CLAIMANTS VIE FOR RAROTONGA CHIEFLY TITLE

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By Ulamila Kurai-Marrie

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 21) - Another claimant has come out to fight for Rarotonga's chiefly Makea title, which has been left vacant since 1994.

The new claimants are descendants of Tavita the first eldest child of Tinomana Makea who held the title in the early 1800.

According to Tavita's great-great-grandson, Matapo Oti, his ancestor (Tavita) was the son of then Tinomana Makea.

Oti said that his ancestor was even mentioned in the book "Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea."

"The teacher and his party commenced family worship morning and evening, at which many persons attended; and, after the first Sabbath-day service, about twenty joined them, among whom was Davida (aka Tavita), the eldest son of the present king."

Oti traces his line to Tavita's first-born Putuariki (Oti's great grandfather) who married Uratua, a daughter of the king of Mauke. They lived in Mauke where his descendants including Oti were raised.

Oti said that Putuariki's son Vaeruarangi was his paternal grandfather.

"Putuariki had siblings Ariki Nooroa born in 1872, Tangituakana born in 1874 and their sister Ngamata born in 1899," says Oti.

"I have 12 brothers and sisters and we are going to fight this in court. We have all the documents that we will need to fight this case dating back to Tavita.

"We will be preparing ourselves for court soon."

The Makea title has been the longest running saga of title disputes stretching back to the early part of last century. Following the death of the title-holder in 1994, three people have been invested with the title, however all their claims have been declared void by the high court.

A report compiled by the Koutu Nui (the body of sub-chiefs) on 'Lands and traditional titles of the indigenous people of the Cook Islands' shed some light on how titles are determined.

"An ariki [chief] to be elected must be of blood relationship to the ariki family. If the ariki has drawn up a will stating to whom the title should go to on his/her death, this will be presented to the family so that they may know who he/she has named to take his/her title of ariki," states the report.

"However, if the ariki had not made a will, normally the title will go to the eldest of his/her family - whether it is a son or a daughter. But when no one person in the first line of the ariki family is suitable or when the first line of the ariki family is extinguished, then the title will revert to the second line and so on."

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