AFTER nine years serving as President of Fiji, Ratu Josefa Iloilo said he now looked forward to serve a title superior to that of being the President, that is being a citizen of Fiji.
Ratu Josefa, 89, said he would retire to his chiefly village of Viseisei, Vuda, where he also holds the traditional title of Tui Vuda.
He said he was happy to retire and knew that the Government was in capable hands.
Ratu Josefa also thanked the people of Fiji, whom he said served and faced great challenges for the past nine years.
"This is the most memorable day of my life and one I will never forget because it is the end of my tenure as President," he said.
"I'm happy to note that the People's Charter has been vigorously pursued by the Government."
The State's farewell ceremony was held at the Coronation grounds at Government House, which 300 people attended yesterday afternoon.
There were government officials, members of the diplomatic corp and invited guests present.
After the government farewell ceremony to farewell Ratu Josefa, the people of Vuda gave five tabua and their isevusevu to the Government thanking them for the gift of asking for forgiveness and of traditionally saying goodbye.
The State's gift to Ratu Josefa and his family was a four-piece furniture set made from palm.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said that during the past 10 years under Ratu Josefa's leadership, he experienced one of the most challenging times in Fiji's contemporary history.
"Your Excellency, remained steadfast, strong and passionate in your desire that Fiji must develop into a society that is based on common and equal citizenry; a society that has an electoral system that is based on equal suffrage, resulting in a society that is truly democratic," he said.
Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will now serve as President, while the Government plans a formal announcement on the next President.
Ratu Josefa started his public service career as a teacher in 1941 to 1967.
He served in the Fijian Affairs Ministry before joining politics in 1977.
He was a Member of Parliament for Vanua Levu on an Alliance ticket for five years. He was also appointed Vice President of the Senate and later its President in 1996.
Ratu Josefa was a Vice President of the Methodist Church in 1996 to 1999.
He is Fiji's third President after Fiji became a Republic. The others were Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
His retirement was announced late last month.