‘Atalanga told by Tongan government to update them on Lomu’s funeral; royals express sympathy

The Tongan consul in ‘Atalanga said the royals have been informed and he had a feeling maybe some of them would attend Lomu’s funeral. Photo/Kaniva Pacific News


The Tongan government has asked to be kept informed on details of Jonah Lomu’s funeral service.

Stafford ‘Aho , the Tongan consul at ‘Atalanga, the kingdom’s official residence in Auckland,  told Kaniva News today he had received a message from the government last night directing him to keep them updated on developments.

ʻAho said he understood His Majesty King Tupou VI and the royal family had been informed and had expressed their sympathy over the death of the man described as the rugby superstar of all times.

The consul said the Tongan government’s request was rare as there were no guidelines for consuls to follow when occasions like Lomu’s death happened.

“But you can see how significant Lomu was and his death was not just a minor thing to the government of Tonga. It’s really a big thing,” ‘Aho told Kaniva News.

He said he would contact the Prime Minister’s Office for further guidance.

“I just had a feeling the government would either tell me to organise and lead a Tongan national vigil service here in Auckland for Lomu or for me to expect and receive representatives from the government who would attend the funeral here,” ‘Aho said.

“I know the royals have been informed. I just had a feeling maybe some of them would also come.”

‘Aho said he was talking to Lomu’s family and Mormon church authorities,  but they were yet to finalise details of the funeral.

“I would like personally to pay my tribute to Lomu’s family especially at this time. My thoughts are with his family,” ‘Aho said.

Lomu’s cause of death is still undetermined but his doctor told Fairfax media it was probably related to his renal [kidney] disease.

It is understood his kidney ailment had been kept under control, but people who have renal problems are believed to have a higher incidence of heart and lung problems.

If the consul in ‘Atalanga is told to organise a vigil service on behalf of the Tongan government and the Tongan community in New Zealand, it will be the first time such a move has  been made here.

For many years the Tongan community in Auckland has wanted the consul to take a lead in organising big services and important community occasions such as Lomu’s funeral.

However, Kaniva News understands the post of consul is regarded as purely diplomatic and cannot be seen as an opportunity for a Tongan representative to interfere with domestic matters in New Zealand.

Media reports quoted Tonga’s Minister of Internal Affairs Fe’ao Vakata as saying he would propose to the House to consider formally marking Lomu’s death.

“Even people here in Tonga have named their children after Jonah Lomu and everybody has been saying they are related to Jonah Lomu,” Hon Vakatā told Radio New Zealand.

“That’s how much we are proud and appreciate what he had given Tonga and New Zealand and world rugby.”

Back in the islands Lomu’s death has brought his maternal island of Ha’apai together.

The governor of the Ha’apai island group said Lomu’s family was in mourning as word spread of his death.

“It’s a very touching moment because it’s a loss of a superstar, especially because Jonah has grown up here,” Mo’ale Finau was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying.

“This is sad, not only for Ha’apai but for all the people of Tonga as well,” Finau said.

“The whole village will be mourning. Some of the people are wearing black already.”

Lomu’s mother is from Holopeka in Ha’apai and he was brought up there before he moved to Auckland when he was five.

The villagers will perform a full cultural funeral service in mourning, which will last for 10 days.

Lomu is survived by his wife Nadene and their two young sons; Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5.

The main points

  • The Tongan government has asked to be kept informed on details of Jonah Lomu’s funeral service.
  • Stafford ‘Aho , the Tongan consul at ‘Atalanga, the kingdom’s official residence in Auckland, told Kaniva News today he had received a message from the government last night directing him to keep them updated on developments.
  • ʻAho said he understood His Majesty King Tupou and the royal family had been informed and had expressed their sympathy over the death of the man described as the rugby superstar of all times.
  • ‘Aho said he was talking to Lomu’s family and Mormon church authorities, but they were yet to finalise details of the funeral.

For more information

Rugby great Jonah Lomu dead at 40 (CNN  video)

Jonah Lomu: New Zealand rugby union great dies aged 40 (BBC video)

How world reacted to Lomu’s death (New Zealand Herald)

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