Samoan head of state, a Baha'i, passes away

APIA, Samoa — The Samoan head of state, His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II, who was a Bahá’í, passed away on the evening of 11 May 2007. He was 94 years old.

One of the longest reigning monarchs in the world, he had been head of state since Samoa gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.

“His service to the people of Samoa as Head of State was distinguished by the high principles, genuine compassion and personal humility that characterized the constancy of his concern for the welfare of all,” the Universal House of Justice, the international Bahá’í governing body, said in a statement to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Samoa.

“As the first reigning sovereign to accept the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, he set a record that will forever illumine the annals of our Faith, one that future generations will increasingly extol,” the House of Justice said. “His great interest for well-nigh four decades in the Faith’s progress was reflected in the enthusiastic affirmation of his belief whenever the opportunity presented itself and in the abiding joy with which he regarded the construction in 1984 of the Mother Temple of the Pacific Islands in Samoa....”

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark also offered condolences. “Throughout his long reign as head of state, Malietoa represented Samoa with wisdom, humor, and insight,” she said in comments published in the New Zealand Herald.

His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II was born on 4 January 1913. His wife, Lili Tunu, died in 1986. They have two sons and two daughters.

Memorial services were held in the Bahá’í House of Worship in Samoa and elsewhere throughout the Bahá’í world.

Samoa comprises several islands in the South Pacific about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, with a population of 200,000 people.