Training of Tonga Defence Services

Training of Tonga Defence Services

Government sources

Defence Co-operation Tonga, Department of Defence Annual report 2004-05

Defence Cooperation with Tonga focused on engagement with the maritime, air and land elements of the Tonga Defence Service through the provision of advisers, training, technical support and multilateral exercises. Defence contributed to engineering skills and infrastructure development in Tonga through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission – Army Community Assistance Program and supported the participation of Tonga’s maritime force element in a multilateral regional exercise. Defence continued to provide assistance to Tonga for maintenance of its three Pacific patrol boats. The relative decrease in expenditure from the last reporting period was due to a low uptake in training opportunities.”

Tonga, Australia Defence Services continue to cooperate on regional security issues, Government of Tonga media release, 17 April 2007

The Director General South Pacific and East Timor, CMDRE Kevin Taylor and his team are currently in the Kingdom on their official visit to the Tonga Defence Services. The purpose of his visit was to strengthen the defence ties/relationships between Australia and the Kingdom of Tonga by providing support and assisting Tonga through trade training. CMDRE Taylor stated in his interview that they provide support in terms of maritime surveillance cooperation, for instance the RAMSI exercise which Tonga successfully coordinated last year and will continue again this year.”

Commentary and analysis

Tonga report talks of royal instability, fears of conflict, Brian Smythe, NZ High Commissioner to Tonga, 2001 (Report from retiring NZ High Commissioner to NZ Foreign Minister Phil Goff)

“The Tonga Defence Services see their primary role as defence of the kingdom (for which read defence of the monarchy). Some soldiers consider the democracy movement as the ‘enemy.’ This unreconstructed view of the world does not appear to have been diminished by contact with New Zealand forces under the MAP programme [mutual assistance program]. It is a real dilemma that we in New Zealand effectively set up the TDS and remain closely associated with it.

“The problem is that getting out would make things even worse. Not only would it harden attitudes but it would give China an opportunity to step in. An expanding economic and political relationship is one thing, military another. The growing influence of China in the islands to our north may at some stage come to make us feel uncomfortable, depending on how things evolve in China itself and between it and the United States.

“Our forces could be encouraged to try and impart some values as well as technical skills to the Tongan soldiers they encounter. And we should continue to refrain from supply weapons to the TDS, as urged by the democracy movement. [Pro-democracy contact] believes that were to come to the crunch, the TDS rank and file would refuse to obey an order to fire on a crowd. But weapons could easily fall into the hands of a few extremists determined to preserve the nobles’ privileged position.”

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