Tonga's King George Tupou VI shut down Parliament over power grab

It's been revealed Tonga's King George Tupou VI made the unprecedented move to shut down the country's Parliament, after learning the government was pushing to strip him of some of his powers.

Tonga's Parliamentary Speaker says it was just one of several serious concerns he raised with His Majesty, which prompted the King to take action.

It was the Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano, who really set in motion the downfall of this current government.

He complained to the King and the Speaker has put out a statement explaining exactly what he told him. He says "it became apparent that Cabinet is attempting to concentrate powers by gradually weaning away the powers of the King in Privy Council".

The Speaker says a Bill submitted recently would have effectively removed the King's power to appoint people like the Commissioner of Police.

But caretaker Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva is adamant such reforms were initiated by the previous government, and denies trying to strip away any of the powers of the King.

"No, no way. That is why the previous government had to get someone - a constitutional expert from London. They invited him to come. It's not me. (It was) initiated by the previous government," he says.

The Speaker outlined numerous other concerns - one which related to the Pacific Games, which Tonga pulled out from hosting in 2019.

Now the Speaker says despite the Games being terminated, the Government's continuing to collect taxes from the public to finance the games. The Speaker thinks this could be illegal. But Mr Pohiva says the taxes are still needed to help Tonga's athletes prepare for the event, which is now likely to be held in either Samoa or Guam.

"We still have to prepare our people - our sportspeople - for the next South Pacific Games. So we need funds for that, we need money," Mr Pohiva says.

It's been a tumultuous and highly unusual few days in Tongan politics. There's been claim and counterclaim. Mr Pohiva says all of this amounts to a deliberate and organised attempt by his opponents to push him out.

But complaints about his leadership and decision making have been building for some time now and regardless of his protests, the move by the King means his term as Prime Minister is cut short by a full 12 months.

The King has directed early elections to be held on or before November 16. We'll find out then whether Mr Pohiva keeps his job or not.