by Serafina Qalo - www.fijitimes.com
Friday, September 28, 2007
AFTER 27 years working as a civil servant in Suva, Ratu Lausere Vakadrigi returned home to Vunivutu Village to assume traditional obligations handed down by birthright.
He took up the title of Tui Sawana in the district of Nadogo in the province of Macuata in Vanua Levu.
Taking up the role was not easy for Ratu Lausere but with support from family and villagers, he took the challenges that came with the chiefly title.
"I was born in the village but when I was five years old, an aunt of mine came from Suva to take me with her," he said.
"I grew up in the city, went to school and work there.
"The only time I came to the village was during the holidays and during leave from work.
"Taking up the chiefly title was not easy because I had to adjust to the village system, especially after spending my whole life in the city," Ratu Lausere said.
He said handling traditional duties and manner and adjusting to an environment where villagers now showed him respect as a chief was new to him.
"It's a totally different lifestyle for me because in Suva and before coming to the village, I looked up to my dad and aunt, who held the title before me and I was used to obeying their wishes.
"This time, the lifestyle I lived to obey orders from the top is a duty I have to carry out now.
"It is not easy because if anyone sees the way I socialise and talk to the villagers, one will not be able to make out who is the chief and who is the commoner."
Ratu Lausere said mingling and socialising with people without having to be treated as a chief was the lifestyle he had lived and enjoyed until now.
"I enjoy that lifestyle but now the responsibility has been given to me by the vanua and I have no choice but to serve the vanua and ensure that the interests of the village are looked after," he said.
"Most important, that the vanua and the people continue to work together and support each other in looking after our interests."
As part of his traditional obligations to the people, Ratu Lausere revived the fundraising for their electricity project.
"When I came in 2005, the villagers had started fundraising for the project but it came to a standstill.
"There was no more fundraising and the villagers had started to lose hope. So I called a meeting and told them to take up the challenge as adults and elders.
"I told them they had an obligation to the education of our young generation.
"What I told them seemed to wake them from their slumber and I could see that there was a renewed hope in them."
It was as if the villagers of Vunivutu and people of the vanua of Sawana had been temporarily lost without a leader but now the heir had assumed the throne, so to speak, and with a leader, the people had regained their sense of direction.
"From that day they promised to fulfill the village mission of having electricity for the sake of the villagers, especially our children to make it easier for them during the night when they did their homework and studied."
Electricity finally arrived in the village last week.
The villagers raised $25,000 in one day from a soli by people of Vunivutu in the village or working in other parts of Vanua levu and Viti Levu and last week was the launching of the project and the Fiji Electricity Authority connected light and power to Vunivutu.
Ratu Lausere said the villagers were united and worked together to bring electricity to the village but they needed to be challenged and reminded that as adults, they had a role to play for the sake of their future generation.
He said fulfilling their goal boosted their ego and now they want to develop their village by improving their living standards.
"We are now working on improving all the houses in the village," he said.
"I have been reminding the villagers that a clean village with beautiful neat homes always reflects what they have in their heart for their vanua."