Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has died.
Melino Maka from the Tongan Advisory Council has confirmed to Newshub the 78-year-old’s death.
He had been medevaced to Auckland Hospital on Wednesday afternoon with pneumonia.
Tongan Parliament has been deferred indefinitely as a result of Pōhiva’s death.
The pro-democracy campaigner was the Tongan Parliament’s longest-serving people’s representative, having served since 1987.
He has constantly challenged the Tongan monarchy and called for democracy to be installed in the island nation. He was charged with sedition in 2002 over an article published alleging the King had a secret fortune, but was acquitted by a jury.
In 2008, King George Tupou V moved to abandon many of the monarch’s powers, including his ability to choose the Prime Minister.
Pōhiva was elected Prime Minister in 2014. He was the first commoner to be elected by Parliament.
He was reelected in 2017 as Prime Minister. It came after Tongan King George Tupou VI took the unprecedented step to intervene and dissolve Parliament.
The King made the move after receiving a series of complaints from Parliament’s speaker, one of which claimed that Pōhiva was trying to strip away power from the Monarchy.
At the time, Massey University’s Pasifika director, associate professor Malakai Koloamatangi, told Newshub Pōhiva’s win suggested a shift in Tonga that was seeing the power being given to the people.
“I think what Pōhiva has tried to do over the years is give more power to the people. I don’t think there’s anything sinister in that. I see it as a continued evolution of power. It’s part of the King becoming more ceremonial.”
Before moving into politics, Pōhiva worked as a history and sociology teacher at the University of South Pacific.
He was awarded the Defender of Democracy award in 2013 by the Parliamentarians for Global Action group. He was honored for his work in establishing the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands.
His wife, Neomai, died in 2018.
Source: Newshub Featured Image-Tonga prime minister 'Akilisi Pōhiva / agbrief.com /via google