Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Tui Labasa title

from Peceli
Stan Ritova / Whippy wrote this passionate article for the Fiji Times defending his relatives right to the Tui Labasa title. Stan's name however was not put on the article but it's obvious that he is the writer. Here is his article. I will make comments in the next blog posting.

Defending the Qomate legacy
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Labasa was defended by Ratu Tevita Qomate against marauding tribes The fight for the position of Tui Labasa has been on going for generations with two family members of Labasa's chiefly Mataqali Wasavulu, the Draunas and the Dimuris, forever vying for a position they know is not theirs traditionally.

The current holder is Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate Ritova of the Qomate clan, who has been officially declared by the Native Land and Fisheries Commission (NLC) in Suva, as the rightful holder of theTui Labasa title. But this has been challenged by factions of Labasa's chiefly mataqali (land owning unit) of Wasavulu and the NLC appeals tribunal is sitting in Labasa on February 8 to hear the appeal.

Adi Salanieta succeeded her younger brother, Ratu Joeli Tinai Ritova, when he died in 2004. Ratu Joeli in turn succeeded his older brother Senator Ratu Tevita Qomate Ritova, who passed away prematurely in July 1997.

I am their first cousin because my late mother, Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate, and their late father, Ratu Viliame Baleilevuka Ritova, were siblings and the recognised paramount chiefs of Labasa when their father, the then Tui Labasa, Ratu Viliame Lautiki died in the late 1800s.

He was allegedly killed by Fijian sorcery (draunikau) administered by his enemies, according to my information which I've explained in my book, which is in the throes of completion.

Ratu Viliame Lautiki was the son of Ratu Tevita Qomate, the true paramount chief of Labasa, and who was a descendant of the adventurous and colourful chief Ratu Ritova. He was one of the two chiefs from Macuata province who signed the Deed of Cession ceding Fiji to Queen Victoria in October 1874. The other chief was Ratu Katonivere, whose great-grandson, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, is the current Tui Macuata.

Ratu Tevita Qomate was adored and revered by the people of Labasa because he defended them repeatedly against marauding tribes who tried to conquer Labasa and never did.

He was reported to have been seriosly wounded during one of those conflicts and was taken to his island of Yanuca situated between the two Labasa rivers, the Labasa and Qawa rivers, to recover. Labasa Town is on banks of the Labasa River and the Fiji Sugar Corporation sugar mill is on the Qawa River.

Where were the other so-called chiefs claiming the Tui Labasa title, when Ratu Tevita Qomate was busy defending Labasa and her people in those early wars?

For their qusi ni loaloa (the Fijian custom of washing off of the war paint) and in gratitude for his leadership, the people of Labasa presented him with just under 1400 acres of some of the best land in Labasa listed officially in the records of the Native Land Trust Board and the NLC as the land of the Descendants of Qomate. And that is proudly us my first cousins and I and a surviving half brother plus all our children and grandchildren.

I think this is a unique situation in the annals of the NLTB and NLC and we treasure it.

In actual fact the people of Labasa also presented Ratu Tevita Qomate with all their fishing rights because the NLTB and NLFC records show that the Labasa fishing rights belong to Qomate and is listed as Qomate's Fishing Rights, which extend seaward to the main sea reef from the Wailevu river just south of the Labasa river mouth,and northwards from there to the Mataniwai river.

The records are there for public information.

Other factions of Wasavulu Mataqali muscled in after Ratu Viliame's Lautiki's tragic passing and took over the position of Tui Labasa and ruled without any people because the people continued to recognise my mother, Adi Salanieta and her brother, Ratu Viliame, as their chiefs and have contined to do so with us, their children.

About 60 years later in 1975 my first cousin, Ratu Tevita Qomate Ritova, later appointed a Great Council of Chiefs Senator representing Macuata province, and the eldest son of my mother's brother, was named Tui Labasa, returning the title to its true owners, but only after official intervention.

The late Ratu William Toganivalu, who was Minister for Fijian Affairs at the time, intervened and recalled Colonel George Mate who had just retired in 1975 as Chairman of the NLC and requested him to "straighten out" the situation which he did.
I know this because I was involved.

Col Mate ruled then and informed the elders of Mataqali Wasavulu, many of whom have since passed on, that only the direct descendants of Ratu Tevita Qomate as head of the mataqali were entitled to the title of Tui Labasa and no one else. Period.
The descendants of these family factions who are now claiming the title, know this but have chosen to ignore the information.

Ratu Tevita's installation was a historical and colourful affair in the rara (village green) of Nasekula, the chiefly village of Labasa, in June 1975.

The Tui Macuata at the time, Ratu Raio Katonivere, assisted by his close relative and also high chief of Macuata, Ratu Vuki, and members of the chiefly clan of Caumatalevu conducted the installation ceremony and all the pomp that went with it on a typical beautiful sunny Labasa day.

The fact that the Tui Macuata agreed to conduct the ceremony was in itself evidence that he recognised and believed the true holder of the chiefly position.

And what's more, it had never been done before not in a long time anyway.

Ratu Tevita and I later undertook to build Ro Qomate House for the people in Labasa. This being rented to the Fiji Government for office space.

It was started in 1996 and when Ratu Tevita passed in 1997, I took it over and with the help of Ratu Joeli who succeeded him, finished it in 1998 free of charge apart from being paid for air fares from Suva to Labasa and telephone charges to show our allegiance to the vanua of Labasa and its indigenous people.

And though I live in Sydney now for the time being for the sake of convenience, my allegiance and pride for the place where I was born and lived my early life is still very strong and undying.

The records of the Qomate dynasty are available at the NLC for the public to inspect.

There is nothing sinister or secret about them.

The information was recorded during the Veitarogi Vanua in 1948 organised and administered by the late Fijian high chief and statesman, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, when he was inquiring into Fijian-owned land boundaries and fishing rights for the NLC and NLTB records shortly after he established the organisations to administer and control all Fijian-owned land.

And it is just as well he did because unfortunately there are no dedicated written records of early Fijian history and what transipred in the early days apart from early missionary records, after Christianity arrived on our shores in 1835.
Fijian family history is handed down by mouth and fortunately I took note when the aged told stories of the olden days.

I might just add for the record that during my mother's and her brother's early life they did not complain to anyone about the title of Tui Labasa being taken away from them.

They just carried on with the work of the vanua spending their personal earnings from the six-monthly proceeds of rent from the descendants of Qomate land on their people and their needs.

The British colonial Government recognised them and no one else as the paramount chiefs of Labasa.

We, their surviving children, were also brought up on this money and were well cared for.

In actual fact we did better than most but my mother was always concerned about her people who adored her, visiting them regularly in the 43 villages in the district at the time with me as a young boy, in tow.

Our mode of transport was by taxi as there weren't any buses back in those days the late 1930s, the 1940s and 1950s. It was just after the cart and horse era. I am afraid it is always the colour of money that inspires people to claim something that is not theirs.

The appeals tribunal is going to sit in Labasa next month. The question the tribunal should ask these pretenders is, "where are your people and whom do you represent?" Simple.

Meanwhile, the Tui Labasa, Adi Salanieta is in Suva preparing for the NLC appeals tribunal and has engaged the services of top Suva lawyer, Wendell Archibald, to represent her and the Qomate family. "Meanwhile, life goes on," she said.


Adi Kaila said...

This is very interesting as I do know that Stan Ritova did change his surname back in the late sixties from Whippy to Ritova
The mischievious people at the time said it was because he wanted to claim the title of Tui Labasa.
Oddly enough he did not change his childrens surname, they remained Whippy except for his eldest son Moses who converted to Islam & changed his name altogether to a muslim one.
On an anti coup blogsite this issue was bought up as his daughter Ellen Whippy wrote she was the granddaughter of the Tui Labasa, another blogger revealed that her family was not related to the family as her ancestor was adopted into the Tui Labasa clan because the Tui at the time did not have any children.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Bula sia Adi Kaila! Hmmm.... Genealogies and histories are not objective are they? We put in what we want, leave out some information. It's subjective and biased usually. We have relatives in both camps in the Tui Labasa hand-wrestle, so don't say too much! I would like to see harmony in Naseakula of course and see chiefs really doing a good job, mentoring young people in good ways, sharing their wealth, inspiring their relatives. Is that a hard ask?

Anonymous said...

i do not know who this person is..but i sure like to know about what is she doing back here in Fiji. how she appeared back after a long period in Australia. did she run away from something and why is she suddenly running the fashion shows in Fiji. does she have qualification?

Anonymous said...

ahahahahah....whu is mis kaila aniway..?????is she a kai labasa,fijian or indo-fijian???stay out of this because it would be sensable if you have some kai labasa blood in you to comment though!!,so stop being a waste,poking your nose in to us(kai labasa)bussiness.....stop being nasty to alan,she do comments in this because she knew that us labasa people know her towards her family background as the"TUI LABASA"...THANKS.........

Anonymous said...

Well to you all The answers to all ur questions is their
First of all Katonivere as Tui Macuata is Wrong
Same as Tui Labasa they all die they are not rightfully owners or Tui. I know the Answer all this was done on Vere vakaviti .
I know the answers to all this as I have family trees back to 1600 ,1700 and so on .

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

But its absolutely amazing that on the one hand Stan and his family, including Ellen Whippy who was based in Sydney (not sure if sh'e now based in fiji) seem to lay strong claim to their Tui Labasa connection (and in so doing they try to paint a pix that they identify closely with their itaukei connection, but you know what, it reality they despise all things itaukei. They talk down the kawa i taukei and do not relate to them socially - only when it props them up in the media a eg Ellen Whippy. Most damaging of all, they are strong supporter of this illegal regime, the destroyer of everything itaukei. Ask anyone itaukei and they will readily agree. If they are true blood of Tui Labasa, they will not support the coup, and never denigrate their itaukei roots. Remember if you want to be a chief, cakava na cakacaka ni vanua, humble yourself be with the people. U cant be chief without people. people support legitimises a chief. that means you cant be just a "book" chief or wannabe chief.