STAR-BULLETIN / MAY 1997
Samoan King Malietoa Tanumafili II shows his gold ring with five stars. They represent the four points of the cross that Jesus died on, while the fifth represents a wound in his side. The king died Friday at a hospital in Samoa. He was 94. CLICK FOR LARGE
King of Samoa dies
King Malietoa Tanumafili II is praised for his leadership after the nation's independence from New Zealand
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » King Malietoa Tanumafili II, one of the world's longest-reigning monarchs, died at a hospital in Samoa, the prime minister's office said yesterday. He was 94.
Malietoa sat on the Samoan throne ever since the country, which lies west of the U.S. territory of American Samoa, gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.
That made him the world's third-longest-reigning living monarch after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has ruled since 1946, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended to the throne in 1952.
The king died Friday night at Tupua Tamasese National Hospital in Apia, where he had been staying for about a week. Details on the cause of death were not immediately available.
Vaasatia Poloma Komiti, chief executive officer of the prime minister's office, announced the king's passing on state-run television.
The king will lie in state in Apia on Thursday. A church service is planned for Friday morning, Komiti said.
In American Samoa, the governor said Malietoa's passing was a loss not only for Samoa but for the U.S. territory.
"His faith and love for his people helped light the flame of independence for Samoa and maintained a peaceful transition for Samoa from her difficult beginning," said Gov. Togiola Tulafono. "He was an icon of Samoan leadership, Samoan democracy and Samoan compassion."
Many American Samoans considered the king to be the father of the two Samoas, and he was a frequent visitor to the territory's annual Flag Day Festivities.
The king assumed the Malietoa title in 1940, when his father died. He was appointed an adviser to the New Zealand governor in Samoa the same year.
Malietoa was made the joint head of state with Tupua Tamasese Meaole when Samoa gained independence in 1962 and he became sole head of state a year later after the death of Tupua Tamasese.
He held the post for life. His successor, however, will be elected by the legislature to a five-year term as stipulated in the Samoan constitution.
Malietoa was educated in Samoa at the government-run Leififi School and attended St. Stephens College and Wesley College in New Zealand.
He was known to be an active sportsman from the time of his youth, playing rugby and cricket. He was reputed to be a good boxer.
Malietoa visited China on a state visit in 1976, and traveled to West Germany, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom. He also traveled to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Hawaii, and attended the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
He was among the foreign dignitaries who attended the funeral service of Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
Malietoa is survived by two sons and two daughters. His wife Lili Tunu died in 1986.
Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Home to 200,000 people, its total land area is slightly smaller than Rhode Island.
It lies to the west of American Samoa, which became a U.S. territory in 1900.