20 Mar 2012

Tonga's cabinet to send minister to Hong Kong to find out more about King's death

8:11 am on 20 March 2012

Tonga's cabinet has met to discuss the situation following the death of King George Tupou V.

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

The cabinet has established a committee to arrange the funeral and the kingdom's official mourning period.

A cabinet spokesman confirms that few details are known about the reason for King George's death.

The cabinet minister Lord Ma'afu is to head to Hong Kong tomorrow to confer with the new King and his entourage about details around bringing the body of the late King home, and to get more details about what happened.

Meanwhile, Tonga's former Prime Minister, says the late King will be remembered around the region as the drving force behind the Kingdom's democratic reforms.

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

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

Dr Sevele says that process will be his lasting legacy.

"I think the governments of the region, in particular Australia and New Zealand, they were aware, of the fact that he was the driving force, he was the prime mover of the political reforms, because they were very supportive of that. Not only in a moral sense but also in terms of facilitating those reforms, and even to the extent of financing some of the measures."

And the deputy leader of the opposition in Tonga Dr Sitiveni Halapua also credit's the late King for much of Tonga's peaceful transition to democracy.

His personal interest, his personal involvement. His decisions were ver specific, in particular the establishment of the electoral and constitutional commission was a decision made by him.

Dr Sitiveni Halapua.