NATION

Savenaca At ‘Home’

HOME’ People from the village of the late Savenaca Naulumatua, whom the vessel is named after, performed an emotional welcoming ceremony for the ship.
07 Jun 2020 09:44
Savenaca At ‘Home’
The RFNS Savenaca at Waya in the Yasawa Group on June 6, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

The beachfront of Yalobi Village in Waya, Yasawa, was a hive of activities yesterday as village women and navy personnel conducted the traditional cicivi ni cere.

RFNS Savenaca was finally home – the village of the late Savenaca Naulumatua, whom the vessel is named after.

The ship was traditionally welcomed by the villagers of Yalobi as it anchored off the shoreline.

The cicivi ni cere involves cheers, whistling, clapping on the beachfront with the vessel in the backdrop and sailors pursuing the women and taking hold of what they held in hand.

Women and crew of RFNS Savenaca perform the traditional cicivi ni cere in Yalobi Village on Waya island in Yasawa on June 6, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Women and crew of RFNS Savenaca perform the traditional cicivi ni cere in Yalobi Village on Waya island in Yasawa on June 6, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

The event was significant because not only did the Ordinary Seaman die at the young age of 23 in the Solomon Islands in 1943 in World War Two. He was dubbed a hero.

Seventy-seven years since his death, his first cousin sister Mere Nagata could not hold back her tears as she saw the navy ship drop anchor outside the village reefs.

The emotional Ms Nagata, 87, recalled the fond memories she had about her late brother, Savenaca.

Mere Nagata with a portrait of 23-year-old Savenaca Naulumatua. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Mere Nagata with a portrait of 23-year-old Savenaca Naulumatua. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Unbeknown to many is her uncle, Savenaca’s father, disapproved of him joining the navy, she said.

“However my brother went to get enlisted without his knowledge,” she recalled.

“He was on board when he wrote to my father saying he was on his way to fight the War

“After a few months, a package arrived with his name on it. This was a box containing Savenaca’s belongings. It also came with the news that my brother had died in the war,”

Ms Nagata thanked God and the RFMF Naval Division for thinking to name a navy ship after her late brother.

“To see the navy ship anchored brings back wonderful memories of my brother. It feels like he is here with me and in today’s celebration with his family,” she said.

Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto said it was a day of celebration not only for the Yalobi people but for the Fijian Navy as a whole.

“I think it’s inspirational to all those that will sail the RFNS Savenca.

“To sail in a vessel that is named after somebody who in those times in 1943, who managed to join the New Zealand Navy and then went and fought some of the really tough sea battles in the Solomons

“Knowing the history behind the 23-year-old young man of Yalobi is important.

“They will read into his history and just to be onboard, gives them that push to do well.

“It is a wonderful day not just for the Yalobi people but for the Fiji navy to get connected again with the piece of navy history and having it as a source of inspiration to all of them,

“He’s back home now in a different form, but back ploughing the seas and doing the job that Savenaca did many years ago.”

First patrol

Meanwhile, the vessel will begin its first patrol deployment tomorrow.

“They will go out on patrol where there is a plan for patrol to coincide a surveillance flight from the Guardian aircraft that is based in Noumea, the French one, as their first patrol and then it continues on from there.

“We are looking forward to Conway Island maybe later on in the month.

“But now they are operational and we deliberately wanted to bring it here to their namesake first to do the ceremonials.”

RFNS Savenaca has modern sensors and equipment no different from the modern warships that the Royal Navy has.

Villagers of Yalobi with crew members of the RFNS Savenca on June 6, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Villagers of Yalobi with crew members of the RFNS Savenca on June 6, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: kelera.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj

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