SUVA, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Tonga confirmed on Thursday night the passing away of the 78-year-old Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva.
According to Matangi Tonga Online, Tonga's leading news website, Tonga's Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika told a national radio on Thursday night that Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva died in a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday morning.
The Tongan parliament has also been deferred indefinitely by the island nation's Acting Speaker Lord Tu'ilakepa.
Pohiva was elected to the Tongan parliament in 1987 and became the island nation's prime minister in 2014.
The Tongan prime minister had suffered from ill health for years and his office issued a statement on Wednesday urging people to pray for him, but he died Thursday in New Zealand, a day after being airlifted from Tonga to receive treatment for pneumonia.
Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama mourned on Thursday the passing away of his Tongan counterpart Akilisi Pohiva.
Bainimarama said that despite his health, Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva attended the recent Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu in recognition of the urgency of climate action.
He stressed that people must honor Pohiva's legacy by continuing this fight.
Meanwhile, according to a statement by the Suva-based PIF Secretariat on Thursday night, PIF Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor extended her condolences, saying that "We at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat respectfully convey our condolences to the Kingdom of Tonga, her people, and to Prime Minister Pohiva's family and friends on this very sad day."
She spoke highly of Pohiva's great courage and resolve to attend the Tuvalu meeting, saying that he made a final resounding stand on issues close to his heart, especially on climate change.