Prime Minister Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka spoke about seeking forgiveness from those he had offended while addressing participants attending this year’s Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference in Oceania that is currently underway in Pacific Harbour.
It’s the first time in 16 years that Fiji is hosting the conference which convenes participants from Fiji, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
The Prime Minister told the story of when he attended a prayer breakfast at the Washington Hilton in the United States in which two participants from Kosovo spoke about their reconciliation after the ceasefire in the civil war.
“They stood for opposing parties, one of them is a Muslim and one of them is a Christian. They stood against each other, they won their seats – one was in Opposition and one was in government. And when Parliament was sitting, they’d all come to the hotel they were accommodated to have breakfast and dinner, and they would notice that the other person was praying. They became great friends and formed the Prayer Breakfast in Kosova.”
“I was driven by the testimony of those brothers who spoke about reconciliation and confession. They pronounced the name of their country as Kosova – the Fijian word is kosova, which means ‘cross over’.
Prime Minister Rabuka said their story convinced him to do the same.
“I told them, I’m going back to Fiji, what these two brothers had done in their lives in Kosova, I will do back at home. I will do it by applying that word, ‘kosova’. Kosova in Fijian means cross-over.”
“I came back and went straight to the President’s residence at the State House at that time, the former Speaker, my former Commander, that I had ousted from his position as Commander, was President. I took the tabua to him. I took the tabua which the officers had installed me to replace him. I took it up to him and I apologised to him and said, “this is rightfully yours”.
“I came down to the office of the Minister for Home Affairs, who at the time was the son of the late President, who was Governor General on the day of the coup. When I removed Her Majesty as the monarch for Fiji, he was also removed as Governor General in Fiji, but I made him President two weeks later. But it didn’t change the fact that I had removed him as Governor General, so I apologised to his son, because the President had died then.
“I went to Vuda, the Prime Minister that I had ousted from office was the late Dr Timoci Bavadra of Vuda. I went there and the former President was back in the village as Tui Vuda. I presented to him my apologies through the traditional matanigasau. That tabua was received by Dr Bavadra’s older brother who was there, and he protested my coming and wore Dr Bavadra’s campaign t-shirt. After presenting him the tabua, he received it on behalf of his people and said, we accept your apology.”
“Later on in 1997, I presented the biggest whale’s tooth I could find in Fiji to Her Majesty the Queen. She also accepted it. I took with me my OBE medal – military division, which was awarded to me when I was Commander of the Fiji Battalion in Lebanon, I took it back to Her Majesty and she said to me, “You keep it General, you’ve earned it.”
“So I just wanted to tell you a story, if you’re on the other side of the stream or on the other side of the road, I’m now crossing over to you and apologsing.”
Every four years, bishops from the four conferences that comprise of the Australian, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Bishops Conference and the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific gather for a continental gathering.
The bishops will share their expertise to promote marginalised voices from Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia on the topic of “Our Ocean Home.”