By Kite Pareti
“Fiji is what it is today because of the contributions of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna,” says Mere Delai, Assistant Head-Teacher of Marist Brothers’ Primary School.
Delai who today took 60 of her students to see the Ratu Sukuna display at the Fiji Museum, says many children in Fiji have never heard of the former statesman. “They need to know about him, especially the indigenous students. They need to know their history,” she said.
The late Ratu Sukuna was a Fijian chief, scholar, soldier and statesman. He is regarded as the forerunner of the post-independence leadership of Fiji. He played an instrumental role in establishing the groundwork for self-governance by fostering the development of modern institutions in Fiji such as the iTaukei Land Trust Board.
It has been 24 years since the public holiday marking his contribution was last commemorated.
At the Fiji Museum veranda, a grand timeline display of the late Ratu Sukuna is now on display, showing his significant contributions nationally and internationally from 1888 to 1959.
Fiji Museum Head of Special Projects, Katrina Igglesden revealed the display took quite some time to curate, but was a good learning experience for museum staff.
“We really tried to pick out moments of Ratu Sukuna’s life that relate to the collections that we have at the Museum, and also those moments could be maybe less known about, for the general public,” Iggelsden said.
“I think it was a really nice learning experience for us as well. Since he’s been passed away for so long, it’s almost renewing a lot of interest and knowledge in our own Museum team,” she added.
Iggelsden says the Fiji Museum has a lot of items related to Ratu Sukuna in its collection. The year after he passed, his wife, Maca Likutabua donated several of his military medals to the Museum including two sets of his knighthood awards.
“We’ve got several of his medals from his involvement with the French Foreign Legion from World War 1. We also have several (medals) from his involvement with the British Empire in World War 1. And we care for several of his medals and decorations related to World War 2,” Igglesden said.
“We also care for a lot of his personal artefacts such as his writing desk where he did a lot of his governmental work on and eight of his walking sticks of all various kinds and shapes. We have a lot of documentation related to him as well,” she added.
However, these artefacts will not be put on display for this year’s Ratu Sukuna celebrations.
“Our Museum isn’t completely opened yet. We still have quite a bit left to revamp. Some of his items will be shown in the permanent display. You will see them soon, just not this week,” she said.
“I hope (people) will appreciate the work, dedication and commitment that it took to create this modern Fiji that we all live in together. Becoming an independent nation was an important thing for such a large number of people at that time. The privileges that young people have today are because of the work that was put in then. So looking at this timeline display, I hope they will realise and understand those that came before them because these young people will become the same kind of people that will carry us forward into the future,” she added.
The Ratu Sukuna Museum Display is FREE to view until Monday next week (May 29th) from 9.00am-4.30pm.