Matangi Tonga

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Sept. 14) – When Taufa'ahau Tupou IV came to the Tongan throne on July 4, 1967, for most Tongans it was the dawn of a new era. The new king, at 49, epitomised what Tongans of the 1960s perceived to be a perfect 20th century monarch.

As the eldest son of the late poet-queen, Queen Salote Tupou III, he was well steeped in his knowledge of Tongan history, tradition and culture. His academic achievement at the Sydney University with BA and LLB degrees, made him the first Tongan to have entered and completed a university education, and produced a leader who was well versed in both the Tongan traditions and the English and the Western cultures.

The new king, an ardent Christian and churchgoer, was also a family man and had already produced an heir to the Tongan throne, his eldest son, Tupouto'a, (who is now Tonga's new King Siaosi Tupou V).

In 1967 with Tupou IV on the throne, Tonga, was busting with confidence, ready to embrace the 20th century under his leadership.

The new king consolidated his status by ending the British Protective agreement in 1973, and Tonga was then in control of its destiny. It took over the running of its foreign affairs, and coined the saying that "Tonga is an enemy of none but a friend of all."

Tupou IV from the onset of his reign gave a few glimpses of his vision of the Tonga of the future. He talked about a modern state with a bustling economy, and to achieve this, emphasis was placed on two specific areas, Education and Economics. High Schools were built in all the main islands of the Kingdom, Vava'u High School, Ha'apai High School, Niuatoputapu High School and 'Eua High School. If we go by the number of scholars with PhDs that Tonga has produced in relation to the small size of the population, then we can say that education during the reign of Tupou IV was a success.

With regards to economic development, Tupou IV established boards and commissions to run government enterprises. Toward the end of the 1960s with the declining state of the copra and the banana industries, he established the Tonga Commodities Board, a body with a wide range of commercial activities, which included agricultural exports, import of construction materials, and there was even a construction division.

While it appeared that the thrust of Tonga's development was focused on education and the economy, some scholars and political analysts criticised the king, who instead of setting in motion a political program to share his power with the people, was busy centralising political power for himself. They pointed out how he used institutions such as the Parliament, Cabinet and the Privy Council to legalise some of his ventures, which later became controversial as people queried for whose benefit they were established - for the whole country or just for himself and the royal family. The selling of Tongan citizenship and passports is one example of such a project.

The process of getting revenues for the government became more complex over the years, particularly when most government enterprises failed, but at the same time it was reported that Tupou IV was against the unimaginative approach of raising the taxes in order to increase government revenues. "Stop imposing taxes on the people, instead you should go and find a source of revenue from somewhere else," the king was reported to have told his ministers a number of times.

With this line of thinking it is not hard to see how the king embarked on some of his well publicised projects, such as the Tonga Trust Fund, a crude oil refinery, oil exploration, the proposed leasing of land in Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Pago Pago, and in Apia. Tupou IV was a tireless planner, and even when he was hospital bound, the Lord Chamberlain, Hon. Fielakepa, reported that the king was very concerned about the increasing price of fuel and its impact on the life of the people.

When His Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV passed away on September 11, Tonga time, he left behind a kingdom in transition, politically, economically and socially. We have not yet achieved the Modern State with a Bustling Economy that was part of his dream for the future, but Tupou IV has laid a solid foundation, and educated his people so that today, with the leadership of his successor King Siaosi Tupou V, there is nothing to stop us from becoming a more prosperous and a modern community.

September 15, 2006

Matangi Tonga Magazine:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment