TONGA. One of the islands of Tonga from the air, in the Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific Ocean.
From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected-state status. The United Kingdom looked after Tonga’s foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship, but Tonga never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power. In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step away from its traditional absolute monarchy and became a fully-functioning constitutional monarchy, after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections.
Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. It is the only remaining indigenous monarchy in the Pacific islands (see also Hawaiʻi). 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. Tonga provides for its citizens a free and mandatory education for all, secondary education with only nominal fees, and foreign-funded scholarships for postsecondary education.
Tāufaʻāhau, King of Tonga (1845–1893)
The prodemocracy movement in Tonga promotes reforms, including better representation in the Parliament for the majority of commoners, and better accountability in matters of state. An overthrow of the monarchy 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, the government of Tonga under King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (reigned 1965–2006) monetised the economy, internationalised the medical and education systems, and enabled access by commoners to increasing forms of material wealth (houses, cars, and other commodities), education, and overseas travel.
Male homosexuality is illegal in Tonga, with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Tongans have universal access to a national health care system. The Constitution of Tonga protects land ownership; land cannot be sold to foreigners (although it may be leased)