Tonga: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Tonga

Introduction Tonga – unique among Pacific nations – never completely lost its indigenous governance. The archipelagos of “The Friendly Islands” were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900; it withdrew from the protectorate and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Tonga remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.
History Proto-Polynesian peoples settled Tonga in the course of their diaspora across the Pacific. By the 12th century Tongans, and the Tongan paramount chief, the Tu’i Tonga, had a reputation across the central Pacific, from Niue to Tikopia, leading some historians to speak of a ‘Tongan Empire’. In the 15th century and again in the 17th, civil war erupted. It was in this context that the first European explorers arrived, beginning with Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire in 1616, who called on the northern island of Niuatoputapu, and Abel Tasman, who visited Tongatapu and Haʻapai in 1643. Later noteworthy European visits were by Captain Cook in 1773, 1774, and 1777, Alessandro Malaspina in 1793, the first London missionaries in 1797, and the Wesleyan Methodist Walter Lawry Buller in 1822.

In 1845 the ambitious young warrior, strategist, and orator Tāufaʻāhau united Tonga into a kingdom. He held the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but was baptised with the name King George. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy, formally adopted the western royal style, emancipated the ‘serfs’, enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press, and limited the power of the chiefs.

Tonga became a British protected state under a Treaty of Friendship on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. Within the British Empire, which posted no higher permanent representative on Tonga than a British Consul (1901-1970), it was part of the British Western Pacific Territories (under a colonial High Commissioner, then residing on Fiji) from 1901 until 1952. Although under the protection of Britain; Tonga is the only Pacific nation never to have given up its monarchial government as did Tahiti and Hawaii. The Tongan monarchy unlike the UK follows a straight line of rulers.

The Treaty of Friendship and Tonga’s protectorate status ended in 1970 under arrangements established by Queen Salote Tupou III prior to her death in 1965. Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970 (atypically as an autochthonous monarchy, that is one with its own hereditary monarch rather than Elizabeth II), and the United Nations in September 1999. While exposed to colonial forces, Tonga has never lost indigenous governance, a fact that makes Tonga unique in the Pacific and gives Tongans much pride, as well as confidence in their monarchical system. As part of cost cutting measures across the British Foreign Service, the British Government closed the British High Commission in Nukuʻalofa in March 2006, transferring representation of British interests in Tonga to the UK High Commissioner in Fiji. The last resident British High Commissioner was Paul Nessling.

Geography Location: Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 S, 175 00 W
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 748 sq km
land: 718 sq km
water: 30 sq km
Area – comparative: four times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 419 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December)
Terrain: most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic base
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Kao Island 1,033 m
Natural resources: fish, fertile soil
Land use: arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 14.67%
other: 65.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: cyclones (October to April); earthquakes and volcanic activity on Fonuafo’ou
Environment – current issues: deforestation results as more and more land is being cleared for agriculture and settlement; some damage to coral reefs from starfish and indiscriminate coral and shell collectors; overhunting threatens native sea turtle populations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited)
Politics Tonga operates as a constitutional monarchy. The reverence for the monarch is likened to that held in earlier centuries for the sacred paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga. Criticism of the monarch is held to be contrary to Tongan culture and etiquette. A direct descendant of the first monarch, King George Tupou V, his family, some powerful nobles, and a growing non-royal elite caste live in much wealth, with the rest of the country living in relative poverty. The effects of this disparity are mitigated by three factors: education, medicine, and land tenure.

Tonga provides free and mandatory education for all children up to the age of fourteen, with only nominal fees for secondary education, and foreign-funded scholarships for post-secondary education. Tongans enjoy a relatively high level of education, with a 98% literacy rate, and higher education up to and including medical and graduate degrees pursued mostly overseas. Per capita of the population, it could well be argued that Tonga has more Ph.Ds than any other country.

Tongans also have universal access to a socialized medical system. Tongan land is constitutionally protected and cannot be sold to foreigners (although it may be leased). While there is a land shortage on the urbanized main island of Tongatapu (where 70% of the population resides), there is farm land available in the outlying islands. The majority of the population engages in some form of subsistence production of food, with approximately half producing almost all of their basic food needs through farming, sea harvesting, and animal husbandry. Women and men have equal access to education and health care, and are fairly equal in employment, but women are discriminated against in land holding, electoral politics, and government ministries. However, in Tongan tradition women enjoy a higher social status than men, a cultural trait that is unique among the insular societies of the Pacific.

The pro-democracy movement in Tonga promotes reforms, including better representation in the Parliament for the majority commoners, and better accountability in matters of state. An overthrow of the monarchy itself is not part of the movement and the institution of monarchy continues to hold popular support, even while reforms are advocated. Until recently, the governance issue was generally ignored by the leaders of other countries, but major aid donors and neighbours New Zealand and Australia are now expressing concerns about some Tongan government actions.

Following the precedents of Queen Sālote, and the consel of numerous international advisors, the government of Tonga under King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV monetized the economy, internationalized the medical and education system, and enabled access by commoners to increasing forms of material wealth (houses, cars, and other commodities), education, and overseas travel. The government has supported Olympic and other international sports competition, and contributed Peacekeepers to the United Nations (notably to Bougainville and the Solomon Islands). The Tongan government also supported the American “coalition of the willing” action in Iraq, and a small number of Tongan soldiers were deployed, as part of an American force, to Iraq in late 2004. However, the contingent of 40+ troops returned home on 17 December 2004. In 2007, a second contingent was sent to Iraq while two more were sent during 2008 to be part of Tonga’s continuous support for the coalition. This Tongan involvement was finally concluded at the end of 2008 with no loss of Tongan life reported.

The previous king, Tāufaʻāhau and his government made some problematic economic decisions and are accused of wasting millions of dollars in poor investments. The problems have mostly been driven by attempts to increase national revenue through a variety of schemes, considering making Tonga a nuclear waste disposal site (an idea floated in the mid-90s by the current crown prince); selling Tongan Protected Persons Passports (which eventually forced Tonga to naturalize the purchasers, sparking ethnicity-based concerns within Tonga); registering foreign ships (which proved to be engaged in illegal activities, including shipments for al-Qaeda); claiming geo-orbital satellite slots (the revenue from which seems to belong to the Princess Royal, not the state); holding a long-term charter on an unusable Boeing 757 that was sidelined in Auckland Airport, leading to the collapse of Royal Tongan Airlines; building an airport hotel and potential casino with an Interpol-accused criminal; and approving a factory for exporting cigarettes to China (against the advice of Tongan medical officials, and decades of health promotion messaging). The king has proved vulnerable to speculators with big promises and lost several million (reportedly 26 million USD) to Jesse Bogdonoff, a financial adviser who called himself the king’s Court Jester. The police have imprisoned pro-democracy leaders, and the government repeatedly confiscated the newspaper The Tongan Times (which was printed in New Zealand and sold in Tonga) because the editor had been vocally critical of the king’s mistakes. Notably, the Keleʻa, produced specifically to critique the government and printed in Tonga by pro-democracy leader ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, was not banned during that time. Pōhiva, however, had been subjected to harassment in the form of frequent lawsuits.

In mid-2003 the government passed a radical constitutional amendment to “Tonganize” the press, by licensing and limiting freedom of the press, so as to protect the image of the monarchy. The amendment was defended by the government and by royalists on the basis of traditional cultural values. Licensure criteria include 80% ownership by Tongans living in the country. As of February 2004, those papers denied licenses under the new act included the Taimi ʻo Tonga (Tongan Times), the Keleʻa and the Matangi Tonga, while those which were permitted licenses were uniformly church-based or pro-government. The bill was opposed in the form of a several-thousand-strong protest march in the capital, a call by the Tuʻi Pelehake (a prince, nephew of the king and elected member of parliament) for Australia and other nations to pressure the Tongan government to democratize the electoral system, and a legal writ calling for a judicial investigation of the bill. The latter was supported by some 160 signatures, including seven of the nine elected “People’s Representatives”. The strong-arm tactics and gaffes have overshadowed the good that the aged king had done in his lifetime, as well as the many beneficial reforms of his son, ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho (Lavaka Ata ʻUlukālala), who was Prime Minister from 3 January 2000 to 11 February 2006. The former Crown Prince and current monarch, Tupoutoʻa, and Pilolevu, the Princess Royal, remained generally silent on the issue. In total, the changes threatened to destabilize the polity, fragment support for the status quo, and place further pressure on the monarchy. This article may need to be updated. Please update the article to reflect recent events or newly available information, and remove this template when finished.

In 2005 the government spent several weeks negotiating with striking civil-service workers before reaching a settlement. The civil unrest that ensued was not limited to just Tonga; protests outside the king’s New Zealand residence made headlines, too. A constitutional commission is currently (2005-06) studying proposals to update the constitution.

Prime Minister Prince ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho (Lavaka Ata ʻUlukālala) resigned suddenly on 11 February 2006, and also gave up his other cabinet portfolios. The elected Minister of Labour, Dr Feleti Sevele, replaced him in the interim.

On 5 July 2006 a driver in Menlo Park, California caused the deaths of Prince Tu’ipelehake ʻUluvalu, his wife, and their driver. Tu’ipelehake, 55, was the co-chairman of the constitutional reform commission, and a nephew of the King.

The Tongan public expected some changes when Siaosi Tupou V (later King George Tupou V) succeeded his father in 2006. On November 16, 2006, rioting broke out in the capital city of Nuku’alofa when it seemed that the parliament would adjourn for the year without having made any advances in increasing democracy in government. Pro-democracy activists burned and looted shops, offices, and government buildings. As a result, more than 60% of the downtown area was destroyed, and as many as 6 people died.

On July 29, 2008 the Palace announced that King George Tupou V would relinquish much of his absolute power and would surrender his role in day-to-day governmental affairs to the Prime Minister. The royal chamberlain said that this was being done to prepare the monarchy for 2010, when most of the first parliament will be elected, and added: “The Sovereign of the only Polynesian kingdom… is voluntarily surrendering his powers to meet the democratic aspirations of many of his people.” The previous week, the government said the king had completed the sale of his ownership of state assets which had contributed to much of the royal family’s wealth.

People Population: 119,009 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.7% (male 20,484/female 19,633)
15-64 years: 62% (male 36,699/female 37,108)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 2,135/female 2,950) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.8 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 22.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.669% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 21.81 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.12 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 11.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 13.07 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.63 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.44 years
male: 67.9 years
female: 73.1 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.5 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Tongan(s)
adjective: Tongan
Ethnic groups: Polynesian, Europeans
Religions: Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)
Languages: Tongan, English
Literacy: definition: can read and write Tongan and/or English
total population: 98.9%
male: 98.8%
female: 99% (1999 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)
Education expenditures: 5% of GDP (2004)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Tonga
conventional short form: Tonga
local long form: Pule’anga Tonga
local short form: Tonga
former: Friendly Islands
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Capital: name: Nuku’alofa
geographic coordinates: 21 08 S, 175 12 W
time difference: UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 3 island groups; Ha’apai, Tongatapu, Vava’u
Independence: 4 June 1970 (from UK protectorate)
National holiday: Emancipation Day, 4 June (1970)
Constitution: 4 November 1875; revised 1 January 1967
Legal system: based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: King George TUPOU V (since 11 September 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Dr. Feleti SEVELE (since 11 February 2006); Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Viliami TANGI (since 16 May 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet consists of 14 members, 10 appointed by the monarch for life; four appointed from among the elected members of the Legislative Assembly, including two each from the nobles’ and peoples’ representatives serving three-year terms
note: there is also a Privy Council that consists of the monarch, the cabinet, and two governors
elections: the monarch is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the monarch
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (32 seats – 14 reserved for cabinet ministers sitting ex officio, nine for nobles selected by the country’s 33 nobles, and nine elected by popular vote; members serve three-year terms)
elections: last held on 23-24 April 2008 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: Peoples Representatives: percent of vote – independents 54%, THRDM 28%, PDP 14%; seats – THRDM 4, independents 3, PDP 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal (Chief Justice and high court justices from overseas chosen and approved by Privy Council)
Political parties and leaders: Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement or THRDM [Uliti UATA]; People’s Democratic Party or PDP [Tesina FUKO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Human Rights and Democracy Movement Tonga or HRDMT [Rev. Simote VEA, chairman]; Public Servant’s Association [Finau TUTONE]
International organization participation: ACP, ADB, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, ITUC, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Fekitamoeloa ‘UTOIKAMANU
chancery: 250 East 51st Street, New York, NY 10022
telephone: [1] (917) 369-1025
FAX: [1] (917) 369-1024
consulate(s) general: San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Tonga; the ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tonga
Flag description: red with a bold red cross on a white rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner
Culture Tonga has been inhabited for perhaps 3,000 years, since settlement in late Lapita times. The culture of its inhabitants has surely changed greatly over this long time period. Before the arrival of European explorers in the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Tongans were in frequent contact with their nearest Oceanic neighbors, Fiji and Samoa. In the 1800s, with the arrival of Western traders and missionaries, Tongan culture changed dramatically. Some old beliefs and habits were thrown away, and others adopted. Some accommodations made in the 1800s and early 1900s are now being challenged by changing Western civilization.

Contemporary Tongans often have strong ties to overseas lands. Many Tongans have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States to seek employment and a higher standard of living. U.S. cities with significant Tongan American populations include Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; Inland Empire, California; San Mateo, California; East Palo Alto, California; San Bruno, California; Oakland, California; Inglewood, California; Los Angeles, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada, and Euless, Texas (in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex). Large Tongan communities can also be found in Auckland, New Zealand, and in Sydney, Australia. This Tongan diaspora is still closely tied to relatives at home, and a significant portion of Tonga’s income derives from remittances to family members (often aged) who prefer to remain in Tonga.

Tongans, therefore, often have to operate in two different contexts, which they often call anga fakatonga, the traditional Tongan way, and anga fakapãlangi, the Western way. A culturally adept Tongan learns both sets of rules and when to switch between them.

Economy Economy – overview: Tonga has a small, open, South Pacific island economy. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops, and agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit. Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. Tonga had 41,000 visitors in 2004. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well-developed social services. High unemployment among the young, a continuing upturn in inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and rising civil service expenditures are major issues facing the government.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $521.5 million (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $258 million (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: -3.5% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $4,400 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 25%
industry: 17%
services: 57% (FY05/06 est.)
Labor force: 33,910 (2003)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 31.8%
industry: 30.6%
services: 2,003% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate: 13% (FY03/04 est.)
Population below poverty line: 24% (FY03/04)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $80.48 million
expenditures: $109.8 million (FY07/08 est.)
Fiscal year: 1 July – 30 June
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.9% (2007 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 12.16% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $46.38 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $106.8 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $163.1 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: squash, coconuts, copra, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, black pepper; fish
Industries: tourism, construction, fishing
Electricity – production: 43 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 39.99 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 870 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – imports: 1,035 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2007 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2007 est.)
Current account balance: -$23 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $22 million f.o.b. (2006)
Exports – commodities: squash, fish, vanilla beans, root crops
Exports – partners: US 36.7%, Japan 21.6%, NZ 10.1%, Fiji 5.8%, Samoa 4.9% (2007)
Imports: $139 million f.o.b. (2006)
Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals
Imports – partners: Fiji 32.5%, NZ 27.5%, US 9%, Australia 7.4%, China 5% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $31.75 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $40.83 million (yearend, FY 04/05)
Debt – external: $80.7 million (2004)
Currency (code): pa’anga (TOP)
Currency code: TOP
Exchange rates: pa’anga (TOP) per US dollar – NA (2007), 2.0277 (2006), 1.96 (2005), 1.9716 (2004), 2.142 (2003)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 21,000 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 46,500 (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: competition between Tonga Telecommunications Corporation (TCC) and Shoreline Communications Tonga (SCT) is accelerating expansion of telecommunications; SCT recently granted authority to develop high-speed digital service for telephone, Internet, and television
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity roughly 40 telephones per 100 persons; fully automatic switched network
international: country code – 676; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2004)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2001)
Radios: 61,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 3 (2004)
Televisions: 2,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .to
Internet hosts: 19,231 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 8,400 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 6 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 680 km
paved: 184 km
unpaved: 496 km (2000)
Merchant marine: total: 13
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 8, carrier 1, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 1, refrigerated cargo 1
foreign-owned: 4 (Australia 1, Cyprus 1, Switzerland 1, UK 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Nuku’alofa
Military Military branches: Tonga Defense Services (TDS): Land Force (Royal Guard), Naval Force (includes Royal Marines, Air Wing) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 32,053
females age 16-49: 30,981 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 25,520
females age 16-49: 26,893 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 1,464
female: 1,412 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 0.9% of GDP (2006 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

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