Queen Elizabeth II had a special relationship with Fiji. It was the first Pacific nation she visited after being crowned Queen of the British Empire in 1953 and the nation she visited the most, even after Fiji had gained independence.
The iconic picture of the Queen and Prince Philip standing on the balcony of the Grand Pacific Hotel in 1953 holds a special place in the Fijian history.
The Queen knighted 10 Fijians during her reign and one of them happens to be Sir James Ah Koy, a businessman who has ventures in different Pacific nations.
In fact, Sir James has met the Queen on two occasions, once when receiving his Order of the British Empire and then this was followed by his knighthood.
The honour was bestowed to him on the recommendation of Papua New Guinea because his business ventures across the region have helped many economies.
In July 2005, the Head of State of Samoa, Malietoa Tanumafili II, honoured Sir James with the Papalii chiefly title, in recognition of his contribution to the economy of Pacific Island nations. His Datec Group has subsidiary companies in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia, and New Zealand.
In the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Sir James was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, on the nomination of the Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare.
Sir James shared his experience with The Pacific Advocate of meeting Her Majesty the queen twice, a rare opportunity that not many Fijians have shared.
“Meeting with the Queen in 2006 was really inspiring. We had to be in the separate part of Buckingham Palace so we were going to be briefed,” he said.
“It was a joyful moment as I had all my family with me, to witness this rare occasion. I was a bit nervous as I was told that I was the first of the blokes to be knighted and the first to see the queen.
“She was an inspiring queen; she is unbelievable and when you meet with her in person, she is something else. I have spoken with her and the first thing she asked me was if I have been in the palace before and I said ‘Yes! I have been here before, Ma’am’.”
When the news of her death broke, Sir James said he shed tears because of the special place the Queen and the British Empire had meant for someone who was from his generation.
He said he was born and grew up in an era when Fiji was still a British colony and this influenced education and life style.
“We will sadly miss her. She will be sadly missed by the Commonwealth countries and other countries. She was loved by many,” he said.