AFP deployment to Tonga, 2006

AFP deployment to Tonga, 2006


On Saturday 18 November 2006, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), supported by a joint military task force of New Zealand and Australian troops, deployed officers to Tonga in response to a call for assistance from the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, after riots and destruction broke out in the capital Nuku’alofa.

Government sources

Civil unrest in Tonga, AFP website

The deployment, named Operation Tokoni (Tongan for friend), arrived with a mission to support the Tonga Police Force (TPF) in re-establishing law and order and to support the massive investigation into the destruction that occurred during the riots. The AFP team was made up of: members from the International Deployment Group (IDG) including Headquarters, Operations Response and Lateral members about to deploy to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI); a specialist forensic team; a PSO Advisor and the AFP’s Pacific Islands Police Advisor.”

AFP deploys to Tonga, AFP Media release, 18 November 2006

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) today deployed 34 members to Tonga to assist the Tongan Police Force in the restoration of law and order after riots broke out in the capital Nuku’alofa this week. Following a formal request from the Tongan Government, the AFP members left Canberra this morning on a Royal Australian Airforce Hercules aircraft and are expected to arrive in Tonga tonight after a brief stop-over in Norfolk Island.

The AFP members – working under the command of the Tongan Police Force – will be assessing the current situation on the ground in Tonga and working closely with the Australian Defence Force and New Zealand authorities in helping bring stability to the country.

The members are being drawn from a broad range of skill sets within the AFP – including forensic experts and general duties officers.

Assistant Commissioner Paul Jevtovic said the members would be able to offer the Tongan Police Force immediate additional support, while scoping the situation and making recommendations on any short-term policing requirements.

“ ‘The AFP has a longstanding relationship with the Tongan Police Force who work alongside us in the Solomon Islands and also participate in training programs in Australia,’ Assistant Commissioner Jevtovic said.

“It is important that Australian police help our law enforcement partners in the Pacific in maintaining efforts to prevent further outbreaks of violence.”

Additional Australian Federal Police deployed to Tonga, Minister for Justice Chris Ellison Media release, 22 November 2006

“An additional deployment of 27 Australian Federal Police personnel have departed for Tonga, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.…The latest deployment comprises five forensic experts, and two IT and communications technicians who flew to Tonga yesterday, and 20 AFP Protective Service officers who left for Tonga this morning. The AFP Protective Service officers will assist Tongan officers in protection duties. Senator Ellison said the AFP personnel will support the existing complement of AFP officers already in Tonga, bringing the current AFP commitment to 61. “

Address to Australian Institute of International Affairs, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, Perth, 21 August 2007

“The Government of Tonga asked Australia and New Zealand to assist in restoring law and order following riots in Nuku’olofa on 16 November 2006. On 18 November 2006 the AFP deployed an initial contingent of 34 members as part of an Australian/New Zealand combined task force. The task force duties, in addition to restoring law and order, were to support the Tongan Police Force in conducting investigations into the rioting and provide forensic and other specialist capabilities.

“The bulk of the contingent that eventually numbered 64 returned to Australia on 19 December 2006. Three advisers remain in Tonga. This is another example of the ready response capacity of the IDG.

“A combined capacity building scoping mission by Australia and New Zealand was undertaken in February 2007. The focus of this mission was to determine, in consultation with the Government of Tonga, how best to provide assistance in building the capability of the Tongan Police Force. “

AFP submission to Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in peacekeeping operations, Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, March 2007

Operations in Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and Tonga proved the need for greater interoperability with the ADF. This is a work in progress with developments in command and control relationships, intelligence and information sharing, compatibility of systems and planning strategies being of the highest order. The AFP expects the conduct of joint operations to increase, hence this is a priority area for development.”

Commentary and analysis

Policing the region, Interview with AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, Australia Network TV, 3 June 2007

“Helen Vatsikopoulos: Can Australia be compromised by going into a country to uphold a system that it wouldn’t support back home? For example, going into Tonga to support one of the world’s last feudal monarchies?

Mick Keelty: Well, you’re right in what you say. It’s not a Westminster system that we’re used to operating under, and we’ve not taken a position up in Tonga at this point in time. But we have been able to assist the Tongan police to deal with some of the riot behaviour. But you are right. If we were to go to Tonga at the invitation of the government of Tonga, then we would have to establish a new operating system, and work within the laws of the Kingdom of Tonga.”

See also: