Tonga’s PM dies in Auckland

By Samantha Magick

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has passed away in Auckland.

Pohiva was flown to Auckland from Nuku’alofa late yesterday, after spending two weeks in hospital in Tonga with pneumonia but died this morning.

The 78-year old has been very ill for the past year and had been receiving treatment for liver disease.

Pohiva is a former history teacher who led Tonga’s pro-democracy movement. Though the efforts of Pohiva and other democracy campaigners, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy. He was first elected to parliament in 1987 and in 2014 became Prime Minister, the first commoner to be elected to the position. His decades in politics were tumultuous; he was imprisoned for contempt of parliament,  twice charged with sedition and in 2017, he and his entire cabinet was dismissed by King Tupou VI, only to be re-elected.

Just last month Prime Minister Pohiva attended what was to be his last Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.

Tongan parliament has been indefinitely suspended reports Matangi Tonga.

Condolences from regional leaders have begun to pour in:

Vanuatu foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu: “My condolences for a good friend and principled leader. RIP Tongan PM ‘Akilisi Pohiva dies, aged 78.”

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: I mourn the passing of Tongan PM ?Akilisi P?hiva, who inspired the world with raw emotion at last month’s Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu (which, despite his health, he attended in recognition of the urgency of climate action). We must honour his legacy by continuing this fight.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne: “Saddened to hear of the passing of Prime Minister of Tonga Akilisi Pohiva. He was a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia. My deepest condolences to his family and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga.”

New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa: RIP & my sincerest condolences to Rt Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s family as well as to the Kingdom of Tonga. Such a tremendous loss for all of us Tongans. ‘Ofa moe lotu mei Uelingatoni, Falealea ‘o Nu’usila.