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

Tuvalu: The Truth Knowledge And History Of This Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Tuvalu

Introduction In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period.
History Tuvaluans are a Polynesian people who settled the islands around 3000 years ago coming from Tonga and Samoa. During pre-European-contact times there was frequent canoe voyaging between the nearer islands. Eight of the 9 islands of Tuvalu were inhabited; thus the name, Tuvalu, means “eight standing together” in Tuvaluan. Possible evidence of fire in the Caves of Nanumanga may indicate human occupation thousands of years before that.

Tuvalu was first sighted by Europeans in 1568 with the arrival of Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira from Spain who also encountered the island of Nui (atoll) but was unable to land.

No other Europeans turned up again until the late 1700s when other European explorers reached the area. By the early 1800s whalers were roving the Pacific though visiting Tuvalu only infrequently, because of the difficulties of landing ships on the atolls, and no settlements were established by them.

Peruvian slave raiders (“blackbirders”) combed the Pacific between 1862 and 1864 and Tuvalu was one of the hardest-hit Pacific island groups with over 400 people taken from Funafuti and Nukulaelae, none of whom returned.

In 1865 the London Missionary Society, Protestant congregationalists, began their process of evangelisation of Tuvalu and the people’s conversion to Christianity was complete by the 1920s. Also in the late 1800s, European traders began to live on the islands hoping to profit from local resources.

In 1892 the islands became part of the British protectorate known as the Ellice Islands. The protectorate was incorporated into the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in 1916. In 1943, during World War II, Tuvalu was selected as an operations base for Allied forces battling the Japanese in the Pacific. Thousands of marines were stationed there until December 1945.

In 1974 ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (to become Kiribati). The following year the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978.

Tuvalu Independence Day is celebrated on 1 October. In 1979 Tuvalu signed a treaty of friendship with the United States that recognized Tuvalu’s rightful possession of four small islands formerly claimed by the United States.

As low-lying islands, lacking a surrounding shallow shelf, the island communities of Tuvalu are especially susceptible to changes in sea level and storm patterns that hit the island undissipated. It is estimated that a sea level rise of 20–40 centimetres (8–16 inches) in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable. The South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) suggests that while Tuvalu is vulnerable to climate change there are additional environmental problems such as population growth and poor coastal management that are affecting sustainable development on the island. SOPAC ranks the country as extremely vulnerable using the Environmental Vulnerability Index. While some commentators have called for the relocation of the population of Tuvalu to Australia, New Zealand, or Kioa (Fiji), the former Prime Minister Maatia Toafa said his government did not regard rising sea levels as such a threat that the entire population would need to be evacuated. In spite of persistent Internet rumours that New Zealand has agreed to accept an annual quota of 75 evacuees, the annual residence quota of 75 Tuvaluans under the Pacific Access Category (and 50 places for people from Kiribati) replaced the previous Work Schemes from the two countries and are not related to environmental concerns.

Geography Location: Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 S, 178 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 26 sq km
land: 26 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 24 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)
Terrain: very low-lying and narrow coral atolls
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m
Natural resources: fish
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 66.67%
other: 33.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: severe tropical storms are usually rare, but, in 1997, there were three cyclones; low level of islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level
Environment – current issues: since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country’s underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; six of the nine coral atolls – Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, and Nukulaelae – have lagoons open to the ocean; Nanumaya and Niutao have landlocked lagoons; Niulakita does not have a lagoon
Politics Tuvalu is a constitutional monarchy and Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II recognised as the official Queen of Tuvalu. She is represented in Tuvalu by a Governor General, who is appointed upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The local unicameral parliament, or Fale I Fono, has 15 members and is elected every four years. Its members elect a Prime Minister who is the head of government. The Cabinet is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Each island also has its own high-chief or ulu-aliki, and several sub-chiefs (alikis) and elders. The elders form together an island council of elders or te sina o fenua (literally:”grey-hairs”). In the past, another caste, namely the one of the priests (tofuga) was also amongst the decision-makers. The sina o fenua, aliki and ulu-aliki exercise informal authority on a local level. Ulu-aliki are always chosen based on hericy, and their powers are now shared with the pule o kaupule (elected village presidents; one on each atol). There are no formal political parties and election campaigns are largely on the basis of personal/family ties and reputation.

The highest court in Tuvalu is the High Court; there are eight Island Courts with limited jurisdiction. Rulings from the High Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in Fiji.

Tuvalu has no regular military forces, and spends no money on the military. Its police force includes a Maritime Surveillance Unit for search and rescue missions and surveillance operations. The police have a Pacific-class patrol boat (Te Mataili) provided by Australia under the Pacific Patrol Boat Program for use in maritime surveillance and fishery patrol.

The government of Tuvalu is represented in the United Kingdom by an honorary consul, based at Tuvalu House, London.

People Population: 12,177 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.4% (male 1,826/female 1,754)
15-64 years: 65.4% (male 3,891/female 4,073)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 236/female 397) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 25.2 years
male: 24.2 years
female: 26.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.577% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 22.75 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.98 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: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.59 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 18.97 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 21.56 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 16.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.97 years
male: 66.7 years
female: 71.36 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.94 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: Tuvaluan(s)
adjective: Tuvaluan
Ethnic groups: Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%
Religions: Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, Baha’i 1%, other 0.6%
Languages: Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)
Literacy: NA
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2001)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Tuvalu
local long form: none
local short form: Tuvalu
former: Ellice Islands
note: “Tuvalu” means “group of eight,” referring to the country’s eight traditionally inhabited islands
Government type: constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Funafuti
geographic coordinates: 8 30 S, 179 12 E
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: administrative offices are located in Vaiaku Village on Fongafale Islet
Administrative divisions: none
Independence: 1 October 1978 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 1 October (1978)
Constitution: 1 October 1978
Legal system: NA
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Filoimea TELITO (since 15 April 2005)
head of government: Prime Minister Apisai IELEMIA (since 14 August 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of Parliament; election last held 14 August 2006 (next to be held following parliamentary elections in 2010)
election results: Apisai IELEMIA elected Prime Minister in a Parliamentary election on 14 August 2006
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (15 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 3 August 2006 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote – NA; seats – independents 15
Judicial branch: High Court (a chief justice visits twice a year to preside over its sessions; its rulings can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in Fiji); eight Island Courts (with limited jurisdiction)
Political parties and leaders: there are no political parties but members of Parliament usually align themselves in informal groupings
Political pressure groups and leaders: none
International organization participation: ACP, ADB, C, FAO, IFRCS (observer), IMO, IOC, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO
Diplomatic representation in the US: Tuvalu does not have an embassy in the US – the country’s only diplomatic post is in Fiji – Tuvalu does, however, have a UN office located at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400D, New York, NY 10017, telephone: [1] (212) 490-0534
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Tuvalu; the US ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tuvalu
Flag description: light blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant; the outer half of the flag represents a map of the country with nine yellow five-pointed stars symbolizing the nine islands
Culture Heritage

The traditional community system still survives to a large extent on Tuvalu. Each family has its own task, or salanga, to perform for the community, such as fishing, house building or defence. The skills of a family are passed on from father to son.

Most islands have their own futi, or government owned shops. Similar to a convenience store, you can buy canned foods and bags of rice, but goods are cheaper and fusis give better prices for their own goods due to government subsidy.

Another important building is the falekaupule or village hall, where important matters are discussed and which is used with certain events.

Cuisine

The traditional foods eaten in Tuvalu are pulaka, seafood (crab, turtle, some fish), bananas and breadfruit, coconut, and pork. Pulaka is the main source for carbohydrates. It is grown in large pits below the watertable in composted soil. Seafood is the main source of protein. Bananas and breadfruit are supplemental crops. Finally, coconut is used for its juice, making beverages and to make food tastier. Pork is eaten most with fateles (or parties with dance to celebrate certain events)

Sport and Leisure

A traditional sport played in Tuvalu is kilikiti, which is similar to cricket. Another sport popular and specific to Tuvalu is ano, which is played with 2 round balls of 12cm diameter.

More common sports such as football, cycling and rugby are also played in the country as recreational activities. Tuvalu has a national football team and competes officially with local nations, despite not being a FIFA member. However, there are no records of a rugby team, in either code, and rugby remains undeveloped in the country, although it is hoped that exposure to the NRL Grand Final, which is televised across the Pacific Islands will increase the popularity of rugby league enough to create a viable and competitive team. There are no training facilities for any sport in the country.

Tuvalu entered the Olympic Games for the first time at the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China, sending three competitors in two events.

Music

Traditional music prior to European contact included poems performed in a sort of monotonal recitation, though this tradition has since become extinct, as well as work songs which the women performed to encourage the men while they worked.

The most famous form of Tuvaluan dance music, fatele, is influenced by European melody and harmony and is competitive, with each island divided into two sides or teams (called feitu’s). Feitus exist not only with the dancing at fatele’s (which is conducted much like a competition), but for other activities as well.

The two primary traditional dances of Tuvalu are the fakanu and fakaseasea. Of these, the fakanu has since died out, though the fakaseasea lives on, performed only by elders.

Economy Economy – overview: Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports and is almost entirely dependent upon imported food and fuel. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. Fewer than 1,000 tourists, on average, visit Tuvalu annually. Job opportunities are scarce and public sector workers make up the majority of those employed. About 15% of the adult male population work as seamen on merchant ships abroad and remittances are a vital source of income, contributing around $4 million in 2006. Substantial income is received annually from the Tuvalu Trust Fund (TTF), an international trust fund established in 1987 by Australia, NZ, and the UK and supported also by Japan and South Korea. Thanks to wise investments and conservative withdrawals, this fund grew from an initial $17 million to an estimated value of $77 million in 2006. The TFF contributed nearly $9 million towards the government budget in 2006 and is an important cushion for meeting shortfalls in the government’s budget. The US Government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu because of payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries. In an effort to ensure financial stability and sustainability, the government is pursuing public sector reforms, including privatization of some government functions and personnel cuts. Tuvalu also derives royalties from the lease of its “.tv” Internet domain name, with revenue of more than $2 million in 2006. A minor source of government revenue comes from the sale of stamps and coins. With merchandise exports only a fraction of merchandise imports, continued reliance must be placed on fishing and telecommunications license fees, remittances from overseas workers, official transfers, and income from overseas investments. Growing income disparities and the vulnerability of the country to climatic change are among leading concerns for the nation.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $14.94 million (2002 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $14.94 million (2002)
GDP – real growth rate: 3% (2006 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $1,600 (2002 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 16.6%
industry: 27.2%
services: 56.2% (2002)
Labor force: 3,615 (2004 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: note: people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors)
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $21.54 million
expenditures: $23.05 million (2006)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.8% (2006 est.)
Agriculture – products: coconuts; fish
Industries: fishing, tourism, copra
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: NA
hydro: NA
nuclear: NA
other: NA
Current account balance: -$11.68 million (2003)
Exports: $1 million f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports – commodities: copra, fish
Imports: $12.91 million c.i.f. (2005)
Imports – commodities: food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods
Economic aid – recipient: $10.49 million
note: includes distributions from the Tuvalu Trust Fund (2006)
Debt – external: $NA
Currency (code): Australian dollar (AUD); note – there is also a Tuvaluan dollar
Currency code: AUD
Exchange rates: Tuvaluan dollars or Australian dollars (AUD) per U 1.2059 (2008 est.), 1.2137 (2007), 1.3285 (2006), 1.3095 (2005), 1.3598 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 900 (2005)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1,300 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: serves particular needs for internal communications
domestic: radiotelephone communications between islands
international: country code – 688; international calls can be made by satellite
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2004)
Radios: 4,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 0 (2004)
Televisions: 800
Internet country code: .tv
Internet hosts: 56,209 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 1,300 (2002)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 8 km
paved: 8 km (2002)
Merchant marine: total: 80
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 30, chemical tanker 14, container 2, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 22, refrigerated cargo 1, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 63 (China 16, Hong Kong 7, Kenya 1, South Korea 1, Malaysia 1, Maldives 1, Norway 1, Russia 2, Singapore 23, Thailand 1, Turkey 2, Ukraine 1, US 1, Vietnam 5) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Funafuti
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; Tuvalu Police Force (2008)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 128
female: 125 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

Cyclone Gita could be most powerful to ever hit Tonga

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Tropical Cyclone Gita could be most powerful to ever hit Tonga

(CNN)A storm barreling toward the Pacific island nation of Tonga could be the most powerful to ever hit the country.

Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to hit Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, with heavy winds up to 215 kilometers per hour (134 miles per hour) and upwards of 250 millimeters (10 inches) of rainfall Monday. Flooding and storm surges are expected to be another concern over the next 24 hours.
The Tongan Red Cross has warned the community that it could be in for a direct hit, and Tongan Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell said Gita “could be the most powerful in the country’s history.”
“We are urging people to seek refuge from this severe cyclone,” Caldwell said.
Gita will strengthen to the equivalent of a weak Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane Monday, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
“Gita could be the strongest tropical cyclone to hit this close to the Tongan capital in the past 28 years,” said Guy.
Tonga is made up of 171 islands, only 45 of which are inhabited. The country’s total population is around 106,000 people.
Last week, Gita brought heavy rainfall to both Samoa and American Samoa, hitting those areas as a tropical depression.
Tonga’s acting Prime Minister, Semisi Sika, has declared a month-long state of emergency ahead of the storm.
As part of the emergency declaration, a curfew has been issued in the central business district Nuku’alofa, the Tongan Ministry of Information and Communication said in a news release. Those who live inside the district are being advised to stay indoors or move to an evacuation center.

After the storm hits Tonga, it’s expected to pass south of Fiji and New Caledonia.