Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva. Photo/Kalino Lātū

‘Akilisi Pohiva spent his life moving from house to house either owned by his sisters, brothers or his own children all through his life.

When he died he had never owned a house or a land.

Pohiva died at Auckland City hospital in New Zealand on Thursday after a long struggle with various health problems.

He was often ridiculed by his critics for campaigning to run the country when he could not manage to buy a land and build a house for his family.

In the Tongan context such ridicule is offensive.

The long-time veteran democratic campaigner once joked that what was most important was for him to own a “tofi’a” (land) in heaven, his eldest son Siaosi Pohiva told Kaniva news.

He was also been ridiculed and labelled as “fie tu’i” (somebody who wanted to become king), an accusation he vehemently denied.

Before he died he maintained that his mission was to bring democracy to Tonga and in that way he was protecting the king and the royals from being abused by those who he named as opportunists.

His daughter Lautala Tapueluelu made a heartfelt tribute to ‘Akilisi on Facebook last week, saying her father put people first before his own children.

Lautala lamented her father’s death and said ‘Akilisi regarded his political mission for the people as a Godly Covenant (“Kovinanite Faka-‘Otua.”)

She said ‘Akilisi kept to his “covenant until his last breath.”

Lautala said she marvelled at how people showed their great love for him after his death.

When ‘Akilisi became the first democratically-elected Prime Minister in the kingdom’s second democratically-elected parliament the government gave him a state house.

He told Kaniva news in an interview in Auckland the house was not fit for a Prime Minister to live in.

“I am personally okay with it,” ‘Akilisi said.

“But I felt something was not right when overseas dignitaries came and visited me and they saw the standard of the house the Prime Minister of Tonga lives in.”

The government later ran an advertisement on Kaniva news website for a construction company to build a government house for the prime minister.

His son Po’oi Pohiva once told Kaniva news he believed his father was born to help bring democracy to Tonga.

Po’oi referred to how ‘Akilisi’s struggled after he was born when he was adopted by an uncle at the island of Pukotala in Ha’apai.

While he was young it was his duty every morning to go fishing with his uncle in a canoe. ‘Akilisi was taught of how to stop the canoe with a toko (long stick) while his uncle was diving.

Po’oi described ‘Akilisi’s duty as a very risky and dangerous job for a young child to do in the deep water.

Po’oi said while ‘Akilisi was at high school at Tupou College boarding school no one else paid for his school fees.

He studied and at the end of the terms he had to walk down to the nearby village of Malapo to collect talingelinga and sell them to a local business to pay for his school fees.

He hardly had any casual clothing at school and he took clothing that had been not been reclaimed from the school’s clothing lines for a long time for his own.

Po’oi said these were only parts of the poverty and struggle his father had endured. Her believed this had toughened his heart and made him a very determined and strong-willed person in his political career.

As we reportedly previously Siaosi said he was used to the challenges the family faced, such as the time when ‘Akilisi was politically persecuted especially when he was convicted in court because of his involvement in politics.

“There were punishments the public was not aware of,” he said.

He said the whole family was punished because of his father’s political involvement.

He said his father put people before his family.

“When he got some money he saved it for his political interest,” he said.

For more information
Thursday will be national day of mourning in Tonga to mark state funeral service for Pōhiva

Thursday will be national day of mourning in Tonga to mark state funeral service for Pōhiva

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