Unsung Hero Risked His Life To Protect Indo-Fijians

Timoci Dakamoivi did not have to think twice to protect 56 terrified Indo-Fijians in Muaniweni, Naitasiri in 2000. Compassion and truth, he said, compelled him to do the right thing.
19 Sep 2017 10:00
Unsung Hero Risked His Life To Protect Indo-Fijians
Gusuivalu village leader Timoci Dakamoivi (right), with turaga ni koro Navitalai Matanawa outside the home that was refuge to displaced Muaniweni farmers in 2000. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

Timoci Dakamoivi did not have to think twice to protect 56 terrified Indo-Fijians in Muaniweni, Naitasiri in 2000.

Compassion and truth, he said, compelled him to do the right thing.

He felt for the women and children and he saw fear in their eyes. He also knew the Indo-Fijians had not done anything wrong. He said they were innocent victims of a campaign seeking political supremacy for the iTaukei and the expulsion of Indo-Fijians.

The victims, men, women and children, were fleeing from a marauding pack of rebels who had been terrorising, attacking and looting homes and farms in the area.

The then turaga-ni-koro (village headman) Mr Dakamoivi was one of the unsung heroes in an untold story of 2000. He risked his own life to hide the 56 until it was safe to allow them to return to their homes.

Stories of looting, racism, torture, and violence dominated headlines at the time.

Mr Dakamoivi and his fellow villagers were among iTaukei who disagreed with the rebels’ case and resisted.

About a kilometre’s drive downhill from the Muaniweni farming settlement at the foot of a Naitasiri hilltop rests Gusuisavu village that sheltered Indo-Fijian families during the violence.

Indo-Fijians trapped in a vicious cycle of violence that followed the uprising teamed up and approached Mr Dakamoivi – of the village with a sevusevu (yaqona ceremony) seeking his protection.

Mr Dakamoivi now 77, could have easily backed the so-called nationalist rebels, many of whom he knew personally, when the Indo-Fijians approached him for shelter.

In his diary, the elderly leader documented the timeline of events of the coup, which he made his younger successor read out, perhaps to remind him of the difficult decision he undertook as the leader of the village.

“We housed 56 Indo-Fijian men and women and children for one week in our village,” he said, indicating the ordinary hut behind the turaga ni koro’s house in which they stayed.

“On Sunday (21 May) after church around lunch hour we were drinking kava, a man from Naqali came to present a request from the Indo-Fijians that they needed help

“Soon after, we sent a group of boys in a vehicle to stay watch with some Police officers and soldiers.”

Asked why he helped them, he said: “They had no fault; we never had any problem with them; we always had a good relationship.

“The Indo-Fijian families didn’t commit any crime so why should they be blamed and affected by the coup.

“We don’t see their ethnic group or which religion they belong to… here to this day we have learned to work together.

“When I go to Nausori, they pick me from the road or anyone from the village and they don’t take our fare.”

An Indo-Fijian resident of Muaniweni remembers the villagers who arrived to ease their fears.

“After three days of violence, we went to the (Gusuisavu) village to present a sevusevu and ask for the chief’s help.

“He (turaga-ni-koro) assigned two men per house every night and all we were to do in return was give them dinner.

“They guarded our houses with torches and told us not to worry about anything and just stay inside.

“I remember them being very alert: whenever a dog would bark they would quickly go out to patrol the area.

“They would leave very early in the morning – I think about four o’ clock.”

Muaniweni, a farming settlement straddling a channel of the Rewa River, became a target for its rich supply of crops and livestock that rebel fighters stole as rations.

Little is known about Gusuisavu in Naitasiri; but this tiny hillside village epitomised an undercurrent of iTaukei resistance that confronted Speight’s supposedly Indigenous-centred movement.

For the Indo-Fijian families that sought refuge within its borders the ordinary white house was evidence they were still welcome in Fiji.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa


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