TONGA’S PRINCESS PILOLEVU SPEAKS OF LOVE LETTERS AND BUSINESS

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TONGA’S PRINCESS PILOLEVU SPEAKS OF LOVE LETTERS AND BUSINESS

By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (November 19, 2001 -- Agence France-Presse)---A woman often dressed in black, regarded as the real power behind Tonga’s teetering throne, has broken her silence on a long ago lover affair with a commoner and the way her love letters to him became public property.

Princess Pilolevu Tuita told a new magazine, Tongan Woman, that she has "risen above" the love letters she wrote to an Auckland policeman and claims their distribution was an attempt by unnamed others to break up her marriage.

She warned that while she might have forgiven those who spread her love letters around, she has not forgotten.

Pilolevu, who turned 50 last week, is the only daughter of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. Although sixth in line to the throne, and thus unlikely to take it, she has recently revealed her considerable power. When it was learned that the king’s court jester had lost over 20 million U.S. dollars in a U.S. re-insurance scam, she, as regent, insisted on the resignation of two senior ministers. She promoted a controversial figure to a senior position in the Cabinet and even spiked a key judicial bill passed by the Legislative Assembly.

She is, however, most controversial for the way in which she has turned Tonga’s sovereign right to geostationary satellites over the Equator into a personal business called Tongasat. The U.S. business magazine Forbes three years ago said she was worth 20 million U.S. dollars and since then she has moved several of her daughters into key positions in the company, which is now based in Hong Kong and beyond the frail scrutiny allowed by Tongan law.

Her biggest challenge came two years ago when letters she had written in 1985 to Auckland detective, now Sydney nightclub owner, Josh Liava’a, were spread around Tonga. They had some history. In 1969, Liava’a met a 21-year-old university student in Auckland and, after a short romance, they married. She was Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu, eldest daughter of the king’s brother, 13th in line to the Tongan throne. When word got back to Nuku’alofa her uncle, the king, annulled the marriage.

Later Liava’a, who was said to have wanted to get even with the royal family, began a romance with Pilolevu, which lasted until 1996.

She was smitten by the man, writing a series of letters in her own hand, which were later widely distributed in Tonga, a very conservative Christian kingdom.

Beginning "My Darling Josh" one letter said: "Josh, I tried so hard to forget you; even going to the extent of flirting with 2 chaps in a wine bar, anything to get you out of my system, so to speak, but to no avail!"

At a couple of points she was fairly explicit in her letters.

She complained in another letter that she was not in love with her husband: "So the purpose of such a marriage as mine, is to beget a son to ensure the line of Tuita. I have as yet to fulfill this obligation. So, when you hear that I have become pregnant or given birth again, its not that I have forgotten you (for I never will), it’s just the normal performance of such duties that are expected of me."

In the magazine, the princess makes her first public comment, acknowledging the letters were hers, saying she had grown a thicker skin. "The more criticism I get, the more negative publicity I get, the less that I feel it."

She says she knows who distributed the letters but ignores it.

"I have risen above those letters. I have the strength of character, and the conviction of my Christian strength within me to actually overcome it," she told the magazine.

The letters had been aimed at breaking up her family.

"To present the royal family and government as promoting corruption, will damage our social fabric.

"Our critics in Tonga are aiming at civil unrest....

"(The letters) have hurt my family, it hurt me, but it’s over. It hasn’t been the sort of tidal wave that some people were hoping for.

"I suppose some people wanted to teach me a lesson, and I suppose with some people, being royal, being in business and being successful, just bugs them."

She said the distribution of the letters had been the result of bad feelings and jealousy.

Pilolevu said that was like holding a snake by the tail and it will turn around and bite those that did it.

"I have a tendency to believe in forgiveness and I have forgiven, but unfortunately I haven’t forgotten.

"I supposed that’s another step in my Christian ladder to achieve."

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz  Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: http://www.afp.com/english/  Website: http://www.michaelfield.org 

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