On 9 May 2011 Ratu Tevita Kapaiwai Lutunauga Uluilakeba Mara — otherwise known as Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Mara — was collected from off the coast of Fiji by a Royal Tongan Navy patrol boat. Son of one of Fiji’s most famous leaders, Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara, Tevita Mara had gone from being a key supporter of Fiji’s military coup in 2006, to being charged with mutiny in 2011. In the context of Pacific Island international relations, the intervention of the Royal Tongan Navy was a startling development. The orders seem to have come essentially from the top, from the Tongan king, Siaosi Tupou V, himself Asked why he would commit such an act of international intrigue, and risk escalation against what is a much larger and militarily more powerful nation, King George offered a simple answer: that Mara was his ‘kinsman’. Few thought that a good explanation, but most Polynesians understood it as a valid one. Tongans could quickly place this in a longer history of Tongan engagement with Lau, an eastern part of Fiji or, more specifically, the history of Ma’afu, or through Mara’s parents whether his famous father, or his equally prominent mother, who was related to the Tongan royal family. None of this needed much explanation for a Tongan or a Fijian, or even a Sāmoan, audience.
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