Tonga’s prime minister Akilisi Pohiva, has died at the age of 78.
Mr Pohiva was medically evacuated from the capital, Nuku’alofa, yesterday afternoon to a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.
He died at 10:00am (Tongan time) at the Auckland City Hospital, an adviser to the Prime Minister said in a statement.
Radio New Zealand reported Mr Pohiva had spent much of this year in Auckland being treated for liver problems, and that he was suffering from pneumonia when he was flown to hospital yesterday.
Mr Pohiva had served as Tonga’s prime minister since 2014, and was Tonga’s longest serving member of Parliament, coming into office in 1987.
Before becoming a member of parliament, Mr Pohiva taught history and sociology at the Tongan campus of the University of South Pacific.
Local media are reporting Tonga’s Parliament will be deferred indefinitely.
Once described as the Nelson Mandela of the Pacific, Mr Pohiva was jailed in 1996 for contempt of Parliament, and charged with sedition in the wake of the pro-democracy riots that left the capital Nuku’alofa badly damaged in 2006.
He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the island kingdom’s politics, and in 2014 became the first commoner to be elected prime minister by Tonga’s Parliament.
More to come.