Funeral Farce

Half-hearted attempt falls flat

 THERE was genuine surprise when the Fijian government declared it would hold a State Funeral for Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi – chief, statesman and judge. In December 2006 he was unceremoniously removed as Vice President by Commodore (now Rear-Admiral) Frank Bainimarama and given 24 hours to vacate his official residence.

As a proponent of democracy and justice, the rule of law and reconciliation through dialogue rather than by legislation, Ratu Joni was a constant thorn in the side of Fiji’s illegal regime. He was finally forced to make a living as head of the Solomon Islands’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission and later as Chief Justice of Nauru.

As lawyer and friend, Graham Everett Leung – himself a victim of the Bainimarama government – eulogised at Ratu Joni’s funeral, those who were behind the chief’s removal chose to lionize him upon his death. In a way this was to have been expected given Fiji’s propensity towards hypocrisy and farce. “It is paradoxical that a man born of the aristocracy and destined for greatness was in many respects given greater respect outside the country of his birth,” said at the Ratu Cakobau Church on Bau Island. “His messages of peace, reconciliation, tolerance and inclusiveness often fell on barren soil.

How prophetic are the scriptures that a prophet should be shunned in his own land.” “His advice was sought and welcomed in the neighbouring Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa and in Tonga, even as it was being denied and rejected on our shores.”

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