we will be talking about it tomorrow, but we are asking you all to be thoughtful and stop setting fires to properties, cars and private homes.
“We have just came straight from the meeting, and instead of going home to rest we are here appealing to you to stop the damage.”
Meanwhile, radio listeners were trying to comprehend the legality of the political proposal that was forced on government while Nuku'alofa burned.