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The Constitution of Tonga is supreme law under which the Government of Tonga operates. It was enacted by King George Tupou I on 4 November 1875. It stipulates the makeup of the Tongan Government and the balance between its executive, legislature, and judiciary. The anniversary of its passage is celebrated annually as Tonga's Constitution Day.
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian country and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. The sovereign state has a population of 100,651 people, of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.
George Tupou I, King of Tonga was originally known as Tāufaʻāhau I, or Tupou Maeakafa Ngininginiofolanga in modern spelling. He adopted the name Siaosi, the Tongan version of George, after King George III of the United Kingdom, when he was baptized in 1831. His nickname was Lopa-ukamea, meaning iron cable.
The constitution is separated into three parts. Part one is a declaration of rights of the Tongan people. Part two addresses the form of government. Part three provides laws for land ownership, succession, and sale.
The Declaration of Rights provides for the basic human rights of the people of Tonga. It firstly established Tonga as a free nation. It prohibits slavery except as a form of punishment for great crime, and establishes Tonga as a haven for those who have escaped slavery in a foreign nation. It establishes equal law for all citizens of Tonga despite their class or ethnicity. The constitution provides the freedoms of worship, press, speech, petition, and assembly as well. It establishes a Sabbath day on Sunday during which no trade or professional or commercial undertakings are to be pursued. It applies the writ of Habeas Corpus to its people and provides for basic rights of the accused, such as protection from double jeopardy. It establishes a national tax in return for protection of life, liberty, and property. It holds soldiers equally accountable to civil law. It establishes the qualifications to be selected as a juror and establishes an age of maturity for the inheritance of title or land. Finally, it states that any foreigner who has lived in Tonga for at least 5 years may take an oath of allegiance and become a naturalised citizen, granted all the same rights and privileges of natural born Tongans except for the right of hereditary tax allotments.
Double jeopardy is a procedural defence that prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same charges and on the same facts, following a valid acquittal or conviction. As described by the U.S. Supreme Court in its unanimous decision concerning Ball v. United States 163 U.S. 662 (1896), one of its earliest cases dealing with double jeopardy, "the prohibition is not against being twice punished, but against being twice put in jeopardy; and the accused, whether convicted or acquitted, is equally put in jeopardy at the first trial."
Tonga is a constitutional monarchy in which the King exercises executive power through his Cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the Legislative Assembly. The King can legislate through the Privy Council when the Assembly is not in session, but such ordinances must be subsequently confirmed by the Assembly to become law.
A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Morocco, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.
The Legislative Assembly of Tonga has 26 members in which 17 members elected by majority of the people for a 5-year term in multi-seat constituencies via the single non-transferable vote system. There are 9 members elected by the 33 hereditary nobles of Tonga. The Assembly is controlled by the speaker of the House who is elected by majority of the elected members of Parliament and constitutionally appointed by the king.
The constitution can be amended by the Legislative Assembly, provided this does not affect the "law of liberty", the monarchical succession, or the titles or estates of the nobles. Amendments must pass the Legislative Assembly three times, and be unanimously supported by the Privy Council.
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The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, set by France's National Constituent Assembly in 1789, is a human civil rights document from the French Revolution.
Politics of Tonga takes place in a framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the King is the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Tonga's Prime Minister is currently appointed by the King from among the members of Parliament after having won the support of a majority of its members. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet of Ministers. Legislative power is vested in the King in Parliament, and judicial power is vested in the supreme court.
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The Privy Council of Tonga is the highest ranking council to advise the Monarch in the Kingdom of Tonga. It is empowered to advise the King in his capacity as Head of State and Fountain of Justice under the provisions of Clause 50 of the Constitution of Tonga:
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Tonga is a constitutional monarchy with a population of approximately 130,000. Politics and the economy are dominated by the king, the nobility, and a few prominent commoners. Economic, social and cultural rights are generally well respected. There are, however, a number of issues concerning protection of civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, and rights to political participation. Violence against women is a serious issue.
Women's rights in Tonga, as compared to the United Nations goals of CEDAW, fail to comply entirely with the conventions requirements. Although considerations have been made by the Tongan parliament and government, ratification of CEDAW still remains unresolved. Factors determining the non-ratification of CEDAW are related to cultural protectionism of the Anga Fakatonga or "the Tongan way" of Tongan culture. Issues of Women's rights in Tonga include factors of women's land right, violence against women, political participation in parliament, and general cultural attitude towards the gender inequalities within Tonga. Many of the issues of gender inequalities within the Tongan culture are reinforced in the home and complex structures of the cultural family hierarchy.
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