Three Tongan ministers resign from cabinet

Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Three Tongan ministers have resigned from the cabinet ahead of a vote of no confidence in the administration of the South Pacific nation's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano.

Police Minister Sunia Fili, Health Minister Uliti Uata and Labour Minister Isileli Pulu all stepped down on Tuesday as parliament prepares to debate the no-confidence motion on Wednesday, the Matangi Tonga news website reported.

Tu'ivakano became prime minister in late 2010 after Tonga held its first vote for a popularly elected government, ending 165 years of near-absolute rule by the monarchy in the Pacific archipelago.

However, the parliamentary coalition he forged between independents and the nobility has become strained as the impoverished nation of about 110,000 people struggles under a massive debt burden.

Fili, who initially supported Tu'ivakano, said it was time for Tonga to have its first ever leader who was not a member of the nobility.

"It seems to me that we have to change, as I understand that is what the people need," he told Radio New Zealand International.

The Friendly Islands Democratic Party, led by veteran pro-democracy campaigner Akilisi Pohiva, holds 12 of the 26 seats in the parliament.

Nine seats are reserved for the nobility, including Tu'ivakano, with the balance held by independents who will decide if the no-confidence motion passes.

- AAP

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