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Information in this article, originally published July 8, was corrected July 11. A previous version of this story misstated the title of a Tongan community radio program directed by Fatima Aho. The program is called Voice of the South Pacific, not Voice of America.
Tongan royalty mourned in Seattle
Seattle Times staff reporter
Instead of welcoming Tonga's royal family to Seattle, the South Pacific Islander community will mourn their deaths tonight with a service at St. Edward's Parish Hall in South Seattle.
Prince Tu'ipelehake, 55, and Princess Kaimana, 46, were killed Wednesday in the Bay Area's Menlo Park when a teenager racing her car crashed into the Ford Explorer in which they were riding, according to news reports.
Form of government: The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy, the only one in the Pacific.
Geography: Consists of 171 islands, 45 of which are inhabited.
Languages: Tongan, English.
Economy: Crops account for two-thirds of total exports, including squash, coconuts, bananas and vanilla beans.
Sources: The World Factbook, U.S. State Department
In visiting Tongan communities in the Bay Area and Seattle, the couple were leading a historic effort to develop a blueprint for a more democratic Tongan government. The Kingdom of Tonga, just east of the Fiji Islands, is a centuries-old monarchy, the only one left in the Pacific.
"He was a very down-to-earth prince," said Fatima Aho, director of Voice of the South Pacific, a Tongan community radio program broadcast from Bellevue.
When Tongan civil servants went on strike last year, the prince sat with protesters opposing his uncle, King Taufa'ahau, Aho said. "It's not common to see a prince come out and do that. He was with the people, and he was leading the march."
Asipeli Tuifua, who left Tonga in 1983 and moved to Seattle shortly thereafter, said the royal couple's deaths had the kind of emotional impact on Pacific Islanders that Princess Diana's death in a 1997 car crash had on people worldwide.
"They are the dearest to all the Tongans," Tuifua said.
In the 2000 census, about 730 people in Washington identified themselves as Tongan. In the United States, more than 17,000 people were born in Tonga. Aho said there are about 2,000 people in the Tongan community in the Puget Sound area.
Seattle memorial for Tonga's prince and princess
Local community leaders said the service will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Parish Hall of St. Edward's Church, 4212 S. Mead St.
Tu'ipelehake was chair of the National Committee for Political Reform, a group that was proposing changes to the Tongan government. Tonga has no elections for its head of state; the prime minister is appointed by the king, as are most cabinet members.
The committee's secretary, Fatai Pale, and Tonga's former attorney general, Aisea Taumoepeau, were expected to arrive at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this morning and discuss political reforms with the Tongan community after the memorial service tonight, Aho said.
Aho plans to play an interview with the prince she recorded the day before he died. "This is his last message on Earth."
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or email@example.com.
Staff researcher David Turim contributed to this report.IF YOU GO
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