Composer of song banned because it likens buying Princess Ashika to purchasing a ‘coffin’ reminisces about the tragedy

A composer who wrote one of the few acclaimed Tongan songs about the fatal sinking of the ill-fated Princess Ashika said he still stood by the lyrics of his song.

Tali Kinikini. Photo/Supplied

Tali Kinikini criticised the then government in his song for purchasing the doomed ferry which sank to the bottom of the ocean in August 5, 2009, killing 74 people. Only two bodies were recovered, with 72 missing including 68 passengers, four crew and five foreign nationals. Of the missing passengers, two remain unidentified.

The report of the Royal Commission into the disaster said the “evidence as to the unseaworthiness and appalling state of the vessel is overwhelming and compelling.”

The then government of Prime Minister Feleti Sevele was accused of showing a lack of any official due diligence in purchasing the ferry.

Kinikini said after the release of the song the Tonga Broadcasting Commission pulled it off air.

The broadcaster later asked him on the first anniversary of the tragedy to remove a line which said, in Tongan, the government was purchasing a coffin. Kinikini refused the request.

The TBC could not be reached for comment.

Some other strong words in the song included telling the government the victims and their families could not do anything after its bad decision to buy the 37-year-old, unseaworthy ferry. 

The song poetically said these people decided to leave it to God to judge them, an usual Tongan curse  which is the same as telling the accused they have yet to be judged here in the world, but will face a severe punishment from God.

It was a reference to some of the government leaders especially Prime Minister Sevele who was not taken to court over the disaster.

Below are some verses of the song:

‘Ikai mea’i he pule’anga ni        The government never knew  

Ko e kofini e fu’u vaka ni           It had purchased a coffin

To tau ai si’ono kakai                It killed the government’s people

O fonualoto he kilisitahi             And the ocean became their grave

Si’ete hanu ni tuku kia hai          Oh who could hear  my complaint

Kae taumaia ‘e toe mafai            I have no control over it

 A e ipu vai kuo mahua ni            The cup has been spilled out

 E toe lava hano tānaki               It could not be collected

Tuku ai ā kia Satai                      Just leave it to Jehovah

E totongi ‘o ‘etau angafai             To judge the decision we made

Kau tengihia pe mo te tangi         While I lament and weep

I he hulufau hoku te’ia ni             My smitten with the tragedy is overwhelming

‘Osi ‘eku tumu ho ta’e’ofa            I am mystified by your unloving

E Pilinisesi ‘Asika                         Dear Princess Ashika

Ho’o puke tu’u ‘e te koloa’           You have held down my possession

He teau mita ‘o e moana            Hundred metres under the ocean

E te mataika ‘ki he pupua’          I am seeing what I cannot possibly obtain

He manako maka ki Tofua      Desiring to get what I cannot get from Tofua

Ikai ha ‘uta ‘ e hakea                 There is no escapable cliff

Te u vale au ia he ‘ofa                 I am overwhelmed with emotional love

Kinikini said he told the staff at the broadcaster the song was on YouTube and it was widely shared so he did not see why there was need to change his lyrics to suit their needs.

Kinikini said the song was later broadcast by the TBC.

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