Mar 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Ode to a Queen

Halaevalu Mata’aho Ahome’e May 1926 - February 2017

MUCH loved by her subjects, respected throughout the kingdom, Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho ‘Ahome’e was laid to rest in the Royal Tombs at Mala’ekula on March 1. The late Queen Mother bore two kings – Tupou VI and his eccentric brother, Siaosi Tupou V, who died in 2012. And she was Queen Consort of Tonga from 1965 to 2006 as wife of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV whom she married in 1947.

Tupou IV ascended the throne in 1966 after the death of his mother, Queen Salote, the previous year in Auckland, New Zealand. A quarter of a century later, Mata’aho – like her mother-in-law – went to New Zealand and succumbed to an illness which she had suffered for some time. Born the eldest daughter of ‘Ahome’e (Manu-‘o-pangai) and his wife, Heuʻifanga, Halaevalu was descended from Ma’afu – the warring prince who governed Lau and threatened to rule Fiji in the late 1800s.

As Ma’afu’s great-great-granddaughter she had blood ties to several Fijian chiefly families including those in Lakeba, Taveuni, Bau and Rewa. Those links were revived last year through the marriage of her niece, Odette ‘Ainise Kilinalivoni Tupouohomohema Taumoepeau-Tupou to Ratu Penaia Kamisese Tuivanuavou (Edward) Ganilau.

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Survivor Tonga

Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion

THREE years after winning an election, pro-democracy fighter Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva has fought off a second vote of no confidence to maintain his position as Tonga’s prime minister. Behind the unsuccessful motion of no confidence in Parliament is a group of nobles, forced to give up their control of the house in 2010 by command of the late King George Tupou V. Pohiva prevailed by 14 votes to 10 with the Cabinet giving him 12 votes and an additional two from Pro-Democracy Movement Members of Parliament.

The 10 votes against him were from seven Noble Representatives - Lord Tu’ilakepa who tabled the no confidence motion, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Lord Fusitu’a, Lord Tu’i’afitu, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Lord Nuku, Lord Vaea - and Samiu Vaipulu, Vili Hingano and Fe’ao Vakata who represent the people.

Survivor Tonga Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion Vaipulu was Deputy Prime Minister in the last Tongan government to be controlled by the Nobles. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, told ABC Radio that the motion was a waste of time because the proposers knew they did not have the numbers to topple the government. 

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Mixing sports and politics

Tonga’s bid to host 2019 Pacific Games reaches political climax

SPORT has an uncanny ability to bring people together and build comradery lasting a lifetime, more so nowadays when those special moments can be captured on film. When Nelson Mandela walked out in the Springbok jersey in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, we saw the power sport can bring in uplifting a nation.

The Pacific is sports-crazed and the ultimate quadrennial event is the Pacific Games. Host countries get an extra boost to their economies, while the facilities built allows them to host other international events and provide local athletes a place to train. Tonga is the venue for the July 2019 Games. But with a two-and-a-half year window that’s closing quickly, none of the facilities have been built including upgrading the National Stadium at Teufaiva Park.

Constant interference from Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva is making preparations difficult for the organizers. In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament late January, chairman of the Organizing Committee Fred Sevele and president of the National Olympic Committee Tevita Tupou called on the Parliament to step in and help out “before it is too late”. The letter strongly stated Tonga is in real danger of not being ready to host the 2019 Games and they could lose the rights to host the event if things don’t change.

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Skies fill with new birds

Air deals to boost Tonga, Samoa arrivals

POLYNESIAN neighbours Tonga and Samoa hope to boost visitor numbers to their islands with increased flights between the destinations this year. Real Tonga has announced planned services using its leased Saab340B on international services from Fua’amotu International on Tongatapu to Faleolo in Samoa.

While Real Tonga would like to use its larger MA-60 which has a greater cargo and passenger capacity, the Chinesebuilt turbo prop airliner does not meet Samoa’s aviation industry standards. Real Tonga only resumed commercial MA-60 operations on the TongatapuVava’u route in September due to a longstanding dispute over the aircraft with New Zealand civil aviation authorities.

The aircraft was withdrawn from service in February 2015 after the Tongan Government cancelled a lease agreement. This was after the kingdom experienced intense pressure from New Zealand for operating the aircraft which claimed the aircraft had not been properly type-certified in line with international norms. After months of regulatory negotiations, Tonga signed a four-year lease contract for the aircraft with Real Tonga Airlines in August 2016. 

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Battle royale

King heads Tongan fightback

FOOD is central to every Tongan function – from birth to death. But over-eating and the importation of cheap, fatty meat has led to Tonga being the most obese country in the world. Recent research shows that 4 per cent of the population could have Type 2 Diabetes and life expectancy is falling.

Tonga is not alone, however, and doctors say Pacific island nations and associated states make up the top seven on a 2007 list of fattest countries. In all these cases, more than 70 per cent of citizens age 15 and over have an unhealthy weight. Until the 1960s the Tongan diet consisted of fish, root vegetables and coconuts, with pork being a delicacy reserved for special occasions.

With increased travel in the 1970s, Tongans moved to New Zealand and the United States. Shortly after this, offcuts of meat began arriving in the kingdom including turkey tails from the US and mutton flaps from New Zealand. They were seen as status symbols. People with the ability to buy this fatty food showed that they were affluent or related to people who lived overseas.

Gradually the consumption of this food began to have a telling effect on the population. Further north, turkey tails have been a problem in Samoa which also has a large off-shore community in New Zealand and the United States.

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