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Adieu Taufa: King of Tonga
by Amin George Forji
2006-09-14 09:29:07
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King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who has ruled Tonga for 41 years, died late on Sunday at the age of 88, after a long battle with illness. He died at Mercy hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. According to the programme read on Radio Tonga on Monday morning, he will first be laid in state at his Atalanga residence in Auckland on Tuesday, so that well-wishers in New Zealand can pay their last respects.

He will finally be returned to Nuku'alofa, capital of Tonga, late on Wednesday where he will receive a state funeral. The Lord Chamberlain announced on Monday that they hope to delay the proper funeral for sometime to enable oversea dignitaries to attend.

"We are getting a lot of messages of condolences from overseas' governments and from the people of many countries," said the Lord Chamberlain on state radio. A period of profound mourning, which has been reduced from six months to just one month, began as soon as Radio Tonga broadcast news of the King’s departure on Monday morning.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, was amongst the first to express her condolences to the people of Tonga. She ordered New Zealand’s flags at all government establishments to be flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral as a sign of respect to the King and the people of Tonga.

At the time of his death, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was the fourth longest living King on earth. He was generally considered to be one of the last living absolute monarchs, wielding enormous authority throughout the kingdom. In fact, his was an aristocratic system of government. He opposed moves to move the kingdom into a democracy. He had absolute monopoly on some of Tonga's major businesses and lived in beautiful mansions. In fact, members of the royal family live on gold and silver, while a majority of the populace lingers in poverty. During the past five years, he used the police to quell riots from pro-democracy movements, who were pressing for democratic reforms.

News of his latest illness was revealed on August 15, 2006, when Feleti Sevele, the Tongan prime minister interrupted a live TV broadcast to announce that the King was seriously sick and had been transferred to a hospital in Auckland. He further requested 104,000 volunteers to intercede in prayer until the King recovered. Within a couple of hours more than that number announced their readiness to join the intercession, but prayer was not enough this time around to rescue the old King.

The King made some headline news in 1976, after the Guinness Book Of World Records named him the world's heaviest monarch, weighing 209 kg; Tonga is a country of big people, with many people suffering from obesity, and the news meant that the King was amongst the biggest in his own kingdom.

Apparently, he did not receive the news as good news. Instead, he made his weight loss programme a national health programme, saying he will set the first good example for his country. By 1990, he had slimmed to just 125kg, and by 2003, he weighed just 109kg, 100kg less than the record he set in 1976.

Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has now been replaced by his son, Crown Prince Tupouto'a, aged 58. As a crowning procedure, he took a formal procedural oath of office on Monday 11th September from Tongan Chief Justice, Anthony Ford, in the office of a Wellington lawyer. He has been crowned as King Taufa'ahau Tupou V. A formal coronation ceremony will take place after the official mourning period of his father is over. He is still a bachelor, with no children.

Tonga is a tiny island in the South Pacific, comprised of 171 cluster islands, and about 107,000 subjects. A similar number is estimated to live overseas, mainly in Australia, USA and New Zealand.


  
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Asa2006-09-13 14:43:58
So he was the fourth longest living King on earth...who are the three above him and who is now fourth?


Georges2006-09-15 12:07:03
Strange that just 100,000 people can constitute a kingdom, in fact a country.


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