Analysis | Opinion

Analysis: Ro Teimumu, Ratu Naiqama Definitely In Their Last Term In Parliament

Ro Teimumu will be 77 in 2022 and Ratu Naiqama will turn 69. Both changed their mind after first deciding not to contest the 2018 General Election.
08 Nov 2019 13:58
Analysis: Ro Teimumu, Ratu Naiqama Definitely In Their Last Term In Parliament
Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

Two traditional high-ranking iTaukei chiefs are expected to be heading back to their traditional bases at the end of this current parliamentary term.

SODELPA Members of Parliament Ro Teimumu Kepa, 74, and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, 66, could be the last paramount chiefs in their peer group to be in Parliament.

Ro Teimumu, the Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, is the paramount chief of the Rewa Province and the Burebasaga Confederacy (comprising Rewa, Serua, Namosi, Nadroga, Nadi, Lautoka and Ba).

Ratu Naiqama, the Tui Cakau is the paramount chief of the Cakaudrove Province, and the Tovata Confederacy (comprising Vanua Levu, Taveuni and the Lau Group).

Ro Teimumu Kepa.

Ro Teimumu Kepa.

2022 General Elections

Ro Teimumu will be 77 in 2022 and Ratu Naiqama will turn 69.

Both changed their mind after first deciding not to contest the 2018 General Election.

Ro Teimumu said she was approached by the Vanua to put on hold her retirement plans and run for the election.

Ratu Naiqama then changed his mind too and decided to stand again.

Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

The change was part of the intricate web of complex iTaukei politics.

When Ro Filipe Tuisawau’s candidacy was announced by SODELPA it completed a jigsaw puzzle. Backed by the Vanua Levu bloc, Ro Filipe split the votes in Rewa, Ro Teimumu’s stronghold.

He reduced Ro Teimumu’s total votes. He was later elected SODELPA president.

The chiefs are still very much part of the SODELPA rhetoric.

Bowing out

With Ro Teimumu and Ratu Naiqama bowing out, they leave a vacuum in the SODELPA camp.

They have been there since the days of the SDL under Laisenia Qarase and were actively involved in the transition to SODELPA.

Despite the emergence of the Vanua bloc as the new power in SODELPA, the position of chiefs has again come under the spotlight.

Chiefly duties

Some in the party argue that chiefs should revert to their traditional role and leave politics to the commoners. But the opposing group thinks otherwise and wants to reinforce the chiefly influence.

In politics, though, chiefly influence does not completely dictate the way people vote.

Ratu Naiqama won his seat through the Lami, Suva and Nausori corridor votes not from his traditional base.

Politics aside, there is an increasing demand today for a more hands-on chiefly leadership to provide direction to the people – to fulfill traditional obligations in their villages (koro), districts (tikina) and provinces (yasana).

Leading from Suva or Lautoka or Nadi does not really cut it nowadays because iTaukei want to see chiefs live among them as their source of inspiration and to participate in community activities.

The chiefs need to return to occupy their traditional base (yavu) and live among their people.

There is a theory that social problems which now afflict villages is attributed to a lack of leadership at a higher level.

That is not entirely true. Villages are autonomous. They run their own affairs. Their village titles are based on customary laws and practices backed by records kept by the iTaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission.

Their links to their paramount chiefs are based on a special unwritten relationship which is retained through oral history, cultural practices and records kept by the commission.

The involvement of chiefs in political and cultural affairs is part of an ongoing debate.

Politics vs Vanua roles

Should chiefs stay out of politics?

The abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs remains a controversial issue. The council was scrapped because it was a hotbed for politics. It was used by some chiefs to garner support for their political agenda.

The clash between politics and their traditional role will continue. That has been a subject of intense discussion over the years.

With Ro Teimumu and Ratu Naiqama bowing out of politics in 2022, can we now expect to see an acceleration of change that allows chiefs to totally focus on their core traditional role rather than mixing it with politics?

  • TOMORROW: Clash of cultures

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