SOROKOBA Village was a sea of black and white as hundreds from all walks of life converged to farewell the Tui Ba, Ratu Sairusi Nagagavoka Vukimualevu, in an emotional funeral ceremony yesterday.
Women dressed in black sat silently under the scorching heat while traditional warriors escorted the coffin of the late chief to his final resting place at the chiefly burial ground.
Ratu Sairusi had passed on the Tui Ba title to one of his nephews last year so that he could focus on his spiritual life. He is remembered by close family members and relatives as a sincere, humble and generous person who mixed easily with people from all walks of life.
Daughter Adi Nanise Taiki, 53, said her father was an inspirational leader, a best friend and a humble chief.
"Knowing that age was catching up on him, he gave the Tui Ba title to one of his nephews, Ratu Marika Naisau," said Adi Nanise.
"Another reason he gave the title was because he wanted to concentrate on his spiritual life.
"He was a great motivator in our family and nothing on Earth will replace him."
Jemesa Tuwai, 73, said Ratu Sairusi would be sadly missed by villagers and people of other races in the province.
He is fondly remembered for helping villagers financially during deaths and weddings.
Mr Tuwai said during his reign as the Tui Ba, Ratu Sairusi built the village hall, the church minister's house and the chiefly bure.
He cared for Fijian farmers of Indian descent and always urged landowners to think about leaseholders.
Present at the funeral were Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, Marama na Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa, Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry and representatives of chiefly households from Ba, Nadroga, Navosa and Ra.
The late chief was 92 when he died and is survived by his 81-year-old wife Bulou Suguta Soweri, eight children, 31 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
His successor will be named later by the tokatoka Kavua of Sorokoba Village.