12 May 2021

Vigils held for murdered Tongan LGBTQIA+ activist Poli Kefu

6:30 pm on 12 May 2021

Candlelight vigils have been held around the region to remember Tongan LGBTQIA+ activist, Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu, who was found murdered near his home in Lapaha this month.

A picture of Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu stands at the head of a remembrance service.

Photo: Supplied/ Seuta’afili Patrick Thomsen

Kefu is remembered as a fierce humanitarian rights activist whose work spanned years, particularly advocating for leiti, of which he was the president of the Tongan Leitis' Association.

New Zealand-based TLA members Ashley Tonga and Eva Tanya Mafi co-organised a vigil at St Peter's Anglican Church in Onehunga, Auckland, on Saturday. It was attended by many more people than Mafi expected.

"The planning and hosting was all about Poli, with the deal between the TLA in New Zealand, to build the service together. I didn't think there would be heaps of people from the community there, but I felt excited to see them there," she said.

Phylesha Brown-Acton speaks at an event to mark the death of LGBTQIA+ activist Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu.

Phylesha Brown-Acton speaks at an event to mark the death of Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu. Photo: Supplied/ Seuta’afili Patrick Thomsen

Mafi said, had the Kingdom's borders with Aotearoa not been closed because of Covid-19, she would have liked to have been closer to him and congregate with Tonga's association members.

"I feel very sad that I'm not in Tonga to be together with the TLA for Poli's funeral.

"Our feeling is now we all hurt our hearts, our soul is so pain what was happening to Poli."

In the same year that Mafi was due to finish technology school, her mother died. Her fondest memories are when Poli guided her through the home stretch of her studies, surprising her in the crowd at her graduation.

"I knew that no one else would be there for me at my graduation then, but when I saw Poli's face I started crying because he was a big person in the community there for me," Mafi said.

"When I walked and hugged him, he told me 'you did a good job Eva, good job with everything, I'm always here for you'".

Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu with friends.

Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu with friends. Photo: Supplied/ Eva Tanya Mafi

It is understood Kefu's body is currently awaiting an autopsy.

A 27-year-old man has been charged with murder and is expected to appear in the Magistrate's Court in Mu'a next week.

Meantime, leitis and the wider Pasifika LGBTQIA+ village continue to celebrate the life of a vibrant giant for visibility - now fallen.

"I felt like Poli was with us here in New Zealand," said Mafi.

"He did such a good job. He did everything for us. All the TLA members are trying to heal at the moment, for Poli."

Polikalepo "Poli" Kefu was remembered at a series of events.

Photo: Supplied/ Seuta’afili Patrick Thomsen

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