Polikalepo Kefu: International media react to the murder of the LGBT activist

    The death of the Tongan human rights activist Polikalepo Kefu has prompted reactions and outpouring of tributes not just in Tonga, but also overseas.

    The 41-year-old LGBT activist died unexpectedly on May 1 and a suspect has appeared in court yesterday charged with his alleged murder.

    Here are reactions from major news media outlets around the world, advocates and headlines.

    The Guardian

    As The Guardian in the UK wrote, “Tributes have poured in from people across the region, praising Kefu’s advocacy, passion and warmth”.

    “Tonga Police declined to comment on whether they suspected Kefu’s death was a hate crime”, it said.

    Its headline read: “Outpouring of grief after alleged murder of leading Tongan LGBTQI activist”.

    Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    ABC’s Pacific Beat also covered Kefu’s death.

    Its headline read: “Pacific LGBTQI community in shock after Tongan activist killed”

    It also said: “Mr Kefu was involved in numerous community organisations and they have been leading tributes following his death UN Aids said in a statement Mr Kefu was a “strong human rights activist”.

    “Especially for transwomen (Leitis) and in the HIV response in Tonga & the Pacific for many years.

    He dedicated his life for the safety of others in Tonga, ” the organisation said in a statement”.

    Radio New Zealand International 

    A headline by Radio New Zealand International said: Shock over death of prominent Tongan human rights activist.

    It quoted a statement by the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diverse Network which said: “Poli is known to many of us in the region and globally as one of the passionate, critical, kick-ass, funny and a diehard human rights activist. With his charm and leadership, he touched so many lives and was an inspiration to us all.

    “Your death will not be in vain Poli.”

    United Nations

    In a statement, UN AIDS Pacific talked about Kefu’s contributions as an activist, particularly his work around HIV response and education.

    “Poli was a strong human rights activist in different fields especially for transwomen (Leitis) and in the HIV response in Tonga & the Pacific for many years,” said the UN AIDS Pacific in a statement.

    In addition to his work for Tonga’s LGBTQI+ community, Kefu was also a staunch activist on the climate crisis.


    The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said in a statement: “Poli Kefu played a pivotal role in coordinating the Tongan Hub for our recent Human Rights and Law Reform Virtual Symposium held recently ( February) in Suva, Fiji. Poli was a humble gentle inspiring leader who displayed a proactive interaction with ILGA Oceania on its various projects and conferences.

    “In the spirit of activism and friendship, we will miss you Poli for your pro-active, strong activism, your commitment and dedication to LGBTI issues and movement throughout the Kingdom of Tonga, the Pacific Islands and Oceania.  ILGA Oceania will continue to stand up for human rights and social justice as we stand in solidarity against violence in all its form”.

    UK Pink News

    A headline by the UK Pink News, the brand for the global LGBT+ community and the next generation read: .

    “Beloved, selfless’ Tongan LGBT+ activist found murdered on beach after ‘very violent attack”.

    Tagata Pasifika

    The New Zealand’s Tagata Pafisifika TV show’s headline on Kefu’s death read: “Community mourns sudden death of Polikalepo Kefu, President of Tonga Leitis Association”.

    Raising Pacific Voices 

    The organization described itself on Facebook as a $2.3m euros in EU funded body which aimed at strengthening in a sustainable way civil society groups in the region.

    Its message read: “Polikalepo Kefu (Poli Kefu), also simply known as Poli to many of us – was one who lived his life in service to all within the community in Tonga and the Pacific, and most especially to young people and those of the LGBTQI community.

    The Raising Pacific Voices project (Oxfam in the Pacific) was honored to work with Poli, as a result of our work in Tonga – facilitating assessments of civil society organisations Disaster Risk Reduction preparedness and their Organisational capacity. Poli, although working for the Red Cross at the time and till his untimely passing – happily joined our workshop in October 2019 in his capacity as President of the Tonga Leitis’ Association”.


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