Nuku’alofa, Tonga, 7 December 2020
By Kalafi Moala
Commemorating the birth of King George Taufa’ahau Tupou I
Tonga is on holiday today (Monday 7 December) to commemorate the birthday of King George Taufa’ahau Tupou I. The actual birthdate was on December 4, but when a holiday falls on a Friday in Tonga, the commemoration is on Monday the following week.
The year 1797 was significant in Tonga’s history as that was the year of the arrival of the first Christian missionaries from England, at ‘Eua Island, on 12 April 1797.
But it was also a landmark year for another occasion of historical significance to the nation of Tonga. A royal child was born who was named Ngininginiofolanga, later to be called Taufa’ahau, the warrior chief who became Tonga’s greatest king, whose Christian conversion, not only made a difference to his life but also to the island nation he ruled.
There are several versions as to the birthplace of Taufa’ahau, but the generally accepted version was that he was born at a place on the island of Lifuka in Ha’apai called Niu’ui.
He was the son of Tupouto’a, who became Tu’i Kanokupolu, after the assassination of his father, Tuku’aho in 1799.
Taufa’ahau’s mother was Houmofaleono, a daughter of Ma’afu, Chief of Vaini, and head of the Ha’a Havea chiefs.
First planned shipment after the ban did not happen – who is at fault?
After 2 months of a ban on watermelon shipments from Tonga to New Zealand, the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in co-ordination with the Biosecurity Services have agreed to lift the ban temporarily on certain conditions.
Watermelon trial shipments from Tonga was to resume, Friday 4 December was the date set for the first ship to leave for New Zealand.
But the hopes of growers and exporters were soon dashed as there was a failure for the organizing of trucks to transport the watermelon consignments to the wharf.
Paula Mosa’ati, National Co-ordinator of the PHAMA Plus Program, messaged that the Government can be blamed for this failure, as it was their responsibility to organize and provide transportation for the watermelon consignments.
Attempts by exporters to contact the Minister of Agriculture as well as the Prime Minister for immediate intervention failed as they were engaged in Vava’u with the Fasting Tour.
This meant the first shipment missed the ship, and the watermelons would need to be sold cheaply locally. They could not be retained for the next ship as every shipment requires fresh fruit.
The 2-month ban took place due to fruit fly larvae found in a watermelon shipment from Tonga.
Government services were blamed for this mishap as fumigation being the last line of defense was apparently inadequate.
There has not been any response from the Government for the plea by growers and exporters for financial help because of the loss of over $200,000 in revenue due to the initial ban.
But the total loss during the ban was estimated to be $2 million by December.
Two crew members tested positive on ship that arrived from Tonga
The cargo ship MV Island Chief arrived in Fiji on Wednesday 2 December with two crew members tested positive for COVID-19 19. The last port of call for the vessel was Nuku’alofa, on November 30.
Fiji’s Permanent Secretary of Health Dr. James Fong told a press conference that the two who tested positive were in hospital, but the remaining crew will stay on the vessel and be in quarantine.
Tonga’s Ministry of Health CEO, Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola told Matangi Tonga news that “crews on any ship coming into Tonga after an overseas voyage, are not allowed to disembark while the ship is at the wharf.”
But he confirmed that the MV Island Chief arrived in Tonga on 30 November and left the same day. The vessel arrived in Tonga from New Zealand, and all crew were tested negative in New Zealand before they set sail for Tonga.
Dr. ‘Akau’ola said that infection protection protocols are strictly observed in Tonga’s ports.
He is also confident that the proper procedures were carried out at Queen Salote Wharf, and “There is never any close contact between a ship’s crew and our local staff.”
The Fiji Ministry of Health has not officially contacted Tonga’s MOH to raise any concerns of possible risk to Tonga.
“I don’t think there is any risk to Tonga from this event,” Dr. ‘Akau’ola said.