Billeder på siden

office, are the King's private secretary, a land-surveyor, a surgeon, and many skilled mechanics.

The following account of the opening of the Tongan Parliament, in July of last year, will show the civilisation of the Tongans better than pages of comment:

The Tongan Parliament was opened by King George on Friday, the 19th July. Amongst those assembled were A. P. Maudsley, Esq., H. B. M. Consul and Deputy Commissioner ; D. Wilkinson, Esq. ; several of the leading Europeans; the Rev. S. W. Baker and family, and Father Lamarge. The Parliament met in the Supreme Court-house, and at the end of the building a daïs had been erected, with a canopy, scarlet curtains, hangings, etc., over which a carved design of the Tongan coat of arms had been suspended. On the daïs the state chair from the King's reception-room was used as a kind of throne. A little after ten a.m., the usher announced the arrival of his Majesty, and the whole assembly rose to receive him. His Majesty was accompanied by his aide-de-camp and his grandson Prince W. T. Gu. His Majesty was dressed in the uniform of General of the Tongan Guards, a scarlet tunic with gold trimmings, black trousers and gold stripe. His aide-decamp was also dressed in Tongan uniform as well as his grandson, several ministers were dressed in the Civil Service uniform, but some were attired most grotesquely. His Majesty having taken his seat, the assembly sat down; and his Majesty then arose, and after several words of congratulation to those present, read his speech, which was as follows:


'I am thankful to be permitted to open this the first Parliament under the new Constitution, and I rejoice that so many of the nobles have been spared to take part in this our first meeting, and also to see to-day the representatives of the people present, this being the first time they have ever taken part in any of our proceedings.

* We miss to-day the presence of Jasaia Lanjii, late Governor of Haubai, and Nafitatai Tubautoutai, late Governor of Vavau (generally known by the name of Matikitaga); they are no longer with us.

Since our last Parliament meeting, I have entered into a treaty with his Imperial Majesty the Emperor William of Germany, and thus Tonga is now recognised as one of the family of nations, though perhaps the smallest; and who does not thank that good old King for his kindness to Tonga ?

The Governor of Fiji has recently been here, and has made proposals of a treaty which will be laid before you. I hear he is now on his way to England. I trust her Majesty the Queen of England, Victoria, will be graciously pleased to ratify the same.'

After having wished the Parliament the Divine guidance in their directions, his Majesty bowed and retired.

Both on coming to and returning from the Legislative Assembly a royal salute of twenty-one guns was fired.

At the commencement of the meeting a grand present was made by the people of Tongatabu to the people of Haubai and Vavau, consisting of some 256,100 yams. Since then almost every high chief has made a present of yams, so that something like half a million of yams must have been given to the Haubai and Vavau people. This is not bad for a people who only four months before were in a state of famine.

The result of this session is thus described in a letter of Mr. Wilkinson to the Fiji Times :

* The Parliament, which opened on the 19th of July, continued its session until the 17th of September, when it was formally closed, as it had been opened, by his Majesty the King.

Many of the legislators and chiefs say it has been the best and most important Parliament they have ever had.

1st. Because there has been little or no control from without. It is true that letters and communications were occasionally received from certain quarters, but report says that as a rule they were read, refolded, enveloped, and carefully placed under the president's blotting-pad. And 2ndly, because they have awakened to the fact that they ought to legislate for the welfare of the people and that which suits Tonga, rather than simply to introduce the customs of other countries and their forms of civilisation, without first considering as well their necessity and adaptability to their own race, as their practicability.

· Some of their sumptuary laws have been either altogether abolished or considerably modified.

• The latv prohibiting the manufacturing and wearing of native cloth and the clothing law are abolished. Men and women can now wear any kind of clothing they choose, on every occasion, within doors or without. All that is required is that they shall be decent,

[ocr errors]

excepting perhaps in the case of the church at Nukualofa, where the men must dress in coat, trousers, shoes, etc., and the women like their white sisters, with dresses, bonnets, etc. Anyone who, from disinclination or inability, does not or cannot comply with this regulation, must be content to worship outside, or in the porches. The prohibition against women smoking has been considerably modified. This, it is thought, will cause a falling off in the revenue from the score of fines. Women prisoners with children are not to work in the regular gangs, but are to be sent to their homes to earn their fines. A new marriage and divorce law, a law against debts (which had become a terrible evil), and which limits the amount recoverable before any court to five dollars, and a liquor law, have been passed, the public-house licensing law having been considerably modified.

· Provision is to be made to separate persons afflicted with contagious diseases from the rest of the people. The old currency law is to be strictly adhered to. This is meant to prevent as far as possible the unlimited introduction of Chilian and other inferior coin, which is already felt to very seriously cripple business and commercial transactions.

'A finance commission has been appointed to inquire into and organise the Finance and Treasury Department, and the Government are trying to secure as their chief secretary the services of a highly respectable gentleman, of long standing in connection with one of the firms in Tonga. A tariff and ad

valorem duty law have been passed, but it is said will not be proclaimed till the appliances are ready for carrying out its provisions. Several excellent Tongan customs relative to lands, tribes, and status of the people, are to be restored. It is found that the relations of landlord and tenant are not understood and do not work, and it is reported that the Government has restored to their rightful owners the township and village sites, so that each man is to enjoy his own homestead. And the land tenure, which is found to be very unsatisfactory, is to be modified. . . (The original Tongan laws of land tenure approached those of Fiji, and the action of the Tongan Parliament has evidently been to return to the “old paths ”)

* The Constitution, the object or meaning of which all, from the highest downwards, declare they do not understand, was, with the consent of the King, discussed during the session; and it is said a strong recommendation was made that it be abolished, and one more suitable, and that would be understood, substituted.

‘On the 30th September, an agreement for a treaty between England and Tonga was concluded and signed by His Majesty the King and A. P. Maudsley, Esq., Her Majesty's Deputy Commissioner for Tonga. It contains but four clauses, which provide simply that political and commercial amity between the two countries shall be maintained, and a mutual extradition of criminals clause. An urgent request from the King that it may form the basis of a permanent treaty has been forwarded home to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

« ForrigeFortsæt »