Tonga Time Zone UTC+13:00
Capital City Yaoundé
Currency Tongan paʻanga
National Day 4 November
THE CAREER OF TONGA’S new High Commissioner Her Excellency Hon. Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano appears to be continuing the family trajectory. After all, her father was Tonga’s High Commissioner in London in 1989. “Given the history of this great nation, I consider myself deeply privileged to have been received by Her Majesty when I presented my Credentials. Not only as Tonga High Commissioner, but also as the great granddaughter of HM Queen Salote Tupou III who, as part of Her Majesty’s Coronation procession in 1953, rode in an open carriage while it rained heavily. The ultimate sign of respect to the Queen of England.”
The High Commissioner arrived in London to assume her post at the end of May, travelling here with her husband, Major Siaosi Kiu Kaho, and their three young children. She returns after spending considerable chunks of her education in the UK, including a post-graduate certificate in Diplomatic Studies at Oxford University. As patron of the Tonga Golf Club and Tonga Women’s Rugby Association, the High Commissioner plays both sports passionately, and provides support to women players in each.
The High Commissioner admits her life has been influenced by three major factors: “family, education and Christianity, all of which have been crucial to the choices I have made.” Her grandfather was Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister in 1983, and her mother, Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita, a patron of education and tradition, was firm in educating the High Commissioner and her siblings. “We grew up to respect the decisions of our parents and our extended family, when it came to education and duty.”
Accordingly, after a brief stint as newscaster and television producer, her career as a civil servant began in 2001 when she was recruited as Assistant Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. Following the ascension of the late King George V to the throne in 2006, she was appointed Assistant Lord Chamberlain of the Palace Office. “His Majesty’s vision was to encourage greater economic relations between Tonga and the Pacific region, to provide a platform for interaction and engagement between Tonga and the Pacific, Asia, Europe and indeed, Great Britain.” Her services as Chief of Protocol at the MFA began five years later, a role that involved daily interaction with a wide range of personnel ranging from ministers and heads of government, to officials from Pacific region countries and the international community, along with the Commonwealth, UN and World Bank officials.
What are her priorities as High Commissioner in the UK? “Relations between Tonga and Britain have remained strong because Tonga became a British protectorate in 1900,” she explains. “This offered Britain control of foreign affairs, and protected Tonga from other predatory powers. Having never been colonised, this Treaty of Friendship between Tonga and Britain was frequently revised until 1970, when Tonga became fully independent.” She continues: “Tonga would like to further the diplomatic relations we currently have with Great Britain, while observing the potential departure of the UK from the EU. We also welcome the UK’s decision to re-establish a mission in Tonga’s capital.”
The High Commissioner recounts the King’s speech delivered at the opening of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga in May 2018, when he spoke of his hope that post-Brexit the two countries “continue to explore areas of mutual interest that may benefit both sides. He asserted the importance of protecting the environment, while recognising the need for the recovery and rebuilding of Tonga in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita on 12 February 2018.” She says that Tonga is grateful for the message of support from HM Queen Elizabeth II to HM King Tupou VI regarding the cyclone. “We also anticipate a closer working relationship with the UK, while we look forward to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s forthcoming visit in October.”
What does the High Commissioner think is Tonga’s greatest diplomatic challenge? “In 1845, King George Tupou I began the revolution of Tonga’s governance and society, culminating when a Constitutional Monarchy was established in 1875. King Tupou I’s granting of political power to the people peaked in 2010 when the late King George V surrendered the remaining executive powers of the monarch to the people. Tonga’s foreign policy now rests on the underlying principle of being friends to all and enemies of none.” She continues: “While we continue to promote our bilateral and multilateral relations, Tonga is exploring working with other like-minded states and forming new alliances, with a commitment to seeing this process through, which will also help us achieve our policy objectives.”