The abolishment of the Great Council of Chiefs has become a subject of political debate. Whilst the Bainimarama Government is firm that the Great Council of Chiefs was politicised, on the contrary Indigenous rights groups claim that native legislations which were entrenched under the 1997 Constitution are no longer protected.
Given the differing views the writer is of the idea that iTaukei people need to revitalise their history and transmit to the future generations the correct systems and identity that makes iTaukei people unique as a tribal unit.
The writer is of the view that indigenous rights must not be used as the reason to restore the Great Council of Chiefs by advocating the group rights that make tribes fall under the Confederation of Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata which recognizes the Vunivalu kei Bau as the supreme chief of the iTaukei people because of the following recorded evidence:
Colonel W.J. Smythe’s report presented to the British parliament in 1862 confirming that Cakobau did not have the authority to cede the Fiji Islands after having meetings with Salabogi and nine other chiefs of Nakorotubu.
G.V. Maxwell the Commissioner of the Native Land Commission, recorded on Legislative Council Paper No.27 of 1915 to the Colonial Secretary stated that:
“The conspiracies and perjury (lying under oath/false swearing) that stand revealed from time to time is simply appalling…”
The exclusion of the Ratu Mai Verata to be a party to the signing of the Deed of Cession in 1874 supported by the statement given under oath by Ratu Penioni Ravoka, the Ratu Mai Verata dated 21st April 1915 at the Maxwell Commission held at Bau which is clearly recorded at the iTaukei Land Commission.
Tukutuku Raraba ni Yavusa Kubuna, Bau (sworn statement) by Ratu Isoa Natuituba the representative of the Vunivalu kei Bau dated 21st April 1915 at the Maxwell Commission held at Bau recorded at the iTaukei Land Commission confirms that the Vunivalu kei Bau a “Kai Dewala” are descendants of Dauwala the fifth child of Maseinawa of Verata.
The statement given under oath by by Ratu mai Verata Ratu Penioni Ravoka dated 21st April 1915 before the Maxwell Commission at Bau recorded at the iTaukei Land Commission established that Verata was not conquered by Bau in any war nor Verata was part of the Matanitu ko Bau and he stated that Verata was an independentvanua. During the proceedings Ratu Savenaca Seniloli of Bau in response to Ratu Penioni Ravoka’s statement could not provide any evidence that Bau conquered Verata in war nor did he give any evidence to prove that Verata was not an independent vanua and neither did he prove that Verata came under the Matanitu ko Bau.
6.Evidence recorded within the iTaukei Native Land Commission from Nayau and Ono-i-Lau proves that Banuve the father of Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa (father of Ratu Cakobau) was not the son of Nadurocoko. The evidence suggests that Banuve was the son of Niumataiwalu of Yavusa Vuanirewa, Lau with Adi Davila of Nairai while Nadurucoko was away in Vuna, Taveuni. This is why Nadurucoko sent a tabua to Ono-i-Lau for the murder of Niumataiwalu.
Therefore, Banuve’s descendants through his son Vuibureta who was the father of Ratu Mara Kapaiwai who begat Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi I who begat Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, Adi Temumu Vuikaba, Ratu Jale Vuiyasawa, Adi Kacaraini Loaloakubou, Adi Salote Mokoiwaqa and Ratu Dovi (father of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi II current Roko Tui Bau) are of Yavusa Vuanirewa and not of Vusaratu, Yavusa Kubuna. Similarly, Banuve’s descendants through his son Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa who was the father of Ratu Seru Cakobau who begat Ratu Josefa Celua who begat Ratu Popi Epeli Seniloli (the father of Ratu Sir George K. Cakobau, the late Vunivalu kei Bau) are of Yavusa Vuanirewa and not of Mataqali Tuikaba, Tokatoka Vunivalu, Yavusa Kubuna.
The influence of Ratu Savenaca Seniloli of Mataqali Tuikaba an assessor at the Maxwell Commission held at Bau, was evident when Nadurucoko’s elder brother Raivalita’s descendants were labelled (unknown). Later, the fifth descendant of Raivalita, Kuliniasi Malani was registered in Mataqali Burelevu (Navakawaluwalu), Tokatoka 935, Nabukadra, Nakorotubu, Ra in 1918. Evidence recorded at the iTaukei Land Commission suggests that Ratu Seniloli and the representatives of Mataqali Burelevu and Mataqali Navokavoka’s carefully prearranged statements to suppress inconvenient truths used by Ratu Seniloli a member the Maxwell Commission to fabricate palpable untruths to conceal Kuliniasi Malani as the descendant of Raivalita, the elder lineage of the Vunivalu kei Bau. The statements recorded showed that the greater part of the evidence given by Yavusa Burelevu was fabricated because it contradicted the evidences under oath by Kinitioti Nauluna of the Yavusa Sau, Nayavuira. The result of this conspiracy caused the death of Ratu Seniloli when he was bitten to death by an army of rats the same night. When Boyd another member of the Maxwell Commission continued the proceedings after the death of Ratu Seniloli, Kinitioti Nauluna gave on oath of a family tree to displace the position of Mataqali Navokavoka as previously endorsed by Ratu Seniloli.
The evidence recorded proved that Dewalarua was the son of Salabogi and Salabogi was the son of Nabukavou and Nabukavou was the son of Nainimatabua and Nainimatabua was the son of Naucabalavu. Naucabalavu was the son of Raivalita, the elder brother of Nadurucoko. Ratu Savenaca Seniloli’s conspiracy with Mataqali Navokavoka recorded that Meli Salabogi was the son of Josua Mara and Josua Mara was the son of Dewalarua and Dewalarua was the son of Nabukavou. Evidence from Kinitioti Nauluna of Yavusa Sau, Nayavuira, Vilikesa Vatuwaliwali of Yavusa Naqeledamu (Vusaratu) and Alipate Gonerogo of Yavusa Dewala, at the NLC hearing at Nagigi, Nasavusavu in 1928 as an evidence under oath state that Meli Salabogi of Mataqali Navokavoka is the son of Josua Mara and Josua Mara’s father is Dewalarua the son of Ravulo Nauluna and not Dewalarua the son of Salabogi. The evidence confirmed that Meli Salabogi of Mataqali Navokavoka is a descendant of Nataka and not a descendant of Nabukavou. Nataka is the father of Ravulo Nauluna. Kuliniasi Malani’s death certificate proved that his father was Dewalarua the son of Salabogi. Salabogi spelt Salabogee in Colonel W.J. Smythe’s report was one of the chiefs of Nakorotubu present at the 1859 discussions with fellow chiefs Nacamavuto, Daunibau and Ratu Isikeli Komaisavai on Cakobau’s first offer for cession. Despite, the conspiracy to label the descendants of Raivalita (unknown) by NLC hearing of 1915, on September 18, 1959, during the installation of the last Vunivalu of Bau, Kuliniasi Roko Malani II of Nabukadra, Ra grandson of Kuniniasi Malani (who was concealed by Ratu Seniloli in 1918) traditionally endorsed the installation of Ratu George Cakobau as the Vunivalu of Bau and escorted Ratu George Cakobau to the Roko Tui Bau after they had spent the previous night at the Vatanitawake before the ceremony.
The Ratu Mai Verata in1931 at the Naimasimasi NLC hearing questioned the Ratu Sukuna Commission on the title of Tui Viti and despite the evidences recorded by the G.V. Maxwell Commission 1915 in Bau, Ratu Sukuna deliberately concealed the Ratu Mai Verata and recorded Mataqali Naisanokonoko under the tribal name Yavusa ko Vunivalu (Verata) and introduced a iTokatoka Natarakeibau which did not reflect the Yavusa Ratu tribe identity.
The fabricated palpable untruths to improve the position of Bau over Verata by recording a Yavusa ko Vunivalu (Verata) on 7/7/1931surrendering the Ratu Mai Verata by a stroke of a pen in classifying Mataqali Naisanokonoko to an unknown Yavusa ko Vunivalu (Verata) to be brought under the Tokatoka Vunivalu of Mataqali Tuikaba, Yavusa ko Kubuna which was recorded on 3/7/1931.
The Verata records were entered four days after the Bau record was finalised proves Bau’s determination to reduce the power of Verata in the politics of Fiji by bringing the Tikina of Verata under the Yasana of Tailevu which the Vunivalu kei Bau was the supreme chief of Kubuna. This is where the Yavusa Ratu tribal identity was completely removed by Ratu Sukuna so that the confederacy system within the Great Council of Chiefs will always uphold and protect the supremacy of the Vunivalu kei Bau over the Ratu Mai Verata.
ITaukei people need to remove the culture of corruption and clean up the existing traditional systems by correcting that which will transmit to the future generations their true history that connects every tribe in Fiji as part of an ancestral unit that first settled in the Fiji Islands. It is no doubt that the confederacy system supports the Matanitu ko Bau’s version of iTaukei history while the tribal system will provide all the communal units of the yavusa classificatory an identity and right to settle the various parts of the Fiji Islands as a representative of the Yavusa Ratu, Verata.
Even the Roko Tui Dreketi a descendant of Romelasiga was a representative of the Yavusa Ratu in Burebasaga and the Tui Cakau a descendant of Ralulu through Rokevu was a representative of the Yavusa Ratu in Lalagavesi, Cakaudrove. The ‘kalou vu’, spirit god of Bau ,Vueti, whose yavu is the Vatanitawake was given the title of Roko Tui Bau by Rokomautu after the Nakauvadra war. Vueti migrated to Kubuna from Verata and blessed by Rokomautu to represent the Yavusa Ratu in Kubuna, because he was a vasu of Verata and cannot become the Ratu Mai Verata.
Vueti the Roko Tui Bau was the paramount chief of the Yavusa Kubuna, which is Bau today.
All the iTukutuku Raraba of the tribes in Vanua Levu recorded at the iTaukei Lands Commission recognises that their ‘Vu’ (first ancestor) migrated from Verata.
Their traditional role was allocated according to the Verata tribal system of Turaga, Sauturaga, Matanivanua, Gonedau, Mataisau, Bati and Bete, their tribal identity linked them to their Verata yavutu which resembles their ‘kau, manumanu, cavuti, vakacaucauniravu’.
The tradition, customs and ownership rights of iTaukei land are based on the Verata communalism which includes a tax system of i sevu and through tributes sent from as far as Udu Point in Vanualevu following the volivoli suluka tributary network and collection points at Labasa, Wailevu, Savusavu and Navatu, Natewa bay to be taken to the Ratu Mai Verata.
The tribute custom was to thank the Ratu Mai Verata for his blessings that they have become fruitful in the land that they have settled through the Verata colonisation.
Bau comprises five groups of people; the first group came with Vueti, the Roko Tui Bau, includes the Vusaratu and Vusaradave. Vueti has no living descendant today which also means that the current head of the Vusaratu clan in Bau are not direct descendants of Vueti as the title of Roko Tui Bau is survived by a descendant of Banuve through Vuibureta. The second group of people in Bau is the Kawa ni Vunivalu, through Dauwala a “Kai Dewala” came to Bau when Malodali a Navatu chief of Cakaudrove upon the instructions of Nacamavuto the GonesauofKavula brought Nailatikau Nabuinivuaka the son of Nadurucoko of Navakawaluwalu, Nabukadra, Ra to seek asylum with the Roko Tui Bau. Nabuinivuaka had murdered his brother Dranibaka and had fled to his step brother of theYavusa Ratu , Nacamavuto to hide and Nacamavuto decided to send Nabuinivuaka to the Yavusa Ratu outpost, in Kubuna under the Roko Tui Bau to protect Nabuinivuaka from theDewala people who wanted to kill him because of what he did to his brother.
The third group of people in Bau are descendants of Tuivanuakula through Niumataivalu who was the father of Banuve. Niumataiwalu’s elder son Rasolo was the fourth grandfather of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. The fourth group of people had migrated to Bau through Kaba, led by the Tuinitoga and today make up various chiefly domes in the Tikina of Bau are descendants of Tuivanuakula through Ratu Seru. The fifth group of people in Bau is the clan of Lasakau “Bai kei Bau” who were the traditional seafarers and warriors of the Vunivalu.
The whole migration history of the iTaukei people cannot be captured by the Bauan confederacy system within the Great Council of Chiefs.
The confederacy system does not have a history of vanua colonisation; it does not have an original tribal system and identity because the Yavusa ko Kubuna was supposed to be an outpost of the Yavusa Ratu in Bau and was never intended to become a Matanituko Bauwith its head as the supreme chief of the Kubuna Confederacy and to be Tui Viti to supersede Verata.
Tui Viti title
The title of the Tui Viti was first proclaimed by Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa and his son Ratu Cakobau through sagacious political marriage brought Burebasaga and Tovata under theVunivalu kei Bau and styled himself as Tui Viti. This was discovered by Colonel W.J.Smythe and after consultations around Fiji, concluded that Cakobau did not have the authority to cede Fiji because his tribe, Yavusa ko Kubuna, comes under the Ratu Mai Verata. Salabogi the supreme chief of Nakorotubu the descendant of Raivalita elder brother of Nadurucoko with the Yavusa Ratu chief Nacamavuto, Daunibau and Ratu Isikeli Tabakaucoro the Roko Tui Viwa agreed that they were giving military support for Bau, with the deployment of theVuakaloa to the war in Kedekede, Lakeba, Lau and a war in Vureyagi in Cakaudrove on the orders of the Government set up at Navukivakawalu (Meeting house for the Yavusa Ratu and the Yavusa Deawala) which had the mandate of the Ratu Mai Verata.
They never recognised Bau as a matanitu but as members of the Yavusa Ratu and Yavusa Dewala under the Matanitu ko Verata.
Given the compromised tribal identity of the iTaukei people based on a culture to conceal truths and the culture of silence created by the chiefly system evolved over the years.
It also became the belief within the Great Council of Chiefs which prevented the truth to emerge. It is time for Fijians to rediscover the truth of their twisted history.
The Great Council of Chiefs should not be restored because the chiefly system is flawed.
The culture in which the chiefly system operates is politicised by the interest of the descendants of the chiefs in 1874, who use the “by convention rule” to decide matters, for example the President of the Republic of Fiji rotates among the Confederacies of Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata.
The convention will always reflect an element of inequality even if one claims it’s the traditional way to do things.
In order to remove the old ways of doing things, the Bainimarama Government needs to sanction a special commission to investigate the breach of tribal rights surrounding the signing of the Deed of Cession 1874 and to realign the tribal history recorded at the iTaukeiLand Commission to enable iTaukei people to recognise their rightful indigenous community in accordance with the preamble of the 2013 Constitution, their ownership of iTaukei lands by Yavusa, Mataqali or iTokatoka.
Their unique culture, customs, traditions and language must reflect their Verata ancient heritage and not an ancient heritage created by the British colonial legacy to protect the supremacy of Bau.
To do this will truly reflect the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People (2007) and liberate a race that suffers from a culture of treachery, deception and corruption.