PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa


TONGA EXPECTED TO BECOME 186TH UN MEMBER

By Anthony Goodman

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (January 25, 1999 - Reuters/Tonga at the United Nations/Tonga Chronicle)---The tiny South Pacific island Kingdom of Tonga, one of the first places where the new millennium will dawn, is expected to become the 186th member of the United Nations following a meeting last week between its monarch and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"We are applying for membership. As soon as we get back home I think these things are going to be formalized," Eleni Aho, private secretary of King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV, told Reuters on Thursday.

She said no ambassador had yet been designated but a UN mission would be opened in New York. "That is why we are here. We are looking at various places," she added.

Tonga, also known as the "friendly islands," has a population of about 100,000 and an area of 290 square miles (750 square kilometers). It comprises more than 150 islands, of which about 35 are inhabited.

Tonga was united under King George Tupou I in 1845 and was a British protectorate beginning in 1900. It became fully independent in 1970, as a member of the Commonwealth.

Asked why Tonga was only now planning to join the world body and whether it had anything to do with the approaching millennium, Aho said, "His Majesty has given it a lot of thought over the years and has decided at this stage we should enter the United Nations."

But Tonga’s sophisticated internet web page, http://www.tongaonline.com/ indicates the millennium is on the mind of Tonga’s leaders. The web page displays a picture of the King and Annan under the headline, "The Millennium Starts With Us!"

It includes a link to another web page (http://www.tonga2000.net/newyork) that invites web surfers to "make Tonga a ‘must visit’ destination in your millennium plans."

Tonga late last year established diplomatic relations with China, ending a 26 year link with Taiwan and clearing the way for its UN membership application, which must be endorsed by the Security Council, where China is one of the five permanent members with veto power.

The new relationship was said to have been nurtured through business trips to China by the King’s daughter, Princess Pilolevu Tuita, as chairman of a Tongan agency that leases earth satellite positions to communications firms.

Tonga would not be the smallest UN member. Monaco, which joined in 1993, has an area of less than one-square mile (fewer than 260 hectares).

TONGA'S KING AND AMERICAN SAMOA'S U.S. CONGRESSMAN MEET IN NEW YORK

PAGO PAGO (January 25, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The Kingdom of Tonga's efforts to expand trading and economic development links with neighboring islands was the focus of discussions between King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV and American Samoa Congressman Eni Faleomavaega Friday in New York.

Before traveling to the United States, His Majesty had sent an inquiry to the Congressman's office on the nature of Congressional responsibilities and activities.

The inquiry prompted a request from the Congressman to have an audience with the King, which was granted.

Faleomavaega briefed His Majesty on the events and issues in Congress affecting the Pacific region. The Congressman informed His Majesty of his (Faleomavaega's) election to the position as Senior Democrat on the Fisheries Subcommittee, and the impact the fishing industry is having on Pacific Island nations and their economic development.

The Congressman also used the opportunity to discuss an issue which he had advocated while he was Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa from 1984-1988. This was the need for the Kingdom of Tonga to establish a presence at the United Nations and in Washington, D.C.

Faleomavaega said it appears His Majesty has expressed that interest and his government is making inquires along those lines.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, met with His Majesty, as did ambassadors from several Pacific Island nations.


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