Tongan king laid to rest

  • 27/03/2012

By Michael Morrah

Tonga's King George Tupou V has been laid to rest in the royal burial grounds in Nuku'alofa.

The funeral - a mixture of Polynesian and Christian customs - lasted for two and a half hours, but the official mourning period will last 100 nights.

Members of the Tongan defence service led the procession as the body of the late King was carried on a seven-tonne platform by around 150 former students of Tupou College and Tonga High School.

One of those asked to carry the late King was Auckland man Sesefo Sime.  

“This is the opportunity or chance of a lifetime, and I am very grateful and honoured to be part of it,” he says.

The late king was known for his fondness of military uniforms and ceremony.

It seemed appropriate that the hat and sword he so often wore in public were placed at the head of his casket. Despite his eccentric nature, he was remembered as a great leader by most

“His Majesty King George V gave us enormous freedoms, and accelerated the progress of this country literally overnight,” Tongan community leader Kahu Barron-Afeaki says.

The ceremony lasted two and a half hours and the heat proved overwhelming for one military personnel who collapsed.

Thousands of school children lined the procession route, waiting quietly in the sun and talking of their affection for the late King.

“They love him because he was kind, and because he not only thought about himself, but the whole Kingdom,” student Sarah Otukolo says.

At the end of the service the royal standard was taken from the casket and Lauaki, the head of the royal undertakers, came forward with his clan.

The late king’s mother Queen Halavalu Mata'aho watched as the casket was lowered into a gravesite next to the burial plot of her husband, King Taufa a'hau Tupou IV.

South Pacific University spokesman Dr Masasso Pauanga says it was a very sad day for her.

“But not only her... the whole royal family and all the people of Tonga,” he says. 

Tonga's hopes now turn to the new monarch, King Tupou VI, who left swiftly at the end of the ceremony, shaking the hand of New Zealand's Governor General, Jerry Mataparae, on his way out.

Although Tongans do not want to say it publicly, there is some uncertainly about exactly how the new king will perform as a leader. He was criticised as a former Prime Minister and there has not been an official reason for why he choose to have the funeral on Tuesday when the government initially announced it was to be held tomorrow.

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source: newshub archive