20 Apr 2004

Ex-coup leader Rabuka pays tribute to Fiji statesman

9:24 am on 20 April 2004

Tributes are still coming in for the former prime minister of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

The leader of the two nineteen-eighty-seven military coups in Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, described the death of Ratu Mara, also a former president, as the end of an era for chiefly leadership in the country.

Mr Rabuka installed an interim administration led by Ratu Mara, after a military government appointed in the wake of his second coup was unable to function.

Mr Rabuka, who served as home affairs minister in the Mara interim administration, says those who served under him remember him as a leader of great strength, commitment and perserverance.

Mr Rabuka, says Ratu Mara had a lot of compassion for Fiji and the country was blessed to have had his services as a national leader over a most politically progressive and turbulent era.

Relations between the two men remained strained as Mr Rabuka repeatedly claimed that he had informed Ratu Mara about his May nineteen-eighty-seven coup before he carried it out, and Ratu Mara bitterly denied it.

In Fiji, Ratu Mara's death was not announced for protocol reasons until last night when the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase addressed the nation:

"For as long as many of us could remember, he dominated our national life. His leadership was marked by discipline, vision and a keen and penetrating intellect. His dedication to this country was total. He worked tirelessly to make a unified nation from different communities."

Ratu Mara will have a full state funeral from April the twenty-eighth to the thirtieth.

His body will then be interred at the chiefly burial ground of Sau Tambu at Tumbou village on his native island of Lakemba in the Lau group.