The death of Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has, however briefly, united the kingdom as members of the royal family, nobles, government ministers, civil servants, and friends and family gathered today for his funeral.
The democratic pioneer was honoured with a state funeral this morning attended by Queen Nanasipau’u and Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho.
Princess Angelika was Hon. Pōhiva’s fahu.
Deputy Speaker Lord Tu’ilakepa led a “hala,” the arrival of kāinga or friends who present either pigs, food, trays of bread, Tongan handicrafts like ngatu and fine mats or money to show their support to the family of the deceased and show sympathy.
Lord Tu’ilakepa arrived with Parliament staff at Hon. Pōhiva’s residence on Tuesday and made the presentation.
Hon. Pōhiva became the first Prime Minister to lie in state, something normally reserved for royalty.
Onlookers described today’s weather as fit for the man who they said was hugely loved by the people who he cherished.
Children stood along the roads in Nuku’alofa as Pōhiva’s family and members of the royal family followed a hearse into the Centenary Church grounds.
About 3000 people attended this morning’s funeral, with the crowd spilling over onto the grounds of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga Centenary Church (Saione).
The service was conducted by the President of the Free Wesleyan Church, the Reverend Dr Ahio. Clergy from other churches also attended.
Mr Pōhiva was buried at the Telekava Cemetery in Kolomotu’a.
Today was a public holiday and national day of mourning.
Meanwhile, staff at Otago University in Dunedin have expressed their “heart-felt condolences” on Hon. Pohiva’s death to Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika.
“His leadership and passion for democracy have touched the lives of many in our community, both here at the university and in Tonga,” Professor Harlene Hayne said.
“Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga at this sad time.”