Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day in Fiji Date in the current year: May 27, 2024

Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day in Fiji Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day, also known as simply Ratu Sukuna Day, is a Fijian public holiday celebrated annually on the last Monday of May. It commemorates the death anniversary of a Fujian chief who made a significant contribution to Fiji’s independence but didn’t live to see it.

Ratu Sir Josefa Lalabalavu Vanayaliyali Sukuna was born on the island of Bau on April 22, 1888. He was the oldest son of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, a Ratu (chief) who would later go on to serve as Roko Tui (executive head) of several Fijian provinces, which was the highest position open to indigenous Fijians during the British rule.

Sukuna started his education in Fiji, but was later sent to the prestigious Whanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand, where he excelled at studies and sports. Unfortunately, Sukuna didn’t have funds to pursue a university degree in New Zealand, so he returned to Fiji and became a civil servant. Sukuna quickly moved through the ranks due to his excellent knowledge of English.

In 1913, Sukuna got a chance to study history at the University of Oxford for a year, but he didn’t finish his studies. Following the breakout of World War I, he tried to enlist in the British Army, but his application was rejected because he was Fijian, and Sukuna joined the French Foreign Legion instead. He was wounded in battle and was awarded the Croix de Guerre (War Cross).

Being a war hero, Sukuna had no difficulty raising funds for his studies. He graduated with a history degree from Oxford in 1918 and with a law degree from the Middle Temple in 1921, becoming the first Fijian to obtain a university degree. Upon graduation, Sukuna returned to Fiji to take his recently deceased father’s place as head of their clan (mataqali).

Ratu Sukuna quickly became an important figure in the political life of Fiji. He was installed as the Tau Lau (senior chief) in 1938; the chiefly title of Tau Lau was revived after more than half a century of being vacant specifically for him. During the subsequent years, Ratu Sukuna held several important posts and laid the foundation for self-government in Fiji. Although he didn’t live to see the independence of Fiji, Ratu Sukuna is believed to have played a crucial role in laying the groundwork for institutions required by a modern independent state.

Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day was a public holiday in Fiji until 2010, when it was removed from the list of national holidays by the then Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Bainimarama left his post in December 2022 after 16 years of rule, and his successor Sitiveni Rabuka reinstated Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day as a public holiday. The inaugural celebration of Ratu Sukuna Day after its reinstatement took place on May 29, 2023.

Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day is marked by a series of festive events that last for almost a week culminate on the last Monday of May. They include speeches, public lectures, symposiums, conferences, cultural exhibitions, concerts, traditional games, marches and parades, church services, and other events and activities that raise awareness of the achievements of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. In 2023, the celebration coincided with the first meeting of the revived Great Council of Chiefs after its suspension by Frank Bainimarama in 2007.

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