The leader of a cult on an island refuses to talk to church leaders who are concerned about the welfare of its members working there, it has been revealed.
The cult leader, who is an American born in New York as Franklin Jones but now known to his followers as Da Free John (among other names), has been living on Naitauba Island in northern Lau since March 1983.
He employs locals on the island where he lives with some of his cult members. The locals, mostly members of the Methodist Church in Fiji, have been warned by church leaders against joining the cult.
Church minister Reverend Bola Waqalevu, who is based on nearby Vanuabalavu, said he visited the island last weekend but was unable to speak to the cult leader, also referred to as Adi Da.
“He (cult leader) never speaks to anyone on the island. Not even his followers. All this time I have been visiting the island I have tried to speak to him but he never talks to anyone,” he said.
Mr Waqalevu said the purpose of his visit was to ensure locals on the island remained steadfast to the Christian faith.
He said cult members on the island treated their leader like a god.
“I do not really know anything about what their practices or beliefs are because I am only there for three days when I visit,” he said.
“But I did raise concerns with church members about how they responded to their employee’s entrance into the Methodist Church.
“I watched a disc and saw how they blew a conch shell and how they welcomed him and his presence in the church.
“So I spoke to them and told them that the house of God should not be treated like that and that they should not have done that. But it seems they were doing that just to secure their jobs and make their employer feel respected.
“The locals are only trying to earn a living and this is what they have to do.””In Lau, the soil is not so fertile and it’s not easy for the people so when they were offered the opportunity to work on the island, they accepted with the aim of providing for their families.”
Mr Waqalevu said more than 20 Fijian families lived and worked on the island. The number of foreigners was less in comparison.
“I hardly see the natives joining the white people in their worship. A temple was built and it seems this was intended to lure Fijians to worship with the others. But the Fijians have remained strong in their Christian faith,” he said.
Mr Waqalevu said locals had not raised any concerns with him regarding the cult practice or beliefs.
Last week, the Fiji SUN attempted to talk to the cult leader by phone at Naitauba.
But an employee on the island, Finiasi Cakacaka, said no one from outside, including the media, was allowed to talk to Da Free John.
Da Free John is believed to have bought the island in 1983 from another American. Reverend Bola said yesterday people on the island were preparing to have a feast and celebration on the island.
“I was on the island since Friday last week and the locals have been very busy. This is an annual celebration where the locals prepare a feast and entertain the man they work for,” he said.
“On Tuesday there was a celebration for his citizenship. The locals took some grog and a tabua (whale’s tooth) to officially invite him to the celebrations this weekend.
Mr Waqalevu said his next visit to the island would be in December.