Harry and Meghan Fiji visit: Vanua apologises for ‘hurt’ caused

Men of Vuda participating in the traditional ceremony of the royal couple, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Picture: SUPPLIED

VUDA chief Taukei Sawaieke Ratu Tevita Momoedonu yesterday apologised for the “hurt” caused to the hundreds of indigenous Fijians who took to social media expressing anger at the “insulting, disrespectful and watered down” version of the traditional ceremony conducted for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their arrival on Tuesday.

His apology came a day after he defended the decision of the vanua o Vuda to alter the traditional welcome address and omit mention to the three confederacies — Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata. Ratu Tevita headed a 70-member delegation from Vuda that performed the traditional welcome ceremony. On Wednesday, he described it as a ceremony fit for a king.

He said he made the decision to leave out the three confederacies during the auspicious ceremony of welcome.

“Niu raica lesu au rawa ni kaya ni totoka taucoko ka maucokona na neitou veiqaravi (When I look back at it, I can say we performed our traditional duty well and it was done to perfection),” Ratu Tevita said.

“Keitou a sureti me keitou vakaitavi mai vei ratou na Minisiteri ni Taukei. E dina ni tiko o ira e ra dodonu me ra vakaitavi kina, keitou sa ciqoma na vanua o Vuda na veisureti ena vuku ni matanitu o Viti. (We were invited to take part in the traditional ceremony of welcome by the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs. It is true there were people from various parts of Fiji who should have performed this duty, but we were the ones invited and we accepted and performed not only on behalf of the vanua o Vuda but on behalf of the Government and people of Fiji).

“Na bolebole me kila o Viti ni bale na bilo ni vanua o Vuda nikua, ena vakasosomitaki tale ena siga ka tarava (This Fijian saying means that the vanua o Vuda if their chief is buried today, another one is traditionally installed the next day and that the vanua o Vuda will always have a chief to look up to).

“Ke ra rawa ni sivita na vanua o Vuda ena tikina qo ia me ra qai vosa, ke sega me ra galu ka cakava e so na ka yaga ena nodra vanua ka vulica na nodra itovo vakavanua (If they can beat the vanua o Vuda in this regard, then we will consider their criticism, if not they should be quiet and do something useful to uphold and embrace their traditional practices).”

Ratu Tevita said the main reason he decided to omit the three confederacies was because the Kubuna confederacy had yet to install its paramount chief.

He added that it was only right they omit the three confederacies altogether during the traditional welcoming ceremony.

Ratu Tevita said the three confederacies were Fijian political divisions which was a concept set up by the late statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna and its purpose was to allocate boundaries to parts of Fiji and have it headed by paramount chiefs.

With this in mind, Ratu Tevita said he was of the view provinces in Fiji should not be subservient to a paramount chief of a confederacy because it was unChristian and not i-Taukei practice.

Ratu Tevita said the vanua o Vuda mentioned the 14 provinces which included the three confederacies during the traditional welcoming ceremony.

Yesterday, Ratu Tevita told this newspaper the vanua o Vuda apologised for what transpired during the ceremony.

“Au kere veivosoti e Viti raraba ena vuku ni vanua o Vuda ke mavoa eso na yalo ena vuku ni neitou veiqaraqaravi vakavanua (I apologise to the people of Fiji on behalf of the vanua o Vuda if our actions have hurt peoples’ feelings).”

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