BY: PENI KOMAISAVAI
A high chief in Fiji has relocated his family overseas after receiving a death threat.
Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, a claimant to the powerful Vunivalu title, has told IB Online that he now fears for the safety of his family, after receiving the death threat about two months ago.
Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro has confirmed receiving a report from the high chief, adding that investigations into the matter are on-going.
Ratu Epenisa said he would be joining his family in Australia when it is convenient for him to travel.
He says the move is not permanent, although IB Online has established that his family had been living overseas for two months now.
“I took the call on my phone when my family were having lunch,” Ratu Epenisa tells IB Online in an interview at the chiefly residence of Mataiwelagi on Bau Island earlier this week.
“At the first call I did not answer because I did not recognise the number. The phone rang again a few minutes later, and a voice message was recorded when I again did not answer.
“When I did listen to the voice message, it was a man’s voice that called, and I could hear him talking to a few other men, planning how and when to kill me.
“My family saw the startled expression on my face and knew that something was not right.”
The high chief said after last year’s event when heavily armed soldiers broke open the front door on his Bau Island residence in an early morning raid, on the day he was scheduled to be installed as the Vunivalu of Bau, he was not going to let his family go through another traumatic ordeal.
“I was not going to risk the lives of my family again, so I made the decision to take them overseas for a while”, added Ratu Epenisa.
“We still haven’t recovered from the trauma of that incident in June last year,” said the high chief. “It certainly affected our children, particularly my eldest son who now works in Samoa, as he was the one who had the gun pointed at his forehead and ordered to move away from the door.
“The trauma is affecting them as they now feel uncomfortable whenever they see police or army officers because of what they went through last year.”
That Bau raid led to the detention of Ratu Epenisa, and effectively prevented his installation as paramount chief of the Kubuna confederacy, one of three traditional confederacies in Fiji. The other two confederacies; Burebasaga and Tovata are led by two paramount chiefs who are also senior members of the opposition in the Fiji Parliament, Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu respectively.
The Bau high chief has since lodged a police complaint against the military for the armed raid.
Asked whether their relocation overseas would affect his claim for the chiefly Vunivalu title, Ratu Epenisa said the matter is for the installation authority to determine.
“It’s really off my hands now. It is for the vanua to decide, and the mataqali Tui Kaba and the Tunitoga apparently have been having some discussions on the matter, so it is with them to decide.
“After what happened last year, I have decided to keep away from the discussion, and it is now a matter for the vanua to resolve.
“For now, I am solely focussed on serving my people here in Bau and in doing what I need to do to serve them.”
Ratu Epenisa’s father, Ratu Sir George Cakobau was the last serving Vunivalu of Bau, and also served as the first Fijian Governor General.