Sadly, Tonga’s government has rejected demands for democratic reforms, sparking riots, looting and arson throughout the capital, Nuku’alofa. I hope the violence doesn’t escalate – the consequences could be serious if the security forces or the royals mishandle the situation further. I doubt it will be as bad as Fiji or the Solomons, however.
See Matangi for breaking news and photos of overturned cars, burning buildings etc. They are also reporting that fires have started in the Pacific Royale, which is the hotel I stayed at with my parents several years ago.
My analysis of Tonga’s situation on September 21 can be found here. Some relevant quotes:
I visited Tonga a few years ago though, and really enjoyed the trip, although seeing, first-hand, Tongans living in rusty iron shacks in the dump, surrounded by such natural beauty was heart-rending – and all the more so because the palaces of the kings and nobles were so ostentatious. [. . . ]
Full-scale civil war is unlikely, if not impossible. [. . .]
What other forms could violence take? Riots? As previously mentioned, there have already been some incidents of arson and small riots. So itâ€™s a possibility, but I should note that conservative Tongan culture seems to disapprove of such action, and indeed many Tongans blamed the arsons on young Tongan-Americans.
I will end by quoting from activist and journalist Kalafi Moala on the consequences of denying basic freedoms to your citizens.
Tonga has ended up with a society more corrupt than ever. The social problems of alcohol, drugs, and youth suicides have reached epidemic proportionsâ€¦ And there are grave problems of teenage pregnancies, broken homes, teenage prostitution, child pornography, increasing unemployment, criminal activity among Tongan communities at home and overseas.