Land lease leaves King Tupou 1’s mother’s tomb dilapidated; King orders its restoration

Body of Late Princess Mata 'O Tāone buried at Hangaitokelau royal cemetery. Picture: Kaniva Tonga

NUKU’ALOFA, 26 JULY 2018 (KANIVA TONGA NEWS) – The lease of a piece of land where Late King Tupou I mother’s grave was located has left the royal cemetery, Huelo Ko Hangaitokelau, in ruin for many years, according to Lord Ma’afu’s herald ‘Atamai-‘I He-Me’alahi.

The land in Tokomololo is one of Lord Ma’afu’s estates and was leased to his relative, Tutomu Nakao, a Tongan business man, for 72 years. When Nakao’s lease expired it was then subleased to a relative of Nakao. The sublease expired in April this year.

‘Atamai claimed the cemetery and its historical gardens and properties were being damaged and destroyed.

Graves believed to have housed Hoamofaleono’s escorts had been destroyed by cultivation, he claimed.

He said Hoamofaleono’s grave was saved because it was placed at the top langi (royal cemetery at the hilltop).

It was unknown when did Hoamofaleono die.

King George Tupou I was revered by many Tongans for his leading role in freeing commoners from the rules of the nobility.

He was known as the founder of modern Tonga after he conquered all of Tonga and announced that the king and nobility must rule according to Tonga’s first constitution in 1875.

In an interview with Kaniva News ‘Atamai said King Tupou VI became aware of the expiry of the sublease and ordered his herald Tākapu and the Ha’a Tufunga to clean up and restore the royal cemetery in May.

The restoration process included a search which founds remains and bones they claimed were belonged to Hoamofaleono and her escorts.

‘Atamai said he was asked to lead the searchers who found Hoamofaleono’s grave.

They found 14 bodies altogether which they believed belonged to Hoamofaleono’s escorts who were buried on the eastern and western sides of the grave.

‘Atamai said they also found remains belonged to another dead person inside Hoamofaleono’s grave.

Hoamofaleono’s remains were found five metres (15 feet) under the ground, while the other remains were two feet (less than a metre) deep from the surface.

‘Atamai said they found the skulls of the escorts’ remains with their mouths open, which led him to believe they were buried alive.

‘Atamai claimed young children were buried together with Hoamofaleono.

He said he came to this conclusion after they assessed Tongan mats and Tongan decoration found with these remains.

They exhumed Hoamofaleono’s body and found three significant Tongan ngatu Tā’uli and other goods with her remains.

They anointed the remains with Tongan oil and put them back into her grave.

The restoration to the royal cemetery was made about a month before Lord Ma’afu’s wife Princess Mata ‘o Tāone Tukui’aulahi died last month.

The Princess was buried at Hangaitokelau beside Hoamofaleono’s grave, ‘Atamai said.

He said during the restoration of the cemetery they exhumed the remains of those escorts at the east side of Hoamofaleono’s grave and buried them together with those escorts who were buried in the western side.

The top langi was levelled, leaving only the Princess and Hoamofaleono’s graves. Part of the eastern side of the cemetery was left vacant to be used for future royal or chiefly funerals.

Eight pathways had been cleared to the top langi and were lined with heilala, the historical plant with which Tokomololo is traditionally associated.

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