Malani

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This article is about the Tongan noble. For the horse breed, see Marwari horse.

Roko Malani (1754–1833) was the eldest son of Rasolo, the first Tui Nayau (Paramount Chief of Fiji's Lau Islands), and of Laufitu a high-ranking lady of Totoya and Tongan descent. The father of Viliame Vuetasau. He succeeded to the title Roko Sau, after engineering a successful coup d'état and slaying his uncle, Matawalu, the fourth Roko Sau, in battle. This kin slaying was the result of the latter’s dislike and plan to expel Tongan settlers from Lakeba. As Roko Malani was half Tongan, his hand was forced to remove his uncle from power and eliminate his followers as an effective force on the island. Roko Malani was later installed as Tui Nayau, and thus become the second holder of this title.

He is described by one of the early missionaries to Lakeba as being "a good looking muscular man", and he was responsible for establishing the kingdom of the Tui Nayau in the form which it was known to the first European observers. One of his earliest campaigns resulting in the extension of his domain was to lead a battle against Cicia, then an independent island, in retribution for the earlier death of his cousin Nayacatabu. He ambushed the Tui Cicia, or overlord of Cicia, and his forces on Nayau and killed him. The ensuing bloodbath is still remembered by the place name where the battle occurred. This area on Nayau is called Sosoiwaidamudamu or the Swamp of Red Water. This battle brought Cicia from this point forward under the power of the Tui Nayau. In addition the islands of Komo and Olorua were given to the Kabara champion and his battle ally, Ravu, in recognition for Kabara’s contribution to the defeat of Cicia. These two islands still remain as part of the Kabara District today.

Roko Malani is considered[by whom?] the progenitor of the noble household, Matailakeba. Two of his descendants included Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji's first Prime Minister (a direct male line descendant), and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, Fiji's first modern statesman. Roko Malani’s principal wife was Ciri of Taqalevu, with whom he had a son. It is likely he had other wives and offspring but there is scant record to demonstrate this. Towards the end of his reign, the first Christian missionaries arrived in Fiji in 1830. These were three Tahitian missionaries of the London Missionary Society, sent to Lakeba to establish a church. Although it is recorded that he tolerated the early missionaries, and one of his sons Vaubula was an early convert and would later emerge as one of the first preachers amongst Fijians; he nevertheless remained faithful to the old religion. He died, as recorded by missionaries, a heathen in 1833.

Roko Malani was succeeded by his younger brother, Taliai Tupou.