Head Heeb on the Rioting in Tonga

As usual, the Head Heeb offers some of the best analysis of unrest in the South Pacific, most recently the riots in Tonga.

If last year’s successful civil service strike was Tonga’s first revolution, then a second and more violent one began yesterday when widespread rioting broke out in the capital. As with the strike, the catalyst for the riots was a combination of economic distress and frustration over stalled political reforms. Unlike last year’s peaceful protests, however, the riots have left much of Nuku’alofa in a shambles – and, in contrast to the civil service walkout, they were targeted not merely at the royal family but at the entire governmental structure….

The final straw came when Prime Minister Feleti Sevele – ironically, Tonga’s first common premier – proposed adjourning parliament without voting on either of the reform packages, and instead establishing another committee to study the situation. Rioting broke out almost immediately in the capital and turned quickly to looting, with much of the commercial district sacked, including Sevele’s office and a shopping center owned by his family. There was also, as in the Solomon Islands this spring, an ethnic cast to the riots, with Chinese businesses reportedly targeted by the looters. Although no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, the violence grew beyond the ability of Tonga’s beleaguered police force to control.

In Tonga, it looks as if the Kiwis will take the lead in outside intervention.

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