28 Mar 2012

Former Tonga PM says late King worked for interests of all Tongans

11:22 am on 28 March 2012

Tonga's former Prime Minister says the funeral for King George Tupou the fifth was a show of a country united under the monarch.

The late King's state funeral yesterday was attended by several thousand people, including dignitaries from around the region.

Lord Feleti Sevele says the King showed by his decisions and actions that he was working for the interests of all Tongans.

"I guess the main thing was the coming together of a nation, a nation which six years ago, sections of were not approving of him as King. I'm glad that he has proven them wrong."

Tonga's former Prime Minister, Lord Feleti Sevele says people are often concerned about a new monarch, but he has no doubt the new King will act in much the same way as his predecessors.

And the Premier of Niue says it was a great honour to be able to attend the funeral.

Toke Talagi, says it was an historic moment, having seen the changes that have occurred in Tonga over the past six years.

The monarchy in Tonga is now starting to realise that the cost of a lot of these things are quite a heavy burden for their people, so therefore they have decided they will modernise certain aspects of the monarchy, and this was part and parcel of that.

Toke Talagi says he had brief talks with other Pacific leaders while in Tonga, concentrating mainly on shipping issues around the region.

Meanwhile, the low turnout at the burial of the late King has revived criticism of his low-cost funeral.

The half-empty burial grounds in Nuku'alofa yesterday were a stark contrast to the packed crowds spilling into surrounding streets for the funeral of the previous king, Tupou the Fourth.

The chair of the funeral committee, Lord Vaea, agrees fast-tracking this week's funeral and burial over just two days, meant fewer Tongans could attend.

But he says Tonga's debt crisis and the funeral's timing at the end of the financial year, left no choice.

Of course with a new government onboard and the limitations and the loans and the payments we have to give for the next financial year, these have actually withheld and limited out expenses.

Lord Vaea says the royal family also made it clear it wanted the cost reduced.