The Kingdom of Tonga formerly known as “The Friendly Islands” is the only sovereign state in the Pacific. The Polynesian island state comprises of 177 islands with a total surface area of about 750 square kilometers. Of which only 52 of the total islands are inhabited by its 103,000 people. The latitude and longitude of Tonga are 20 degrees 00’S and 175 degrees 00’W respectively.
Polynesians have lived on Tonga for at least 3,000 years. The Dutch were the first to explore the islands, landing on Tafahi in 1616. British explorer James Cook landed on islands in 1773 and 1777 and dubbed them the Friendly Islands. The current royal dynasty of Tonga was founded in 1831 by Taufa'ahau Tupou, who took the name George I. He consolidated the kingdom by conquest and in 1875 granted a constitution. In 1900, his great-grandson, George II, signed a treaty of friendship with Britain, and the country became a British protected state. The treaty was revised in 1959. Tonga became independent on June 4, 1970.
The government is largely controlled by the king, his nominees, and a small group of hereditary nobles. In the 1990s a movement began aimed at curtailing the powers of the monarchy, and the Tongan Pro-Democracy Movement (TPDM) has continued to gain in popular support. In 1999, Tonga gained UN membership
On March 18, 2012, King George Tupou V died. After his death, his younger brother, ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho Tupou VI, became King of Tonga as Tupou VI.
On Dec. 30, 2014, ʻAkilisi Pohiva succeeded Tu'ivakano as prime minister. The leader of the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands, Pohiva became the first commoner to be elected prime minister. He won with a vote of 15 over Samiu Vaipulu who received 11 votes.