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Thousands gather to witness funeral for Tongan monarch

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 27, 2012) – Several thousand people gathered this afternoon at the royal burial ground, Malae Kula, in the Tonga capital, for the funeral of the late King George Tupou the Fifth.

150 former pupils of Tupou College had earlier carried the King’s casket in a procession from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa where the King had been lying in state overnight.

The Royal Chaplain the Reverend Dr. Ahio conducted a service of prayers and hymns which was followed by the playing of the Last Post.

Many foreign dignitaries attended the service including Fiji’s president, Samoa’s head of state, the Governors General of New Zealand and Australia, the leaders of Niue and Kiribati and a number of diplomats.

[PIR editor’s note: Former prime minister and royal Feleti Sevele said the late king’s funeral was a showing of a Tonga united under its leadership. Sevele added that Tupou V's decisions and actions were in the interests of all Tongans, and the new king will likely act in the same manner as his predecessors. Meanwhile, citizens of the island nation have been surprised by official announcements that the mourning period has been shortened to five days, a decision from the new king, Tupou VI.]

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