Tonga's Princess Siu'ilikutapu laid to rest
Nuku'alofa, TONGA — One of Tonga's most celebrated royals, the late Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu, has been laid to rest in Nuku'alofa.
The coffin of the late Princess was lowered in the royal tombs of Mala'ekula near the Royal Palace of Tonga on Saturday morning, June 3rd.
Her flag-draped coffin was carried towards Mala'ekula by high ranking officers of the Tongan military (His Majesty's Armed Forces).
King Tupou VI, his family and chiefs made up a procession that accompanied the coffin.
Matapules (King's/ Chief's spokesmen) and Students from Queen Salote College, which Princess Siu'ilikutapu attended, sat in formation outside the tombs.
The Mala'ekula cemetery is reserved for the members of Tonga's royal family and has served as a burial ground since Tonga's first Christian king Tupou I was buried there in 1893.
Princess Siu'ilikutapu passed away on Sunday May 28 aged 75 in Auckland where she lived in retirement.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins issued a public statement expressing his condolences and a tributary speech was delivered by Minister of Pacific Peoples Barbara Edmonds in Parliament.
"Note that she was a formidable leader and a proud advocate for women, and she played an instrumental role in the dawn raids apology. She courageously fought for causes that were important to her people and the wider Pacific and the preservation of the Tongan language," said Edmonds.
A visitation service was held in West Auckland for the late princess, attended by the Maori king Tuheitia.
THE LEGACY OF PRINCESS SIU'ILIKUTAPU
Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu was the eldest daughter of Tu'i Pelehake, the brother of King Tupou IV.
By Tongan royal custom, cousins are considered to have the same social status as brothers/sisters although in not direct line to the throne.
In 1975, she became the first woman to serve in Tonga's Parliament, elected as a people's representative, and is widely credited as an inspiration to women in Tonga wanting to pursue politics.
She actively advocated the empowerment of women in Tonga through various projects. She was president of the Langafonua Gallery and Handicrafts Centre, and deputy president of National Women's Organisation.
The Late Princess would continue her advocacy in New Zealand where she later retired.
She backed calls to grant better rights for overstayers.
But perhaps the most memorable moment in her legacy was her speech at the Dawn Raids Apology ceremony in 2021 where she formally accepted a public apology from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"I was in parliament in Tonga... when the dawn raids occurred," said Princess Siu'ilikutapu.
"We were very concerned... the Government's (New Zealand) policy in the Dawns Raid era was racist and unjust because it was targeted against my people and other brown people at the time.
"The trauma of the dawn raids is intergenerational... and will be for years to come if we don't do the right thing,
"Aotearoa is extremely beautiful and vibrant country to live in compared to many countries worldwide... let us make Aotearoa our home."