SEMINARIAN APPOINTED KING OF WALLIS' NEW KIVALU

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MATA‘UTU, Wallis and Futuna (January 8, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Fiji-trained seminarian Tisimasi Heafala last month was officially appointed kivalu, the equivalent of a prime minister in traditional terms, by the King of Wallis, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The new kivalu was officially endorsed at a ceremony held just before Christmas on Wallis Island.

The French territory's highest customary authorities, including the High Chiefs Council members, attended the ceremony, as well as France's representative in Wallis and Futuna, prefect Alain Waquet.

In order to assume the high traditional rank, 47-year-old Tisimasi Heafala had to give up another high customary post, that of "fotuatamai" (regional chief).

As a result, Falaleu village chief Alefosio Tolikoli will become the new fotuatamai, leaving Falaleu village temporarily without a chief.

The appointment of a new kivalu was triggered by the departure of the position's former holder, Atelemo Taofifenua, who last month moved to New Caledonia (where the community of Wallisians and Futunians is more numerous than in Wallis and Futuna itself).

Heafala said he was "surprised" by the King's choice to appoint him.

However, he accepted the new role, stressing that chiefs had an important role to play in addition to the local government.

"Chiefs have a specific role and no one will dispute that."

He pledged to work towards better communication among traditional leaders.

"There is an imbalance between the moral powers and the real powers."

He also said work would have to be done on re-assessing the compulsory amount and value of traditional gifts, an unwritten rule that bears a heavy weight in traditional life, especially during Wallis's renowned lavish feasts.

The gifts can range from large amounts of such things as pigs, mats and kava roots.

"They have to be made fairer, at all levels."

Tisimasi Heafala is a familiar face in neighboring Fiji, where he studied at the regional Pacific Regional Seminary for seven years.

He later gained a master’s degree in biblical theology after studying at the Paris Catholic Institute.

After completing his studies, Heafala taught for some years both in Wallis and Fiji.

He returned to Wallis for good in 1995, where he has since been working in the Catholic education department, especially on a project aimed at integrating the Wallisian language into the primary school curriculum.

For the past eight years, the position of kivalu in Wallis has been highly unstable. Heafala is the fifth person to hold the title since 1992.

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