Riots in Tonga

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Skraeling
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Nov 16 2006 23:52
Riots in Tonga

Very interesting riots in Tonga in the last day. Most of the CBD in Nuku'Alofa, the capital, ablaze.

see http://www.matangitonga.to/article/tonganews/crime/riot161106.shtml and
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0611/S00304.htm

Most are claiming that these are pro-democracy riots. (For those that don't know, Tonga is still a monarchy). True, but do people see some class content in the riots? I mean burning down banks, mass looting of supermarkets, burning hotels (tourism is one of the biggest businesses in Tonga) seem to have anti-capitalist content to me.

And some are claiming there is racism involved, as a lot of Chinese businesses went up in smoke (as in the Solomons recently).

And I hear the Australian state are considering sending in troops or police. Bloody hell.

bastarx
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Nov 17 2006 01:01

In the Solomons it wasn't simple anti-Chinese racism - the shops owned by Chinese who'd been there since the 20s IIRC were untouched whereas the ones owned by recently arrived Taiwanese were burnt down. Apparently because votes in parliament were changed due to bribes paid by Taiwanese capos - can't remember if they were local Taiwanese though cos there're also Taiwanese logging and fishing interests in the Solomons.

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jason
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Nov 17 2006 01:16
Quote:
And I hear the Australian state are considering sending in troops or police. Bloody hell.

roll eyes The Oz 'Defence' force is such a slut. I'm sure the gov is champing at the bit for another regional 'assistance' mission but I wonder if we currently have the capacity?

Sorry I don't know anything about Tonga and the situ on the ground. Am keen to find out myself. Marianne Keady does emphasise the China Factor in the South Pacific so maybe it all ties in:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=33&ItemID=10523

Skraeling
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Nov 18 2006 00:56

well bugger it the Aussie and NZ govts have sent in troops and police to quell those unruly Tongan proles.

Quote:
Australia will deploy 50 soldiers and 35 Australian Federal police. New Zealand will lead the contingent with 60 armed soldiers to secure Nuku'alofa airport and 10 special police officers to provide security to the New Zealand High Commission.

from http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0611/S00327.htm

I bet the NZ and Aussie peace movements will not condemn the deployments. The riots are now called "Black Friday", 80% of the CBD up in smoke, 8 dead, soldiers on the streets enforcing a curfew, drunken youths scapegoated for the riots when i read whole families were involved.

this article says Tonga is on the verge of a revolution. I'll quote the relevant stuff as it seems to me to give some idea why the riots occurred ie. a corrupt, rich royal elite creaming the profits of neoliberalism and treating the Tongan "commoners" with contempt -- they even call Tongan proles "dirt-eaters"!!!

see http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3863239a10,00.html

Quote:
But as trouble continued, the kingdom appeared to be on the verge of violent revolution.

Trouble has been brewing in the kingdom for years but love and respect for King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV kept it in check.

But two months ago he died, succeeded by his son who has made little secret of his contempt for ordinary Tongans while making a personal fortune by taking control of once state owned electricity and phone companies...

Reports from Nuku'alofa made it clear that rioters who were looting and burning were targeting property linked to the King George's company Shoreline and the Pacific Royale Hotel owned by his business associates, the so-called 'Indian Princes' Sefo and Soane Ramanlal, who now live in Auckland.

Shoreline offices and the hotel have been destroyed by rioters according to the Matangi Tonga website.

The royal appointed Prime Minister Feleti Seveli has also been targeted with a supermarket he owned trashed.

Tonga has been tightly controlled by a royal and noble elite in which the 100,000 commoners are known as 'dirt eaters'.

so the rioters were targetting property of the royal elite. hmm, maybe all that stuff about it being anti-chinese is bollocks. the pacific islands are an interesting place at the moment, lots of turmoil and uprisings and riots. watch this space, there is probably a lot more rioting to come.

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jason
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Nov 20 2006 23:31

Thanks Skraeling, interesting stuff. Please post up what you find.

Skraeling
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Nov 21 2006 00:55
Skraeling wrote:
I bet the NZ and Aussie peace movements will not condemn the deployments.

happy to lose that bet. Peace Action Wellington held a demonstration the other day outside the NZ Ministry of Defence in Wgtn. see http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/72060/index.php

now the NZ and Aussie troops are helping to enforce a pretty nasty curfew on those unruly Tongan proles. I'll quote the emergency powers the Tongan govt has granted itself, they are pretty full on:

Quote:
4. Any person authorised by Cabinet, and every member of the Tonga Police Force and the Tonga Defence Services, shall for the purposes of preserving public order and securing the public safety, have power to:

(i) regulate, restrict, control or prohibit the use of any road, street, path, waterway or public place by any person, vehicle or vessel or by any class of persons, vehicles or vessels;

(ii) absolutely or on conditions, prohibit the holding of a meeting or procession, or the assembly of 5 or more persons in a place or building (whether public or private) in that area;

(iii) order a meeting, procession of any assembly of 5 or more persons held in a place or building (whether public or private) to disperse;

(iv) use such force as necessary in the interest of public security to disperse a meeting, procession or assembly prohibited or order to be dispersed;

(v) erect or place barriers on a road, street, path, waterway or any public place if necessary for the preservation of law and order, prevention or detection of crimes or to regulate traffic;

(vi) take all reasonable steps and use such force necessary to prevent a person, whether on foot or in a vehicle or vessel from passing the barrier contrary to an instruction, direction or signal;

(vii) order every person to remain indoors between certain hours;

(viii) prohibit a person or class of persons from entering a place or building;

(ix) regulate the movement or conduct of a person or class of persons;

(x) search or detain for the purpose of searching a person;

(xi) remove any person who fails to comply with any order;

(xii) in relation to suspend persons, premises, vehicle, vessels, or aircraft, with or without warrant, stop and search any person, or enter and search any premises, or stop, board and search any vessel, vehicle or aircraft, and seize evidence;

(xiii) with or without warrant, stop and search any person or vehicle on a public road, and seize evidence;

(xiv) without warrant, arrest any person suspected on reasonable grounds of threatening public order;

(xv) detain any arrested person for a period not exceeding 48 hours.

(xvi) use such force as may be reasonably necessary to preserve public order.

from http://www1.tonga-now.to/Article.aspx?ID=2063

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jason
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Nov 21 2006 00:59

Thats nothing. I wish Jo Bjelke-Peterson was still around. wink

poo
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Nov 21 2006 03:07

it seem the previous king made a lot of money selling Tongan passports to Chinese immigrants (article below) and there are a lot of chinese owned businesses in Tonga (well until the riots anyway)

i think its going to get very messy indeed before it gets better. On NZ radio today they had interviews with an NZ business man who claimed the rioters were paid $5 a day and free beer!!! he blamed business rivals who apperently organsied the riots to gain power themselves. Rubbish of course, but Tonga is so backward that the pro democracy movement includes pretty much everyone who isnt a raving fundamentalist christian monarchist.

from www.stuff.co.nz

Quote:
Violence may drive Chinese intervention
20 November 2006
By MICHAEL FIELD

China may soon intervene in the South Pacific in the wake of the destruction this year of ethnic Chinese communities in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, one of the region's leading academics warns.

Emeritus professor Ron Crocombe said the growing numbers of Chinese in key positions represented a "very combustible mix" in Pacific nations and noted that Fiji and Vanuatu were also vulnerable to anti-Chinese action.

His comments follow Chinese citizens being targeted in a riot in the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa late last week.

The Chinese embassy said it had taken in more than 150 of its citizens whose businesses or homes had been destroyed during the riots.

"The time is coming when China will intervene," Professor Crocombe said from Rarotonga.

Though the Chinese in Nuku'alofa were not citizens of China, Beijing would feel a sense of responsibility toward them, he said.

Professor Crocombe, who is about to publish a book on Chinese involvement in the Pacific, said China was already playing a strong diplomatic and political hand in the region. Attacks on Chinese communities would only increase their role.

The Chinese victims in the Tongan riot follows disorder in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara, in April when Chinese-linked businesses were destroyed.

Of Tonga's 105,000 people, about 4000 are Chinese. Most of them moved there in the early 1990s when the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV sold Tongan citizenship and passports to mainland Chinese.

At the time he said the Chinese would not move to Tonga. Later, most of the money from the passport sales was lost to poor investments made by an American banker appointed by the king.

Professor Crocombe said that the Chinese had acquired more than 72 per cent of Tongan business in a decade. "It all happened that fast." Their numbers were not large but they were in key sectors, including business and other more sinister activities. "Organised crime is now a major problem in the South Pacific and Chinese are major players in it," he said.

Professor Crocombe, who consults on security reporting for the Pacific Forum, said anti-Australian feeling in the area was also growing. He noted that officially there were only 4000 Chinese migrants in Fiji but regional police intelligence put the number at closer to 30,000. Chinese were also taking over small businesses in Vanuatu.

Order has been restored to Tonga with the help of Australian and New Zealand forces. The presence of foreign troops has been condemned by one of the leading players in political reform in Tonga, Dr Sitiveni Halapua. He has called for the resignation of Prime Minister Feleti Sevele. "If Australia and New Zealand police and army are there to prop up the government, they are propping the government up against everybody else. It's not just the pro democracy."

Dr Halapua warned in January and again last month that Tonga was slipping toward violence. He said troubles were far from over and warned that "very serious problems lie ahead".

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jason
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Nov 21 2006 04:28
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Professor Crocombe, who is about to publish a book on Chinese involvement in the Pacific, said China was already playing a strong diplomatic and political hand in the region. Attacks on Chinese communities would only increase their role.

This fits well with the stuff Keady writes about that I posted a link to above. That its basically a New Cold War with a growing China and the US competing for dominance in the South Pacific, with Australia acting as the cop on the beat for the US.

So it looks like there's unrest that the different powers will try and coopt for their own ends - basically to assert a strategic presence, no? But what was the nature of the unrest in the first place: proletariat or bourgois reaction against the monarchy?

Emile
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Nov 21 2006 21:27

The bottom line with the deployment of New Zealand and Australian Police and Military is they do not have any jurisdiction in Tonga. It's simple as that. It smells like a Bush administative approach. What right do NZ and Australia have in Tonga? Regardless what the media have to say, "Please check up the chain to find out who really runs and controls what main stream media have to say" You may be surprised.

Tonga still supports the Death penalty as stated by one of the Togan royals, "They should be round up and shot" This is clearly an example of what and how Tongan people are regarded and treated. As much as monarchs and governements claim to be based on pro-christian morals and philosophy (in God we trust) the proof is always in the pudding.

Leave Tonga alone and the truth will be revealed! and then go in to save the people and not to up hold a regime that has for centuries oppressed and condemned it's people.

Malo lava ia fa'a malosi

Emile

PS: never forget what the New Zealand Govt did to our Mau movement and never forget that Australia use to be a racist nation of apartheid. Don't forget that!!

What do we have to fear from the Chinese in the Pacific?......Nothing but only what mainstream media report ... remember that China came into their own when Britain moved out! Lest we forget the real truth!!

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jason
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Nov 21 2006 23:50

Hi Emile,

Exactly what points are you trying to make?

Emile
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Nov 22 2006 00:00

Hi Jason Sorry if my english is not up to scratch, but my points are very clear....unless of course you would prefer I plagiarize, cut and paste, opinions that are not mine? Would you understand that better.

As a Pacific Islander and representative on many boards I could say I know what I'm talking about even if you don't.

Regards

Emile

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jason
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Nov 22 2006 01:43

Sorry Emile. I'm not trying to be smart. But I don't get exactly what you're trying to say.

Do you support Tongan nationalism?

Do you think China would be a better imperial administrator of the S. Pacific than the U.S.?

It appears that there is a lot of displeasure with the Tongan ruling elite. I'm mainly concerned to know if this is led by the Tongan bussiness class trying to assert itself, or by the Tongan working class. Basically, what is the relation between the monarchy and the business class? If it is just middle-class displeasure with monarchical rule, it is my contention that the majority of Tongans wont stand to gain much from a general "democratisation", but that there will just be a transfer of power from royalty to the bourgiosie. During this time the working class needs to assert itself and not get caught up in nationalist fever and assert itself and take what it can. What trends along these lines are you aware of?

Regarding China/US, both will use unrest as an excuse to assert a strategic presence. No surprises that the US proxy, Australia, has beat them to the punch. Aussie & NZ troop presence is a problem for Tongans coz in all probablity they will assist in the transfer of power from royalty to the bussiness leadership, and as I explained above, I don't think Tongan workers will get too much from this deal.

Skraeling
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Nov 22 2006 02:20
Emile wrote:
The bottom line with the deployment of New Zealand and Australian Police and Military is they do not have any jurisdiction in Tonga. It's simple as that. It smells like a Bush administative approach. What right do NZ and Australia have in Tonga?

None whatsoever. I heard on TV last nite that the NZ police will help hunt down the rioters and bring them to "justice". bastards. and they call this a "peacekeeping" operation, ie. keeping a hated regime in power, enforcing their order on Tongans.

Quote:
Tonga still supports the Death penalty as stated by one of the Togan royals, "They should be round up and shot"

I heard that too, its quite scary, the death penalty for rioting. Emile, do you know who said it? (and welcome to the boards by the way)

Quote:
PS: never forget what the New Zealand Govt did to our Mau movement and never forget that Australia use to be a racist nation of apartheid. Don't forget that!!

yeah what NZ did to the mau movement is a good example of NZ suppressing movements in the pacific. NZ does have its own imperialist agenda in the pacific, as does Aussie, its not all following the agenda of the US and the IMF/World Bank.

Jason has raised some very important questions about the pro-democracy movement in Tonga. I dont know if its middle class or working class. I know very little about this subject and would appreciate some info. Anybody know anything or know of some web articles about the pro-democracy movement? The rioters looked working class to me, and their burning and looting obviously had some anti-capitalist content (taking property freely according to need). But i agree with Jason a change in regime from monarchy to democracy will not help everyday Tongans much, though it may give them a few more formal freedoms and civil liberties.

I see the World Socialist Web Site (Trotskyists) claim that the democracy movement is led by the middle class:

WSWS wrote:
The so-called pro-democracy movement is led by parliamentarians, business people, and other middle-class elements who resent the monarchy for monopolising the country’s wealth and political power, but have no fundamental differences with the regime’s right-wing economic and social agenda. These layers have won Australian and New Zealand support by promising to protect foreign interests in Tonga and implement sweeping pro-business reforms.

[NZ PM] Clark and Australian Prime Minister Howard view the monarchy as an impediment to economic reform. While the royal family has implemented a series of free market and pro-trade measures in the past decade—leading to unprecedented social inequality and mass poverty and unemployment—as far as Australia, New Zealand, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are concerned, not enough has been done to open up Tonga’s markets and resources.

from http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/nov2006/tonga-n21.shtml
the WSWS are normally pretty reliable on info on the Pacific. But if Clark and Howard want to get rid of the Tongan monarchy, why then are they putting troops in to prop it up? Are they fearful of the Tongan proles getting out of control and all that "failed state" crap?

and also, a NZ capitalist Mike Jones, who got some of his businesses burnt down in Nuku'alofa, claimed that the riot targetted certain businesses while leaving others untouched, meaning that the capitalists who back the democracy movement didn't get their businesses burnt down -- but then again he is obviously just pissed off that rioters destroyed his profits and creating a bit of a stir in the media.

Skraeling
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Nov 22 2006 02:26

Hi poo, nice to see you on these boards

poo wrote:
i think its going to get very messy indeed before it gets better. On NZ radio today they had interviews with an NZ business man who claimed the rioters were paid $5 a day and free beer!!! he blamed business rivals who apperently organsied the riots to gain power themselves. Rubbish of course, but Tonga is so backward that the pro democracy movement includes pretty much everyone who isnt a raving fundamentalist christian monarchist.

yeah thats the Mike Jones i referred to above, paid rioters, what crap, and blaming the riots on business rivals seems crap but obviously some capitalists in Tonga are anti-monarchy. its all part of looking for scapegoats for the riots, like drunken youths, business rivals and so on, and not looking at their real causes, like poverty, a corrupt ultra-exploitative draconian elite etc.

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jason
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Nov 22 2006 03:29
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the WSWS are normally pretty reliable on info on the Pacific. But if Clark and Howard want to get rid of the Tongan monarchy, why then are they putting troops in to prop it up? Are they fearful of the Tongan proles getting out of control and all that "failed state" crap?

Yeah, I generally like the WSWS foriegn policy stuff. My guess would be that Howard's troops wont be there to fully prop up the monarchy but to oversee some democratic reforms.

Skraeling
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Nov 28 2006 22:52

some NZ indymedia people i know are in Tonga reporting on the situation.

http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/72103/index.php

interesting that the rioters burnt down the offices of a pro-democracy movement group, kind of disproves the theory that the rioting was very planned by pro-democracy people to only burn down monarchist businesses

smush
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Nov 29 2006 05:03

hey all,
smush here, currently in Tonga.

our first and second reports are here:
http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/72090/index.php
http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/72095/index.php

just to clarify about the pro-democracy office that was burnt: The office of the Friendly Island Humand Rights and Democracy Movement was inside the Tungi Arcade which was a shopping mall with offices upstairs and everything was burnt down. I'm not sure whether the fire spread from one of the shops next door etc.

i will write more once i'm back
solidarity

Skraeling
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Dec 4 2006 07:02

hi smush,

hope the tonga trip went well, good on ya for avoiding arrest! i'd be very interested in your thoughts if you have some time to spare. did you find that the leadership of the pro-democracy movement is dominated by, or bankrolled by, capitalists? did you find that the rioting a working class thing or a bourgeois reaction against the king & monarchy?

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Khawaga
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Dec 4 2006 10:01
Quote:
True, but do people see some class content in the riots? I mean burning down banks, mass looting of supermarkets, burning hotels (tourism is one of the biggest businesses in Tonga) seem to have anti-capitalist content to me.

There is some class content to riots (in general, ,I don't know about the Tongan), though it is very nascent class consciousness. I've read quite a bit into the food riots that swept the developing world in the 1970s and 80s and the targets of the crowd was typically government buildings/symbols, casinos, hotels, boutiques and other stuff that you generally would associate with upper-class, international capital, government etc. Sometimes the crowd would even take pains at avoiding damage to shops, building, cars etc. of working class people.

However, most of these riots did not achieve anything politically but getting food subsidies back (which was the reason for rioting in the first place).

An interesting book on food riots is Free Markets and Food Riots.

Of course, not all riots are class based. There are of course race riots and the like, but the point of riots is that the targets of the crowd are never accidental. They always reveal something about the identity/interest of the crowd vis-a-vis a defined "other".

Skraeling
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Dec 6 2006 01:01
atlemk wrote:
There is some class content to riots (in general, ,I don't know about the Tongan), though it is very nascent class consciousness. I've read quite a bit into the food riots that swept the developing world in the 1970s and 80s and the targets of the crowd was typically government buildings/symbols, casinos, hotels, boutiques and other stuff that you generally would associate with upper-class, international capital, government etc. Sometimes the crowd would even take pains at avoiding damage to shops, building, cars etc. of working class people.

However, most of these riots did not achieve anything politically but getting food subsidies back (which was the reason for rioting in the first place).

interesting post atlemk, i think there are some strong similarities b/w the Tongan riots and food riots. They seem to target very similar things, not only govt buildings and international capital but also the property of the monarchy. I wouldnt call the Tongan riots 'food riots', cos the riots didnt happen over the lack of food, they happened immediately after a political rally of the pro-democracy movement, after the govt (controlled by the monarchy) stalled democratic reforms. So it seems these riots were "political". Even the riots had obvious class content, I think proletarian shopping or free shopping is definitely a form of class struggle. Plus the pro-democracy movement has been fuelled by a massive strike last year of govt employees, they got a massive wage increase. Which is stuffed up the govts plans for austerity, so these riots are a product of, and reaction to, neoliberalism in the end, much I guess like the food riots you talk of.

But one minor criticism, i dont think owners of small businesses are working class (you may have unintentionally slipped up there). It seems that the petty bourgeoisie got hit bad in the riots too, for about 80% of the Tongan capital was burnt down.

smush
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Feb 1 2007 10:09
Quote:
hope the tonga trip went well, good on ya for avoiding arrest! i'd be very interested in your thoughts if you have some time to spare. did you find that the leadership of the pro-democracy movement is dominated by, or bankrolled by, capitalists? did you find that the rioting a working class thing or a bourgeois reaction against the king & monarchy?

hey, i really want to get on to writing something on your questions. maybe something for imminent rebellion too. will try and do that in the near future. and thanks for the questions!