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Tongans mourning the loss of more than 90 people after the ferry disaster are taking their monarch's disappearance in their stride.
Last week's Princess Ashika ferry tragedy failed to stop King Siaosi (George) Tupou V from cancelling a holiday in Scotland.
The King left Tonga on Friday - while the death toll from Wednesday's sinking was still climbing - for a highland fling that was to include a star turn at Edinburgh's famous military tattoo, where he was to take the salute.
Manukau lawyer and Tongan community member John Foliaki yesterday said it would have been nice if the King had remained in Tonga to support his countrymen, but "he had given his condolences the day before [he left]".
Although the support of the monarch could have boosted spirits in Tonga, reports of widespread dissatisfaction with the King could be overstated by pro-democracy factions in the country, Mr Foliaki said.
"[There is] a lot of politics in Tonga. Whatever happens, the politicians hang on to it like dear God."
Matangi Tonga newspaper editor Pesi Fonua yesterday said that Tongans living at home appeared untroubled by King George's rapid departure for Edinburgh.
"There's no uproar by the people who lost loved ones. There doesn't seem to be any feeling about that."
But many outside Tonga have reacted angrily to the King's insistence on keeping to his holiday schedule, with many postings to nzherald.co.nz expressing surprise at the King's actions.
"I wonder how can the King travel overseas. Does he not have a heart to be with his subjects at this time?" asked Gail Russell of Porirua.
"He seriously has something wrong with him ... how can a leader do that to his people in need?" said Maui LeFonce of Auckland.
Talkback host and Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws raised eyebrows three years ago when he refused to fly the flag at half mast to mark the death of former King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, and yesterday he was taking aim at his successor.
Mr Laws described the royal family as "appalling, morbidly obese parasites" who were as uninterested in their own people as they were in bringing democracy to the island nation.
"If the previous King of Tonga was a bloated, brown slug, this guy [King George Tupou V] makes his father look like a philanthropist."
The New Zealand Government provided about $20 million in aid to Tonga, which went straight into royal family coffers, Mr Laws said.
Prime Minister Feleti Sevele was quick to defend his monarch's decision.
"He was aware as he was about to leave, he was informed of the tragedy," Mr Sevele said last week.
"To me, I wouldn't have advised otherwise, he had a trip planned. We ourselves can deal with it."
King Tupou left his sister Princess Pilolevu Tuita as Regent in his absence.
Communications and Information Ministry spokesman Alfred Soakai confirmed Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka and his wife, Princess Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho returned to the country, yesterday.