mailife - - Contents - A Life of Sil­ver Ser­vice

FOR al­most half his of life Ali­pate Ra­tu­maitavuki has been serv­ing Fiji’s Heads of State and their visit­ing dig­ni­taries. The Com­mon­wealth Day Cel­e­bra­tion at the State House in April was the fi­nal func­tion for the Lasakau vil­lager from Bau in Tailevu. The 54 year old was calling it a day. The state but­ler who has of­fi­cially served four Pres­i­dents and four Vice-Pres­i­dents for the past 24 years, was un­able to give an in­ter­view on the night be­cause he was too busy mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing was set to per­fec­tion. A day later while he was re­lax­ing at his gov­ern­ment quar­ters res­i­dence at Berke­ley Cres­cent in Do­main he was ready to chat about his life as a but­ler. The in­ter­view was con­stantly in­ter­rupted by peo­ple walk­ing past his house and calling his name, Pate, a sign of how pop­u­lar he was with his neigh­bours. A vil­lage boy at heart, Pate was born and bred in Lasakau and says that be­ing true to his tra­di­tional du­ties was what led him to the State House. The vil­lagers of Lasakau are tra­di­tional fish­er­men to the Vu­ni­valu na Tui Kaba, the para­mount chief of the Kubuna Con­fed­er­acy and the Roko Tui Bau of the Vusaratu clan. Other clans of Bau vil­lage are the Vusara­dave (tra­di­tional war­riors), Tu­ni­toga (Vu­ni­valu’s her­alds) and Masau (Roko Tui Bau’s her­alds). Many Bauan vil­lagers since the late Ratu Seru Apenisa Cakobau – the Fi­jian chief who ceded Fiji to Great Bri­tain – have played sig­nif­i­cant roles in Fiji’s his­tory. They in­clude former head of state Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, former vice

pres­i­dent the late Ratu Joni Madrai­wiwi and the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, to name just a few. The chiefly Vu­ni­valu’s res­i­dence, named Matai­weilagi is sit­u­ated on the south-east shore of the vil­lage with other chiefly res­i­dences that re­main in the vil­lage – Naicobo­cobo, Naiso­go­laca, Muaid­ule, Naua, Nadamele, Qaranikula and Vu­ni­la­gakali. As one of the tra­di­tional fish­er­men to the hold­ers of the high­est chiefly ti­tles in Fiji, Pate spent most of his child­hood at the chiefly res­i­dence of Naiso­go­laca. “I wasn’t that well ed­u­cated in school but I was well ed­u­cated in my tra­di­tional role, and that was to serve and be of ser­vice to my chiefs,” Pate said. “It was dur­ing my days at Naiso­go­laca that I saw all the skills I have with me to­day. It wasn’t text book learn­ing or some­thing I learnt at a ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion,” he added. Pate said be­cause those in the chiefly house­hold trav­elled abroad for ed­u­ca­tion or spe­cial trips, they brought back with them mod­ern ideas. “These ideas in­clude ta­ble set­tings, recipes and they also brought with them cut­lery and what­ever else they saw fit,” he said. “I was ob­serv­ing them like a hawk and I gained all my knowl­edge from there.”. Di­vert­ing from his tra­di­tional du­ties as a fish­er­man, Pate be­gan to serve the chiefly fam­ily of Naiso­go­laca as a but­ler with the self-taught knowl­edge he had gained. It wasn’t un­til the mid-1980’s that the late Ro Lady Lala

Mara caught sight of Pate and se­lected him in to serve her late hus­band, Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara who was then Prime Min­is­ter of Fiji. Ac­cord­ing to Pate, he was in his early twen­ties when he be­gan fol­low­ing Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara and Ro Lady Lala Mara around where ever they trav­elled to lo­cally. At the time Ratu Kamis­ese Mara was also Tui Nayau – the para­mount chief of Lau. “When I started serv­ing the late Tui Nayau, I used to take our cut­lery and what­ever else I could with me when­ever he trav­elled around lo­cally and be­cause he was a para­mount chief, no one else could use his uten­sils or cut­lery,” he said. This tra­di­tion of tak­ing the kitchen cut­lery around started by Pate dur­ing Ratu Mara’s ten­ure as Prime Min­is­ter and con­tin­ued when he be­came the Pres­i­dent of Fiji on 18 Jan­uary, 1994 un­til 29 May 2000. Dur­ing Ratu Epeli Nailatikau’s ten­ure as Pres­i­dent the tra­di­tion was aban­doned, but tra­di­tion­al­ist Pate hopes it will be revived in fu­ture be­cause it dif­fer­en­ti­ates the Head of State from mem­bers of the pub­lic. “Ratu Epeli is a very hum­ble and down-to-earth gen­tle­man but we can tell just from his man­ner­isms that he is of noble up­bring­ing. I served their chiefly Naiso­go­laca fam­ily dur­ing my days in the vil­lage so Ratu Epeli knew me well,” Pate said. Pate re­called a Lent sea­son dur­ing his ser­vice with Ratu Epeli: “Lent had just started and the First Lady Adi Koila, who is a staunch Catholic, in­structed me that I was to cook fish for 40 days. It didn’t mat­ter if I fried it or boiled it or cooked it any other way but fish was to be eaten dur­ing lent, “Af­ter a week, Ratu Epeli sat down to din­ner one night and was dis­ap­pointed when he saw that again he was hav­ing fish. He came into the kitchen and asked me why I was serv­ing fish for the past few days and I replied I was fol­low­ing Adi Koila’s in­struc­tion since it was Lent. “Next thing I heard was his re­quest to open one corned beef from the cup­board be­cause he was tired of eat­ing fish.” Pate said that mo­ment with Ratu Epeli re­minded him that de­spite our sta­tus in so­ci­ety and what po­si­tions we hold in gov­ern­ment, we are still hu­man be­ings with crav­ings for some­thing sim­ple as eat­ing corned beef. In his ca­pac­ity as but­ler in the State House Pate has served four vice pres­i­dents – Ratu Sir Jo­saia Tavaiqia (1990-1992) and (1994-1997), Ratu Inoke Takiveikata (1997-1999), Ratu Jope Se­niloli (2001-2004) and Ratu Joni Madrai­wiwi (20042006). He has also served four pres­i­dents -- Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara (1994-2000), Ratu Josefa Iloilo­vatu Uluiv­uda (20002009), Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (2009-2015) and the cur­rent Pres­i­dent, His Ex­cel­lency Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Jioji Konusi Kon­rote. He said the high­light of his ca­reer would be host­ing the state din­ner dur­ing the visit of the United Na­tions Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1995. “Oh, that was a huge state din­ner, one of its kind. I am proud to say that I was a part of it and it is one that is still etched in my mind to­day.” It was dur­ing this state din­ner there was a funny in­ci­dent which in­volved a male kitchen staff who was a Hindu and was not al­lowed to han­dle any red meat. “Sa gauna me taqei kina na kakana me kau na teveli, sa kaya cake mai o noqu tokani Hindu qo, Pate, ke­mu­dou na bu­lumakau, o au na ika (When it was time to serve the food, my Hindu col­league said to me, Pate you the cow and I serve the fish).” “Au qai kaya yani vua, segai keitou na tamata, sega ni mai bu­lumakau (I replied to him, no we are not cows, we are hu­man be­ings),” Pate re­called with laugh­ter. At this point in his rec­ol­lec­tions Pate went quiet and be­came some­what emo­tional in the re­al­i­sa­tion that his role as a but­ler to the great of the State had fi­nally come to an end. “I never re­alised how im­por­tant my job was un­til this in­ter­view. I think I was so busy, I didn’t think much of my work and what I do,” Pate said. “I know I had to sweat and work hard at my job, but to­day I look back and I re­alise I have served great states­men who helped shape this na­tion to what it is to­day.”

Ali­pate with the late Pres­i­dent Ratu Josefa Iloilo Uluiv­uda.

Ali­pate in ear­lier days at the State House.

Ali­pate with the cur­rent Head of State, Pres­i­dent Jioji Konusi Kon­rote. Ali­pate with guests at the State House in ear­lier days.

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