King Malietoa Tanumafili II, GCMG, CBE, (January 4, 1913 – May 11, 2007) (also called Susuga) was the Malietoa, the title of one of Samoa's four paramount chiefs, and the head of state, or O le Ao o le Malo, a position that he held for life, of Samoa from 1962 to 2007. He was co-chief of state in 1962 and became the sole head of state on April 15, 1963. At the time of his death, he was the oldest national leader in the world.
Tanumafili was educated at the government run Leififi School in Samoa. He went on to enroll at St. Stephen's College and Wesley College in Pukekohe, both of which are in New Zealand. Malietoa was an active athlete during his younger years. His favorite sports included boxing, rugby and cricket. Malietoa's interest in sports continued throughout his life and he was an avid golfer well into his 90s. He could often be seen driving his golf cart around Samoa.
His wife, Lili Tunu, died in 1986. Tanumafili had four surviving children at the time of his death in 2007: Su'a Vainuupo, Faamausili Moli (sons) and Lola Tosi and Momoe (daughters). One child died in infancy, while his eldest son, Papaliitele Molioo Laupepa, died in 1985.
Malietoa Tanumafili II was a follower of the Bahá'í Faith. He was the second royal (after Queen Marie of Romania) to be a member of that religion. The Bahá'í House of Worship in Tiapapata, eight kilometers from the country's capital of Apia, was dedicated by him in 1984.
Tanumafili officially inherited the royal title of Malietoa in 1940, following the 1939 death of his father, Malietoa Tanumafili I, though some media reports claim that he received the title of Malietoa in 1939. Soon after becoming Malietoa, he was appointed to serve as a special adviser, also called Fautua, to the New Zealand administration and governor of Samoa, known as the New Zealand Trusteeship of Samoa, until independence in 1962.
Upon Samoa's independence in 1962, Malietoa Tanumafili II became joint O le Ao o le Malo, or head of state, with Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole. Tanumafili and Mea'ole would rule jointly as head of state for just 16 months. When Mea'ole died in 1963, Tanumafili became the sole Samoan head of state, a post he held for life until his death in 2007. He is often credited for providing much of the stability that Samoa has enjoyed post independence.
Malietoa traveled extensively during his reign as the Samoan head of state (O le Ao o le Malo). He traveled to the People's Republic of China for an official state visit in 1976. Additionally, during his reign he also visited Australia, Fiji, Hawai'i, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the former West Germany. Malietoa Tanumafili was among the foreign dignitaries who attended the funeral of Japanese Emperor Hirohito in 1989.
Malietoa Tanumafili II was described as the last survivor of a generation of important Pacific leaders who guided their countries and peoples from colonialism to independence. His death was the latest in a string of recent, high profile passings of members of this Pacific generation of leaders, which included the late Fijian president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the former King of Tonga, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, and New Zealand's Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
His death was announced by Samoan Secretary of State Vaasatia Poloma Komiti on SBC TV1. "It is with deepest regret that we inform you of the passing of our Head of State Malietoa Tanumafili II."
Malietoa Tanumafili II was the world's third longest reigning living monarch at the time of his death in May 2007 after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946 and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952.
Malietoa Tanumafili II's body was taken from a private funeral home (Ligaliga Funeral) to his residence at Fa'ato'ialemanu on May 16th, which marked the beginning of his funeral services. Hundreds of the Malietoa's close and extended relatives, including his children, attended a special private family service that night.
His body was then moved to the Samoan Parliament to lie in state on May 17th.
Bahá'í International Community - The governing body of the Bahá'ís, the Universal House of Justice wrote: "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. 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. 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....
Also bestowed on Malietoa was the title of Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire during his life.