ANALYSIS: Sedition Investigations Extend To Historical Sites

Investigators are checking out unconfirmed reports that another para-military group is training in the mountainous area of interior Viti Levu. It is understood that they have found photographs of the
04 Sep 2015 11:13
ANALYSIS: Sedition Investigations Extend To Historical Sites
The Nakauvadra mountain range.

Investigators are checking out unconfirmed reports that another para-military group is training in the mountainous area of interior Viti Levu.

It is understood that they have found photographs of the alleged rebels posing with what looked looked like real guns and other items.

The items were found in a secluded  house believed to have been used as a worship place. Inside the house is a stone that some believe is growing and represents the legacy of a Ra “hero” Apolosi Ranawai who stood up to the might of the British colonialists.

The structure is close to historical sites in the Nakauvadra range where it is believed the original iTaukei ancestors settled after they landed at Vuda. From there, the ancestors spread out through the Fiji Group.

It is thought that if a para-military group is somewhere in the mountains, it is because it gives the group good cover. It’s also inspired by the environment and its historical links to their belief in ancestral deity.

The ancestors are regarded as traditional gods and still have  influence on the psyche of a lot of Ra people.

The alleged struggle for a so-called Christian Sovereign State is a throwback to the 1900s when a movement was started by a charismatic Mr Ranawai.

In an era when belief in the power of ancestral gods was strong, Mr Ranawai commanded a fanatical following.

His followers believed his claims that he worshipped ancestral gods Degei and twins Cirikaumoli and Nakausabaria.

He also claimed to have found a box containing mana (power) which was lost at Vuda after the first iTaukei on board the Kaunitoni landed there. Kaunitoni was one of the double-hulled canoes used in the mass migration from the horn of Africa, according to folklore.

Mr Ranawai founded a co-operative society called the Viti Kabani (Fiji Company), and travelled widely through the islands marketing his business concept and recruiting members in their droves.

In its heyday the company flourished and grew in an impressive manner. It encouraged iTaukei to grow cash crops such as bananas. The then colonial government was impressed at first. But it became worried by the tone of Mr Ranawai’s rhetorics.

The Great Council of Chiefs saw his popularity as a threat to their traditional power base.

The council was set up by colonial administrators to control the iTaukei.

Mr Ranawai told the people that Viti Kabani would eventually take over the entire economy of Fiji: there would be no more European firms, Indian shops, or government taxes.

The land alienated before Cession would be taken back; eventually all foreigners would be expelled from Fiji.

Viti Kabani began to resemble a state within a state; it had district officials, its own meeting halls, and  huge rallies.

Mr Ranawai lived an extravagant lifestyle.

It was alleged that a lot of the money was unaccounted for. But there was insufficient evidence to hold him accountable.

He was exiled without trial to Rotuma in 1917 after he started telling people that he was the enemy of the State.

When he returned in 1924, Viti Kabani had collapsed.

He  started a restaurant in Lautoka briefly before he launched what was then described a messianic movement called, Na Lotu ni Gauna or the Church of the Era.

It attracted a wide following in western Viti Levu. The church was a mix of Christianity and traditional beliefs.

It is understood that the late Nadroga chief Ratu Osea Gavidi drew inspiration from Mr Ranawai when he pioneered the formation of the Western United Front political party in the 1980s. The party wanted more share of the economic cake to go West because the country’s main industries, sugar, tourism, aviation and gold are based there.

This call escalated to a push for an autonomous Western Government with the setting up of toll charges at the borders. But the party  failed to cause any significant impact in the elections and its cause lost momentum and eventually fizzled out.

This same struggle was resurrected with Ratu Osea’s involvement in the so-called Nadroga Sovereign Christian State.

The movement in Ra, Nadroga and Navosa combines traditional beliefs, Christianity and  politics. It is banking on the legacy of Mr Ranawai who some believe will one day rise again.



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