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Tonga Defence Services change name to "His Majesty's Armed Forces"

The Tonga Defence Services will be renamed, after parliament voted 10-7 in favour of "His Majesty's Armed Forces" or "HMAF" and amended the Tonga Defence Services Act on Tuesday 12 September.

The Commander of the HMAF is to be called the "Chief of Staff".

The King is the Commander-in-chief of the forces as stated in the Constitution.

There was a strong opposition by People's Representatives to the name change. 'Akilisi Pohiva, Sione Taione, Mo'ale Finau and Sitiveni Halapua argued that by dropping the word "Tonga" from the name of the defence force terminated the connection of the force to the Tongan people.

Sione Taione told the House that by changing the name to His Majesty's Armed Forces has made it sound like just an Armed Forces of the king and not a Tonga Defence Services for all the people of Tonga

Mo'ale Finau was convinced that by not including the word "Tonga" had deprived members of the forces a sense of nationalism.

Dr Sitiveni Halapua, believed that by calling the Tonga Defence Services, "His Majesty's Armed Forces" was a set back in Tonga's democratization reform process, since a fundamental part of the reform that was introduced in 2010, was to cease referring to the Tongan government as "His Majesty's government". He reminded the House that under the new system of government the king no longer appointed the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers. The people and the nobles elected the members of parliament, who elected the Prime Minister, then the Prime Minister elected his cabinet from elected members of parliament. He also could appoint not more than four non-elected cabinet members.

'Akilisi moved a motion for the word "Tonga" to be part of the new name of the Tonga Defence Services. Sitiveni Halapua, in support proposed "Defence Services of the Kingdom of Tonga".

The Minister of Justice, Hon Clive Edwards said that the Bill to amend the Tonga Defence Services Act was initiated by the Tonga Board of Defence, which is chaired by King Tupou VI.

He went on to further emphasize how the TDS is an ethical institution and it was not politicized. He recalled how during the riots of 16 November 2006, the TDS did not react to suppress the rioting, and Clive believed that showed "how Tongan soldiers respected the wishes of the people."

[Editor's fact check: in fact, the TDS were called in to clear out the rioters from the Nuku'alofa CBD, in the evening of 16/11 and declared Nuku'alofa a restricted area until after the elections of 2010].

The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Samiu Vaipulu reminded the PRs that when they voted in favour of the political reform in 2010, they also agreed for the Tonga Defence Services to remain under the authority of the King so that the services could not be politicized by the parliament.

He said the change in the name of the TDS was a wish of the late King George Tupou V who agreed for the introduction of a more democratic system of government than Tonga has today.

The Minister of Land, Lord Ma'afu, said that monarchies including the British and in Arab countries referred to their militaries as "His Majesty's or Her Majesty's army."

The Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano told the House of the long history of the Tonga Defence Forces since its establishment in 1939. During the 1970s when the then Crown Prince, Tupouto'a became Tonga's first Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Tonga Defence Forces was called the Tonga Defence Services, to be in line with the services that it was providing at the time such as road construction. Despite the change in the name, the roles of the Tonga Defence remained as they were in the Principal Act.

The name does not change the roles and the sense of duty of Tongan soldiers.

After two days of debate, the Bill to amend the Tonga Defence Services Act was finally passed with a vote of 10-7, against were 'Akilisi Pohiva, Sitiveni Halapua, 'Isileli Pulu, Sione Taione, Falisi Tupou, Semisi Tapueluelu and Moale Finau.

Source: Matangi Tonga Online
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