Queen Elizabeth II was the most recognised monarch in the modern era having been the monarch for the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and at a time for 16 Pacific Island nations.
Upon news of her death this morning, a minute of silence was observed across many nations in the Oceania Pacific region while flags were lowered to half mast to pay tribute to a woman who was at one stage head of many Pacific nations.
Many locals have had the opportunity to be knighted by the Queen and several Pacific leaders have visited the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
For many, the Royal family have held a special place in their hearts. Tributes have been coming in today from the Pacific.
Tuvalu was called the Ellice Islands before gaining independence. Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe said the nation above anything celebrated the legacy of the Queen’s leadership.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, Tuvalu, and the entire Commonwealth realm,” Mr Kofe said.
“We were fortunate to have the Queen visit us in our history, and we recognize her incredible commitment to service and the critical role she has played through transformational times in our world. Today, we mourn Her Majesty’s passing, and we convey our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.
“However, we also celebrate the legacy of steady leadership Her Majesty the Queen has left to us, which has inspired many throughout our world.”
Fiji was the first Pacific nation Queen Elizabeth visited after she was crowned the Queen of the British Empire. She arrived in 1953 and made five more trips, the last one being in 1982.
Fiji’s prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama tweeted his condolences.
“Fijian hearts are heavy this morning as we bid farewell to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” he said.
“We will always treasure the joy of her visits to Fiji along with every moment that her grace, courage, and wisdom were a comfort and inspiration to our people, even a world away.”
Former Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry said he had the privilege of having lunch with the Queen seated right next to her during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in South Africa in 1999 when he was Prime Minister.
He was invited to lunch along with five other Pacific Island leaders.
“The Queen was held in high esteem and with deep affection by our people as a beloved matriarch who for the last seven decades signified peace and continuity in the face of the traumatic changes we have undergone as a nation,” he said.
The Cook Islands still have a special relationship with the British Empire. The head of state is given the title of the Queen’s Representative.
Prime Minister Mark Brown acknowledged the Queen’s passing “with great sadness”. He said all her people of the Cook Islands will mourn her passing and will miss her greatly.
He said the Queen leaves behind an enormous legacy of dedicated service to her subjects around the world, including Cook Islanders.
“All flags in the Cook Islands will be flown at half-mast until further notice, and a memorial service will be held on a date yet to be announced. A condolence book will be opened for members of the public to sign in the Cabinet Room at the Office of the Prime Minister,” Mr Brown said.
“Her reign spanned seven decades and saw her appoint 15 British Prime Ministers during her tenure. As world leaders came and went – she endured and served her people.”
Papua New Guinea
Prime minister James Marape said “Papua New Guineans from the mountains, valleys and coasts rose up this morning to the news that our Queen has been taken to rest by God.”
“She was the anchor of our Commonwealth and for PNG we fondly call her ‘Mama Queen’ because she was the matriarch of our country as much as she was to her family and her Sovereign realms.
“God bless her Soul as she lays in rest. May God bless also King Charles III. Her Majesty’s people in PNG share the grief with our King and his family.”
Tonga’s Royal family members were present in England when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953. Tongan Princess Frederica Tuita said Tonga joined the world in mourning the passing away of the leader.
“We join millions of people in sadness after hearing the news of Her Majesty’s passing. She was loved and respected by our family,” she said.
“We have so many cherished memories including this one of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with our late grandfather Baron Laufilitonga Tuita. Further right is His late Highness Prince Tu’ipelehake and behind Her Majesty is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”
Niue was formerly known as Savage Islands when it was under the British Empire. The nation’s Premier Dalton Tagelagi has expressed his deepest sadness on “the passing of a most extraordinary woman”.
He said her faithfulness to her duties and dedication to her people was the reflection of a most remarkable leader. He said flags will fly at half-mast to mark the Queen’s death.
The Solomon Islands have had the opportunity to host the Queen on her visit to the Pacific. Solomon Islands member of parliament Peter Kenilorea Jr posted a photograph online of his father, Sir Peter Kenilorea Snr, being knighted by the Queen.
“It was an honour to witness her knighting my late father in 1982. I was 10 and my sister and I were honoured to witness this solemn ceremony at Government House. It was a privilege to meet her.”
The President of French Polynesia Edouard Fritch said the life of Queen Elizabeth II marked upon “the history of the world.”
The Queen made a stop-over in French Polynesia to refuel with her husband Prince Philip on her way back from Australia in 2002.
“My sincere condolences to the family of the Queen and the people of the United Kingdom. May the Queen’s work for peace continue to reassemble the United Nations among the ‘Commonwealth’ and around the British crown. My prayers will join them in this ultimate voyage of their sovereign,” he said.
Mr Fritch reminisced on his time meeting the Queen for an hour when they discussed topics on French Polynesia, the Pacific and the Commonwealth.