Monday, May 25, 2009

Ratu Sukuna remembered

photo from flickr
from w
When tidying up a cupboard full of old books and magazines I came acorss a bundle of Pacific Island Monthly magazines. In one of them from December 1987 I saw this article about Ratu Sir Sukuna. It is obviously dated, as the opening reference is of course to Sitiveni Rabuka. There's a statue of Ratu Sukuna in front of the Suva Law Courts that I noticed when I went to the Hibiscus Festival stalls to buy some lunch one time. What would Ratu Sukuna say today I wonder?

By Stuart Inder in an article entitled 'Leaders and their Legacies'.

Born in 1988 and dead in 1958, Ratu Sukuna's ideals made it possible in 1987 for another Fijian soldier, with less patience and wisdom but certainly no lack of courage, toa try to restore a Fijian ascendancy that he thought was endangered. Ratu Sukuna did more than any other man to safeguard Fijian rights. Without him Fijians would long ago have been overwhelmed by Indians and Europeans, and perhaps, by the rest of the world.

Ratu Sukuna understood his fellow man from early in his career as a Fijian civil servant. He took leave of absence to join the British Army in World War 1, but was unwanted, so he crossed the Channel and joined the French Foreign Legion. In tough campaigns against the Germans he was wounded and won awards for bravery under fire. Before the war ended he was back in France with a Fijian detachment.

During his long rise in the Fiji civil service, becoming Secretary of Fijian Affairs, he was the man to whom the Fijians looked for leadership and guidance. He became the foremost Fijian this century. His greatest achievement was to plant and nourish the seed of the Fiji Native Land Trust Board. Through the Native land Trust Ordinance and the Fijian Affairs Ordinance of 1948, which regularised control of village, district and provincial administration and the law and other aspects of Fijian life, he achieved a unifying effect throughout Fiji. He brought culture and law under a common umbrella. The Native Land Trust Ordinance had the effect of reserving adequate land for the Fijian owners while making other land available for cultivation by tenants, particularly Indians.

Ratu Sukuna made it possible for the Fijians to recover the autonomy they had enjoyed through the Fijian administration after Cession in 1874, and he helped them resist urbanisation and develop their land. But throughout his life and his work for the Fijians, he preached that Fiji was a three-legged stool-dependent for its stability on harmony and tolerance among Fijians, Indians and Europeans. Because of Ratu Sukuna's legacy, tolerance should in time be restored again.

I found this interesting picture after a google search. It's good that the men in the photo are named - maybe your great-grandfather is there! A photo from 1918. In the wikipedia article under the photo is written: Ratu Sukuna Tui Nayau and other chieftains of Lau in Vanuabalavu, 1918 after service in France and before he left again for England. Click on the picture to see larger and to be able to read the writing.

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