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Tribunal Seeks Unity Over Chiefly Row

Tribunal Seeks Unity Over Chiefly Row
Police officers guard the Nukualofa House where the new Tui Labasa was sitting in the Naseakula Village in Labasa on August 7,2018. Photo:Shratika Naidu
August 08
11:27 2018

The Tui Labasa title rightfully belongs to the Qomate family, says Native Land Commission (NLC) chairman Ratu Isireli Vananalagi Vesikula.

Ratu Isireli said the fight for the position of Tui Labasa has been ongoing for generations among two families within Labasa’s chiefly family.

“There were two rulings by the NLC in previous years (2006 and 2008) where it ruled in favour of the Qomate family,” Ratu Isireli said.

“Today (Tuesday) I came to speak to the vanua of Labasa after receiving a letter from Maikali Drauna requesting us to make clear who is the next successor of the Tui Labasa.

“But this has been challenged by factions of Labasa’s chiefly mataqali (land owning unit) of Wasavulu.”

The chiefly title has been vacant since the late Marama Tui Labasa Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate Ritova died in November 2016 at the Labasa Hospital.

A group of ten Police officers were on guard at the Qomate chiefly family home, Nuku’alofa House, at Naseakula Village yesterday to keep the peace.

Ratu Isireli advised both families to love one another and ensure that there were no differences among the vanua.

He told the Fiji Sun that the tribunal would not step in and choose who should be the next Tui Labasa.

“The iTaukei Lands Appeals Tribunal makes rulings on appeal cases that challenge the decision of the NLC on land ownership, boundaries, fishing rights and customary chiefly titles,” he said.

“Adjudication by the Appeal Tribunal is always final and cannot be challenged in a court of law.

“I will speak with Koya Mai Nailawa (chief maker) Peni Taloga (Wednesday) on what challenges they are facing and the installation of the next Tui Labasa.

“My tour to Naseakula Village will take myself and the team three days.

“After discussion with the Sau-Turaga then I will speak to the vanua.

“Our role is to advise; we will not step into any boundaries and tell the kingmaker who should be the next Tui Labasa.

“I am here to advise the vanua of Labasa.”

The Koya Mai Nailawa (chief maker), Peni Taloga, said the chiefly title rightfully belonged to the Qomate family.

He said it was inherited and could not be taken away from them.

However, Mr Taloga said reconciliation was top priority now for Labasa District.

He said the successor would need to put the people and the vanua as his or her priority.

“They need to reconcile first before the next Tui Labasa is chosen,” he said.

“The people of Labasa are still hurt about some decisions made in the past.

“Reconciliation needs to be done to the yavusa of Tuatua, Vanua Qoibau, Vuvale Nagaceu and Mataqali of Nailawa.”

Roko Tui Macuata Vilai Basalusalu said his office received a letter from the family confirming that they had chosen 56-year-old Ratu Jone Qomate to be the next Tui Labasa.

When asked about who would carry out the installation, Mr Basalusalu said he was not told about it.

Labasa chief Turaga Na Tui Labasa will be installed at the end of this month at Naseakula Village.

History

The former Tui Labasa Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate Ritova succeeded her younger brother, Ratu Joeli Tinai Ritova, when he died in 2004.

Ratu Joeli in turn succeeded his older brother Senator Ratu Tevita Qomate Ritova, who passed away in July 1997.

Ratu Viliame Lautiki was the son of Ratu Tevita Qomate, the true paramount chief of Labasa and who was a descendant of the adventurous and colourful chief Ratu Ritova.

He was one of the two chiefs from Macuata province who signed the Deed of Cession ceding Fiji to Queen Victoria in October 1874.

The other chief was Ratu Katonivere, whose great-grandson, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, is the current Tui Macuata. Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback:  shratikan@fijisun.com.fj

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