Languages
Page last updated at 07:57 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 08:57 UK

Tonga defends lavish coronation

The ceremonial clothing does not always suit the muggy weather

Tonga's Prime Minister Fred Sevele has defended the lavish festivities marking the royal coronation this week.

"I, on behalf of the government, on behalf of the great majority of Tongans, make no apologies," Mr Sevele said, according to AP news agency.

Officials say some 5.7m Tongan dollars (US$2.5m) are being spent, in a country where poverty is widespread.

Hundreds of dignitaries are arriving to see King George Tupou V enthroned in a Christian ceremony on Friday.

The king, 60, was given roasted pig and kava, a mild narcotic drink, to mark his coronation in a traditional ceremony on Wednesday.

On Tonga's main island, Tongatapu, buildings and fences are decorated in bunting in the national colours, red and white. Hundreds of banners congratulating the king have been hung across roads.

Royals arrive

Thousands of visitors arrived in Tonga on Thursday ahead of the main event on Friday.

Roast pigs are laid out for a feast as part of traditional celebrations marking the coronation of King George Tupou V on Wednesday
Villagers presented the king with dozens of roast pigs

These visitors included overseas Tongans and hundreds of dignitaries, including other royals such as Britain's Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Crown Prince of Japan and Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand.

There will also be many South Pacific royals.

Prime Minister Sevele defended the lavish nature of the celebrations, saying they were part of Tongan custom in Polynesia's last remaining monarchy.

Officials also pointed out that guests were likely to spend large amounts of money during their stay.

Reforms promised

The king switched his woven mat skirt worn in Wednesday's traditional ceremony for a black tunic and military medals at a dinner for dignitaries on Thursday evening.

Japanese Princess Aiko (C) and Crown Princess Masako (R) see off Crown Prince Naruhito at the Togu Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday
Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito is among the attending dignitaries

He will defy the muggy weather on Friday to don a scarlet velvet robe with an ermine trim.

He still rules over a semi-feudal political system where he and nobles decide the make-up of the cabinet and parliament.

But he has said he supports reforms, scheduled for 2010, in which most seats in the country's parliament will become popularly elected.

The promised reforms will follow destructive riots in the capital, Nuku'alofa, in 2006.




SEE ALSO
Tongan coronation events begin
30 Jul 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tongans elect pro-democracy MPs
25 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific
People of Tonga go to the polls
24 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tongan royal mourning is broken
28 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Tonga gets first elected leader
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Tonga's king vows more democracy
23 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Tonga
30 Apr 08 |  Country profiles


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific