Tongans prepare for worst with ill king
WELLINGTON, New Zealand » Tonga's prime minister made a bedside visit to the elderly and ailing king of the tiny Pacific island nation yesterday as the nation made preparations for the end of one of the world's longest reigns by any monarch.
Prime Minister Feleti Sevele traveled from Tonga to the hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, where 88-year-old King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV lies bedridden. Sevele spent a short time with the king and his family, Sevele's political adviser, Lopeti Senitule, told New Zealand's National Radio.
Doctors earlier told Tongan palace officials that the king remained stable and comfortable at the private Mercy Hospital.
Close family members -- including his wife, daughter and youngest son -- are at his bedside, said Tonga's lord chamberlain, Hon. Fielekepa, who like other Tongan nobles uses a single name.
Sevele called on church leaders, prayer groups and all Tongans in the heavily Christian country to pray for the king's well-being.
Tupou IV has been the absolute ruler of the chain of more than 170 South Pacific islets since 1965, a 41-year reign that puts him fourth on the list of longest-serving sovereigns, after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Samoa's King Malietoa Tanumafili II.
Fielekepa told National Radio that government committees "are looking into various aspects of His Majesty's current condition and what should happen if the Sun should fall" -- a reference to mourning and funeral preparations under way.
Details of the king's health problems have not been released, but he has struggled with obesity for years and is believed to be suffering from heart disease, diabetes and associated ailments.