UPDATED 18:30 – 20/08: ‘Alani Taione, a diehard democratic activist who had been known to many as an opponent of the Tongan monarchy has publicly made an apology to the king and the royal family this afternoon.
He offered his apology following his nephew ‘Epeli Taione’s wedding with Hon Lupepau’u Tuita last weekend in Fiji.
Hon Lupepau’u is the King of Tonga’s eldest niece and number sixth to the Tongan throne. She is also the eldest daughter of Princess Pilolevu, the only sister of King Tupou VI.
‘Alani is a young brother of ‘Epeli’s father. He was well known to foreign media as an anti-monarchist.
In August 2005 the anti-monarchist arrived with a group of about hundred Tongans at the ‘Atalanga – Auckland Royal Residence in protest against the government’s initial refusal to accept demand by civil servants who went on strike in Tonga for a fair pay rise.
Hon Lupepau’u’s grandfather, King Tupou IV was in Auckland at the time for a medical check and he was at ‘Atalanga.
The protest turned ugly as a fight broke out outside the residence between the protesters and the royal staff. Some of the protesters swore at the ailing king who was in a house just about 20 metres from where the protest took place.
‘Alani threatened to burn down the residence and killed everybody.
The incident quickly reached the royal family in Tonga prompting Princess Pilolevu to walk down from the palace to Pangai Si’i where the civil servant strikers gathered.
During a speech she delivered to the strikers she broke down saying something to the effect that “How can you bear to swear at my father. You couldn’t bear someone swearing at your own father”
In July 2006 ‘Alani drove a car into the ʻAtalanga residence’s gate and set it alight. He then called out: “You fellas will be in hell”.
On one occasion he burnt the Tonga national flag in protest against the king and government’s reluctance to accept democracy for Tonga.
It is Tongan custom to have a fakalelei or reconciliation in occasion like wedding, funeral or birthday and for family members to re-establish their close relationship especially if there was falling-out. ‘Alani says this is an opportunity for him to ask for the royal family’s forgiveness.
In front of the Kaniva news’s video camera this afternoon ‘Alani repeatedly tried to hold back his tears as he was apologising to the king of Tonga, the Queen Mother, Princess Pilolevu and all the royal households for what he did for them.
He said he will also request an audience with Princess Pilolevu to express his apology to her in person.
We were told by reliable sources within the family who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not in a position to speak on behalf of the family, the Taione considered launching a hulouifi before the king because of what ‘Alani did.
Hulouifi is a process of seeking king’s mercy or pardon where attended-members wear garlands of ifi leaves.
Princess Pilolevu did not attend the wedding:
Princess Pilolevu and his husband Lord Tuita did not attend their daughter’s wedding in Fiji last weekend. The motive is unknown but our sources said they speculated that the princess might still hold a grudge against the Taione because of ‘Alani.
‘Alani said he has already met Hon Lupepau’u and personally delivered his apology to her.
“I met Lupepau’u and I apologised to her…I just felt how come the princess’s daughter become part of my poor family,” ‘Alani said in tears.
The Taione family will tomorrow perform the – ‘ave ‘o e fefine mali or returning the bride.
It is the last part of the wedding ceremony where the bridegroom’s family will accompany Hon Lupepau’u to meet her family after the wedding has been processed in the state and the church as well as the First Sunday
A meeting was announced for ‘Epeli’s maternal side to be held at Mangere, Auckland last night in preparation for their visit to Lupepau’u’s family in Tonga tomorrow.
Note from editor: An earlier version of this article was pulled at the request of the Taione family together with ‘Alani. The family request stated that ‘Alani’s statements in our first version of the article would not help with what they are bound to perform tomorrow for Lupepau’u’s family and their expectation of a warm welcome and peaceful meeting. ‘Alani agreed and asked us to accept his family’s request.