George Cakobau

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Ratu Sir
George Cakobau
2nd Governor-General of Fiji
In office
13 January 1973 – 12 February 1983
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Robert Sidney Foster
Succeeded by Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau
Personal details
Born (1912-11-06)6 November 1912
Died 25 November 1989(1989-11-25) (aged 77)
Spouse(s) 1. Adi Veniana Gavoka
2. Lelea Seruwaia Balekiwai
Relations Father – Ratu Popi Seniloli
Alma mater Queen Victoria School
Newington College
Wanganui Technical College
Military service
Rank Captain

Ratu Sir George Kadavulevu Cakobau, GCMG, GCVO, OBE (6 November 1912 – 25 November 1989) was Governor General of Fiji from 1973 to 1983. A great-grandson of Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau, the King of Bau who had unified all the tribes of Fiji under his reign in the mid-1800s and subsequently ceded the islands to the United Kingdom in 1874, Ratu Sir George held the traditional titles of Vunivalu of Bau and Tui Levuka and thus considered by many as Fiji's highest-ranking traditional chief. Ratu Cakobau, was appointed Governor General in 1973, becoming the first indigenous Fijian to serve as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

Education and early career[edit]

Ratu Cakobau was educated first at Fiji's Queen Victoria School, then at Newington College in Australia (1927–1932)[1] and Wanganui Technical College in Wanganui, New Zealand. He became a member of the Great Council of Chiefs in 1938, where he remained until 1972. When he first joined the Council, it had the power to make laws for the ethnic Fijian population, but this power was removed towards the end of the colonial era, as modern political institutions were built.

Ratu Cakobau served with the Fiji Military Forces in World War II (1939–1945), rising to the rank of Captain. Following his return to Fiji after the end of the war, he was elected to the Legislative Council in 1951. He remained a member of this body, which was renamed the House of Representatives when Fiji became independent in 1970, until his appointment as Governor-General. He served in the Cabinet, first as Minister for Fijian Affairs and Local Government and subsequently as a minister without portfolio, from 1970 to 1972.

Governor-General of Fiji[edit]

One significant event marked Ratu Cakobau's tenure as Governor-General. In March 1977, a constitutional crisis developed following a general election which gave a narrow majority to the Indo-Fijian dominated National Federation Party (NFP). Three days after the election, the NFP splintered in a leadership brawl, and Ratu Cakobau, acting as Fiji's effective Head of State, then called on the defeated Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, to form a new government, pending fresh elections (which were held in September, and resulted in a landslide win for Mara's Alliance Party).

In a public statement, Ratu Cakobau defended his actions thus:

"In the recent general election, the people of Fiji did not give a clear mandate to either of the major political parties. It therefore became the duty of the Governor-General under the Constitution to appoint as Prime Minister the Member of the House of Representatives who appeared to him best able to command the support of the majority of the Members of the House. The Governor-General has not been able to act sooner as it was not until this afternoon that he was informed who had been elected leader of the National Federation Party. The Governor-General, after taking all relevant circumstances into account, has come to the firm conclusion that the person best able to command support of the majority of the Members is the Leader of the Alliance Party, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. In compliance with the Constitution and acting in his own deliberate judgment the Governor-General has accordingly appointed Ratu Sir Kamisese as Prime Minister."

Although Cakobau's actions were unquestionably constitutional, they were controversial. Despite the disarray in the NFP, many people, especially in the Indo-Fijian community, were outraged at his role in usurping a popular election, in what many Indo-Fijians saw as a blatant move to protect the privileged position of his fellow Fijian chiefs, who dominated the Mara government.

Honours[edit]

Ratu Cakobau was decorated with many honours during his lifetime. Among these was Royal Victorian Chain, a rare and prestigious honour awarded as a sign of the special relationship between Fiji and the Monarchy, following the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. Ratu George was a Freemason.[2]

Sport[edit]

Ratu Cakobau played four first-class cricket matches for Fiji during their 1947/48 tour to New Zealand. Ratu Cakobau made his debut first-class debut against Auckland and played his fourth and final first-class match on tour against Otago.

In his four first-class matches Ratu Cakobau scored 176 runs at a batting average of 25.14, with a single half century score of 67* coming against Wellington. With the ball he took 5 wickets at a bowling average of 52.00, with best figures of 2/48. Additionally he took 3 catches in the field.

During the tour to New Zealand, Ratu Cakobau also played 9 non-first-class matches for Fiji, with his final match coming against Hawke's Bay.

He also played a rugby union Test match for Fiji in 1939, against a New Zealand Maori team at Hamilton. Fiji won by 10 points, with Cakobau contributing two points, through a conversion.

Personal life and legacy[edit]

Ratu Cakobau was married twice, first to Adi Veniana Gavoka, then to Lady Lelea Seruwaia Balekiwai. Several of his children have distinguished themselves in public service. Adi Samanunu Talakuli has held Cabinet office and served as her country's High Commissioner to Malaysia, before being appointed to the Senate in June 2006. Ratu George Cakobau, Jr. and Adi Litia Cakobau also served in the Senators from 2001 to 2006. His youngest son, Ratu Tanoa Cakobau, was President of the Conservative Alliance, the junior partner in the ruling coalition from 2001 to 2006.

Ratu Cakobau retired from office in 1982, but as Fiji's traditional Paramount Chief, he remained influential until his death in 1989.

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Sidney Foster
Governor-General of Fiji
1973–1983
Succeeded by
Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ratu Popi Seniloli
Vunivalu of Bau
1957–1989
Succeeded by
Awaiting Installation: Ratu Epenisa Cakobau

References[edit]

  1. ^ Newington College Register of Past Students 1863–1998 (Syd, 1999) pp27
  2. ^ Lodge Polynesia

Bibliography[edit]

  • 20th Century Fiji, edited by Stewart Firth & Daryl Tarte – 2001 – ISBN 982-01-0421-1, Details on Ratu George Cakobau and his life.

External links[edit]