I have just gained an extra bit of respect for Michael Laws. In case you don’t know, he’s a well known talkback radio personality in New Zealand, and he’s the mayor of the New Zealand town of Wanganui.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark gave “advice” that the New Zealand flag on every public building be flown at half mast to honor the passing of the king of Tonga. Michael Laws and the Wanganui council did not comply. Why not? Because he thought that it would be wrong to lower the flag to honour the passing of a man who perpetuated a corrupt monarchy that bled the nation dry of all its resources and let the people live in desperate poverty.Laws went as far as to say on live national radio that King Tupuo was a “brown slug.” naturally, he upset a lot of people. But now he is hitting out at his critics. And you know what? He’s right. Here are a few Gems from the man:

Mr Laws today said Tonga, where a privileged few own all the land, controlled all the commerce and ran the government with little or no democratic input, was different to other South Pacific nations.

“In my view, you don’t honour a leader who maintained and even strengthened such inequity.”

Mr Laws said that he had “a benign, tourist brochure view” of the country until he went there at the start of last year.

“I was stunned at both the poverty and the corruption. It is not Fiji or Samoa – its institutions are medieval by comparison.”

Mr Laws said that a US State Department survey of Tonga, published this year, itemised “systemic human rights abuses including appalling and institutionalised royal privilege and gross sexual discrimination”.

“The facts about Tonga are self-evident. They don’t lie. As mayor, I cannot be a party to honouring those concepts and practices which are anathema to the New Zealand way of life.”

He added that he had received many phone calls and emails in support of his stance.

“It has been overwhelming.”

He will be hearing from me too. Well said Michael. And just look at the awful wrath he faces:

The Wanganui Chronicle newspaper reported today that Tongans from as far away as the United States have called for a boycott of New Zealand goods following Mr Laws’ comments.

Oh no. What will we do? Our economy is doomed.

Here is more from NZPA:

“They are a beneficiary country. We provide them with a good source of their income every year, which the royal family decide to misappropriate for themselves and they deny democracy for their subjects.”

Laws said Wanganui flew the flag at half mast for people who had made a contribution to the community, or events such as September 11 or the Boxing Day tsunami disaster.

“The death of the South Pacific king whose royal family is the equivalent of Robert Mugabe and his henchmen is not the sort of thing that one commemorates.

“Indeed I think it devalues the process of flying the flag at half mast.”

Kudos, Michael.