Tonga. At least 95 people were killed in a ferry accident outside Tonga in August. It was unclear how many people had been aboard the ship. According to countryaah, more than 50 people survived. The accident is believed to have been caused by a high wave that caused the Princess Ashika ferry to topple. The churches were filled when memorials were held after the accident. During a hearing on the accident at the Tonga Royal Commission in December, the captain of the ferry acknowledged that he knew that the ship was in such poor condition that it was not seaworthy.
In September, at least nine people died when a tsunami hit Tonga. It was a powerful earthquake in the sea between Samoa and Tonga that gave rise to a series of river waves. A wave of about six meters swept over Tonga. In addition to deaths and personal injuries, the tsunami caused extensive damage to buildings and cultivated land.
The committee set up in 2007 to draft constitutional reforms recommended in November that Tonga set up a people-elected parliament and that today the very powerful royal house in the future will have a mainly ceremonial role. The Monarchy Tonga has taken small steps in the democratic direction in recent years. This development is particularly noticeable from 2005, when major demonstrations for democracy were carried out, and after the death of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV in 2006. He was succeeded by his son, George Tupou V, who is much more reform-friendly. The King supported the draft constitutional reform and already in 2008 introduced certain changes in the democratic direction, such as giving the Prime Minister more political power at the expense of his own. According to the King’s proposal, the number of elected members should also increase from 9 to 13 in the next parliamentary elections, which will be held in 2010. The elected people then become more than the nine nobles who sit in parliament appointed by Tonga’s noble families. The government is also in Parliament.
In November, Tonga, along with ten other Pacific Islanders, demanded that the UN adopt a legally binding agreement at the Copenhagen climate summit in December. The group’s spokesman, Palau’s UN ambassador Stuart Beck, said before the UN General Assembly that only a binding climate agreement can save low-lying countries such as the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. The disappointment was therefore great among the Pacific countries when it became clear that the climate summit did not lead to a binding UN document signed by all countries.