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Ratu Naiqama Tawake Lalabalavu is a Fijian Paramount Chief and politician. He was the Minister for Lands and Minister for Mineral Resources in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, prior to his resignation on 7 April 2005. Following the parliamentary election held on 6–13 May 2006, he became Minister for Fijian Affairs, as well as Minister for Lands and Provincial Development.
In 1999, Lalabalavu succeeded his late father, Ratu Glanville Lalabalavu, as the Tui Cakau, or Paramount Chief of Cakaudrove and of the Tovata Confederacy, one of three confederacies to which all Fijian tribes belong. He was challenged in court by Ratu Epeli Ganilau, son of former Fijian President Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau who had himself held the Tui Cakau title prior to his death in 1993, but in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Lalabalavu.
Lalabalavu was elected to represent the Lau-Taveuni-Rotuma Open Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1999 as a candidate of the ruling Fijian Political Party (SVT), one of only 8 SVT candidates to win seats. He defeated his chiefly rival, Ratu Epeli Ganilau of the Christian Democratic Alliance, by a margin of 58 percent to 32 percent.
By the time the 2001 election was held to restore democracy, some major political realignments had taken place. Now a leading member of the Conservative Alliance, a nationalistic party which included many supporters and associates of George Speight, the chief instigator of the 2000 coup, Lalabalavu won the Cakaudrove East Fijian Communal Constituency) (one of 23 reserved for ethnic Fijians in the House of Representatives. In the coalition government that was subsequently formed, Lalabalavu was appointed Minister of Lands and Mineral Resources. The appointment was later harshly criticized by Senator Adi Koila Nailatikau, daughter of former President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who had been deposed in the coup. She accused him of having ordered the burning of the Matailakeba Cane Farm in Seaqaqa (owned by Ratu Mara) in the midst of an army mutiny at Sukanaivalu Barracks in Labasa on July 29, 2000.
On 6 April 2003, it was reported that Lalabalavu had called for an overhaul of the country's constitutional institutions. Political authority, he said, should be returned to Fiji's chiefs. He said that as it was the chiefs who ceded the islands to the United Kingdom in 1874, paramount authority should have been returned to them when independence was granted in 1970. As a first step, he proposed the abolition of the Senate, the functions of which could be taken over by the Great Council of Chiefs, he said. He opined that restoring the authority of the chiefs would lead to a breaking down of Fiji's race barriers, as the chiefs would then be the leaders not only of the indigenous people, but of all races. His proposal was rejected by Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who was then the Chairman of the Great Council.
Presidential candidate in 2006?
- See main article: Fiji presidential election, 2006.
The Fiji Village news service reported on 23 February 2006 that some chiefs wished to nominate Lalabalavu for the office of President or Vice-President. When Great Council of Chiefs met on 8 March, however, it reelected unopposed Ratu Josefa Iloilo and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as President and Vice-President, respectively.
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Ratu Glanville Lalabalavu