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Tonga bakers protest against Sunday sales ban

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

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image captionBakeries in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, and across the country will be forced to remain closed on Sundays

Bakers in Tonga are appealing for help from the king after the government banned them from selling bread on Sundays.

The ban came into effect on 3 July after pressure from church leaders who want Sunday to be a day of rest, Radio Australia's Pacific Beat reports. A government announcement says that Tonga has been breaching its own Sabbath Law by allowing bakeries and restaurants to operate on a Sunday, and from now on only hotel restaurants will be allowed to open. The only exception will be if Tonga suffers a natural disaster.

Baker Kennedy Penitani tells the programme that his fellow bread makers are preparing a petition to give to King Tupou VI in protest at the government's move. He says it's the first time in 34 years that his bakery didn't open on a Sunday, and the change means he may have to lay-off staff.

Tonga's largest bakery has given a similar warning. Alfred Cowley, managing director of A Cowley and Sons, tells the Matangi Tonga website that Sundays are busier than other days, with 60 employees working across seven bakeries.

Bakers have been allowed to open on Sundays since 1982, when a cyclone struck Tonga and there was an immediate need to feed the population. "I thought it would be allowed for three years then stop it again but they saw the benefit and how it is good for feeding the people," Mr Cowley says. "We thought they would allow it forever."

A letter to the paper says making an exception only for natural disasters shows politicians are out of touch. "Hunger is a daily natural disaster for the poor," it reads. "Keeping bakeries open on Sundays alleviates poor people's hunger because they can afford a loaf of bread."

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  • Tonga
  • BBC Monitoring