1859: First ever, general meeting of chiefs in Levuka on December 14

According to Robert Matau, “The Great Council of Chiefs was a brainchild of William Pritchard, the British Consulate who initiated the first ever, general meeting of chiefs in Levuka on December 14, 1859 to pave the way for the cessation process of Fiji to the British Crown. Like the 1997 Constitution, the old Matanitu (Government) could understand what its true purpose and benefits were”.

White historians view: Matua said “Their ignorance of understanding the issues was interpreted by the Colonialists as a major threat to their chosen leading chiefs led by Ratu Seru Cakobau the then Vunivalu of what was to be regarded by many, as the leading military and naval power in Fiji, supported by white historians.

He was under threat from the Americans to pay up the debts for the burning of the US Counsels residence in Nukulau on July 4, 1846, which plagued Cakobau for the next 20 years. Pressed from all corners to avoid the same fate that Veidovi of Rewa in 1840 faced for his crimes against visiting American ships when he was shipped out of Fiji in chains by Commodore Wilkes to America to answer for his crimes, Cakobau needed a way out.

At the same time, Cakobau, who became fascinated by the Hawaiian monarchial system through his secretary Samuel A St. John, assumed the title Tui Viti. He was sending out the message that he held absolute power throughout the divided yet pocket and strongly entrenched ‘matanitu’.

By Robert Matau  (accessed  October 2007) http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2007/February/02-23-feat1.htm (Part One) Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com

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