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The Royal Family and thousands of Tongans gathered at the Royal Burial Ground Mala’ekula to pay their last respects to their beloved Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho earlier today.
Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa came to a standstill as the late Queen Mother made her final journey from the Royal Palace to the Royal Burial Grounds at the Malaekula.
The Government had declared today as a special public holiday to honour the Queen Mother.
Businesses closed for the day out of respect and flags flew at half-mast.
People, mostly dressed in black, lined the streets, including students from the boys’ school in Toloa, Chinese, Fijians, Indians, members of other Asian communities, and visitors from Australia, New Zealand and Europe just after 8.00 am.
The Royal Family, led by King Tupou VI, including his sister Princess Sālote Pilolevu Tita and Queen Nanasipau’u, followed the cortege.
Soldiers from Tonga’s Armed Forces and two bands from the Royal Corps and the Police Band were also part of the entourage.
The nobility, government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and members of the public filled the Royal Tombs compound, as the cortege rested beside the burial ground.
Reverend Dr ‘Ahio paid tribute to a Queen who was a mother and a Christian leader.
“She understood her people and reached out to them with warm grace and compassion, never afraid to give her opinion, he said.
“Her Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho always keeps soul in a matter which demonstrated grace and compassion bringing people to her point of view by the strength of love.
“She had a long hand to reach out to the hearts of people in need. A learning of being patient and profound Christian commitment, Her Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho will be remembered for her work in the church, was stand in worship, thankful in prayer and loyal in preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.”
“We remember and give thanks to God for a great lady, whose faith was deeply rooted, whose service for her country was absolute, whose love for family, people and friends was greatly enriched.”
Foreign dignitaries, including Fiji’s former President Ratu Epeil and First Lady Adi Koila Nailatikau, Samoa’s Head of State Tufuga Efi and the Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Mata’afa and Maor King Kiingi Tuheitia paid their respects.
The funeral procession was broadcasted live on Tongan TV and 1News No in New Zealand.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules brought the Queen Mother home yesterday, as a guard of honour greeted her funeral cortege upon arrival, and schoolchildren lined the 20-kilometre road from the airport to the Royal Palace to watch the procession pass by.
The Queen Mother lay in state overnight in the Royal Palace as an all-night vigil was held, with the various churches granted an hour each to pay homage through prayer and song. School students took turns to keep the ceremonial fires burning outside, despite the wet weather, until dawn.
Ten days of mourning have been declared.
Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho passed away, aged 90, on Sunday, 19 February, in Auckland, New Zealand, at 10.15pm with her granddaughter, Angelika Lātūfuipeka Mata’aho by her side.
She was married to King Taufa’ahu Tupou IV and the mother of two kings, the late George Tupou V and Tupou VI.
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