Tonga Recent History

The so-called “Friendship Islands” form an archipelago of 150 coral islands of volcanic origin.

The first to set foot on these islands were in 1616 the Dutch navigator J. Lemaire and WC Schouten, who did not have a friendly welcome at all, given the restive character of the natives.

It went better in 1643 to the other Dutch navigator Abel Tasman and then in 1767 to the English Samuel Wallis. James Cook arrived there in 1773 and found himself so well that he called them “Islands of Friendship”. And for this he returned there a second time in 1777.

Tonga Recent History

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Tonga, the islands to the north were discovered in 1781 by the Spanish FA Mourelle. In the eighteenth century the islands were organized in a feudal way, with an absolute king, the Assemblies of the nobles and the people, under which, without any right, there were slaves. The clergy had its own centralized hierarchy.

At the end of that century there were internal struggles that devastated the country for about half a century. In 1797 some Methodist missionaries, sent by the London Mission Society, were massacred by the natives, instigated by some escaped from Australian penitentiaries.

In 1830 other Protestant missionaries arrived, but this time they were taken under the protection of Taufaahan, the most powerful tribal chief, and were able to carry out their civilization work.

In 1845 the internal struggles finally ceased and Taufaahan was raised to the rank of king, with the name of Giorgio Tobou I.
Despite the repressions made by him against the anti-Christian rebels, even in 1841, the arrival of the Catholic missionaries had hostile demonstrations again.

Meanwhile, the Wesleyans had managed to obtain from the king a Constitution, on the model of the British one, over the years then amended, and had a Parliament, a Council of Ministers with its Prime Minister, a private Council and a judicial system.

The elected Prime Minister was Shirley Baker, a former Wesleyan pastor, an adventurer who, not content with abandoning his religious mission, advised the king to terminate relations with the Wesleyan office in Sidney, Australia. After this he convinced the king to establish his own state church and therefore to persecute the missionaries, his former confreres. For this reason, after some time, the British government intervened and caused Baker to be dismissed.

Then the government of Tonga made a friendship pact with Germany in 1876; three years later he made another with Great Britain and finally in 1888 one with the United States.

Meanwhile, however, an agreement between Germany and Great Britain for the mutual recognition of their interests on the islands had taken place in 1886. And in 1899 Germany renounced these interests, signing another agreement with Great Britain with which it took possession of the Samoa Islands.

In 1900 RH Thomson, who had ousted Baker, established an English protectorate over Tonga, so that all local governments were subjected to a British High Commissioner. And from 1905 onwards in Tonga only one currency remained, the British one.

The government, chaired by the king, was assisted by a legislative assembly renewable year by year. The work of civilization was continuous, so much so that the school activity developed which reached a high level when Tonga College was established, in the capital Nukualofa.

On August 26, 1958, a treaty was signed between Tonga and Great Britain for greater autonomy of the country which, however, remained a British state.

There was gradually a strong population increase and also the presence of about 300 Europeans.
In the 1960 elections, women were also put to the vote to form a legislative assembly.

Although taking some steps forward in industrialization, especially related to the transformation of local products, such as coconut fiber in the town of Havelu, near the capital Nukualofa, the real cornerstones of the economy of Tonga have always been agriculture and fishing.

The United Kingdom, in the period 1965/70, gave considerable impetus to the extension of coconut plantations, so as to favor the copra industry. However, the cultivation of cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits also continued.

Exports as opposed to imports are not very developed: therefore a constant deficit in the trade balance. Foreign trade is carried out mainly through the ports of Nukualofa and Neiafu.

In June 1970, Britain granted Tonga independence: however, the country remained within the Commonwealth and continued to be governed by a king, of course for an indefinite period. He established and chaired a Private Council while legislative power was placed in the hands of an Assembly made up of 30 deputies.

Only in 1990 was the first opposition party born which was the Movement for Democracy. This immediately triggered a battle to amend the Constitution to make it more democratic.

Then in 1991 he filed an opposition against the government for the ease with which the passports were granted to the Chinese in Hong Kong.

The Democracy Movement won the 1993 elections.

From this movement was born in August 1994, the country’s first political party, the People’s Party, which won 6 of the 9 Assembly members in the January 1996 elections. In the same year, Akilisi Pohiva, head of the opposition, resumed the protests against the government for always granting the nationality of Tonga too easy to all foreigners who applied for it, and without distinctions whatsoever.

This practice, which was already present in the country but had been interrupted at the beginning of that decade, had been resumed with considerable effort precisely by virtue of a law approved by the Assembly.

In September 1998 King Taufa’Ahau Tupov IV suspended the Legislative Assembly for an indefinite period of time; so that in March 1999 the elections assigned to the People’s Party no longer 6 seats but 5.

In foreign policy Tonga, at the end of 1998, relations with Taiwan were interrupted, as relations with Popular China were instead established. And with this latest political conversion, Tonga became part of the United Nations in September 1999.

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