Tongan Prime Minister Pohiva, 78, dies in New Zealand

Akilisi Pohiva- Tonga PM

Akilisi Pohiva- Tonga PM

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama is mourning the passing away of Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva who he says inspired the world with raw emotion at last month's Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.

Mr Pohiva was airlifted to hospital in Auckland on Wedneday with pneumonia and died Thursday morning.

The news was confirmed by an information ministry official, although the prime minister's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa shared her condolences on Twitter.

"Such a tremendous loss for all of us Tongans", she said.

That came in 2008, when King George Tupou V gave over many responsibilities to the parliament and the government, clearing the way for Mr Pohiva's eventual prime ministership.

PM Pohiva had been diagnosed earlier this year with a liver complication and he successfully underwent a medical procedure at Mercy Hospital in Auckland.

His advocacy led him to be arrested and thrown in jail, along with two journalists, in 1996 for contempt of parliament.

RNZI reports a constant thorn in the side of the monarchy and nobility, Mr Pohiva's lifelong battle for representation has seen him fired from the public service and charged with sedition.