“It is with a deep sense of sadness that we hear of the passing of Tongan Prime Minister Right Honourable ‘Akilisi Pohiva in Auckland,” Mr Puna said.
“Despite his illness he stood by his compelling values of responsibility and represented the Kingdom of Tonga at the Pacific Leaders Forum in Tuvalu only a month ago.
“There he made what would be his final stand on the issues of regionalism and climate crisis.”
Mr Puna said Mr Pohiva’s life captured the Tongan proverb, “Si’i pe kae hā”: “Though we may be small, we are still great.”
Mr Pohiva passed away in an Auckland hospital last week.
A state funeral for the late leader will be held in Tonga on Thursday.
Photo: EPA-EFE FILE/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT Caption: Kiribati's President Taneti Maamau, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, Tonga's Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva and Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison wait to pose for the family photo before the Leaders Retreat at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Funafuti, Tuvalu, Aug. 15, 2019