WikiLeaks cable: Tongans in NZ appalled by violence but still back reform

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

November 26, 2006
Tongans in New Zealand appalled by violence but still back reform

date:2006-11-26T18:32:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON930
destination:VZCZCXRO8467 PP RUEHPB DE RUEHWL #0930/01 3301832 ZNY
CCCCC ZZH P 261832Z NOV 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC PRIORITY 3530 INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY
COUNCIL WASHDC PRIORITY RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 4623
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0616 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0536
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000930

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EUR/RPM, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR V...

?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000930

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EUR/RPM, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/ISD JESSICA POWERS
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, TN, NZ
SUBJECT: TONGANS IN NEW ZEALAND APPALLED BY VIOLENCE BUT
STILL BACK REFORM
REF: SUVA 508 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Consul General John Desrocher for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. A prominent member of the Tongan community in Auckland reports that, while local Tongans were shocked by last Thursday's violence in Nuku'alofa, it has not dissuaded them of the need for democratic reform. Local Tongans put much of the blame for the violence not on the pro-democracy movement but on thugs in the employ of various business rivals. Far from decrying the New Zealand/Australian intervention as antidemocratic, most New Zealand Tongans support it as necessary for law and order. End summary.

2. (C) Sefita Haouli, a New Zealand-based Tongan, operates a local radio station that serves the Pacific Islands community; Haouli is well plugged in to local Tongan opinion. He told the Consul General that New Zealand's 50,000-strong Tongan community was shocked by last week's events. According to Haouli, Tongans in New Zealand maintain strong interest in their homeland through bonds of family, village and church.

3. (C) Haouli was dismissive of suggestions that local Tongans might oppose the presence of Australian and NZ forces in Tonga as a prop for the monarchy. Haouli argued to the contrary, reporting that local Tongans believe the NZ/Australia intervention was inevitable and essential to restoring order. Despite the initial reaction of some pro-democracy activists, most local Tongans see violence as a far more serious threat to reform than the NZ/Australia intervention.

4. (C) Haouli considers himself a moderate, but one who sides much more with pro-democracy forces than with the monarchy. He feels in step with the rest of the Tongan community in New Zealand, which he describes as generally pro-reform. Tongans resident in New Zealand, he explained, appreciate first hand the benefits of democracy and a transparent, free market economy. Haouli did not think last week's violence would weaken the cause of reform or frighten off those who support democracy. Haouli argued that the nature of the violence was key in that regard.

5. (C) Closely echoing reftel, Haouli attributed the violence not to the pro-democracy movement directly but to criminal deportees from Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. Haouli described a complicated web of business rivalries, with factions hiring deportees to intimidate and sabotage their opponents. These business factions have connections with various political elements, including reformers. Reformers, he said, took advantage of these connections to whip up public support, a plan that spun out of control last Thursday.

6. (C) This criminal involvement, Haouli said, meant that Tongans in New Zealand did not see last week's violence as an attack by pro-reform forces on the status quo, but rather looting (with a clear anti-monarch and anti-foreigner slant) by criminal thugs. Had deaths or injuries occurred among political figures on either side, as opposed to people
Tongans consider common criminals, Tongans might have been much more inclined to reconsider reform.

7. (C) Like Sitiveni Halapua (reftel), Haouli put considerable blame on PM Sevele for creating the conditions that led to the violence, but Haouli stopped short of calling for Sevele's resignation. Like Halapua, Haouli said that Sevele's presentation of an alternative proposal for reform, outside the framework set up by Halapua's National Committee
on Political Reform, was the spark that set off the conflagration. Haouli noted that demonstrations in Nuku'alofa had grown more and more frequent and that violence may have been inevitable.

8. (C) Haouli passed on a report about two businessmen particularly close to the King (possibly brothers Sefo and Soane Ramanlal) who fled to New Zealand during the violence. Haouli reported that the men, who had a very difficult time WELLINGTON 00000930 002 OF 002 getting out of Tonga, had called the King upon their arrival in New Zealand and berated him in very harsh terms for not better protecting them and their businesses. If true, Haouli said, this would be an extraordinary case of lese-majeste and a significant blow to the King's prestige. Haouli found it interesting that the government had not intervened more
aggressively during the violence, suggesting the King was not confident of the support of his police.

9. (C) Kalolo Fihaki, a Tongan who works for the New Zealand Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in Auckland, generally agreed with Haouli's assessment. He confirmed that Tongans in New Zealand overwhelmingly support the intervention by Australia and New Zealand, noting that those two governments had been the strongest proponents of reform. Fihaki argued that no one had benefited from last week's events. The King had been unable to stop the violence, the PM had looked incompetent, the democracy movement had associated itself with thugs, and the Nuku'alofa business district had gone up in smoke.

McCormick

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