Sec of Samoan Affairs goes to Tonga King’s funeral
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has written to Tonga’s Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano, expressing deepest condolences from the people and government of American Samoa over the passing of King George Tupou V, who was remembered late yesterday during a church service organized by the territory’s Tongan community.
The sixty-three year old king passed away two weeks ago in Hong Kong during a stopover en-route to Tonga following several months of overseas trips. His remains arrived mid-day yesterday (Monday Tonga time) on board a commercial flight, chartered by the Chinese government.
His remains were then taken to the Royal Palace in the country’s capital, Nuku'alofa for an overnight vigil with burial at the Royal tomb later today (Tuesday in Tonga). Many foreign dignitaries are in attendance, according to regional media reports.
Online news provider, Matangi Tonga reports over the weekend that the reign of King George, 2006 to 2012, was the shortest of any of the monarchs of the Tupou Dynasty, since King Siaosi Tupou I ascended to the throne as the 19th Tu'i Kanokupolu in 1845.
It also describes the late king as “a mover and a shaker who took Tonga into the free world, and sought peaceful reforms.”
Speaking on his weekend radio program, Togiola expressed his sadness over hearing news of King George’s death. He says he is unable to attend the late king’s funeral service to pay his respects due to urgent pressing matters in the territory dealing with the financial crisis faced by the LBJ Medical Center.
Secretary of Samoan Affairs Lefiti Pese, a cabinet member and ranking traditional leader of Manu’a will represent American Samoa in Tonga.
Togiola says he sent a letter to the Tonga Prime Minister expressing his condolences along with the people and the government of American Samoa to the Royal Family and the people of Tonga, a Pacific island neighbor and a great friend of American Samoa.
The governor says the late king was someone who was keen on continued closer relationships between the Polynesian islands, and showed this by being a close friend of American Samoa. He also said the king moved the Island Kingdom towards democratic reforms and this is a great achievement for the Pacific region family.
American Samoa government has a parcel of land on Tonga’s main island of Nuku'alofa and in exchange, the Tongan government has a parcel of land in Tafuna.
After 5 p.m. yesterday, the local Tongan community held a church service to remember and pay tribute to King George at the Tongan Methodist Church at Ottoville, according to ‘His Majesty’s High Chief, Mafi o Amerika Samoa’, Sione L. Kava, who is also unable to attend the funeral service in Nuku'alofa due to urgent local matters.
Speaking of the local service, Kava noted, ”This is in remembrance of King George and for the Royal Family. All Tongan churches in the territory came together for this special event for the Tongan community as well as for our current home away from home, American Samoa.”
Kava estimates that there are about 5,000 Tongans in the territory based on the 2000 census.
Asked how he would describe the late king, Kava told Samoa News, “King George was highly educated and very intelligent. I think part of the controversy surrounding the king is that a lot of people didn’t understand what he was trying to do for the country in moving forward.
“He was far too advanced of the fa’aTonga, or the Tongan culture — or in a more familiar phrase ‘fa’aSamoa’. For example, he didn’t agree with the Constitutional mandate for the Royal Family to marry within the Royal Family, and I think that is the reason he was never married,” said Kava, who met with the late king during King George’s visit to Pago Pago in 2007.
“He was also against elaborate fa’alavelave — as we call them here — fa’alavelave. He believed that these elaborate types of ‘fa’aTonga’ were taking away from Tongans who cannot afford to contribute,” said Kava, who is also the ASG Petroleum Officer.
(Samoa News understands that one of the reasons given for the Tongan royal state funeral being shorter and less elaborate, than is the usual case, is in consideration of those ‘who cannot afford it’ — the common people.)
Kava also revealed that King George, during his visit to the territory, had concerns over Tongans in the territory separating themselves from the rest of the village communities where they live.
“The Tongans here have their own rugby and when I spoke with the king, he said that this type of separation should not be done in the first place,” said Kava. “The king told me at the time ‘wherever you live in American Samoa participate in that village’s affairs’. For example, if a Tongan resides in Nu’uuli, participate in the Nu’uuli rugby team, or the Nu’uuli sporting teams such as the Satani fautasi.”
“In other words, the king wanted Tongans to fully participate in their village communities instead of separating themselves, by creating their own associations and organizations,” said Kava. “The King saw it this way — when you are in Rome, do what the Romans do. King George believed that Tongans have made American Samoa their home and therefore should also contribute fully in villages and their communities.”
Kava did point out that the king was not against the Tongan community here coming together for celebrations and other events, because that will keep the Tonga culture alive for those individuals who no longer reside in Tonga.
“King George was far advanced in his thinking. He was at a point where he was so frustrated that some of the things he was trying to do for the country became an issue of controversy,” said Kava. “But I think, for me, King George didn’t have enough time to educate residents of Tonga in the way that he was thinking to improve the country and that was very unfortunate.”
In Hawai’i, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed last Friday a proclamation ordering that the Hawai’i state flag be flown at half-staff at all state offices and agencies as well the Hawai’i National Guard from sunrise on Mar. 27 to sunset on the same day in honor of the late king.
Abercrombie expressed his condolences to the people of Tonga and recognized the king’s accomplishments.
“King George Tupou V upon taking the throne in 2006 championed a more open system of government, advocating for technological improvements, introducing a more open economy, and pioneering a process of peaceful democratization; all of which lead to the first majority elected Parliament of Tonga taking office in 2010” according to the proclamation.
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