Father of Tongan Democracy is Laid to Rest

Posted March 27th, 2012 at 3:30 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Daily life came to a halt Tuesday on the island nation of Tonga during funeral services for the late King George Tupou , who will be remembered less for his eccentricities than for the introduction of democratic rule.

The king's body was carried to the service atop a massive steel-reinforced bier, which was carried by 1,000 pallbearers working in shifts of 150.

The two-hour funeral service was carried out in the Christian tradition and featured hymns and martial music. Afterwards pall bearers in traditional grass skirts carried the body to the royal tombs.

King Tupou took office in September 2006 following the death of his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou and died last week at a hospital in Hong Kong.

He was known to the outside world for eccentricities such as being driven around in a London taxi, but mourners said his most important legacy was the introduction of democracy to his nation of 100,000 people.

“He give us a free life. It's hard for me to hold back my tears because I never forget him in my life.''

In November 2010, the Polynesian nation held its first direct elections, which marked the end of centuries of monarchic rule. In December, the newly elected parliament confirmed Lord Tu'ivakano as the country's first elected prime minister.

Previous prime ministers were appointed by the king.