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Ma`afu, prince of Tonga, chief of Fiji

Ma`afu, prince of Tonga, chief of Fiji: The life and times of Fiji’s first Tui Lau OPEN ACCESS

John Spurway
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15nmjvr
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    Ma`afu, prince of Tonga, chief of Fiji
    Book Description:

    Enele Ma`afu, son of Aleamotu`a, Tu`i Kanokupolu, grew up during a time of unprecedented social and political change in Tonga following the advent of Christianity. Moving to Lau, Fiji, in 1847 when he was about 21, he skilfully exploited kinship links to establish a power base there and in eastern Cakaudrove. His achievements were recognised in 1853 when his cousin King Tupou I appointed Ma`afu as Governor of the Tongans in Fiji. Acting as a putative champion of the lotu, Ma`afu undertook successful military campaigns elsewhere in Fiji and, after adding the Yasayasa Moala and the Exploring Isles to the nascent Lauan state, he was able to establish the Tovata ko Lau, a union of Lau, Cakaudrove and Bua, with himself as head. His power was formally recognised in 1869 when the Lauan chiefs appointed him as Tui Lau, a new title in the polity of Fiji. Ma`afu was now able to challenge Cakobau for the mastery of Fiji. After serving as Viceroy during the farcical planter oligarchy known as the Kingdom of Fiji, Ma`afu underwent a severe humiliation when, in order to maintain his power in Lau, he was forced to accede to the wishes of Fiji’s other great chiefs in offering their islands to Great Britain. He would end his days as Roko Tui Lau, a ‘subordinate administrator’ in the Crown Colony of Fiji, presiding over a province characterised by corruption and maladministration but where the legacy of his earlier innovative land reforms has endured.

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-18-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science
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  1. To stand at the north-western point of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, where the country’s first missionaries landed in 1797, is to be conscious of the island’s most salient characteristic: its flatness. A long, low line of green, highlighted between the deep blue of the lagoon and the softer blue of the sky, stretches eastwards in a semi-circle, fading into the horizon beyond which lies Nuku`alofa, Tonga’s capital. On Tongatapu, a generation after the missionaries’ arrival, Moala, spouse of Aleamotu`a, the island’s principal chief, gave birth to their first child. While the baby’s name, Ma`afu`otu`itonga, was that of his great-grandfather, the...

  2. A prelude to the events of the 1840s, the decade when Ma`afu left his homeland, occurred at a ceremony near Neiafu, Vava`u in March 1839. The local chiefs, theirmatapuleand many of the district’s adult males assembled for the promulgation of a new code of laws prepared by Tāufa`āhau. The laws, already in operation in Vava`u for more than a year, were read to the gathering by Tāufa`āhau, who enlarged upon any requiring explanation.¹ Heavily influenced by the missionaries, they were to be introduced in Ha`apai as well. By implication, Tongatapu waited only for political stability and the conversion...

  3. On 3 May 1846 Matthew Wilson, a Wesleyan missionary stationed at Ha`apai, baptised the month-old son of “Henali and Elenoa Ma`afu”.¹ Since only the baby’s Christian name, Josiah, is recorded in the baptisms register, we do not know which of the three children of Ma`afu and Elenoa he was.² The baby, named after Ma`afu’s late father, was only three years younger than his uncle, another Josaia, who had been baptised at Nuku`alofa on 2 July 1843 by John Thomas. This child, referred to in the register as “son of Josaia and Mele”, was the youngest of Ma`afu’s siblings.³ The mention...

  4. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Lakeban state belonged to the second rank of thematanituof Fiji. Although its paramount chief, Tui Nayau, was not subject to the direct authority of any other Fijian chief, he commanded neither the population resources nor the reserves of manpower that were at the disposal of Bau, Cakaudrove and Rewa, the major powers of Fiji. Lau, long in an unsettled state because of the resident Tongans, underwent further disruption during the 1840s following the introduction of Christianity. While thelotuwas making slow if unsteady progress among the Lauan population, both Fijian and Tongan,...

  5. The islands of Moala, Totoya and Matuku, collectively known as the Yasayasa Moala, lie between 100 and 130 kilometres south-east of Viti Levu and approximately the same distance south-west of Lakeba. While, during the nineteenth century, the three islands owed some allegiance to Bau, there existed also several family connections with Lakeba. The most prominent of the few practising Christians there was Donumailulu, or Donu who, after lotuing while living on Lakeba, brought the faith to Moala when he returned there in 1852.¹ Because of his conversion, Donu was soon forced to leave the island’s principal village, Navucunimasi, now known...

  6. Fiji experienced relative tranquillity for more than a year following the tumult of 1855. Evidence for Ma`afu’s activities during the months after Tupou’s departure is fragmentary, offering only occasional glimpses into the life of the man in whose hands Tongan power in Fiji now lay. He had been entrusted with the care of the Tongan lands in Fiji, with the measure of the King’s confidence in his kinsman apparent in the address he made to the assembled chiefs of Tongatapu one week after his return.¹ The King’s accolade suggests that he saw Ma`afu as a possible successor, both as Tu`i...

  7. News of the British government’s decision concerning Fiji, so eagerly awaited by so many there and in Tonga, finally arrived several months before Ma`afu’s return from his long visit to his homeland. As often with momentous news, trickles of information preceded the formal advice. In May 1862, a letter from Commodore Seymour reached William Hennings at Levuka, advising the trader that cession was declined and that HMSMiranda, Captain Robert Jenkins, would visit Fiji with an official party instructed to advise the chiefs that they were to be neither governed nor protected by Great Britain. In addition, the officials would...

  8. The ruling by Consul Jones in February 1865 established Ma`afu’s sovereignty over Vanuabalavu and nearby islands under both Fijian custom and English law. Although Ma`afu was now placed on a footing comparable to that of Fiji’s most powerful chiefs, notably Cakobau and Tui Cakau, his status required more precise definition within the wider polity of Fiji. In the meantime, the Tongan Commissioners had yet to conclude their enquiries.

    Before he returned to Tonga, David Moss further consolidated Tongan power in Fiji when a formal treaty between Tui Nayau and Tupou I, the latter represented by Ma`afu and Moss, was signed...

  9. Ma`afu’s recognition as Tui Lau and his formal separation from Tonga placed his rivalry with Cakobau in a new perspective. With the European population of Fiji growing, and increasing demands for their protection coming from their home governments, Ma`afu’s triumph in Lau brought the question of his future role in Fiji into sharper focus. Cakobau, intent on retaining favour with “the people from Melbourne”, lost no time in attempting to restrain his rival. The Vunivalu reminded acting British Consul John Thurston that the new Tui Lau was often seen in Beqa: “he obtains his food and wood from there”. Asserting...

  10. During the second half of 1871, Ma`afu’s role as Viceroy in the new Kingdom of Fiji appeared to overshadow his function as Tui Lau. As trader William Hennings reminded the September meeting of Vanuabalavu planters and traders, Ma`afu now trod a different stage, although his new role was expected to benefit his Lauan “subjects”.¹ Ma`afu’s fortunes were tied to those of the administration, a “government” that was little more than an oligarchy of planters and traders, people described by a visitor to Fiji as “a heterogeneous lot, of whom a considerable proportion are not strictly British subjects”.² However self-interested many...

  11. Whatever Ma`afu’s immediate goals were when he announced his secession from the Kingdom of Fiji, he is unlikely to have been thinking of Thomas Jefferson’s aphorism, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”. After he had repudiated his own little rebellion, the issue of secession faded from public debate in Fiji, although not without a cautionary note from theFiji Times:

    Ma`afu … is a very ambitious man and has long been a formidable rival of the King’s, and whenever he may see a favourable opportunity of forwarding his power, he is not a man to let...

  12. The last chapter closed with an imaginary glimpse of Ma`afu watching a cricket match at Lomaloma, distracted by thoughts of the greater game being played in Whitehall, a game that would determine the course of his future life. To venture a description of his state of mind during these months of waiting is merely to speculate, since there was no window into Ma`afu’s heart. During the six months following the chiefs’ offer to cede their islands, Ma`afu, along with most people in Fiji, awaited the response of the British government.

    While, in the eyes of Whitehall, Ma`afu was the chief...

  13. When Sir Arthur Gordon, first resident Governor of Fiji, arrived in Levuka on 26 June 1875, he brought with him a comprehensive set of instructions from the Colonial Office concerning the policy he was to pursue in office. While it is beyond the scope of this work to consider that policy in detail, his Native Affairs Ordinance is worthy of notice, since it incorporated “the great body of custom that … had been understood for generations”.¹ Mention should be taken of those aspects of custom that were of greatest relevance to the Province of Lau: land titles andlala

    Elsewhere...

  14. Following the conclusion of theBosevakaturagaat Mualevu in January 1881, chiefs from that district and from Lomaloma assembled for theBoseniyasana, held as usual after a meeting of the Great Council. Almost no record has survived of theBose, whose purpose, as always, was to acquaint theturaga ni koroand other lesser chiefs with the resolutions of theBosevakaturagaand to consider matters of local concern. When theXarifareached Lomaloma on 11 January, having sailed up to Mualevu the previous day,¹ it probably returned Ma`afu to his home after some two months of prolonged chiefly deliberations, interspersed...