21 Apr 2004

Fiji declares April 30th public holiday to commemorate Ratu Mara

3:27 pm on 21 April 2004

The Fiji government has declared Friday April the 30th a public holiday to commemorate the service to the country of the longtime prime minister and former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

This has been confirmed by the minister of home affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, who heads a cabinet sub-committee which is liaising with members of Ratu Mara's family about arrangements for next week's state funeral to be given to him.

But Ratu Mara's former personal secretary says to hold a state funeral will be the height of hypocrisy.

Joseph Browne says the involvement of the military and others in Ratu Mara's funeral next week is farcical because those institutions ridiculed him during the 2000 coup.

Mr Browne says he was with Ratu Mara during the May 2000 coup when the military and police usurped his authority.

Mr Browne says the president was embarrassed by the decisions of the Great Council of Chiefs of which he was a member.

Meanwhile, on Ratu Mara's home island, Lakeba, preparations are underway for his interment at the chiefly burial ground of Sau Tabu.

The Fiji Times says right after the burial site is completed, the seas around Lakeba will be declared taboo and this will stand throughout the duration of the traditional protocols after the burial

Only members of the Lamaki clan from Kabara Island in Lau will be allowed to touch Ratu Mara's body.

This is based on the legend that only the Lamakis protected a former Tui Nayau when eh escaped an assassination attempt.

Ratu Mara held the title of Tiu Nayau or paramount chief of Lau.