Tonga’s Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu passes away at 75

Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu, of Tonga, has died in Auckland Hospital. She is pictured here giving a keynote speech as part of the New Zealand Dawn Raids Apology. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu of the Kingdom of Tonga has died aged 75.

Princess Siu’ilikutapu was a cousin of King Tupou VI, and the eldest daughter of the late Prince Fatafehi Tu’ipelehake and Princess Melen’aite.

She passed away at Auckland Hospital on 28 May, surrounded by her family and loved ones.

A statement released by the Palace Office in Nuku’ alofa said the Princess will be repatriated to Tonga, where she will be buried at the Royal Tombs, Mala’ekula, in Nuku’alofa, Kolofo’ou.

Princess Siu’ilikutapu was a significant figure for Tongans being the first-ever female to be elected as a Member of Parliament in Tonga.

“She was the first woman to be elected to the Legislative Assembly in Tonga and was a People’s Representative from 1975 until 1978,” Matangi Tonga Online reported.

Funeral details are yet to be released.

HRH Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili presenting the certificates at NZMA Manukau graduation 2020.

In 2020, HRH Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu presented the certificates at the NZMA Manukau graduation. Photo: Jogai Bhatt

Princess Siu’ilikutapu was one of the keynote speakers at the New Zealand Dawn Raid Apology in 2021, representing the voice of Tongans and Pacific people.

“The government’s immigration policies in the dawn raids era were in fact racist and unjust because it was targeted towards my people and other brown-coloured people at the time,” she said.

“The trauma and impact of the dawn raids has been intergenerational.”

Addressing then-prime minister Jacinda Arden, she said: “I’m very grateful for your government for making the right decision to apologise.”

She went on to acknowledge that her people had been on the wrong side of the law, but that did not justify the raids.

“The apology is a move in the right direction. In the right direction of the healing process.

“I acknowledge with deep gratitude, the gifts that you are presenting to us.

“I am sure my community is also grateful for the gifts as an exchange of good gestures as the beginning of a caring, closer and better relationships between your government and future leaders and our Pacific peoples at large.”

‘Endeared to the people’

RNZ Pacific correspondent in Tonga Kalafi Moala said Princess Siu’ilikutapu is remembered with a lot of fondness.

“The Princess, probably of any of the Royals, she was most endeared to the people,” he said.

“She was very accessible to them; she mixed among the common people. And so there’s a sense of loss.”

Moala said the Princess had continued advocating for women since being elected to parliament in the 1970s.

“She continued to champion the role of women, whether it’s at the home, within government service, or in politics. She was very, very devoted to the cause,” he said.

“Especially in the last two to three decades, she became a very devoted Christian and got involved in founding the Women’s Christian Fellowship not only in New Zealand, but in Tonga.”