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Plot against Radroni

Ilaitia Turagabeci
Monday, September 01, 2014

WHEN Radroni had his first-born in a land away from home in Bureloa in Ra, he made sure that child would carry his story forward.

It's a sad one, and so was his end.

He died at Dreketi, far from his people of the yavusa Tokaimalo in the dense bush of Nakorotubu.

Buried close to the track down to the boto ni yala, close to where he first set foot on this volcanic island and was left behind by the Nakorotubu army returning home after seven years fighting wars for others, his final wish was for his children to know their real identity.

In Dreketi, the village site given to him and named after the home of his trusted warriors, from the other side of the Uluinakorolevu mountain overlooking Bureloa, his son Timoci Galu grew up with his father's stories.

His mother, Adi Vika Mainatubalevu, was from the mataqali Welitoa, people of Tongan descent who had become the gonedau or fishermen of the Tui Cakau.

Being the son of a woman with chiefly links to the Ai Sokula, but raised by the Welitoa people, Galu's links to the chiefly household of the Tui Cakau was strengthened.

But no matter how much he was being ingrained into life in Cakaudrove, his wish was to see the home his father had left behind in 1846.

Tokaimalo and Bureloa historian Ilaitia Galu Bale said his grandfather, while he had cemented his links through blood ties in the chiefly village of Somosomo, across the stone-bed river from where they lived, longed to meet his kinsmen across the seas in Viti Levu.

Over time, he fell in love with a princess from Yacata Island, classed by early geologists as the fairyland of the South Seas, when they met in Somosomo.

Adi Akesa, the eldest daughter of the Tui Yacata, soon became pregnant and had to return home.

On Yacata, beneath the shadow of the lone mountain on the island called Delai Yacata, she gave birth to a son.

He was named Akuila Turagabeci as Galu had requested, in memory of his father's story — a chief from Ra who was stripped of his identity in his new place.

And so began the life of Akuila Turagabeci, the man who would defy the curse on his bloodline to set the record straight.

Turagabeci travelled to Taveuni every now and then to see his father, who had now married Miriama Taubeni from Waikava, on the other side of the island.

They had four other children — Solomone Tulevu, Simione Samate (named after Radroni's other son), Filikesa Veisa and Lusiana Tupou — and lived at the same spot as Radroni.

The chiefly mataqali of Valelevu and the family from Ra were close.

But little were they to know that the conspiracy to eliminate the descendants of Bureloa would follow them to Taveuni.

In 1924, in the absence of the then Tui Cakau, Ratu Atunio Rabici, who had accompanied Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna to London, a butu vanua to mark land boundaries was held.

The qusi ni loaloa — land a previous Tui Cakau, Tuikilakila, had given Radroni and his men as thank you for their hand in the Natewa war they won for him — was brought into question.

Led by Ratu Epeli Ganilau, the father of former Fiji President Ratu Penaia Ganilau, and Ratu Lewe-ni-lovo of the Qaraisoki clan, the butu vanua removed part of the qusi ni loaloa from Radroni's family.

Ratu Epeli — with strong blood links to Bau, which had sought the intervention of Nakorotubu in Natewa via Verata in 1846 — was still in the process when the Tui Cakau returned to the village and ordered him not to enroach any more on the qusi ni loaloa.

Radroni's bloodline lost prime flatland they had been given to build their village on.

Galu was shattered but did not question those who had worked against his family.

Mr Bale said his grandfather and his people were only guests in Cakaudrove and respected the chiefly lines and blood ties that existed there.

What was left of the qusi ni loaloa was the top half of Dreketi Village, the hillsides of Koroqele and Qaraivea, flatland which ran alongside the river flowing from Uluiqalau.

When Adi Akesa finally settled down and married William Rosa, the Spanish owner of Kaibu Island, about a kilometre from Yacata in the lagoon they shared and reachable on foot at low tide, Turagabeci was through and through a man of the island.

He grew up with the Rosa family and shared a strong bond with his younger half brothers — David, Ned and John — and their sisters.

Seven years after that butu vanua in Somosomo, at the age of 21, he married Taraivosa Yalani, from the mataqali Korotiki, tokatoka Naduruyaraga, of Nacavanadi Village in Gau.

The descendants of her father, who married Paulini Wati from Tarakua in Cicia, surprisingly came from Ra.

Turagabeci and Taraivini tied the knot at Lomaloma, Vanuabalavu in Lau, and returned to Yacata where they lived.

Years later, in his mother's absence from the chiefly seat, the Ra man became Tui Yacata.

But his sights were across the sea. His father was always on his mind.

One year after standing in for his mother, he handed the title to his uncle, Jofilito Tiko, and sailed to Dreketi with his wife and 10 children.

There, he renewed his family ties with Galu's other children.

As he raised his family at Dreketi, Ratu Lewenilovo's son would show the settlers from Ra some compassion over the land that had been taken from them.

Mr Bale said Ratu Jone Saumaibulu, the Taukei Qaraisoki, visited them daily on his way to the boto ni yala and offered them whatever fruit was bearing on what was once their qusi ni loaloa.

Mr Bale said Radroni's descendants would always be grateful to Ratu Jone for recognising the existence of the Ra people "on his land".

"He was a great man whose kind gestures in those days to Radroni's grandson showed he tried to make good all that had transpired before him," he said. "He allowed Turagabeci's family to live, feed off the land and to live to keep alive this sad story of injustice."

Back in Bureloa, the attempt to remove Radroni's kin from the bush had already started.

The people of Bureloa were told by the Native Lands Council to move towards civilisation, closer to the Kings Rd that was being built through the province.

They had to leave the dense jungle that had been their home since the first messengers of civilisation — the Methodist missionaries who managed to convert Radroni's brother, Luke Waqabuli, in 1865 — arrived along the Ra coast.

The villages that were asked to move — Bureloa, Draunaleka and Laba — were part of the vanua of Tokaimalo.

"They found it hard to leave their homes and settle elsewhere. They feared the loss of their identity and the separation of families and were discouraged," Mr Bale said.

While the move was logical for a developing nation, Mr Bale said there was something sinister underlying it.

Something pointed to a plot that had already removed Radroni from his domain in Ra and taken away part of his qusi ni loaloa in Taveuni.

Now the descendents of his hunch-backed brother faced the same fate.

The villagers moved to Dama to begin an imposed, difficult and emotional existence. All but one man, one who had sworn to stand guard over the chiefly vanua and yavusa of Tokaimalo.

His role was that of qase ni vale.

His name was Josese Nakakau, better known to his later generations as Josese Levu. He kept the door to Bureloa open.

* NEXT WEEK: Plot thickens amid the separation.

* The author has maternal links to the yavusa Tokaimalo from Bureloa

148 years after Christianity arrived in Bureloa, the stronghold of the Tokaimalo people in Ra, the torch pilgrimage last month that signified the return of light to a dark part of the province's history sheds light on an ancient conspiracy that led to an attempt to annihilate the rulers of the once impenetrable domain. In Part 4 of this series, ILAITIA TURAGABECI tells their story.

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