Moonies Give Tonga Patrol Boats, Buddhists Give King Award

Agence France-Presse/July 3, 2001
By Michael Field

Auckland, New Zealand -- Tonga's King Taufa ahau Tupou IV has accepted two naval patrol boats from a Korean cult leader and an award from Japan's biggest lay Buddhist organization, reports said.

The independent Times of Tonga weekly reported that Korea's Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church -- also known as the Moonies -- had given the Tongan defense forces two patrol boats.

And the monthly Eva magazine said Japan's biggest and richest lay Buddhist organization, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), had given the king a humanitarian award and an honorary doctorate.

The organization also presented Queen Halaevalu Mata aho with the "Soka Women's College Award of Highest Honor," the report said.

In return, the king named SGI president Daisaku Ikeda the first honorary professor of education at the "Tongan Institute of Education and the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology" -- institutions not previously known to exist.

King Taufa ahau is also head of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, which has always taken a hostile view of non-Christian groups. There are no Buddhist or Moonie facilities in Tonga.

The Times of Tonga said Moon had also paid for a Tongan delegation led by former Prime Minister Baron Vaea to attend a conference on peace held late last year.

SGI has erected a five-meter (16-foot) high concrete sundial type structure in front of the Tonga royal palace.

It features messages from the king and Ikeda in English, Japanese and Tongan.

Designer Jesse Dean Bogdonoff told "Eva the structure was a monument to world peace and marked the meeting last November between Taufa" ahau and Ikeda.

"These two men are both dedicated to world peace," Bogdonoff said.

"Thousands of members of the SGI from all over the world will come to Tonga to visit and meditate for world peace by the peace monument," he said.

The Soka Gakkai Buddhist group is well known in Japan and has built pagodas and stupas around the world.

It plays a major political role, producing around eight million voters for whichever party it chooses to back. However, the fund-raising measures and the personal style of Ikeda have caused debate in Japan.

The Tongan king has proved something of a willing recipient of awards and monuments.

Two years ago when, on the influence of his daughter Princess Pilolevu Tuita, he broke off ties with Taiwan. Beijing marked the event by giving the king a statue of himself "25 percent larger than life size."

At the time Pilolevu justified the switch from Taiwan to China, saying it would give Tongan evangelists a chance in China.

In 1997 a Korean group bestowed a "World Peace Prize" on the king. A national holiday was proclaimed and a group of Koreans marched down the main street in honor of the event.

The group also claimed that, because of the king's greatness, Tonga was to receive the world's first plant that would turn seawater into natural gas. It turned out to be an elaborate hoax that may have been linked to Korean attempts to move nuclear waste to Tonga.

Although the government has admitted it had been duped, the "World Peace Prize" was listed in a recent official publication on the king's resume.

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