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Nearly 1,000 people came to pay their respects

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, January, 24, 209) – The small town of Tavua, west Fiji, came to a standstill today as close to a thousand people gathered to pay their last respect to their high chief Tui Tavua, Ratu Ovini Bokini.

Ratu Ovini was laid to rest at the chiefly burial site in his village of Tavualevu.

Among those in attendance at the funeral was Fiji President Ratu Josefa Iloilo and the first lady, ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, interim Indigenous Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, his wife Adi Koila Nailatikau, interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau and his wife Adi Ateca, Bau chiefs - Adi Samanunu Talakuli Cakobau, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, Ratu George Cakobau - Namosi high chief Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, diplomats and members of the business community.

The six eulogies delivered at the Tavualevu Methodist Church echoed similar sentiments of Ratu Ovini's humble and kind nature, visionary man and a great chief with the make-up of a true leader.

Former civil servant Saimoni Tuilaucala who highlighted Ratu Ovini’s career achievements said the former Great Council of Chiefs chairman was a dedicated hard worker determined to achieve what he set his mind on.

He recalled Ratu Ovini's first employment with the then South Pacific Sugar Mills, now the Fiji Sugar Corporation, as a field officer and rose through the ranks to be the general manager of the Rarawai Mill, before leaving to join the interim Government following the 1987 coup.

He also highlighted Ratu Ovini's major concerns like encouraging young people of Tavua to strive in education, uplifting their standard of living through setting up of proper piping system and setting up vocational centres to absorb school drop-outs.

"There were a lot of changes brought about by the Tui Tavua during his 27 years reign," Tuilaucala said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Ratu Epenisa, Ratu Suliano, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, and his eldest son Ratu Inoke Bokini who now manages the Housing Authority in Suva.

In his eulogy, Ratu Inoke said the Tui Tavua was an honourable man, a great leader, a good father and husband.

Reminiscing on his father’s last days, Ratu Inoke said Ratu Ovini called all his four children and 10 grandchildren a few days before his passing on January 15.

He said on that day, his father sought their apologies for all his wrongs to the whole family.

He said Ratu Ovini also renewed his vows with their mother, Tavo Bale Bokini Ratu citing the last line that only death will do them apart.

Ratu Inoke said he was also given four tabua (whale’s tooth) by his father, one of which he presented to the family as a traditional way of seeking forgiveness.

The other whale’s tooth he was asked to present to his father's sisters and their families too to seek their forgiveness on his behalf.

The third was presented to the church reverend and the fourth to the ‘vanua’, his people.

"When I accepted the tabua, I cried," Ratu Inoke said.

"This is one chief who has nothing…if I check his bank account, he will probably have at least $1000 in it because whatever he had, he divided it among his families and his people.

"That was the kind of man the Tui Tavua was. His assets were his people," he said in Fijian.

Tavua mayor Chandar Singh said the passing of Ratu Ovini was a huge loss not only to the people of Tavua but to the business community at large as well.

"Ratu Ovini was the chief for all people and that is why a lot of residents from here came to pay their last respect today," Singh said.

"We closed shops yesterday and today as a sign of respect and this was what the people wanted. We decided to close shops for a half day today to allow people to do their shopping after the funeral."

Ratu Ovini died after a short illness in his home at Tavualevu.

He is survived by his wife, two sons Ratu Inoke and Ratu Totivi, two daughters Adi Kelera and Adi Sereima, and 10 grandchildren.

He was 64 years old.


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