Saturday 24th April –
This morning the team were in smart dress and set off across the island to the chiefly village of Niubasaga for the Prime Ministers visit, as part of a visit to each of the islands in the Lomaiviti Province. With talk of the PM arriving earlier than the expected 4pm we were there in good time, however after some cakes and tea it was 3.30pm when the PM’s ship was seen on the horizon and they were making their way to the village.
Naturally it was an extremely special occasion for the island of Moturiki, and the ceremony that welcomed the Prime Minister was incredible for its tradition and custom. It began with the presentation of a tabua (whale’s tooth) from the Ratu of Moturiki, before a further tabua was presented. The ladies then made a sevusevu of more than 10 ibe, all wonderfully decorated, before a very large yaqona sevusevu was made on behalf of all the communities on the island. The initiation of the kava ceremony itself was steeped in Fijian custom, and it was something you may only see a few times in your lifetime. Six of the village men sat in traditional dress either side of the tanoa, and at each stage of the kava preparation the men chanted. One of the men, dressed in masi and from the chiefly family of Moturiki, then stood to serve the first bowl, as the men continued to chant as he paused and squatted at different stages. With the preparation complete the bilo was offered to the Prime Minister, after which the entire crowd gave a cobo. (clap) After the PM, the other very important members of his travelling party were served, including the Commissioner Eastern and the Chairman of the Provincial Council Ratu Jo. It was a very significant event to behold.
With the formalities completed further members of the PM’s group enetered, including Ratu Philip Komai who has been a huge support for Think Pacific since he was head of the National Centre for Health Promotion, and Waliki, the assistant Roko to the Lomaiviti Council. It was at this time that I was invited up to present a Think Pacific Sulu and T shirt to the Prime Minister, and it was very encouraging to hear from him of all that he had heard of our projects, especially over the last few days, and his strong support for what we do. Komai then invited the whole team to join the PM at the head of the gathering and suddenly he was surraounded by Think Pacific volunteers as he heard from each of the Turaga ni Koros of the island. After the meeting had been completed the team sat with the PM for a photo, a lasting memory of a very special day for Think Pacific and Moturiki island.