The WhatItDo.com grieves in solidarity with mourners in the Kingdom of Tonga and all worldwide for the untimely passing of His Majesty King George Tupou V. During his six year reign, the King leaves behind a legacy of epic changes to the Kingdom of Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific, where he will be remembered by most as the King who established democratic reform. In Hong Kong, he passed away at 63 years-old from unconfirmed health conditions. The Kingdom is dressed in respectful black to prepare for the funeral procession which will begin at the arrival of the late King’s casket in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, Monday, March 26. The State Funeral will proceed on Tuesday, March 27.
Hon. Frederica Tuita, daughter of the only sister to the late King, HRH Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita and Lord Tuita, offers The WhatItDo an exclusive and very personal insight to her life, role and responsibility at this fragile time in Tonga. She reveals an intimate moment with her grandmother, HM Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho, Mother of Tonga, and memories of her late uncle while being reminded of her own value and voice.
“When I think of the late King George Tupou V, he wasn’t just a leader for the nation, but a leader for our family. I’ve always believed that anything was possible depending on the way one chooses to pursue it. And that is what I saw in the late King. Others before him pursued change for the Kingdom, but weren’t as successful. He initiated a step by step reform of the laws and legislations of Tonga, which lead Tonga to a more democratic government. Change wasn’t always something we welcomed with open arms. After a few thousand years of living basically the same way, there isn’t much shock as to why. However, the late King took us with him down a road of uncertainty. I know I turned out all the better for it. His love for his people was like a light that lead and taught us not to fear change but to embrace it. We were all born with particular instincts and this was a new way to use those instincts in the new frontier of democracy.
His love for his people was like a light that lead and taught us not to fear change but to embrace it.
My uncle’s fearlessness was the foundation for our independent (and at times rebellious) nature. Regardless of what you may have heard or read, he was the apple of our grandmother’s eye as he was her first born. Therefore, imagine how difficult the task was when I had to tell Her Majesty the Queen that her firstborn son had past away in Hong Kong thousands of miles away from her. I had found her at her residence Tufumahina praying with other women for his recovery. I walked in, sat at the door and waited for her to finish praying. After waiting for what seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life, she lifted her head, looked at me and smiled asking why I was there. I bowed my head, got up from the floor by the door and walked over to her past the other women that surrounded her. I sat beside her on the floor and told her… ‘Kuo Hala e Tu’i.’ After a moment of silence, I heard the most heart wrenching mournful cry and as much as I wanted to give her a hug, my instincts of respect prohibited me. After a few minutes of crying, she and her ladies in waiting continued praying. She’d come out of prayer from time to time to ask, “Do you think God needed him more?” My heart sank but I was still in shock. I couldn’t shed any tears. After I heard ‘Amen,’ she looked up and turned to me as though she had received a new found strength from God and continued to list things that needed to be done and who to contact. I immediately became attentive to what she wanted and proceeded to carry them out.
Since then, my eldest sister, Lupepau’u, has arrived from New Zealand and it is as though a weight has been lifted from our grandmother’s shoulders. Everything that we would all hesitate to tell the Queen is easily done by Lupepau’u. She knows who and when is permitted to see the Queen and has the “know how” and finesse that many others lack. As more close relatives of the Queen fly in from different parts of the world, I see her overcome things with more ease. Then, my mind drifts off to Hong Kong where my mother is, unlike what many people think of my mother, HRH Princess Pilolevu Tuita, was very close with the late King. She became his close confidant after the reform and would always refer back and forth to him and their mother. Although, there are things we speak of and things we do not, his mother and sister became his rock and he was theirs.
On Wednesday night, I stayed up late with my cousins, HSH Prince Tungi and Hon. Etani Ha’amea Tuku’aho, reminiscing about our moments with the late King. He wanted us to call him G5 after his coronation which came as a bit of a shock to us [his nieces and nephews]. Although, we are family and love each other, we also respect each others standing. We loved our uncle and are protective of him, but we were always mindful that he was the King and should be respected as thus, regardless of who we were. So, one could imagine how it felt when we, his own family, respected him as a King and others took liberty of his kindness. But, my cousins and I remember the advice he used to give us about how we should always be considerate of others.
He would host many dinners at his residence, the Villa, entertaining guests and telling jokes. He would always want one of us present at his dinners. Towards the end of his life, my cousin Tungi or sister Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano, would be at his dinners as we were the only ones in Tonga. With me, he enjoyed talking about all things, especially cooking, which was a subject we both enjoyed, along with my cousin HRH Princess Latufuipeka.
Now that I look back, I remember how we would all want to make him smile, be at ease and tell him good news about our lives. I recall how many of his facial gestures and remarks were exactly like his Mother, The Queen. Now, almost everything The Queen does reminds me of him. Since his passing, we’ve all been here with Her Majesty. And the sight of many people walking around in the giant Liongi mats has become common. My sisters and I will be part of the very few people allowed to wear smaller mats in public or just the Aveave at home. All of our cousins, however, will wear very large Liongi mats, as he was the eldest son, and they are all children of his brothers or cousins who are his father’s younger brother’s children. The same rules that apply to every tongan family, also, apply to us. As his only sister’s children, we have less tapu towards him. But, as I said earlier, we loved and respected him as a King first. On the night of his Takipō [when the late King lies in state], it is us girls [daughters of the HRH Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita] that will be allowed in the room with him and help the Nimatapu [the Royal Undertakers for the Tongan royal family] tend to him whilst he lies in State. Everyone else, including all his siblings, are not allowed to do the things we can. We see it as our duty to him and one of the last things we can do for him with the utmost humility. It is our honor to be able to tend to him through this process.
As his arrival from Hong Kong draws near, we all disregard our wants and needs to focus on what the Queen wants. Nobles, Ministers and Matapules (speaking Chiefs) all come to the Queen for the same reasons we, her close family, do for she is the Mother of the Nation. As time goes by, and more loved ones are lost, we realize that we need her with us more than ever. She is the link that all Tongans still have to the late King, what came before him, as well as, the strength we need for what is to come.”
Written By: Hon. Frederica Tuita
On behalf of The WhatItDo.com, we would like to offer our most deepest condolences to the Queen Mother and the Royal family. Ko e ‘Otua mo Tonga ko hoku Tofi’a[God and Tonga are My Inheritance].
*Photos courtesy of Hon. Frederica Tuita