The culmination of the week-long celebrations commemorating the life of the late statesman, soldier, scholar and chief; son of Fiji, Ratu Sir Josefa Vanayaliyali Lalabalavu Sukuna concluded in Suva today.
People from all walks of life flocked to Albert Park to mark the momentous occasion which began with a march from the Flea Market.
Whilst addressing the nation, His Excellency the President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere said the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was the embodiment of progressive change, inclusivity and advancement.
“As we look to the future, we must be guided by this year’s celebration theme “Celebrating visionary leadership for Fiji”. As we understand and embody our own heritage we foster a sense of belonging for ourselves and we preserve it for future generations,” President Katonivere said.
“Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was highly educated and, greatly valued education, therefore, as a nation we too should strive for the education of our future generations in both their culture and heritage as well as through the education system, and that there is a purpose to be achieved when pursuing education.
“As a nation, a people, and a generation we are on the cusp of a new dawn as we celebrated Girmit Day earlier in the month and the opening of the Great Council of Chiefs only last week. With Ratu Sukuna Day celebrations, these three significant occasions being revived after more than a decade is an indication of the winds of change we are to embrace.”
Reflecting on the life of the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, President Katonivere also highlighted the importance of striving for educational advancement business acumen, national progress and future success. That we strive to live as individuals – lives dedicated to service for others, especially our families, our church and our country.
“At the same time, culture sharing is essential for cultural diversity and to allow people to share about their cultures and learn about others; both contribute to the quality of life, and helps us relate to each other; while contributing to our social capital and economic prosperity.”
Joint commander of the French Armed Forces in the South-West Pacific – Brigadier General Valéry Putz said Ratu Sukuna stated fought with great gallantry which resulted in him receiving the Médaille Militaire; the second highest French award, only given to non-commissioned officers who have distinguished themselves in an exceptional manner.
Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was one of the 42,000 foreigners who volunteered to fight under the French uniform during World War I, and the only Fijian known to have done so.
He said this history is one of the strong links between the French army and Fijian soldiers.
“Links that are nowadays, in the South Pacific, daily reinforced through a strong cooperation between Republic of Fiji Military Forces and French Armed Forces in New Caledonia, as well as with other partners.
“A moment to live accordingly to the fundamental tenets of New Caledonian traditions, with respect and humility. A moment of comradeship and brotherhood between Fijian and French military. A privileged moment that, from both a French and a Fijian perspective, enlights the motto of the Foreign Legion, a motto that Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna embodied to the highest point: Honour and Fidelity,” Brigadier General Valéry Putz added.