A five-hour day, no national debt, no locks, no lawyers, a communist state under a queen—that’s Tonga
CAPTAIN GEORGE WAYNARDFebruary11936
A five-hour day, no national debt, no locks, no lawyers, a communist state under a queen—that’s Tonga
CAPTAIN GEORGE WAYNARD
A WAY FROM the beaten track of the international steamship lanes between North America and Australia, three interesting things can be found in an out-of-the-way corner of the South Seas. There is, first, the meridian 180, or international date line. Crossing it from east to west, one becomes a full day younger without using rejuvenating cosmetics. Going the other way, one ages abruptly by twenty-four hours. The native fishermen would live in constant uncertainty if the date meant anything to them at all.
Second, we have the Tojua. the only steamer in the world I know that combines the prices of a luxury liner with the comforts of a mud-scow. Once a month she waddles from
Suva to Tonga, thereby perfuming meridian 180 with a ragout of odors, the main ones contributed by rancid copra, cheap whisky and crowded staterooms.
I bird, there is the last Kingdom of the South Seas, the 'I onga Archipelago. Tonga is as independent as can be, with the British Consul being simultaneously “Official Adviser to the Government.” Anyway, she is still independent enough to issue her own currency and her own postage stamps. Furthermore— which seems to me the most outstanding factor— she maintains her own, if peculiar, form of government.
The Monthly Invasion
AS SOON as the capital city of Nukualofa smells the approach of the Tojua. the flag of Tonga is hoisted on the harbor flagstaff. A red cross in a white field floats in the tropical breeze. Above the crowns of a multitude of coconut palms, it points the way to the only pier in port. This pier is made to measure for the Tojua. Once in. the harbor is full.
This only connecting link with the outside world is fully satisfactory to the Tonganese. With superior equanimity, they stand and contemplate the perspiring deckhands unloading cargo and the flock of passengers filing past the native port doctor.
After half an hour’s bustle, the monthly invasion is over. The strangers have looked in the meantime in vain for a motion-picture theatre or a hotel. They have stood before the one-story, wooden bungalow palace of the Queen of Tonga, and before the more imposing stone edifice of the British Consulate. They have disinterestedly looked at all the wooden churches— in which seven different creeds cater to the souls of 30,000 Tonganese.
After having seen all this, the strangers have made up their mind that there is absolutely nothing doing in Tonga. Not even souvenirs are for sale. The submissive look which white tourists seem to expect as their due from natives seems to be missing entirely in the eyes of the brown citizens. These stately women, portly men and graceful children appear, on the contrary, so clean-cut, dignified and content that the stranger cannot readily discard a feeling of inferiority.
A mere accident has saved the Tonganese from becoming “colonized.” A clever treaty, ratified with Great Britain in 1900, assures their independence for the future. The Tonga Islands number about 100, many of which are simply coral reefs giving foothold only to a few coconut palms. They were united in 1875 under King Tubou I, whose greatgranddaughter now sits on the throne.
The Queen’s Servant
T_JER MAJESTY Queen Salóte is a plump young lady,
T distinguishable among the other full-breasted ladies of her realm only by her fluent command of the English language. Her only royal duty seems to consist of, once in a while, proclaiming a royal decree; “To my beloved subjects.” At such rare occasions the Royal Tonga Gazette, the only paper in the kingdom, is published in four pages instead of two.
I saw Her Majesty sitting on the verandah of her comfortable home and asked for an audience. The Prince Consort, who in his spare time is also Prime Minister, came out and excused himself in the name of Her Majesty for not being able to let me have my wish. The Queen’s only servant girl had her day off and the house was not in order yet.
He took me instead to the small club which had been formed by the few British officials and visiting copra traders. We conversed for some time after the approved formula of, “Have a drink?” After the third whisky and soda I tried to place a grievance before him in his capacity of Prime Minister, but wasn’t very lucky in my efforts.
The native postmaster of Nukualofa had declined to sell me stamps for my collection.
“Give me a stamp of every valuation you have,” I had nonchalantly asked him.
“Nothing doing,” he had answered. “If you want to post a letter or even a postcard, I shall give you a stamp for it. For other things, I haven’t got the time.”
“All right,” I had countered, “if you refuse to do your duty I shall lodge a complaint with the Prime Minister.”
“You can do what you darned well please,” he had snorted and when I left he called after me an invitation which was not very flattering either for me or the Prime Minister.
This experience I reported to His Royal Highness the Prince Consort—Prime Minister, and finished my tale together with our fifth whisky and soda.
“Oh, yes,” he nodded sadly, “our postmaster is an awful ruffian. I hardly dare go to the post office any more myself.” And so my case was dismissed.
After the sixth w'hisky and slt;xla His Royal Highness recalled that he had duties to perform. The Government Mail had to be dispatched as the Tojua wras in port. He therefore went away after surrendering me to the Minister of Public Works, who is a placid, easy-going English architect.
To him I am grateful for a sightseeing tour of twelve miles across the island in an old-fashioned, wheezy Government motor car. We passed the well kept coconut groves, the hedges of yellow flowering hibiscus, the clean palmleaf huts of the Tonganese. and the numerous families of black porkers which are employed as a street-cleaning department.
As peaceful as this flat, fertile country, is the political picture which the friendly architect drew' for me.
Monarchy and Communism
'"PONGA received her constitution from King Tubou I, who reigned for forty-eight years. The nation idolizes his memory. Beside the monarch stands a responsible Cabinet, which consists at present of six natives and four Englishmen. These ten gentlemen supplement and enlarge their number every June into a “Parliament” by calling up seven other people’s representatives.
Tonga is therefore a constitutional monarchy. But—and that’s her difference from other monarchies—she is a monarchy on a communist basis.
Means of production and national assets are the general property of all citizens. Queen and Cabinet are merely executives of the people’s will. Since Tonga has no industries, landed property is her principal factor of production. Sales or attempted sales of land are punished by the law with ten years imprisonment at hard labor. Long-term leases must be sanctioned by the Government. The Cabinet watches carefully that nobody acquires too many lease holdings. Foreigners have no property rights at all.
But every young male Tonganese, on passing his sixteenth year, is entitled to nine acres of full-grown coconut palms. These nine acres produce, at average copra prices, an annual net profit of about $400. A tidy sum of pocket money, even for our conceptions. Every Tonganese makes his living exj>enses on the side. Everyone ow'ns a small herd of cattle, pigs and fowl; many own riding ponies. The family achieves all this splendor with a mere five hours of easy daily work. The thick stoneless layer of humus needs no fertilizer.
Envy, fear, greed and egotism are unknown factors in happy Tonga. The constitution guarantees every citizen’s livelihood. Educational facilities as well as medical aire are entirely free of charge. There are no locks on Tonganese doors, and the words “crime w'ave” are not in the dictionary.
The only criminal cases coming before the “Royal Law Court” result from the fights and love intrigues of the young men. The delinquents are sentenced to do road work and other constructive things—jobs a free Tonganese would not think of touching.
The Tonganese can only be ’ ured to work by high wages.
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They have no difficulty in making both ends meet. The fulfillment of a coveted pleasure such as owning a horse or small motor car. might persuade them to work a few hours a day. The minimum wage is five shillings a day and board, which consists of one pound of meat, one ¡Dound of bread, tea and sugar.
Tonga has always been worked by her own inhabitants. The Parliament could therefore easily pass a law forbidding the import of East Indian or Chinese coolies. There is no room there for foreign workers— and. for that matter, foreign intellectuals.
No National Debt
EVERY TONGANESE child is taught to read and write by native teachers. Who j feels like it may learn English in one of the ; mission schools. The small demand for j doctors—there aren’t any lawyers—is filled ! by having talented Tonganese boys sent, at I Government cost, to a New Zealand unij versit y.
Tonga is self-supporting and self-sufficient in every way. Except for a low head tax. there are only customs duties, especially on whisky and cigarettes. The insignificant Government expenses are covered by this revenue.
There is no national debt, but instead, a cash balance of $700,000, or a reserve of | about $25 per head of population.
This balance is considered as insurance for hurricane catastrophes, which at intervals of about ten years visit the flat unprotected islands.
May I repeat that the draft as well as the execution of their Constitution comes from native Tonganese—a colored South Sea race which we Westerners commonly designate as “savages.”
It is a matter of course that the Tonga formula could not very well be used as a pattern for our highly industrialized countries. It shows nevertheless how this method can lead to a better understanding, greater health, more satisfaction and ¡Deace, and a higher level of morals among aborigines than all our “colonization systems.”
The only ¡x>litical difficulties in Tonga have been im¡XDrted by white men. Missionaries, having no heathen to convert any more in Christian Tonga, agitate and plot and scheme for their own particular brand of religion. Even the Royal Family is split by this asinine nonsense.
Why not leave them in ¡Deace? Conditions in Tonga reflect shame enough, as it is, upon our "superior” civilization.
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