Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins has expressed his condolences on behalf of New Zealand to the Kingdom of Tonga following the death of Her Royal Highness, Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili, who passed away at Auckland Hospital yesterday at the age of 75.
Princess Siu’ilikutapu was the eldest daughter of the late Prince Fatafehi Tu’ipelehake and Princess Melen’aite.
A statement released by the Palace Office in Nuku’ alofa said the Princess will be repatriated to Tonga, where she will be buried at the Royal Tombs.
“New Zealand sends it’s heartfelt condolences to the people of Tonga, and to His Majesty King Tupou VI at this time of profound grief and loss,” Mr Hipkins said in a statement today.
“Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu was a formidable leader and a proud advocate for women. She played an instrumental role in the Government’s apology for the 1970s Dawn Raids, and courageously fought for causes that were important to both her people, and the wider Pacific, like the preservation of the Tongan language.
“Tonga is an incredibly close friend and partner of New Zealand, we have a large Tongan community here who I know will also be feeling her passing deeply,” the Prime Minister said.
Deputy Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni said Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu’s legacy as the first woman to be elected to Tonga’s Parliament and later as Deputy President of the National Women’s Organisation lives on in many Tongan women today, as does the artistry and traditional skills of Tongan culture through her work as President of the Langafonua Gallery and Handicrafts Centre.
“I recall Princess Mele’s emotional and powerful speech during the Dawn Raids Apology in 2021. Her gracious and heartfelt words left all of us feeling the full weight of the trauma of the past and, simultaneously, the joy of forgiveness and enduring friendship. Her loss will be felt deeply by many in Tonga, Aotearoa and across the world,” she said.
“Tonga is a very close friend of ours, and my recent visit to Tonga emphasised to me the strength of our relationship, the connections between our people, and the values that we share. We stand together with our Tongan kāinga and communities both abroad and here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“My thoughts are with Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu’s family, and with the Government and people of Tonga. Our aroha, our love, is with you all,” Ms Sepuloni said.