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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 26) - Tonga’s King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV will return to Tonga on Saturday, July 1, in time for the celebration of his 88th birthday on July 4.

The official program of the celebration will be released before the end of this week, but according to Suka 'Otukolo, the Senior Assistant Secretary at the Palace Office, the celebration this year will be similar to that of last year.

Preparation for the return of the king is well underway, and the renovation of the verandah of his white-framed Victorian palace is expected to be completed before Saturday.

Suka said that the renovation work is carried out by the Ministry of Works, "it is not the first time that the palace has been renovated, but this time it is solely to replace the verandah’s old timber floor."

With regards to a multi-million pa'anga project for a new Royal Chapel that was approved in the budget for the current financial year, Suka said that the project had been postponed because of the salary rise of the civil servants.

[PIR editor’s note: The King of Tonga has spent much of this year in Auckland, New Zealand under medical care. During a previous visit to Tonga late March this year, he was reported to have suffered a relapse and returned to Auckland.]

June 27, 2006

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