19 Mar 2012

Former Tonga PM describes late King as a brilliant thinker

6:16 pm on 19 March 2012

Tonga's former Prime Minister says King George Tupou V will be sorely missed in the Kingdom.

The King died in a Hong Kong hospital yesterday, with his brother and successor, Tupouto'a Lavaka, at his bedside.

In a statement on the state broadcaster, the current Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano, said the untimely death is an unexpected black storm cloud which has covered the entire Kingdom.

Dr Feleti Sevele has been friends with King George for more than 40 years.

He was Prime Minister during much of the country's democratic reform process, and worked cosely with the King.

Dr Sevele says the King was a true monarch.

"I enjoyed his company, his foresight, and one of the most brilliant minds I've ever come across. Very cultured, and very intelligent person."

Meanwhile, Tonga's Deputy Opposition Leader Dr Sitiveni Halapua says many Tongans are reflecting on what the country's late King has done for his country.

Dr Halapua says the King was well-respected as he oversaw fundamental political change in Tonga, involving amendments to the constitution and the transition to a more democratic system of government.

The king was reknowned world wide for his eccentricities and Dr Halapua says they were just part of his nature.

That is no secret. He acknowledged it and he talked about it sometimes. He had a modern outlook. He endorsed the political reform of his Kingdom. A lot of changes occurred in a very short period of his reign.

He says people in Tonga are waiting for funeral arrangements to be announced but the normal strict observance of custom and tradition is expected as part of public mourning.