Tonga PM says rising drug problem the police‘s fault

Tonga Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka‘uta

The Tonga Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, says his government cannot do anything about the country‘s growing drug problem.

In confirming a rise in crime by drug-influenced teenagers, Mr Pohiva said all the power to arrest and charge people lay with the police commissioner.

He was reported by Radio Tonga saying the police minister knew who the drug smugglers were but he could not act on that information because he had no authority.

Mr Pohiva and his government have been in a protracted dispute with King Tupou VI and the nobility, claiming key appointments such as the police commissioner and attorney general should be made by the government and not the King‘s Privy Council.

The current police commissioner is New Zealander Stephen Caldwell, whose salary is partly covered through a long running police aid scheme funded by New Zealand and Australia, which was set up after riots in Tonga in 2006.

The scheme aimed to rebuild the force after it had taken a battering for failing to contain the rioting.

Mr Caldwell is the third New Zealander to hold the post in the last nine years.