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FUNERAL FOR TONGA’S KING SET FOR MARCH 28 Tupou V to receive customary rites upon return from Hong Kong

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March) – The body of the late king HM George Tupou V will arrive in Tonga on Monday, March 26 and his state funeral and burial will be held at the Royal Tombs, Mala'e Kula, Nuku'alofa on Wednesday March 28.

Paula Ma'u, the Secretary for Information and Communications told Matangi Tonga Online this afternoon, March 20 that the late king will lie in state at the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa for two days, before his burial on Wednesday.

He said that the body of King George Tupou V will be brought to Tonga on board a special commercial aircraft chartered by the Chinese Government, which will fly direct flight from Hong Kong to Fua'amotu International Airport on March 26. The exact time of arrival will be confirmed later.

[PIR editor’s note: Approximately 150 men will be part of a delegation that will deliver the king to his final resting place at the royal burial grounds in Male'eklua, where ten thousand or more people are expected to attend the ceremonies.]

Paula said that the late king will lie in state at the Royal Palace for two days, where the public through their various church denominations would be able to visit and pay their final respects to King George Tupou V before he will be put to his final resting place the Royal Tombs on Wednesday, March 28.

Meanwhile, a mourning period of three months have been declared in Tonga, starting from March 19 to June 19, 2012.

[PIR editor’s note: 100 days of official mourning are scheduled to commence in Tonga, which requires certain protocol from citizens in the island nation. Tonga's Chamber of Commerce President Aloma Johansson maintains that the mourning period will not affect businesses, although certain activities will be discouraged. "Aggressive entertaining," "loud music," and dancing will likely be among those activities, although an official announcement of prohibitions has yet to be made by the government in Tonga.]

Paula said that overseas dignitaries including members of Royal Families and many of the late king's friends are expected to attend his state funeral, a list of foreign dignitaries will be confirm later.

A Cabinet Committee chaired by Lord Vaea has been set up to oversee the program for the state funeral.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, the new king of Tonga, Tupoutoa Lavaka will be feted and installed as the ruler. While noted for being conservative, political analysts maintain the new king will not change democratic reforms instituted by the late King Tupou V.]

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