Tonga's new king named


Michael Field

Tonga 's new monarch has been formally proclaimed as King Tupou VI.

He automatically succeeded to the throne when his brother King George Tupou V died in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The declaration of a new king came in a notice from Cabinet Secretary Busby Kautoke.

"Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy His Late Majesty King George Tupou V by who decease the Crown of the Kingdom of Tonga devolves upon Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka," it began.

Naming the members of the Privy Council it concluded: "do now hereby, with one full voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim that Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka has now become the only lawful and rightful heir to the throne, King of the Kingdom of Tonga, to whom we do acknowledge all faith and constant obedience with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God by Whom Kings and Queen do reign, to bless His Majesty, King Tupou VI, with long and happy years to reign over us."

The king himself will decided his Christian name, although he was born 'Aho'eitu 'Unuaki'otonga Tuku'aho.

There is a strong possibility that he will be known as George or Siosi.

George became a chiefly name thanks to James Cook in the 18th century. Throughout his travels in the South Pacific Cook referred to the Hanover kings of England , all named George.

The late king's body will arrive in Tonga on Monday aboard a Chinese chartered aircraft.

The body is accompanied by the Chiefly Undertaker Matapule along with several lords, Ma'afu and Fakafunua.

They body will lie in state for two days ahead of a funeral on Wednesday.

21 March 2012


Tonga's new king opposed democracy

Michael Field

Tonga’s new king is an anti-democrat who as an appointed prime minister took the kingdom of 100,000 people to near economic disaster.

The new 47-year-old king, currently known as ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata ahead of taking on a yet unannounced monarch’s title, late last year tried to lead a bid to bring government back under the control of Tonga’s royals and nobles.

Now that he is king, Tonga’s future depends on whether he still wants to reign the marginal democratic progress already made.

He takes the throne from King George Tupou V who died on Sunday in Hong Kong.

A former naval officer, Lavaka Ata, known for his austere conservatism and his intense commitment to the Wesleyan Church, where he is a lay preacher and which is the official church of the kingdom. Paradoxically he made US$2 million up front from renting his royal land to the Mormon Church for a college, and collecting US$90,000 a year in rent from it.

The youngest son of the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, Lavaka Ata was never expected to be king but his older brother failed to produce heirs. The second son was stripped of his title for marrying a commoner and his sister, Princess Royal Pilolevu Tuita cannot become queen ahead of a surviving brother.

Under Tonga’s absolute monarchy, the king appointed the cabinet for life terms, without election.

Lavaka Ata served briefly in the small Tongan Navy before being named defence and foreign minister.

In 2000 the king caused a surprise by naming Lavaka Ata as prime minister, rather than the man who was until Sunday the king, Crown Prince Tupuoto’a.

As premier, Lavaka Ata, pushed through the creation of Royal Tongan Airlines, using a chartered Boeing 757. It lasted less than three years and collapsed with debts of around US$9 million.

In 2005 Tonga’s 3000 public servants went on a three week strike with protests directly aimed at the royal family.

Lavaka Ata eventually yielded to their demands and announced wage increases that reached 80 percent of some. It turned out to be economically ruinous.

In 2006 he suddenly resigned without explanation, although days before he claimed members of cabinet, including Police Minister Clive Edwards, had been preparing a coup. The ministers denied any such thing.

A partial explanation came with Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables. The US Ambassador to Tonga, Suva based Larry Dinger met Crown Prince Tupuoto’a, shortly before he would become king.

“Tupouto'a as Prince Regent, and apparently without clearance from the King, convinced his younger brother Prince Lavaka Ata to resign as PM…,” the cable said.

“Tupouto'a noted … that Lavaka Ata had been ‘the wrong person in charge’ when a public-service strike fanned flames of dissent and resulted in a settlement that has strained the government budget.

“Lavaka Ata had been frustrated as PM and may not have required too much pushing.”

Dinger asked the late king what future roles Lavaka Ata might perform: “Tupouto'a said his brother is ‘set for life’ with a lease the Mormon Church recently negotiated to retain its high-school venue at an up-front fee of $2 million plus $90,000/year for the next ten years.”

Lavaka Ata’s most recent public role as Tonga’s high commissioner to Australia.

After his brother the king renounced absolute monarchy, Tonga held its first democratic elections in November 2010 with 17 of the 26 seats voted for by commoners.

To the surprise of many, Lavaka Ata announced he would run for parliament in nine noble seats. He made no secret that he was opposed to democracy.

In the event he did not run and while no public announcement was made, it was widely believed in Tonga that the late king had talked him out of running.

As it is, the nobles won control over the divided commoners and the current Prime Minister, Lord Siale'ataonga Tu'ivakano, is closely aligned to Lavaka Ata.

The real alarm over the new king will be the scale of Tonga’s debt, mainly to China, and missing millions of dollars borrowed to fund the reconstruction of the capital in the wake of the 2006 Nuku’alofa riots.

The International Monetary Fund has repeatedly warned Tonga it is "at high risk of 'debt distress'."

Compounding the financial worry will the overwhelming desire by the Tongan Government to stage a major funeral for King George.

But there are also mounting pressures on the Treasury to fund the May wedding of Lavaka Ata’s son to his cousin.

The 27-year-old Siaosi Tuku'aho is now heir to the throne and he plans to marry 25-year-old Sinaitakala Fakafanua.

There could also be a severe case of sibling rivalry in the now inevitable coronation.

His brother spent over T$5 million (NZ$3 million) in his lavish and colourful coronation, complete with special robes and gowns, and Lavaka Ata will resist any calls for restraint in his.

18 March 2012




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