NATION

Ratu Inoke Shares Insights From His Leadership Journey

He is fiji’s candidate for the pacific island forum secretariat secretary-general. He was nominated by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in august this year.
28 Nov 2020 14:55
Ratu Inoke Shares Insights From His Leadership Journey
Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was this week awarded the Fiji50 medal from the President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote. Photo: DEPTFO News

 

Seasoned diplomat and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, was taken by surprise in August this year.

He was advised that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wished to nominate him as Fiji’s candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

A son of the village of Somosomo, Tavenui, in the province of Cakaudrove, Ratu Inoke had decided to take a step back from public office and politics in 2018 after serving as a minister under the FijiFirst Government for nine years.

He served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2009- 2016 and Minister of Defence and National Security from 2016 – 2018.

“I had decided to take a sabbatical in 2018 and was surprised and honoured when I was advised by Foreign Affairs of the nomination this year,” Ratu Inoke said.

“It was not something I asked for; however it was an opportunity to serve the region and her people and so I accepted.”

Announcing the nomination, Mr Bainimarama noted that the region had reached a critical crossroad.

This, he added, was challenged by shifting geopolitical dynamics that influences the way business is done in the region, with the need for strong and decisive leadership at the Forum Secretariat.

 

Establishing Regional Networks

The nomination has provided the opportunity for Ratu Inoke to reflect on his leadership journey and the relationships he has built in the region.

 

In Vanuatu

This begins with his first leadership role as Distribution Manager for the Bible Society of the South Pacific in 1975.

“I was quite young at the time and I was required to travel the length and breadth of the Pacific, visiting churches to distribute Bibles,” he said.

“There was not much of a budget for accommodation when I travelled so I was often accommodated in the homes of the church leaders in the countries that I visited.

“During a visit to Port Vila in 1979, I was invited by friends, Senior Pastors of the Presbyterian Church to participate in the big march for independence through town.

“Some of those ministers like Reverend Fred Timakata and Seci Reganvanu became cabinet ministers in the Walter Lini government at independence in 1980.”

 

In Nauru

In Nauru, Ratu Inoke was often hosted at the home of the Senior Pastor of the Nauruan Protestant Church, father of the current President of Nauru Lionel Aingimea and the friendship with the family has remained to this day.

 

In American Samoa

In American Samoa, Reverend Enoka Alesana would look after his visits with this network proving valuable when Ratu Inoke had to visit his brother, Prime Minister Tofilau Eli Alesana, during his term as Fiji’s Minister for Communications in 1998.

“When I mentioned the relationship with Reverend Alesana he welcomed me warmly and considered my proposal,” Ratu Inoke said.

 

In Samoa

Ratu Inoke’s visit to Samoa as Minister for Communications followed the successful securing of the landing of the Southern Cross fibre optic cable in Fiji, following intense lobbying with the sponsors of the cable in Sydney earlier that year (1998).

He sought the support from Samoa and Tonga to share the cost of the landing of the cable and to also share the services by hooking up to Fiji.

While this did not eventuate, FINTEL, partly owned by Cable &Wireless UK with 51 per cent owned by the Fijian Government, paid for the landing of the cable that has served Fiji well over the years.

It has facilitated excellent internet connectivity and fast data transmission in comparison to other countries in the region.

 

Leadership Based On Relationship & Trust

For Ratu Inoke, leadership is defined by building relationships that are trusted, transparent and honest.

“A lot of the relationships that I have established even during my term as Minister for Foreign Affairs negotiating Fiji’s relationship with Australia and New Zealand, after the events of 2006 has been based on honesty and my choosing to be open and upfront with my counterparts,” Ratu Inoke said.

“Over time, they have appreciated the openness and it helped build confidence in us as people and a nation.

“The continual contact with the Foreign Ministers of Australia and New Zealand paid off with Fiji’s quick readmission to the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth days after the 2014 elections.”

 

Australia’s Julie Bishop

Endorsing his nomination, former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, who worked closely with Ratu Inoke during this time said in a statement:

“I have known Ratu Inoke Kubuabola since 2012 and I hold him in high regard.

“He was an effective and principled Fijian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“Inoke defended and promoted the interests of Fiji and the Pacific Islands bilaterally and multilaterally, including at the United Nations and other forums.”

 

UN General-Secretary

A more recent example of trusted regional relationships is the role Ratu Inoke played in securing the support of the PIFs chair, Nauruan President Baron Waqa, to facilitate the historic first time visit of a UN Secretary-General to Pacific region in 2019.

The visit of the Antonio Guterres was dependent upon a meeting of PIF Leaders in Suva, which needed to be facilitated by the PIFs chair.

Accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy travelled to Nauru to seek the support of President Waqa.

He approached him with a traditional Fijian presentation to seek his support.

President Waqa, who has paternal links to Fiji, was moved to accept the request and the presentation and subsequently called for the leaders to meet with the UN S-G in Suva, Fiji.

The visit became a milestone achievement towards cementing stronger diplomatic relations between the United Nations and the Pacific region.

Endorsing Ratu Inoke’s nomination, Baron Waqa said in a statement:

“I have known and worked with Ratu Inoke for a good number of years, particularly during part of my two-year term as President of the Republic of Nauru.

“With his vast experience gained through many years as a diplomat in Fiji’s Foreign Service and a politician served as Fiji Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke is well positioned to take the helm of the PIF Secretariat.

“I am confident that his wisdom and great leadership will help steer PIF well into the future with positive and balanced outcomes for all member countries.”

 

Personal relationships

While Ratu Inoke has been able to build relationships regionally and internationally, his relationships are anchored in Fiji with his wife of 42 years Jiu Volau Kubuabola and his children and grandchildren.

Ratu Inoke speaks with passion about the relationships with the vanua and the people of the province of Cakaudrove built and cemented over the years.

He also speaks fondly of his relationships with the business community in Suva and his long lasting friendships.

They include: businessmen Vinod Gokal who owns Gokals Group Fiji, Himmat Lodhia and tennis buddies, Daniel Whippy, Arun Narsey, Willie Wong,  John Chung, Mahesh Patel and Sakiusa Raivoce.

 

Education

Ratu Inoke has been able to work with the many diverse groups in Fiji in his various leadership roles.

He highlighted one of his achievements in the establishment of the Multi Ethnic Scholarship scheme while he was Minister for Regional Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs in 1995.

“During that time there were scholarships offered for iTaukei students through the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and scholarships through the Public Service Commission,” he said.

“We recognised that there was a gap in the support towards Indo-Fijian and generals families who could not afford to send their children to university.

“We submitted a cabinet paper which was approved and while the initial budget allocation was small, it assisted many bright young students, who may not have had the opportunity to pursue further education, otherwise.”

Ratu Inoke recognises the complexities of regional politics and the navigation around different county and sub-regional priorities and remains committed to serving the best interests of the region and to champion the collective action needed to take the region forward beginning with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific.

Ana Laqeretabua is a Certified Trainer, Coach & 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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