Back in history: Islanders celebrate

Capturing the festive spirit on the island of Rotuma are these children who met an Air Pacific flight to the island. Picture: FILE

Rotumans joyously celebrated their 100-year link with Britain and Fiji on May 14, 1981. According to an article in The Fiji Times on May 14, 1981, the island had its first patch of good weather towards the end of the week-long celebration.

The report stated celebrations were restrained because of problems feeding and housing hundreds of guests on the isolated island 500 kilometres north of Viti Levu. During a day of cultural events at the Ahau Government Station, the then governor-general Ratu Sir George Cakobau, and the prime minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, spoke to the gathering.

Ratu Sir George wished the people of Rotuma a prosperous and peaceful future.

“The last 100 years have seen all manner of changes; some of them remembered with joy, some of them naturally with sadness. But the changes and developments we can expect our children and their children to experience will, I believe, be far more dramatic and challenging than anything that has gone before,” he said.

“I also believe, however, that our people will still draw on the tradition resilience of South Pacific islanders to meet these challenges and make for themselves a life worth living in a country that will continue to be acknowledged as an example of a successful multi-racial and independent nation.”

Ratu Sir George then read a message from the Queen. In her message, Her Majesty the Queen cited Rotuma’s significant contribution to Fiji. Her Majesty’s message read: “The decisions taken a century ago by the chiefs of Rotuma to join her destiny with Britain and again by their descendants in 1970, when Fiji became independent to remain part of the Fiji nation, were both based on trust and confidence.

“I am glad that in both cases their decisions proved fruitful and have demonstrated their loyalty.

“The people of Rotuma have demonstrated their loyalty, their skills and their talents in many different ways, and their contribution to the reputation that Fiji enjoys as a peaceful and progressive nation is a significant one.

“I send to my people of Fiji, and in particular my people in Rotuma, my prayers and warmest good wishes for a most successful anniversary celebrations and a prosperous and peaceful future.”

Ratu Sir George unveiled a memorial plaque to mark the occasion, and this was followed later by dancing and other festivities. Reports from the island said the atmosphere was joyful with cultural events and the party mood continuing last night.

The PM Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was due to leave the island on the day of the official ceremony while Ratu Sir George and the official party departed the next day.

Meanwhile, the governor-general paid tribute to the hard work and creativity of the Rotuman people in opening the 1981 Rotuma Agricultural and Handicraft show.

After traditional welcoming ceremonies at Ahau Government Station, Ratu Sir George later opened the exhibition which he described as appropriately placed in the vanguard of their program.

“The produce of our country, whether it comes from the land, or is made by skilled hands, is the backbone of our culture and of our economy,” Ratu Sir George said.

The exhibits and displays, he said, were a tribute to the hard work and creativity of the people of Rotuma.

That evening the prime minister hosted a reception in honour of the centenary celebrations on the island.

More Stories