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FOCUS: Ratu Osea: The Man With Big Ideas But Little To Show

The late Ratu Osea Gavidi had a two-pronged vision for Fiji. First he wanted to see a united iTaukei landowners group administering its own resources instead of the Native Land
23 Apr 2015 07:51
FOCUS: Ratu Osea: The Man With Big Ideas But Little To Show
The late Ratu Osea Gavidi (right), with family members at Cuvu Village.

The late Ratu Osea Gavidi had a two-pronged vision for Fiji.

First he wanted to see a united iTaukei landowners group administering its own resources instead of the Native Land Trust Board.

Secondly, he wanted to see the Western Division control its natural resources and eventually seek political and economic autonomy from Suva.

He proposed a Western Confederacy to become the fourth traditional confederacy after Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata.

Ratu Osea had big ideas. He spoke of rich overseas financial backers who were prepared to invest millions in the country in land and tourism development.

At one stage, he said the investors were willing to finance a local television station.

When he discovered that he could not get far in advancing his plans he turned his struggle to the political arena where he hoped to get some traction.

He was the brains behind the formation of the Western United Front political party prior to the 1982 general election. WUF formed a coalition with the  National Federation Party.  In 1986, he ditched NFP and coalesced with the Fiji Labour Party.

But it failed improve his political fortunes. His support mainly came from his home base Nadroga and the province of Ba. His supporters liked his rhetorics on land and the economy.

Ratu Osea had charisma and the gift of the gab. He came across as one who was an expert in many fields.

His ideas simply appealed to the iTaukei masses in Nadroga and Ba.

Even chiefs like Ratu Napolioni Dawai, a former Tui Nadi, jumped on his bandwagon. Ratu Osea was not happy with the returns landowners were getting from the NLTB/TLTB.

They wanted a bigger share of proceeds from tourism, aviation, sugar and gold and pine.

Many of the planned development projects by Ratu Osea did not eventuate. Disillusioned fans started to leave the party.

The Viti Land and Resources Owners, which was formed initially to look after the landowners’ interests,  was left with diehard supporters.

The biggest blow to Ratu Osea’s credibility came in 2006. He announced a $6 billion plan to set up a commercial bank to cater for indigenous landowners.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in front of the Fijian media by the so-called Office of the International Treasury Control (OITO) and the Viti Land and Resource Owners Association.

The bank was to be set up because Ratu Osea claimed landowners were not happy with the services provided by the existing banks.

Like previous planned projects, this one never saw the light of the day.

Another attempt to revive the landowners’ crusade was his teaming up with Jagath Karunaratne of the Fiji United Freedom Party before last year’s general election.

Again, it failed to attract the support he needed needed.

Ratu Osea did not give up. In his last throw of the dice, he was behind moves to have Nadroga/Navosa declared a separate Fijian state.

But it failed to get the support from the vanua and Police investigated whether  an act of sedition was committed. No was arrested or charged.

A “swearing-in” of 18 “Cabinet Ministers” was apparently conducted in Cuvu. Ratu Osea said it was a private matter and declined to comment further.

It brought to a closure decades of proposed projects that failed to get off the ground from a man who never stopped trying.

WUF was formed to
– Protect and encourage the unity of western Fijians
– Protect the interests of landowners and to defend their rights to develop their resources according to their aspirations.
– Seek changes in the Ministry of Fijian Affairs and Rural Development to improve the lives of western Fijians.
– Improve educational facilities of western Fijians and provide them opportunities in commercial and industrial enterprises.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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