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Private Tubuna: How I Was Chosen

‘It felt so surreal. I was happy yet nervous at the same time. But we did a lot of rehearsals’
13 Sep 2022 17:30
Private Tubuna: How I Was Chosen
From Left: British Army personnel, Private Peni Tubuna. (R) That defining moment for British Army personnel, Private Peni Tubuna, and Fijians around the world

His picture has been pasted on news sites, captured on video and on social media platforms across the world. Private Peni Tubuna was one of eight pallbearers in the late Queen Elizabeth II’s cortege at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland, over the weekend.

This is ahead of its final journey to London where a big funeral procession is expected to take place. The late Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 in Balmoral Castle, Scotland.

Private Peni Tubuna is a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Monarchs Regiment in Edinburgh.

 

He was hailed by his father, Semi Tubuna, as an inspiration. Even the Gone Marama Bale Na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, shared how proud she was of his achievement and for Fiji.

But how did this 21-year-old, who hails from Narocivo in Rewa and has maternal links to Vutia, become a part of history and a royal one at that? Speaking from the British Army’s Redford Barrack in Edinburgh, Private Tubuna revealed how he was chosen to be a part of the what has been dubbed Operation LONDON BRIDGE.

 

“Two months ago, we were asked to volunteer to become pallbearers for the late Queen Elizabeth II funeral,” he said.

“It was solely based on performance.”

“Me and another Fijian were selected to be part of the procession. Unfortunately, my fellow colleague could not participate.”

 

He said he couldn’t believe he was part of an occasion of such magnitude as well as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It felt so surreal,” the quiet and reserved man said.

“I was happy yet nervous at the same time. But we did a lot of rehearsals within the two days (September 6-7).”

Private Tubuna was drafted by the British Army while he was still a Year 13 student at Dilkusha Methodist High School in 2019. He left that year and became a British Army in 2020.

 

Traditional Role

Private Tubuna’s role in the royal funeral procession is coincidentally aligned to that of his traditional role as the Qase ni Vale (traditional elders to the chiefly household) for the paramount chief of Rewa.

Among them is when a member of the chiefly clan dies, they would dig the grave, carry the casket and bury the body as Ro Teimumu explained yesterday.

She said she was proud of Private Tubuna’s achievement and more than proud to see a Rewan doing his duty to the late Queen.

 

“Where Peni is from they are known as Qase ni vale,” Ro Teimumu said.

“From birth to death of the Roko Tui Dreketi, the Qase ni Vale plays an important role.”

“When it comes to the funeral of the chiefly family of the Roko Tui Dreketi their role includes digging the grave, carrying the casket and burial ,” Ro Teimumu said.

 

“So Peni is very familiar with his role as a pallbearer. This was a role that Peni’s ancestors did and has been passed down from generation to generation. It is nothing new to him.”

“It is his role when it comes to the Roko Tui Dreketi and he is doing it now for Her Majesty the Queen.”

 

Pivotal Role

Father, Mr Tubuna said: “I thank God for his provision in my son’s life.”

“I am proud of my son who has played such a pivotal role and I am sure he has made every Fijian proud wherever they may be” Mr Tubuna said.

“When Queen Elizabeth II died, the same night our son called to inform us that he had been chosen from his platoon to be a pallbearer.”

 

“When I saw my son’s picture on Facebook I felt this sense of pride. He was able to lift the name of our family and Fiji as a whole.”

Private Tubuna is the eldest of four siblings and second in his family to be a soldier.

“The only soldier in the family was my great grandfather back in the days,” his father added.

The Queen Elizabeth II’s reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch and the second-longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country.

 

Feedback: wati.talebula@fijisun.com.fj



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