Thursday, July 31, 2008

Connected? Sure, but quick, where's Tonga?

Being off-line for more than a month one would figure there'd be tons to write about, injustices to rail against, lies to expose and untold stories to tell. Alas, I'm afraid I was pretty spot on in my last post-dated post, nothing much seems to have changed; Mugabe was sworn in as president of Zimbabwe and any UN sanctions were vetoed by Russia and China, prices are still rising all over, people are still being killed needlessly in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran is still going ahead with their nuclear ambitions. As usual, the US election is just too easy a target to mock, the two-party system too flawed and its people too easily manipulated. So, still being in vacation mode (yes, I'll be doing nothing for more than a month) I think I'll transport the post to Tonga.

If you answered the question asked in the title, you're ahead of the pack. Tonga is a small island chain in the south Pacific somewhere between New Zealand and Hawaii. It's in the news today because they're crowning a new king in a 4 day coronation ceremony, King George Tupou V. The whole idea of a hereditary leader might seem a little strange to most of the world, in fact Tonga is the last remaining monarchy in Oceania, but there are still countries who follow this ancient custom. There are constitutional monarchies, many of which are in Europe like those in Spain, and a few absolute monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia. There's been lots of news surrounding the legitamacy of monarchs of late; the Catalans in Spain upset over Juan Carlos' rule over their land, the abolishment of the monarchy in Nepal, and the constant arguments in Canada and Australia over keeping the British monarch as the figurative head of state. So, what's the point of a king or queen in the 21st century?

The Tongan Prime Minister's justification for spending over 2 million pounds on the ceremony is that it is crucial to getting the country's tourism sector up and running properly.(?!) "The other countries in the Pacific that have lost their royal families - they regret it now". Protection from evil-minded prime ministers is another oft-mentioned reason, having someone in power who is above politics. Or maybe just the whole idea of having a king or queen is what matters? The idea of checks and balances is well established today, given the United Statesan system, and that is just what a good monarch is supposed to do, check the power of maniacs and balance the decisions made by parliaments. All this seems crucial to an island nation as powerful as Tonga, so go on roast a few more pigs!