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Analysis:Dispute Over Chiefly Title a Wake-Up Call for iTaukei People

Analysis:Dispute Over Chiefly Title a Wake-Up Call for iTaukei People
Ratu Epenisa Cakobau.
June 09
15:20 2018

The dispute over the Vunivalu  of Bau title is a wake-up call for the iTaukei about their culture, customs, traditions and the chiefly titles.

The row is part of a continuing trend right across Fiji on disputes over the chiefly titles.

These disputes tarnish the image of the chiefly system as an important iconic institution in Fiji which is central to Fijian culture and tradition.

Every time there is a row it chips away the dignity and respect it  possesses.

If we continue down this path, the chiefly system could become irrelevant in a not too distant future.

The threat that faces the chiefly system is internal not external. Outside forces are being used as scapegoats to mask the reality that’s facing the iTaukei chiefs.

It is embarrassing to the iTaukei to see chiefs fighting over titles. What happened to the traditional way, strengthened by the old Christian values of sitting down, talking until they reach a consensus?

There is a spirit of give and take and compromises  to resolve disagreements.

In some cases they agree that the title shifts to another family once the incumbent dies. In the Tui Kaba clan the Vunivalu title can go to any member of the chiefly clan, not necessarily the children of the last Vunivalu, the late Ratu Sir George Cakobau.

The clan has sub clans representing the different chiefly families. They are Mataiwelagi, Naisogolaca, Muaidule and Qaranikula.

The Cakobau clan represent Mataiwelagi.

Former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau comes from Naisogolaca.

The rival half brothers Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and Ratu George Kadavulevu Cakobau can both agree and nominate Ratu Epeli as a compromise candidate.

It would set a new trend for the clan.

Traditionally, the older person gets the title. If he or she turns it down then it will go to the next oldest.

I have introduced she into the discussion to suggest that if the men can’t sort it out then it can go to a woman. In some traditional jurisdictions male chauvinism still exists.

In this respect Rewa is a trailblazer with the late Adi Lady Lala Mara and now sister Ro Teimumu Kepa as Roko Tui Dreketi.

The row on Bau could have turned really ugly if it wasn’t for intervention of the chairperson of the iTaukei Land and Fisheries Commission (ILFC) Ratu Sireli Vananalagi and the law.

In the olden days it would have been settled with clubs and spears. There was no law.

That’s why we need to recognise the important role of the ILFC. It acts as the adjudicator in particularly sensitive issues. Procedures are clearly laid out in the law governing the work of the commission.

The use of the Police to stop an installation is not new. It was used last year on Taveuni island to defuse tension and prevent a nasty fight between rival groups.

When the dust settles and things return to normal the two factions must meet together. The dialogue should continue until the row us resolved.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra


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