20 Sep 2006

Tonga comes to standstill for King's funeral

8:43 am on 20 September 2006

Thousands of loyal subjects and foreign dignitaries took to the streets of Tonga's capital yesterday to farewell the nation's king, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

Among those in Nukualofa watching the funeral was our reporter, Sara Vui-Talitu

"Tonga came to a standstill as they buried the late King, declaring the day a public holiday. The road linking the Royal Palace to the Royal Tomb was paved in traditional Tongan tapa and lined with purple and black bows. Behind rows of schoolchildren, as far as the eye could see, were Tongans wearing traditional black clothes and ta'ovala - the fine mat. Out of respect for their beloved King everyone had to be seated. Five hundred pallbearers carried a black Royal casket that had been specially built for the King"

The new King of Tonga faces significant challenges as he gets down to work after his father's funeral.

King Siaosi Tupou the fifth has inherited a Kingdom with a sinking economy and people who are looking for an equal distribution of resources.

A report outlining the people's views is soon to go before parliament.

The new King has already decided to sell his business interests in Tonga, and the selection of new government ministers may take place on the advice of the prime minister after the precedent set by his father.

Ministers used to be appointed by the King.