Editorial comment | A soldier, scholar and statesman

Roko Tui Suva Sanaila Mudunavosa unveils the statue of Ratu Sukuna with the help of RFMF pastor Taniela Tama at the iTaukei Land Trust Board's head office in Suva on Friday, May 26, 2023. Picture: PEKAI KOTOISUVA

Today we celebrate the life of a special man.

He was a man of many hats.

He was soldier, a scholar, a chief and a statesman!

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka raises some fundamental issues in his message to the nation for Ratu Sukuna Day today.

He draws our attention to what Ratu Sukuna did to build a historic and lasting consensus on the land issue, and looks at the significance of his service in the First World War.

Both these aspects of his extraordinary life will resonate down the generations.

Over the years, after the FijiFirst government did away with this event on our national calendar, Fijians once again have an opportunity to reflect on his life.

His deeds provide a reason for us to pause as we honour Ratu Sukuna’s memory and reflect on where the country stands on the questions of peace and war.

PM Rabuka gives special emphasis to the importance of young people developing an awareness of Ratu Sukuna’s service in World War 1.

He talks about life in the trenches of the great war.

He talks about a citation detailing how Ratu Sukuna took many prisoners, and his “superb zeal and courage”.

As we face our many challenges, we should also think about the wisdom Fiji will need to unite and move our nation forward, reconciling differences that still divide us.

In the first part of the PM’s message we learn about the lengths to which Ratu Sukuna went in his efforts to put together a consensus for Fijians to hand over to a new board the authority they had for controlling and managing their land.

We learn about how Ratu Sukuna achieved that after long and painstaking negotiations in virtually every part of Fiji.

The outcome was a tribute to chiefly authority and was also a tribute to the collective wisdom and generosity of spirit of the indigenous Fijians.

PM Rabuka highlighted how Governor Sir Phillip Mitchell hailed the decision of the indigenous people to give up direct control of their land as “one of the greatest acts of faith and trust in colonial history”.

He said it was also a landmark in governance in the vast British Empire.

Ratu Sukuna, the PM mentioned, reportedly spoke of unmatched acts of goodwill and cooperation.

The agreement they established has held together for over 80 years.

Fiji stands now at the threshold of a new age.

In our consideration of the way ahead, we should be inspired by what Ratu Sukuna and Fijian landowners did together.

We, of this era, also need consensus.

It should bring us together in expressing forgiveness as a nation and seeking atonement for the upheavals and the hurts of the past.

In the face of the many challenges we have faced as a nation, these hurts and upheavals, we need consensus on what form peace efforts should take.

We need consensus on this among all our politicians.

On his exploits on the battlefield, Ratu Sukuna’s example should encourage our nation to turn its face against war forever, especially when we live in the era of nuclear weapons with the capacity for unimaginable destruction.

We need to be brave enough to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the unity and peace we should all want.

Perhaps that, and a commitment to consensus building, should provide the basis for how we move our nation forward, together.

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