Nuka`Alofa: The colourful king of Tonga
George Tupou V, who brought democracy to the impoverished
South Pacific island nation, died on Sunday in Hong Kong at the
age of 63, a report said.
The monarch passed away in the southern Chinese city with
his brother, the crown prince, at his bedside after being
rushed to hospital, the Matangi Tonga On-line said, but there
was no immediate confirmation from Tongan authorities
Known to the outside world for eccentricities such as his
elaborate uniforms and being driven around in a London taxi,
he will be remembered by his subjects for introducing the
kingdom`s first democratically-elected parliament.
The brief Matangi Tonga report said that "the Crown Prince
Tupouto`a Lavaka was there at the hospital just before the
king passed away.
"This news is yet to be officially confirmed but our
reliable source informed us that the king was rushed to
hospital early this afternoon but it is understood that he had
passed away a few hours later."
He was unmarried and his brother is heir to the throne.
The report did not say what the cause of death was, but
six months ago the king underwent successful surgery to have a
kidney removed after a tumour was discovered.
Government and royal palace officials in Tonga were not
immediately available to comment on the report but a statement
was expected following tomorrow`s cabinet meeting.
Radio Australia said the main religious body in Tonga, the
Free Wesleyan Church, had announced it would be holding a
prayer service at the official residence of the king`s mother
in the capital Nuku`alofa.
His other eccentricities included wearing colonial-era
pith helmets, sailing model boats in his swimming pool and
playing computer games. But to the 115,000 people in Tonga, he
was the man who introduced political reforms.
Tupou V was sworn in as king of one of the world`s last
absolute monarchies in September 2006 following the death of
his father king Taufa`ahau Tupou IV.
However his coronation was delayed until 2008 as the tiny
kingdom reeled from the impact of riots in the Nuku`alofa.
Eight people were killed and much of the central business
district was destroyed in the November 2006 riots when people
protested against the slow pace of political reform.
When Tupou V was finally crowned in an ancient Tongan
ceremony, more than 200 nobles and chiefs presented dozens of
slaughtered pigs and hundreds of baskets of food in tribute.