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Analysis: GPH Among Likely Places Royal Couple May Stay In

Analysis: GPH Among Likely Places Royal Couple May Stay In
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Princess Meghan (right picture) will be on a royal visit to Fiji next month. They are likely to reside at the Grand Pacific Hotel (left picture)
September 13
11:51 2018

As speculation increases on details of the visit to Fiji by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, two issues on the priority list are:

  • Where they will stay?
  • Which group will perform the traditional welcome ceremony?

Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva emerges as a likely host to accommodate the royal couple because of its history.

Hotel records show that over the years GPH has welcomed a pantheon of notable guests and historical figures. Dame Nellie Melba (Australian opera soprano) visited in 1915 and in 1928 Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, a true hero of his time, landed the “Southern Cross” plane opposite at Albert Park on his flight across the Pacific.

He and his colleague recuperated at GPH as guests of the Union Steamship Company before departing to Australia on the final leg of their epic flight. Other notables, who have stayed or attended banquets and state functions held there in their honour, include, Edward Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), the Duke of York (later King George VI), Sir Don Bradman (famous Australian cricketer), James Michener (American author), Burt Lancaster (American movie star) and Joan Rice (British film actress), together with many others. Queen Elizabeth II attended a Grand Ball held in her honour in December 1953 and visited again in 1973 when a state dinner was held in the dining hall room.

Peter Gee, GPH’s general manager, was cagey when a Fiji Sun journalist asked him. He said he did not know but said “watch this space”.

He also directed the journalist to “ask Foreign Affairs”.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Brigadier-General Iowane Naivalurua could not be reached to comment yesterday.

If State House renovations in Suva are completed by then, the royal couple could be lodging there, where there is enough space to hold a banquet in their honour.

Traditional Welcome Ceremony Claims

On the traditional welcome ceremony, Bau chief Ratu Epenisa Cakobau has claimed on social media that Bau would be performing the ceremony – that a meeting was organised yesterday to plan for the occasion. He said the ceremony would be held at Albert Park in Suva on October 23.

No official programme has been released. While Bau has been used in the past for traditional ceremonies to welcome high-ranking foreign dignitaries, especially the royals, over the past four years other groups from around Fiji have been given the same opportunities to perform.

Ratu Epenisa also claimed that Prince Harry was invited to Fiji by former British Army soldier Derrick Derenalagi to unveil the statue of British SAS hero Talaiasi Labalaba at Nawaka, Nadi.

But this much is definite. In April this year, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama met Prince Harry on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London and he extended an invitation for the royal couple to visit Fiji.

Ratu Epenisa’s post indicates the increasing public interest in the visit and the early jostling to take credit or centre stage roles.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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