Concerns raised after overseas suspects of royal slurs not arrested in Tonga

The government has been asked why Tongans from overseas suspected of insulting the royal family on Facebook have not been arrested while visiting the kingdom.

King Tupou VI Photo/File photo

Minister of Justice Samiu Vaipulu was told that some suspects were currently in the kingdom, but Police had done nothing about them.

Hon. Vaipulu was told that it was the government’s responsibility to look out for these people and charge them.

The concerns came three years after the government made a dramatic move to block Facebook and investigate suspected fake Facebook accounts which posted slanders about the king and the royals.  

In 2019 a team of Tongan officials, led by the Attorney General, flew to Australia and met Facebook executives in an attempt to chase down the suspects.

Tongan authorities said at the time they were considering laying treason charges against people insulting the royal family on Facebook. However, they admitted that   Police “struggled to identify who was behind the pages – and whether they were even based in Tonga – and were worried any arrests could “create security issues.”

Lord Tu’ivakanō made the revelation recently in Parliament, but did not identify the suspects.

He told the Minister of Justice some of the suspects were in Tonga.

He said the government should exercise due diligence to make sure the suspects were brought to justice.  

In Tongan he said: “ ‘oku ‘i ai pē fa’ahinga ‘oku lolotonga ‘i he fonua ni ‘oku nau ‘i heni pē na’e ‘i ai pē fa’ahinga na’e ō mai mei muli ka ‘oku ‘ikai ke fai ha ngāue ki ai ka ko e me’a ia ‘a kimoutolu Pule’anga ke mou vakavakai’i ko e taimi ‘oku nau tu’uta ai ko ē ki Tonga ni ‘oku ‘osi tonu ke ma’u e kalasi ko ia”.

Lord Tu’ivakanō said the government should also use its diplomatic relationships with overseas countries to have these people extradited and brought to Tonga.

Hon. Vaipulu said the government was working on the case, but they faced a serious problem because the suspects were living overseas. 

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