23 Aug 2006

King's poor health prompts Tonga to drop Pacific Forum

4:17 pm on 23 August 2006

The Tongan government has asked for this October's Pacific Islands Forum summit not to be held in Nuku'alofa as scheduled amid concern over the poor health of the King Taufaahau Tupou IV.

The office of the current Forum chair, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, says it has asked the Pacific Islands Forum secretary general, Greg Urwin, to consult the other 15 members on who else might hold the event.

Fiji's foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, says Fiji has always been an alternative because the secretariat is in Suva, but he says the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has also offered to host it in New Zealand.

A New Zealand foreign affairs official says no request has been received for New Zealand to host the event.

Lopeti Senituli, who is an advisor to the Tongan prime minister, says the king's health is deteriorating.

"Because we know very clearly that Tonga's customs and traditions will not allow us to host a major undertaking, an international event like the Pacific Islands leaders summit during the mourning period for His Majesty."

Lopeti Senituli