18 Sep 2006

Pacific leaders continue to arrive in Tonga for tomorrow's funeral for King Taufa'ahau

3:17 pm on 18 September 2006

Leaders from around the Pacific and elsewhere are continuing to arrive in Tonga as intense preparations come to a head for tomorrow's funeral of King Taufa'ahau Tupou the fourth.

Among the dignitaries expected to attend are the New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, and the governor-general, Anand Satyanand as well as Australia's governor-general, Michael Jeffery.

A high level delegation from Fiji includes the Vice-President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, and the opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

American Samoa's Delegate to the U.S. Congress, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, and the Cook Islands, Queen's Representative, Sir Fred Goodwin, will be there.

Other dignitaries include Vanuatu's president, Kalkot Mataskelekele, the governor general of Solomon Islands, Sir Nathaniel Waena and the premier of Niue, Young Vivian.

Tomorrow has been declared a public holiday in Tonga and the Prime Minister, Feleti Sevele, says all those involved with the funeral are working hard to ensure the late King is honoured in a traditional and appropriate way.

Dr Sevele is also welcoming the new King's move to give up his business interests, which included electricity, airlines and telecommunications.

"I wasn't surprised at all by it, knowing the man. You know, the people when it comes the time for them to assume the highest office, they behave as if they've been made for it."

The final mourning begins later today with prayers and songs that will carry on until tomorrow at dawn.