Tuvalu News

Political Crisis in Tuvalu Escalates

January 13, 2011

Reports from Funafuti indicate that the political crisis has taken a turn for the worse.

On January 12, apparently the armed Coast Guard vessel Te Mataila was deployed off shore in the Funafuti lagoon near the side by side residences of the Governor General and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

News is sketchy as to exactly why the vessel was moved in and who ordered it, but it appears to be related to a protest by the Nukufetau community on Funafuti who were attempting to force the resignation of one of their members of parliament.

The events leading up to this action started with a mid-December vote of no confidence over the planned budget of the 3 month old regime of Maatia Toafa. Three members of Toafa's government crossed the floor and joined the opposition, including Willy Telavi, who was subsequently elected as Prime Minister.

Indications are that the Nukufetau community was not happy with one of their two elected members, Mr. Lotoala Metia, on joining the Telavi government. The other member, Enele Sopoanga is in the oposition, and was a minister under Toafa.

Tension was said to high on January 12 when hundreds of community leaders and members of the Nukufetau island community marched to the home Lotoala Metia asking for his resignation.

Reports say that Mr. Metia has declined to resign and refused the entry of some leaders into his home for discussion. According to many Tuvaluans to decline the entry of an elder or leader is a violation of Tuvalu's traditional values.

Apparently Prime Minister Telavi followed by broadcasting on Radio Tuvalu a Public Order for Funafuti that prohibits the assembly in public areas of 10 or more persons, for a two week period.

A meeting was urgently called Thursday morning with the leaders of each island community on Funafuti, and the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General explained the Public Order and collected the views of the leaders, of which he was expected to pass on to the Prime Minister. There are indications that if the Prime Minister accepts some of the views, there may be changes in the public order.

A great concern among the Tuvaluan community surrounds the involvement of the Coast Guard ship and the fact that some of the personnel have been armed - something that is unprecedented in Tuvalu's history.

Source: Tuvaluans, Radio Australia, Tuvalu2 Yahoo Group

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