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PSA pulls back from lead of "black march"

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


by Linny Folau

Only last week on May 23 the PSA President Dr 'Aivi Puloka told a press conference that the PSA wanted a new Interim Government to take over Tonga and relieve the existing Cabinet of their duties while the process of possible amendments to the Tonga Constitution in Parliament takes place, "for the sole purpose of having a Democratic Government where the people of Tonga elect a permanent cabinet."

The PSA initially planned a national "black march", wearing mourning attire, to present a letter to the Palace Office with their demands, and for a strike action to go ahead if government did not accept what they asked for.

A march is still on for tomorrow, June 1 but now under new leadership with a new agenda.

Aivi confirmed today, that PSA in a meeting last week handed over the organization of the national march to the peoples national reform committee because of its political agenda, "it is best for the political reform committee to handle it," she said.

Aivi confirmed that the PSA was still in full support of the march tomorrow but their support would be as a member of the national committee.

The contents of a letter of petition that is to be presented tomorrow to the Palace office in Nuku‘’alofa was now under the new direction of ‘‘Akilisi Pohiva and his committee, 'Aivi said.

Strike action cancelled

Akilisi Pohiva, the Chairman of the People's National Committee for Political Reform, also confirmed today, that the national march had been handed over to them from the PSA. He said the letter of petition to be presented tomorrow would focus mainly on the need for political reform.

‘Akilisi said that he wanted to clarify that the national march set for June 1, was now the committee‘s demonstration and the agenda they were marching for would be set by the committee, but with the full support and backing of the PSA and other member groups such as the Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement, the Friendly Island Teachers Association, Tonga National Business Association and others.

He also said the strike action and the agenda that was first initiated by the PSA for a new interim government to be set up remained with the PSA.

The strike action linked to the march is cancelled and not included in the committee's agenda except for a small portion of PSA disappointment over their new redundancy package that is included in the letter of petition.

‘Akilisi added that what they were proposing to government in regards to the letter of petition was to legalize political reform, "it is good in the sense that parliament will be in session by then, as they will be put through in a private bill for political reform to be tabled in the house."

PSA's initial demands

In a lead up to the threat of a strike, the PSA held a special meeting on May 19, at the Queen Salote Memorial Hall to discuss their dissatisfaction in regards to the new Ministerial reshuffling and appointments announced by the Tongan Prime Minister, Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele on May 16.

The meeting came to a decision to present a letter of petition to HRH Tupouto'a who was Prince Regent on May 25 to, firstly, reconsider the recent appointments of Ministers and the Ministerial reshuffling, and, secondly, for Government to consider and support the political reform process for the people of Tonga to elect the Prime Minister and Ministers.

On May 23, the PSA together with other supporting groups and associations held a press conference at the Parliament office in Nuku'alofa to reconfirm their disappointments and reaffirm the national march that was set for May 25.

The PSA also confirmed that the civil servants were willing to go on a national strike if government did not give them a satisfactory response to their proposed letter and recommendations, and concluded by publicly calling on the support of the people of Tonga to come, dressed in black, to join the march.

On May 24, a day before the "black" march the PSA took a twist by announcing its postponement to June 1, in order to give their supporting groups more time to rally. And then last week, they took yet another turn and decided to hand over the march they had been promoting to ‘Akilisi and his committee, and their new agenda.

A national march is planned to start at 2:00pm on June 1, after the marching of the Tongtapu High School students for the opening of parliament. It will begin from the Nuku'alofa Primary school grounds going to Pangai Lahi where a letter of petition will be presented to the Palace Office.