PM Chris Hipkins pays tribute to Tongan Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his condolences.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his condolences. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his condolences after the Tongan Princess who accepted the Dawn Raids apology from the New Zealand Government died in Auckland Hospital. 

Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili died peacefully early on Sunday morning surrounded by her family. She was known as a formidable leader and proud advocate for women. 

Hipkins said New Zealand sends its "heartfelt condolences to the people of Tonga, and to His Majesty King Tupou VI at this time of profound grief and loss". 

"Princess Mele Sui'ilikutapu was a formidable leader and a proud advocate for women. She played an instrumental role in the Government's apology for the 1970s Dawn Raids, and courageously fought for causes that were important to both her people, and the wider Pacific, like the preservation of the Tongan language," Hipkins said. 

"Tonga is an incredibly close friend and partner of New Zealand, we have a large Tongan community here who I know will also be feeling her passing deeply."

Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region) Carmel Sepuloni said her thoughts are with Princess Mele Sui'ilikutapu's family. 

"Her legacy as the first woman to be elected to Tonga's Parliament and later as Deputy President of the National Women's Organisation lives on in many Tongan women today, as does the artistry and traditional skills of Tongan culture through her work as President of the Langafonua Gallery and Handicrafts Centre," Sepuloni said.

"I recall Princess Mele's emotional and powerful speech during the Dawn Raids Apology in 2021. Her gracious and heartfelt words left all of us feeling the full weight of the trauma of the past and, simultaneously, the joy of forgiveness and enduring friendship. Her loss will be felt deeply by many in Tonga, Aotearoa and across the world."

Minister Sepuloni said Tonga is a "very close friend of ours, and my recent visit to Tonga emphasised to me the strength of our relationship, the connections between our people, and the values that we share". 

"We stand together with our Tongan kāinga and communities both abroad and here in Aotearoa New Zealand," she said. 

"My thoughts are with Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Sui'ilikutapu's family, and with the Government and people of Tonga. Our aroha, our love, is with you all," Carmel Sepuloni said.