Ratu Alifereti Finau Mara
(born 1960) is a Fijian
lawyer, politician, and diplomat. He is best-known as the son of former Prime Minister
and President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara
. Since December 2001, he has held the official position of Roving Ambassador
and High Commissioner
, representing Fiji's interests in Pacific Island
nations. It was reported on 13 March 2006
that he had been chosen to succeed his late father as Paramount Chief of the Lau Islands, but by September that year, that remained to be confirmed.
Education and career
Mara graduated from New Zealand
's University of Otago
with an LLB
(Law) degree in 1983. This was followed by an LLM
(Masters degree in Law) from Cambridge University
in the United Kingdom
in 1986. Meanwhile, he had served as a Legal Officer in the Attorney General
's Chamber from 1984, rising to Principal Legal Officer in 1986. In 1987, he was appointed Fiji's Chief Administrative Officer for Foreign Affairs
, and in 1991 he became Charge d'Affaires
at the Fijian Embassy
in Washington, D.C.
Upon returning to Fiji, Mara was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and served for a single term. During this time, he held Cabinet office as Minister for Fijian Affairs from 1997 to 1999, during which time he also served as Chairman of the Native Land Trust Board. He also led the Fijian Association Party from 1996 to 1998. In 1999 he was appointed to a diplomatic post, but returned to Fiji in the wake of the coup d'état that deposed his father from the Presidency in 2000. The following year, however, he took up his present post as Roving Ambassador and High Commissioner.
On 13 August 2005, Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola said that Mara was being considered as a possible successor to Ratu Tevita Momoedonu as Ambassador to Japan. Momoedonu's term was due to expire in September, and he had indicated that he wished to return to Fiji. In the end, Mara was not appointed, however.
Tui Nayau candidate
On 18 March 2005
, it was announced that five elders from his home island of Lakeba
had visited him in Suva
to invite him to succeed his late father as Tui Nayau
, or Paramount Chief of the Lau Islands
. Although not strictly hereditary, the title is traditionally held by a male in the chiefly Vuanirewa Clan
, a tradition his father reportedly wanted upheld. One village elder, who chose not to be named, said that Mara had both the blood ties and the modern education expected of a Paramount Chief. "He is a high chief, whose parents are both paramount chiefs and have strong blood ties with all the chiefly households in Fiji and Tonga, is young and can look after his people,"
the elder said.
Others expressed disappointment, however, that the elders had gone public before Ratu Finau had made a final decision on accepting the invitation, saying that the publicity was an insult to him and the other children of the late Ratu Mara. "I am really disappointed with those from Nayau Village who have gone to the media with the story and their opinions because that is not how things should be handled," said Ratu Mesake Tuilaucala, who holds the title of Vaka ni Nayau.
As of July 2005, there was still no public announcement as to whether Mara has accepted the invitation to become the Tui Nayau, but his elder sister, Adi Ateca Ganilau, said that discussions between the family and the mataqali (clan) were ongoing. She said there was no time limit; her father had been installed only after three years of discussions.
On 13 March 2006, the Fiji Village news service quoted Lau Provincial Council Chairman Ratu Josefa Basulu as saying that Mara had accepted an invitation from the chiefly Vuanirewa clan to succeed his late father as Tui Nayau, or Paramount Chief of Lau. A date for installation had yet to be finalized, he said.
Mara has two children (Ratu Salesi Kinikinilau Mara
and Adi Lawedua Rokolubatilakeba Mara
) with his partner, Vitinia Tualau Buadromo
. In 2004, he attended his father's state funeral in the capital, Suva, but was absent from the family funeral in Lakeba. He, along with his brother Roko Tevita Uluilakeba
and his sister, Adi Ateca Ganilau, were similarly absent from the Vakataraisulu
ceremony, to mark the end of the year of mourning, held in Tubou Village
, Lakeba. Local people expressed sadness that Ratu Finau and his siblings, who cited prior commitments, were unable to attend the Vakataraisulu.