24 Nov 2010

Thousands mourn Marshalls chief's death

4:11 pm on 24 November 2010

Thousands of people are honouring an important traditional chief in the largest funeral ceremony the Marshall Islands has seen since first President Amata Kabua died 14 years ago.

Leroij Atama Zedkaia, the paramount chief for Majuro Atoll and mother of the country's President Jurelang Zedkaia, died last Friday aged 79 and was accorded a state funeral at the parliament this week in keeping with the nation's respect for its customary leaders.

About one thousand black clad family members and friends marched in a solemn procession behind a police honour guard and a hearse carrying the late chief's remains from Majuro Hospital to the nearby parliament chamber.

Flags around the Marshall Islands are flying at half-mast through Saturday, according to a proclamation from the President's Office issued by Minister in Assistance Ruben Zackhras declaring a week of national mourning.

In the state funeral ceremony, the late chief was fondly recalled for demanding that her children be humble despite their lofty traditional status.