Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, His Leadership Journey

He is Fiji’s candidate for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. He firmly believes that the 12 years at Bible Society and his foundational training in leadership and management has served him well over the years.
22 Nov 2020 21:07
Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, His Leadership Journey
Fiji’s candidate for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

As the dates loom closer for the Pacific Islands leaders to meet to make a decision on the next Secretary-General for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, there is an increased interest in the five candidates for the position and what they have to offer to the region.

Fiji’s candidate for the position is seasoned diplomat and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, nominated in recognition of his ability to bring strong and decisive leadership to the Forum at this time.

Announcing the nomination in August, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama highlighted the careful consideration of the complex regional environment and the need for Ratu Inoke’s strong and visionary leadership to be able to guide, advise and broker political relationships and agreements in the best interest of the Pacific people.
A look into Ratu Inoke’s leadership journey reveals a great deal about the man and his commitment to the people of the region. He speaks fondly of his early years as Distribution Manager for the Bible Society in the South Pacific, where he was required to travel the length and breadth of the Pacific from Tahiti in the East to
Solomon Islands in the West distributing bibles to both Catholic and Protestants churches in the 12 countries the Suva regional office was responsible for.

During the 5 years as Distribution Manager with the Bible Society from 1975 -1980 and subsequently, as General Secretary from 1980 – 1987, Ratu Inoke had the
opportunity to attend management and leadership training provided by the United Bible Societies for all their leadership staff. The South Pacific office sat under the
Asia Pacific Bible Society and training was offered every year in either Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong.

The countries covered by the Bible Society of the Pacific at the time included Tahiti, Cook islands, Niue, Tonga, Samoa, New Caledonia, `Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Vanuatu, Solomon islands.

Ratu Inoke firmly believes that the 12 years at Bible Society and his foundational training in leadership and management has served him well over the years.

“Leadership from the Bible is based on service and I have never turned down an opportunity to serve the people.”

Ratu Inoke’s first Ministerial role was presented to him in 1988 when he was invited by the Prime Minister of the interim administration, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara to take up the position of Minister for Information in place of the then incumbent Minister Charlie Walker who was leaving to take up the role of Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan.

“It was very new for me to become a Minister and I had to learn very quickly. Fortunately for me, I had very good staff working under Director of Information
Walter Thomas so I had good support.”

It was during his tenure as Minster for Information that Ratu Inoke spearheaded the introduction of television services to Fiji.

“When I entered into the office of the Minister for Information, I came across a study titled, The Social Impact of Television in Fiji. “I realized then that one of the main reasons the Alliance Government had not been able to introduce television into Fiji was because of the opposition from the churches at the time, which was outlined in the study.”

In 1991, Ratu Inoke in his capacity as Minister for Information was approached by Television New Zealand who expressed interest in bringing a temporary television service to Fiji to screen the 1991 World Cup rugby tournament. He sought the approval of Prime Minister Ratu Mara who recommended a cabinet paper be prepared for cabinet decision.

“I was aware that the Prime Minister loved to watch rugby and also that once the Fiji public had a taste of television they would want the service to stay.”

While there was some opposition from within cabinet the Prime Minister supported the paper, which led to the introduction of television to Fiji in 1991.

It was also during his tenure as Minister for Information that the Fiji Government entered into a partnership with Vodafone UK for the introduction of mobile phone services to Fiji. Vodafone UK had invited the Fiji Government to send a senior technician from Fiji Post and Telecommunication Limited to the UK to be trained and this subsequently led to the establishment of Vodafone Fiji with Government owning 51% and Vodafone UK 49%.

“One of the great sources of fulfillment for me, is seeing people on their phones in the rural areas and seeing rural farmers connecting with their buyers in the market.

“It makes me happy to know that I helped make that possible.”

For Ratu Inoke, the challenges of leadership have been many over the years as he has served under various administrations in various capacities. “When you give your all to serve people, you go out of your way and people are ungrateful and unappreciative – this has been a challenge for me over the years but then again that is what service is and if it’s really service you should not expect appreciation,” he added.

“My wife and I also went through a difficult period of being alienated by the family because of my decision to serve under the Fiji First administration, so that was a
difficult and challenging time, but I had sought advice from those that matter before taking on the role and I was assured that it was an opportunity to serve.”

The relationships were restored following the 2014 elections that he contested and won.
For Ratu Inoke, the support from his wife, Jiu Volau Kubuabola who he has been married to for 42 years has helped him navigate the challenges of the leadership journey. They have three children, Kitione, Laisa and Soloila and five grandchildren, two who live in the UK and three in Lautoka.

“Not very many people know this but everything I do has been because I want to serve God and I bring that to the roles that I have been asked to serve in over the
“I have been able to build and maintain many relationships across the region and across the world, as I continue to serve in various capacities.”

Ratu Inoke strongly believes in the advancement of regionalism through clear direction and vision that embodies the Pacific Way and appreciates the recognition of
his leadership by Fiji to chart the course for the next 50 years for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. He looks forward to the opportunity to work alongside the leaders to develop a form of regionalism that responds to members needs, beginning with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific.

  • Ana Laqeretabua is a Certified Leadership Trainer and Facilitator with the John Maxwell Team. She is the Principal Consultant at SALT Incorporated Limited, a Development Consultancy based in Suva, Fiji


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