Ambassador from Tonga: Who Is Sonatane Tu’akinamolahi Taumoepeau-Tupou?

Sunday, October 02, 2011
The ambassador to the United States from the Polynesian island nation of Tonga is career diplomat Sonatane Tu’akinamolahi Taumoepeau-Tupou, whom King Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Manumataongo Tukuʻaho Tupou V (aka King George Tupou V) appointed to the post as of February 22, 2010. This is his third stint as Tonga’s ambassador to the U.S. In March 2011, the king awarded Tupou a Life Peerage, making him Lord Taumoepeau-Tupou of Toula and Kotu.
 
Born March 14, 1943, in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga, to Samiuela Ma’afu Tupou and Lu’isa Ma’ume’afo’ou Taumoepeau, Tupou attended primary school in Nukuʻalofa and Neiafu on Vava’u, and secondary school at Newington College in Sydney, Australia, from 1953 to 1962. He earned his B.A in Political Science from the University of Hawaii in 1969. Shortly after graduation, Tupou joined the Tongan Civil Service as an assistant secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. Commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Tonga Defence Services in 1971, Tupou was posted to the Tonga High Commission in London, UK, as a First Secretary in 1973. In 1977 he returned to the Prime Minister’s Office as an Assistant Secretary and was seconded to the Palace Office as Acting Private Secretary to the King. 
 
On September 5, 1979, Tupou became Tonga’s first Secretary for Foreign Affairs under the newly established Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence, and on September 26, 1979, he was also appointed Secretary for the Tonga Defence Board. Tupou served in these positions until 1983, when he appointed Tonga’s Ambassador to the United States, and concurrently as Tonga’s diplomatic representative to the United Kingdom, the European Community, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union. Tupou was posted to London, UK, while filling these multiple roles. 
 
In 1987 Tupou returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a post he held for twelve years. In 1999 he was appointed as Tonga’s first ever Ambassador to the United Nations and concurrently Ambassador to the U.S. and High Commissioner to Canada.
 
Tupou returned to Tonga in August 2004 to serve once again as Foreign Minister. He was also appointed as Tonga’s Acting Defence Minister on April 22, 2005, following the sudden death of incumbent Colonel Fetu’utolu Tupou. In November 2005, Tupou was appointed to one of his only domestic offices, as Acting Governor for the island of Vava’u in November 2005. Ironically, this one foray into homeland administration wound up embroiling Tupou in controversy, for in April 2010 a three-year Royal Land Commission Report investigating corrupt land dealing implied that Tupou had acted unethically in his role as Acting Governor of Vava’u. The final report (p. 28) stated “that the Acting Governor Tu’a Taumoepeau has a lot of explaining to give” and recommended that the Government investigate the entire background to his involvement in the suspect dealings. 
 
In June 2009, Tupou returned to North America as Tonga’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, serving concurrently as Ambassador to the U.S., Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, and Canada. 
 
Tupou was married to the late ‘Amelia Latuniua Ahome’e, with whom he had four children: Lady Kalaniualu-Fotofili (Marcella Margaret Tupoumoheofo), Miss Odette Inez Tupou ‘Ahome’e, Captain Christian David Fahaivalu Tupou and Latasi Toutoupau’u Tupou. 
-Matt Bewig
 

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