MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR TUVALU'S PRIME MINISTER IONATANA
SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 11, 2000 - Fiji's Daily Post/Radio Tuvalu/PINA Nius Online)---Tuvalu High Commissioner Enele Sopoaga, government representatives and other diplomats are expected to leave Suva today to attend the funeral of Tuvalu Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana in Funafuti.
Mr. Ionatana, who collapsed while speaking at an Air Fiji Christmas party in the Tuvalu capital Friday, is due to be buried tomorrow.
Meanwhile, many Tuvaluans, diplomats and locals gathered yesterday at the Pacific Theological College in Nasese for a memorial service.
The eulogy was delivered by Mr. Sopoaga and a recollection of Mr. Ionatanaís life history by the late prime ministerís nephew, Mose Saitala.
Just the words of "he was gifted" by Mr. Saitala brought tears to the eyes of many people who were present at the service.
Tuvalu was notified of the Prime Ministerís death by Deputy Prime Minister Lagitupu Tuilimu in an announcement broadcast by Radio Tuvalu Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Tuilimu, now the caretaker Prime Minister, said that the government has approved a national mourning period continuing through the funeral tomorrow.
All entertainment activities and other public places are to be closed during this time, he said.
All government offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
Mr. Tuilimu also said that meetings of Parliament have been suspended until further notice.
The late Prime Minister is credited with having put Tuvalu, which has a total population of just fewer than 10,000, on a firmer financial footing.
A major success was selling the nation's Internet suffix, dot-tv, earning Tuvalu millions of dollars a year.
Mr. Ionatana was a former policeman who then became one of Tuvalu's leading civil servants.
He later went into politics and was elected to Parliament. Two years ago he became prime minister after a leadership struggle with former Prime Minister Bikenibeu Paeniu.
More recently he provided strong support for indigenous Fijian leadership in Fiji following the May 19 coup.
Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)