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Four decades long

Sailosi Batiratu
Monday, December 17, 2012

HE is from Nabudrau, Noco in Rewa but a lot of people think Ratu Sela Rayawa is from Kadavu.

Taking the time to listen to this soft-spoken gentleman, one realises he indeed does have strong connections to that island that lies to the south.

His paternal grandmother, Bulou Marai Lewamoqe, was the daughter of the then Tui Joma. She married his grandfather Rt Josaia Rayawa, encountered some difficulties, and returned to Kadavu with their son Rt Kinijoji Tuivonovono Rayawa.

Rt Kinijoji grew up in Kadavu, married, had children, and when Rt Sela was five, he was struck with polio. He was admitted at the government hospital at Vunisea and after some consultations, was moved to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

From the CWM Hospital, he and the other children like him, were moved to the Suva Crippled Children's School which was located where the Hilton Special School is today. He spent three years there.

He then started school, albeit late, at Draiba Primary School. After a while he moved back to the Crippled Children's School. He became head boy under the leadership of Frank Hilton.

In 1969, he applied for the post of cashier attendant at the Fiji Museum without much hope of success. One day he was summoned by Mr Hilton and informed that there had been discussions between Mr Hilton and the then museum director, John Bruce Palmer, and his deputy Fergus Cluney.

So in December that year, began a career spanning four decades at the museum. He was confirmed to the post the year after. Rt Sela recalls that in those days, it cost 10 cents to enter the museum.

Rt Sela believes he is the first former student of the Crippled Children's School to secure paid employment.

After five years as a cashier attendant, he went for some book binding training at the National Archives.

Being stuck in a wheelchair did little to hinder Rt Sela, and in 1976, he represented the country in swimming, in the freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke at the Paralympics in Toronto, Canada.

He said it was a great learning experience for him, when up against much better prepared athletes. Their standards, he said, were very high.

There were other overseas sports trips. The next was a year later when he went to Sydney, Australia. In 1982 it was to another swimming competition in Hong Kong.

There have been other trips abroad which have been work related.

After his return from his first overseas sports assignment, he had been earmarked to move to the museum library. Rt Sela says it was then he was greatly helped by an Australian lady volunteer, whose name he has since forgotten.

Because of funding constraints, he was constantly alternating between being a cashier attendant and working in the library.

In 1991 he started working as the full time librarian.

The post of museum registrar was advertised in 2000 and Rt Sela had to contend with competition from university graduates.

Two weeks after submitting his application, he was called to an interview. A fortnight later he was offered the job.

Married to Radinigaloa Vinakanacoka from Tavuki, Kadavu, the father of five says he is very grateful to the museum for having given him the opportunities he has had and has no plans in the foreseeable future to leave the organisation.