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Peters deeply saddened by death of Tongan royals

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

7 July 2006

Peters deeply saddened by death of Tongan royals

Foreign Minister Winston Peters today expressed his deep personal sadness over the death of Tonga's Prince Tu’ipelehake and his wife Princess Kaimana in a car accident in the United States.

Prince Tu’ipelehake was the Chair of Tonga’s National Committee for Political Reform, established last year as a vehicle for discussions on political reform. The Prince and his wife were in the United States to hold consultations with expatriate Tongans on the Committee’s work when the accident occurred.

“On behalf of the government and people of New Zealand, I extend to the Tongan Royal Family and the people of Tonga our deepest condolences. We share the grief of all Tongans at this sad time.

“Prince Tu’ipelehake was a remarkable individual. He was the King's nephew and a Nobles' representative in the Legislative Assembly, and he also recognised there was room for debate on reforming Tonga’s political system.

"He pursued this goal with sensitivity and perception, mixed with a strong determination to achieve progress. This earned wide respect in New Zealand as well as in Tonga, where he was often called the Prince of the People.

"Princess Kaimana worked alongside her husband, traveling with him and consulting with women and young people to add to the breadth of the Committee's understanding of community views. She also actively supported initiatives to improve the wellbeing of the Tongan people.

“Just last month Prince Tu’ipelehake visited New Zealand to hold consultations with our large Tongan community as part of his work. The importance he placed on gathering the views of all Tongan people on the national political system was clear to see. It is a tragedy that his travel to the United States in pursuit of this goal led to his death.

“The vision and achievements of His Royal Highness will not be forgotten. The strong foundation for discussion and dialogue that has been established will be a lasting legacy bequeathed to all Tongans."

Mr Peters, who met Prince Tu'ipelehake twice since becoming Foreign Minister, said New Zealand shared the Prince’s high hopes for his work, and had contributed $250,000 to the Committee earlier this year.

NCPR Background

The National Committee of the Kingdom of Tonga on Political Reform (NCPR) was established by the Legislative Assembly of Tonga to consider submissions, hold consultations, and facilitate talanoa relating to political and constitutional reforms.

It has been asked to recommend legislative or other changes that will build national unity and promote the social and economic advancement of the people of Tonga.

The Committee was formally endorsed by King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and Crown Prince Tupouto’a in August 2005.

Since then it has gradually consolidated wider support in Tonga, including from the government, which has recognised the importance of independently gathering and analysing public views on the political system for consideration by all parties.

Over 40,000 Tongans live and work in New Zealand.

ENDS


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