- Publish Date
- Saturday, 6 July 2019, 3:46PM
Video / 1News, TVNZ
There was chaos after an Auckland University law student was hauled from the stage at a Pacific Island beauty pageant after unleashing an attack on those who had "tormented and bullied" her.
In dramatic scenes at the 40-year-old pageant, Kalo Funganitao's microphone was turned off by organisers as she insisted she would "not tolerate bullying any more".
"Enough is enough. If you have guts to attack a person as a group in such a cowardly way then you can deal with the consequences when she shares her experiences with the entire world," she yelled.
The glittering event - part of the Miss Pacific Islands competition - took place in Nuku'alofa, Tonga's capital.
Funganitao was on stage supported by her mother, brother and other contestants.
But as she tried to speak out, Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Semisi Sika directed technical staff to play loud music to drown out her speech, local media reported.
The technical staff did as they were told, but Funganitao continued shouting to be heard.
Funganitao - who was crowned Miss Heilala last year - criticised the pageant for its lack of support after being bullied by some of the Tongan public and pageant committee members.
"My mother and I were cheated, lied to, backstabbed and generally messed around. Instead of focusing my efforts on the pageant I was trying to find answers as to what was going on. I had never felt just a lack of support from people who were supposedly put into roles to help me.
"Up until today I have experienced just how hard it can be to be a young Tongan woman. I have dealt with people in official roles and in other places, in the work force that have been unprofessional and rude and just straight out mind-boggling," the law student said.
In a post on Facebook she added: "I am disgusted by the capacity people have for evil, but frankly if you feel empowered by ganging up to bully someone - then you must deal with the repercussions," Funganitao said in a post on Facebook.
Kalo described her experience at the Miss Pacific Islands pageant as "tormenting".
"I may only be a law student now, but I certainly know enough to tell you that such acts of cyber bullying is a crime," she said.
Funganitao left the stage and did not place the crown on the new Miss Heilala's head, as is the tradition for the outgoing winner.
Videos of her speech have been posted on social media and received thousands of responses, most supportive.
"I AM SO PROUD OF YOU FOR SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH KALO!!," one person said.
Another said: "The sad thing is though, majority of the people commenting on here supporting Kalo are the same people who were tearing down the contestants tonight during the live."
"It was the perfect time to expose right in front of the Tongan Community. If Kalo had spoken after the pageant they would have said she is full of it. The crowning night was perfect moment. Good on ya Kalo. Miss Tonga Australia shud have been crowned tonight. Full Stop," another person said.
The Heilala Festival, named after Tonga's national flower, is organised by the Tonga Visitors Bureau and the Tonga Tourist Association.
The Miss Heilala pageant is the showpiece event and contestants perform cultural dance the tau'olunga as part of the competition.
The winner works as an ambassador for the Kingdom, helping promote Tonga and the tourism industry locally and abroad. She is also Tonga's entrant in the Miss Pacific Islands pageant.