Royal Highness Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu of the Kingdom of Tonga has died aged 75.
The Palace office in Nuku’alofa announced Sunday night Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili died peacefully at 7.15am on Sunday surrounded by family at Auckland Hospital.
Princess Siu’ilikutapu was born in May 1948, the oldest daughter of Prince Fatafehi Tuʻipelehake and his wife Melenaite Tupoumoheofo Veikune.
The oldest child of Prince Fatafehi Tuipelehake and his wife Melenaite Tupoumoheofo Veikune, Princess Siu’ilikutapu was born in May 1948.
The Princess was the eldest granddaughter of Her Majesty, the late Queen Salote. She was first cousin to King Tupou VI.
She attended the University of Auckland, where in October 1969 she married Josh Liava’a, a policeman.
As a result, King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV had her returned to Tonga and annulled the marriage. The following year she married Kalanivalu-Fotofili, a noble.
Princess Siu’ilikutapu pioneered the way for women in politics in Tonga by becoming the first elected female parliamentarian.
In 1975 she contested the elections to the Legislative Assembly, and was elected as a people’s representative in Tongatapu, becoming the country’s first female parliamentarian 15 years after women’s suffrage. She remained a member until 1978.
She previously served as President of the Langafonua Gallery & Handicrafts Centre, a national organisation established by the late Queen Salote to empower Tongan women with traditional skills and talents.
She served as the Tonga Health Society Langimalie Clinic’s patron since 2018. Additionally, she served as the patron of Tonga’s first village council, the Lapaha Council.
She later became Deputy President of the National Women’s Organisation.
She had lived her later life in Auckland, New Zealand.
In 2021 Princess Siu’ilikutapu accepted the apology from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the 1970s dawn raids saying it had haunted her community for decades.
She said a formal government apology was necessary “to right the extreme, inhumane, racist and unjust treatment, specifically against my community, in the Dawn Raids era.”
NZ Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his condolences and said New Zealand sends its “heartfelt condolences to the people of Tonga, and to His Majesty King Tupou VI at this time of profound grief and loss”.
Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu was a formidable leader and a proud advocate for women. She played an instrumental role in the Government’s apology for the 1970s Dawn Raids, and courageously fought for causes that were important to both her people, and the wider Pacific, like the preservation of the Tongan language,” Hipkins said.
“Tonga is an incredibly close friend and partner of New Zealand, we have a large Tongan community here who I know will also be feeling her passing deeply.”
The Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga in NZ posted news of her death on social media, and said their “thoughts are with HM King Tupou VI, Queen Nanasipauʻū Tukuʻaho, and the Royal Family during this tough time”.