The king of Tonga has revoked the Cabinet’s decision to sign the United Nations’ Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW).
His Majesty’s Privy Council sent a letter to Chief Secretary and Secreatary to Cabinet claiming CEDAW is a treaty and only the king has the constitutional right to sign it and not the Cabinet.
It said the king has never authorised any of the minsters to ratify CEDAW.
The Privy Council said it demanded cabinet to immediately request annulment of Tonga’s ratification from the United Nations.
“We remit to our ministers forthwith to proceed as may be necessary to annul the kingdom of Tongaʻs signature or ratification of the CEDAW treaty” the letter said.
The Privy Council said its decision was made in acknowledgement of petitions submitted to His Majesty King Tupou VI by thousands of petitioners two months ago.
The petitioners, which mostly women and church groups, feared that CEDAW would open the door to legalise same sex marriage and abortion.
The Privy Council’s letter on June 26 was questionable in some respects.
The Privy Council claimed Tonga has already ratified CEDAW.
In fact Tonga has not yet signed CEDAW and the Prime Minister has publicly announced government was expecting further consultation and public discussion on the convention before government continues to ratify it.
Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva said he and his Cabinet have the power to sign any convention Tonga agreed to ratify.
The Privy Council referred to CEDAW as a treaty instead of using the word convention. Treaty is the term written in the Tongan constitution saying only the king can sign Bill of Rights agreement.
Clause 39 of the constitution says: “It shall be lawful for the King to make treaties with Foreign States provided that such treaties shall be in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom”.
The Privy Council’s letter says His Majesty according to advice from His law lords acknowledged the concerns of 13, 048 petitioners who appealed to the king to intervene with government’s move to sign CEDAW.
Critics previously claimed the number of petitioners that protested against CEDAW which now government stated it was 13,048 did not actually reflect the will of the majority. More than 90, 000 people in Tonga did not join the protest marches nor they signed the petitions.