Ratu Finau Mara will be interred at the chiefly burial grounds of the paramount chief of the Burebasaga Confederacy, in the chiefly village of Lomanikoro on the delta of the Rewa River, just outside the Fijian capital of Suva.
The Lau chief – whose mother was Ro Lady Lala Mara – the older sibling of current Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, passed away at a private hosptial in the capital on Wednesday (15/4) evening. He was 62.
The eldest son of the founding Prime Minister of independent Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Ratu Finau had been unwell for some time.
Several plans by his people to install him as successor to his father’s chiefly titles of Tui Nayau, Sau ni Vanua ko Lau and Tui Lau since Ratu Mara died in April 2004 did not eventuate.
With the lineage of both his father as high chief of Lau Province, and that of his mother, as paramount chief of Burebasaga, Ratu Finau, together with his other seven siblings were born of true blue chiefly ancestry.
The restrictions to movement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a reason why Ratu Finau won’t be buried next to his father in the waterfront of chiefly Tubou village on Lakeba, Fiji’s eastern-most island. But he will be with family nevertheless when he is interred in the sautabu (chiefly tomb) of the Roko Tui Dreketi next Friday, beside his mother, Ro Lady Lala and one of his younger brothers, Ratu Joji Tuisawau Mara.
Ro Lady Lala passed away in July 2004, while Ratu Joni was killed in a road accident in 1990.
“Ratu Finau was the apple of his majestic father’s eyes,” wrote Robin Nair, a former foreign affairs secretary in Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s administration. “He may not have reached or wanted to reach the heights expected by his family and his people of Lakeba and Lau, but he showed much promise during his years as a lawyer and diplomat.”
Ratu Finau graduated with a bachelor of law from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1983, and masters in law from Cambridge University in England three years later. He started his legal career with the Fiji public service, starting at the Attorney General Chambers before he was posted as a diplomat in 1991 to the Fiji mission in Washington DC.
He returned in 1994 to contest the general elections of that year, and became a member of parliament where he was given the Fijian affairs portfolio in the cabinet of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.
After politics, Ratu Finau served as a senior diplomat including as a Roving Ambassador in the Pacific. He also practiced law with the law firm of G P Lala.
A statement from his family said a private thanksgiving mass for Ratu Finau will be held in Suva on Friday before his casket is transported to Rewa for burial.
Ratu Finau is survived by his partner Vitinia Buadromo, his two children, Ratu Salesi Kinikinilau Mara and Adi Lawedua Mara, son in law, Waisea Dauni and two grandchildren, Taru and Salesi.
Ed note: This article has been updated from a previous version with additional information.