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Tonga


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Tonga

Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific. Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited.
The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line located at about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Tonga also became known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga, the islands' paramount chief, and received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, in reality the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.
Tonga is also the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonisation. In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step towards becoming a fully functioning constitutional monarchy after legislative reforms paved the way for its first ever fully representative elections which resulted in the election of Noble Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō as its first democratically elected Prime Minister.



History of Tonga

An Austronesian-speaking group linked to the archaeological construct known as the Lapita cultural complex reached and colonised Tonga around 1500–1000 BCE. Scholars continue to debate the exact dates of the initial settlement of Tonga. Not much is known about Tonga before European contact because of the lack of a writing system during prehistoric times. However, oral history has survived and been recorded after the arrival of the Europeans. The Tongan people first encountered Europeans in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht made a short visit to the islands to trade.
By the 12th century Tongans, and the Tongan paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga, had a reputation across the central Pacific – from Niue, Samoa, Eastern Fiji, Rotuma, Wallis & Futuna, New Caledonia to Tikopia – leading some historians to speak of a 'Tongan Empire'. In the 15th century and again in the 17th, civil war erupted. Into this situation the first European explorers arrived, beginning in 1616 with the Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire (who called on the northern island of Niuatoputapu), and in 1643 with Abel Tasman (who visited Tongatapu and Haʻapai). Later noteworthy European visitors included James Cook (British Navy) in 1773, 1774, and 1777, Alessandro Malaspina (Spanish Navy) in 1793, the first London missionaries in 1797, and the Wesleyan Methodist Rev. Walter Lawry 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 had been baptised[by whom?] with the name Jiaoji ("George") in 1831. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Waldemar 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), Tonga formed part of the British Western Pacific Territories (under a colonial High Commissioner, residing on Fiji) from 1901 until 1952. Although under the protection of Britain, Tonga remained the only Pacific nation never to have given up its monarchical government – as did Tahiti and Hawaiʻi. The Tongan monarchy follows an uninterrupted succession of hereditary rulers from one family. In 1918 the influenza epidemic that spread through the world caused the deaths of 1,800 people in Tonga, approximately 8% of the population.
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 local monarch rather than that of the United Kingdom – compare Malaysia, Lesotho, and Swaziland), and became a member of the United Nations in September 1999. While exposed to colonial pressures, 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.


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13. Marshall Islands – Majuro
31.Kiribati – South Tarawa 32.Micronesia – Palikir 33.New Zealand – Wellington

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Politics of Tonga

Tonga operates as a constitutional monarchy. Reverence for the monarch replaces 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 for its citizens:

  • free and mandatory education for all
  • secondary education with only nominal fees
  • and foreign-funded scholarships for post-secondary education

Tongans enjoy a relatively high level of education, with a 98.9% literacy rate, and higher education up to and including medical and graduate degrees (pursued mostly overseas).

Tongans also have universal access to a national health care system. The Tongan constitution protects land ownership: land 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 counsel of numerous international advisors[who?], the government of Tonga under King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (reigned 1965–2006) 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.
The Tongan government 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.
In 2010, Tongan Brigadier General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu, Commander of the Tonga Defence Services, signed an agreement in London committing a minimum of 200 Tongan troops to cooperate with Britain’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Tonga has also contributed troops and police to the Bougainville conflict and the Australian led RAMSI force in the Solomon Islands.
The previous king, Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV and his government made some problematic economic decisions and were accused[by whom?] 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 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.



Tonga Religion

Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the Sabbath to be sacred, forever. As of 2006 somewhat more than a third of Tongans adhered to the Methodist tradition with Catholics and Mormon populations equalling another third of the adherents. A minority of worshippers are part of the Free Church of Tonga. The official figures from the latest government census of 2006 show that about 98% of the population are affiliated with a Christian church or sect with the four major church affiliations in the kingdom as follows:

  • Free Wesleyans/Methodists (38,052 or 37%)
  • LDS Church (Mormons) (17,109 or 17%)
  • Roman Catholics (15,992 or 16%)
  • Free Church of Tonga (11,599 or 11%)

 

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