Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Over fishing in the South Pacific

from w
In today's Fiji Times there is an important article - more important than the numerous descriptions of crimes in Suva. This is one area the detectives in the Interim Government need to get onto!

Fishing industry concerned with fishy mess
1218 FJT
Thursday, May 31, 2007

Update: 12.18pm FIJI's fishing industry says incidents of illegal fishing and ireregular trans-shipments and non-compliance with Fiji licence conditions are rampant and out of control.

An industry insider calculates that about 30 to 50 per cent of Fiji's licenced fleet, are non-compliant with their licence conditions, and as such are fishing illegally, with the full knowledge of the Fisheries Ministry.

''This situation is creaming hundreds of thousands of dollars out of State coffers, and creating a grave imbalance with respect to the honest, compliant companies that have to compete against these pirate companies, that operate outside the net,'' the insider said.

The reaction comes in the wake of reports from New Zealand that a dramatic increase in the number of sightings of unauthorized fishing vessels in the western and central Pacific Ocean in the last three months is alarming fisheries officials in the Pacific Islands region.

Speaking during a regional meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency in Wellington, New Zealand, the Executive Director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Andrew Wright, has advised that there is strong evidence of a significant increase in illegal fishing ranging throughout the central Pacific through French Polynesia, Cook Islands and Kiribati.

According to the insider, Fiji is accepting and assisting, and indeed subsidizing these illegal operators, and there is very strong evidence of large volumes of illegally caught fish being ''laundered'' through Fiji.

''Everyday, more and more scams in relation to illegal fishing, are emerging, and the Fisheries Ministry is just not equipped to deal with them,'' the insider said.

The meeting heard that majority of reports received so far concern large purse seiners flagged to Latin American countries.

These vessels normally operate in the eastern Pacific but as fishing conditions for tuna in that region are reported to be depressed this year vessels are moving west.

Tuna fisheries in the central and western Pacific are managed through the recently established commission which is headquartered in Micronesia.

Mr Wright said that the members of the commission have agreed that only vessels flying the flag of the members of the commission may be authorized to fish in the western and central Pacific.

He added that Latin American countries are not members of the commission and so any of their vessels fishing in the WCPFC Convention Area will be conducting illegal activities.

As such activity undermines the conservation and management measures of the Commission, and adversely impacts on fragile island economies dependent on fishing, the members of the WCPFC treat the threat posed by illegal fishing activity very seriously.

Fiji's acting Fisheries Director Suresh Chand is also attending this meeting and could not be reached for a comment.

A test for citizenship (in Oz)

from w
In Parliament today they are talking about the new citizenship test which will be in English, multiple choice, and done on computers. You can try a few times and the pass must be over 60%. Hmm. Here are two sample sets of questions – one very serious, the other more realistic.

The first one is from:,23599,21752541-2,00.html

Are you dinky di? May 18, 2007 01:00am

An exclusive insight into the likely content of a new 'Aussie values' test for potential Australian citizens which will come into effect later this year.

Sample questions devised by the Federal Government:

1. Which colours are represented on the Australian flag?
a. Green and yellow
b. Red, black and yellow
c. Blue, red and white
d. Orange and purple

2. Indigenous people have lived in Australia for ...

a. At least 40,000 years
b. About 8000 years
c. About 800 years
d. Less that 400 years

3. Australia's national flower is the ...

a. Rose
b. Wattle
c. Kangaroo paw
d. Banksia

4. Which is a popular sport in Australia?

a. Ice hockey
b. Water polo
c. Cricket
d. Table tennis

5. Australia's political system is a ...

a. Parliamentary democracy
b. Monarchy
c. Dictatorship
d. Socialist state

6. The Capital of Australia is...

a. Sydney
b. Melbourne
c. Hobart
d. Canberra

7. Which animals are on the Australian Coat of Arms?

a. Wombat and echidna
b. Kangaroo and emu
c. Kangaroo and dingo
d. Lion and unicorn

8. Where did the first European settlers to Australia come from?

a. Spain
b. France
c. England
d. Ireland

9. Who is Australia's head of state?

a. Prime Minister John Howard
b. Queen Elizabeth II
c. Governor General Michael Jeffery
d. Premier Steve Bracks

10. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?

a. Sir Edmund Barton
b. Sir Henry Parkes
c. John Curtin
d. Sir Robert Menzies

11. What song is Australia's national anthem?

a. God Save the Queen
b. Star Spangled Banner
c. Advance Australia Fair
d. Waltzing Matilda

12. What do you call the elected head of a state government?

a. Governor
b. Premier
c. Mayor
d. Prime Minister

13. Which federal political party or parties are in power?

a. Australian Labor Party
b. Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens
c. National Party
d. Liberal Party and National Party

14. Which of the following are Australian values?

a. Men and women are equal
b. `A fair go'
c. Mateship
d. All of the above

15. Australia's values are based on the ...

a. Teachings of the Koran
b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition
c. Catholicism
d. Secularism

16. What does Anzac Day commemorate?

a. The Gallipoli landing
b. Armistice Day
c. The Battle of the Somme
d. Victory in the Pacific

17. In what year did the first European settlers arrive?

a. 1801
b. 1770
c. 1788
d. 1505

18. How many states are there in Australia?

a. 5
b. 6
c. 7
d. 8

19. Australian soldiers fought in ...

a. World War I and World War II
b. Korean War
c. Vietnam War
d. All of the above

20. What is Australia's biggest river system?

a. The Murray Darling
b. The Murrumbidgee
c The Yarra
d. The Mississippi


1) C, 2) A, 3) B, 4) C, 5) A, 6) D, 7) B, 8) C, 9) B, 10) A, 11) C, 12) B, 13) D, 14) D, 15) B, 16) A, 17) C, 18) B, 19) D, 20) A

Office of the Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, Canadian, British and US citizenship tests

And the second set of questions come from a blog.

Top 10 questions for Australian citizenship test
(introductory para deleted)

1. What do you drink?
a) beer b) wine c) water d) vodka e) none of them

Answer this if you choose option (e) in previous question.
1.1. How many beers are in a slab ?
a) 1 b) 2 c) 12 d) 24 e) 0

2. How many times a year you organize a barbecue?
a) 365 b) 1 c) 12 d) 30 e) none.

Answer this if you choose option (e) in previous question.
2.1. When cooking a barbecue how many times do you turn the sausages?
a) 10 b) 20 c) 30 d) 100 e) until you finish your beer.

3.How many cans of beer did David Boon consume on a plane trip from Australia to England?

4. Do you play AFL/NRL/Cricket/Baketball/Hockey/Handball?
a) Yes b) None of them c) Noo!!!..

Answer this if you choose option (c) in previous question.
4.1 How many goal posts are in an AFL game ?
4.2 How may players and doctors play in an AFL game ?

5. How many stubbies is it from Brissy to the Gold Coast in a Torana
travelling at 130km/h?

6. Which Australian Prime Minister held the world record for telling lies?

7. On which Ashes tour did Warney's didn't send text messages?
a) 1993 b) 1997 c) 2001 d) none of them e) all of them

8. What is someone more likely to die of:
a) Red Back Spider b) Great White Shark c) Police Officer
d) King Brown Snake e) Your missus after a big night
f) Dropbear?

9. What does Daryll Hair do?
a) Makes you a chucker b) Consulting in communication skills @ $0.5 million/day
c) Advise on how to tamper a ball

10. How many days in year you call a sick day?
a) None b) 20 c) 60 d) 365 e) Every Monday and Friday

Answer this if you choose option (a) in previous question.
10.1 When is the best time to call a sick day?
a) When cricket is on.
b) When sun is shining in late 20's.
c) When Big Brother uncut is on.
d) When parliament session is live on TV.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Methodist choirs in Fiji

from Peceli
Here is a photo of the Centenary Choir in Suva taken last year when they invited me to meet with them. We have a good relationship especially since their tour to Australia to one of our Uniting Church conferences in Melbourne.

Every year there is a huge choir competition as part of the Methodist Conference in Fiji. This year the choirs will perform in Suva at Furnival Park, though the main meeting will be in be in Macuata at Naduri. The Fiji newspapers seem to emphasize the fund-raising aspect of this conference but it has many other aspects.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Vorovoro and tribewanted - the place to be

from w
There's some interesting updates on the chief's blog on the tribewanted site - weddings planned, an enthusiastic philosophical take on Vorovoro, Mothers Day, swimming with sharks and a ray. Even the baby turtles are running down to the sea. It's an optimistic view of one quiet place in Fiji, seemingly untouched by the Fiji news headlines telling very different stories.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Where the Spirit is, there's freedom

from w
Protea flowers are being sold in Geelong as a project of the local Rotary clubs. To me, the colour red is the colour of Pentecost which is today in the Christian calendar.

Our prayers are with the people of Fiji at this time, particularly those whose lives have been disrupted as a consequence of the current disorder. Peceli and I have been viewing a video of a Methodist Conference held at Cuvu in 1984 which is from a long time ago. The Labasa choir and others sang brilliantly, the customs of the vanua were performed with dignity. There was a generosity and an order. Isa lei, is the Pentecost Spirit still alive and well in Fiji?

Where the spirit is, there's freedom,
Where the Spirit is, there is life.
Not by the world can our freedom be nourished,
Not by our things, only by Spirit,
Practice my children to live by the Spirit,
Drop all your masks, take freedom's clothing.
(words by Per Harling, Sweden for World Council of Churches)

A Blessing:

Go with the strength you have.
Go simply,
in search of love,
and the Spirit go with you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What would Ratu Sukuna think?

from w
They are not spending any money this year to celebrate Ratu Sukuna Day, says the Interim Government, but some of the schools are doing their own celebration, such as at the secondary school named after him. This gentleman, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was a leader, a mentor, an initiator of change to land leasing during the 1940s, a system that has continued to this day through the Native Land Trust Board.

I wonder what he would think of all the undermining of the Fijian institutions that is going on these days?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Teaching religion in Fiji schools?

from w

I was surprised by a story in today's Fiji Village newes about the teaching pf religion to be compulsory in Fiji schools. I think 'optional' is the status quo at present.

Such a step surely requires a lot of thought and discussion, not just a jump-start idea from the man at the top of the bureaucracy, and an interim one at that! Perhaps the intention is based on an assumption that teaching religion will make the children behave better!

Even if some students can be excused (perhaps they are bahai or not mainstream religion in their family) it is a divisive topic in Fiji's pluralistic society. Certainly the children need to learn their cultural and religious heritage but the possibilities/probabilities of causing division/arguments are certainly there in a school situation. The volunteers/teachers need to be well trained to address the subject of religion and perhaps need a Diploma first. Volunteers may have a very narrow point of view and teaching the 'truth' of a religion is debatable as there are many variations within each religion.

It would be more interesting to teach ALL students something about several religions in an attempt at learning to respect difference.

I taught Religious Education in Fiji and Australian schools once upon a time - with a Christian bias but the material I used was about stories and was not a fundamentalist kind of view. I realize now I could have done it better as my views are more liberal these days with more respect towards people with different views.

in today's Fiji village:
Religious Classes to be Compulsory in all Schools
May 21, 2007, 07:42

The Education Ministry is now in the process of implementing a compulsory policy to ensure that all schools in the country have religious classes.

Interim Education Minister, Netani Sukanaivalu said the Education Act provides for religious classes in schools but those students and teachers who do not want to participate in the classes can be excused.

Sukanaivalu said he is now speaking to all the Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders to ensure that they make their people available for the classes in all schools which is expected to strengthen the morals and values of the students.

Sukanaivalu also said the teachings and correct interpretation of the religious books is necessary as religion is sometimes used by certain leaders and politicians for their own personal agenda.

Meanwhile, Fijian Teachers Association General Secretary said the Interim Minister for Education should stop trying to make changes to the education system.

Maika Namudu said the call by Netani Sukanaivalu to have different religions taught in all schools is not well researched and will not work.

Fiji Teachers Union, General Secretary Agni Deo Singh could not be contacted for a comment as he is away at a conference in Singapore.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Survivor Fiji - series 14 starts on Oz TV on Sunday

from w
I don't like most so-called 'reality' TV except for the odd ones where a bunch of vavalagis are sent to a village in the middle of Africa or Indonesia, and some travel docos. Survivor of course is hardly 'reality' with its games and contests and manipulation of a cultural setting.

On Sunday night 10.30 p.m.- 11.30 p.m. which is a stupid time-slot if they are serious about viewers, the Survivor Fiji series will kick off on Channel Nine. I haven't even read any upbeat articles about it in the Green Guide of the Age, etc. so it looks like Channel Nine are not too fussed about promotion.

For some of us with a Fiji connection, well, we'd like to spot the location, spot any locals, etc. Filmed in the vicinity of Vunivutu in Macuata, some of our relatives and friends assisted in the production over several months.
Bula Lusi and bula Pita from Sydney if you are watching. Of course if people have been reading some websites and blogs, well, we already know who is the winner! They call these 'spoilers'.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's twenty years since the Rabuka coup in 1987

from w
It seems that Fiji has had a 'coup culture' ever since. I remember that day, May 14 1987, as I arrived in Melbourne by train from a visit to my mother. I rang Peceli in Geelong to ask him to meet me at Geelong station an hour or so later. He said, 'Fiji has had a coup!' I was astonished of course. Well, later that afternoon in Geelong we were at a handover of a house to the Aboriginal community for tertiary students, a gift of the Uniting Church, and there were a few odd comments about 'what on earth is going on in Fiji' at that celebration. Newspapers were full of the coup story. And then again, and again, and again, but no longer do stories of Fiji coups take up the first three pages of the newspapers.

Father Kevin Barr has written a commentary in today's Fiji Times. I don't agree with everything he says but he is correct when he says it is not just to get back to an election and 'democracy'. There are other issues that need to be addressed and resolved. He is a bit softly softly about the army though.

Solutions before democracy
Monday, May 14, 2007

There seems to be a great deal of international concern that Fiji should return to democracy as soon as possible.

Calls for democratic elections have come from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth. We have had the report of the Eminent Persons Group. Recently we have been inundated with overseas visitors the UN fact finding mission as well as the Commonwealth Human rights fact finding mission.

Then the Pacific Islands Forum is organising a committee to advise on the holding of elections.

This great flurry of activity is very interesting. It seems the international community thinks that as soon as Fiji holds elections and returns to democracy, all its problems will be over. It will be accepted back into all the organisations from which it has been expelled and all will be right with the world. There can be great rejoicing and everyone can sit back satisfied that democracy has been restored.

All this is well and good. But it has all happened before. After previous coups in 1987 and 2000 Fiji was urged to have elections and return to democracy as quickly as possible. This happened and the international community was overjoyed to welcome Fiji back into the democratic fold. But elections did not solve Fiji's basic problems and when those problems raised their heads again and caused serious tensions and upsets (as they did during the Qarase regime) the international community seemed quite unconcerned because a democratic government was in place. No fact finding missions came from the Commonwealth or the UN. No Eminent Persons were selected to look into the problems. Our closest neighbours did little to put pressure on a racist regime to act in the interests of all its citizens. They had seen to it that a democratically elected government was in place and that was all that was required.

Yet, by now we should have learnt that democracy measured by elections is not a panacea. Every coup exposes wounds that need to be healed and the deep underlying problems that need to be attended to. Before Fiji can gain stability and effectively return to some degree of democracy a number of serious issues need to be addressed and resolved.

1. The agenda of the extreme nationalists needs to be addressed Fiji for the Fijians, calls for "Fijian unity" and the demand for a Christian State.

2. The racially explosive mix of fundamentalist religion and extreme nationalism found in the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji (ACCF) which seeks to have a strong influence on the political and social scene.

3. The conflicts and tensions within the Fijian chiefly families and confederacies.

4. The culture of corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

5. The economic policies which are creating greater poverty and inequality and giving rise to "two Fijis".

6. The electoral system which encourages racial divisiveness.

Besides all this we need:
A well conducted Census;
The establishment of fair and proper electoral boundaries; and
Extensive voter education about the nature and purpose of democracy.

We don't just need a timeframe for a return to democracy, we need strategies that will address the big problems underlying our instability and giving rise to constant coups. We do not have a "coup culture", we have rather a number of serious unaddressed problems which will continue to cause instability until they are effectively acknowledged and addressed. Any attempt to throw a cloak of superficial democracy over them will be counterproductive.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mothers Day tomorrow

from w
The original idea for Mothers Day was about peace-making. See a lovely blog by an American woman who explains the origin of the custom. My prayers are with Fiji mothers this weekend, many facing difficulties in these times and my good wishes to all people of peace who believe in nurturing young people and giving them hope.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pics of Vatuadova kids, grandmas and others

Here are some pictures of kids and extended family who live at Vatuadova village west of Labasa town - our relatives.

from w

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Congratulations Lucy, a babasiga girl, on your graduation

Our best wishes go to Lucy Caniogo who has achieved a Bachelor of Applied Science specialising in Food Technology at Ballarat University. Lucy is a girl from babasiga land with family from Namuka, Kia and Udu in Macuata. Last night in Geelong we had a party for Lucy, friends and family by going to Smorgies Restaurant, then kava drinking back at our home. Way to go Lucy!

Go Babasiga soccer!

Well, so far, so good, so let's hope the Labasa team pull it off this afternoon!
Labasa/Ba to clash in Fiji Bitter Fact final
By fijivillage
May 6, 2007, 12:17
Labasa through to the finals
The Men in Black Ba and Labasa will feature in the final at 3pm this afternoon.

Ba secured a place in the finals after defeating Suva 1 goal to nil while an own goal from Lautoka saw them lose to Labasa two goals to one. An own goal through a mistake by Sikeli Seva cost Blues the defeat.

The 4R Electric Ba soccer team is in course to defend their title at home after beating Suva 1-0 in the first semi-final of the Fiji Bitter Fact this morning.

Although Ba dominated the match they failed to score in the first half as both side were locked nil all at half-time.

Ba scored in the second half through Malakai Tiwa after some confusion in the Suva defense.

The final of the Fiji Bitter Fact is expected to be played at 3pm.
(LATER) Sobosobo, Ba won by one goal. Well, it was only ONE goal!

Friday, May 04, 2007

discussion re flood-prone Labasa

from w
I found this article concerning a discussion in Labasa about dredging the river to help prevent flooding. It's from March but it's still relevant.

Dredge alone cannot solve town dilemmaMar 20, 2007, 16:18
Interim Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests Jainend Kumar said that it is not fair to blame the Drainage and Irrigation Division for the cause of flooding in the Northern Division.

In a recent meeting with the Labasa Chamber of Commerce Mr Kumar said that the chambers concern, though genuine, has to be seen with other factors that contributed to the flood. Mr Kumar said that a post mortem of the whole drainage structure will be looked at to determine its impact on the flood.

“Whether it is the Drainage and Irrigation Division or any other institution, nobody can do anything without the necessary resources,” he explains.“This has to do with funds and equipments in use,” added Mr Kumar.

The chamber had raised issues concerning the dredging of the Labasa River from the bridge right up to Nacula settlement as a measure to irrigate the river levels during heavy downpours.

Chamber Chairman Mr Shiv Lal Nagindas says that siltation on the river after the bridge has gone from bad to worse and is causing the river to flood the town whenever there’s a downpour.

Mr Kumar said that whilst this may solve the problem, getting the dredge past the bridge itself is a factor that will have to be considered.“The dredges are so heavy, weighing more than 300 tonnes and to lift it and put it on the other side of the bridge is a mammoth task.”

“What we can do is to work together and look at ways in which we can mitigate the floods and reduce siltation.

Mr Kumar said that one area that needs to be looked at is the proper management of watershed areas. “The way forward is to properly manage our watershed areas and try to arrest the flow of debris and silts on the upper stream. The other possibility is to dam the flood levels and use the water for hydro electricity.” He also said that reticulation of water will also help us in irrigation purpose and aquaculture.

Apart from that he said that landowners can also benefit by venturing into eco agri -tourism in these areas. “So obviously water shed management is probably the best way out of resolving any kind of flooding in the future and will also solve the problems of water shortage.”

Mika's adventures on Vorovoro

from w
An update on the tribewanted chief's blog links to lots of photos taken during a stay in Vorovoro Island. The pics are here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Meke ni Yaqona in Melbourne

from Peceli
Our Altona Meadows Fijian congregation welcomed the Moderator of the Victorian Synod of the Uniting Church recently. Here are some pictures of that event.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Having a field day with spin

from w
Tomorrow is Media Freedom Day I believe and I wonder what this means to people in Fiji. The Fiji Times wrote about it and listed speakers. There is a debate and the Deputy Commander of the Fiji army will take the side of the Interim Government and Steven Ratuva will reprsent the University of the South Pacific.

Michael Field, from his distance in New Zealand has his take on the Fiji situation and has some not-very-nice things to say about soldiering on. However, isn't there a right for people to form opinions and speak out? Analysts from away, and commentators from within Fiji also.

I've just been reading a Rotuman writer's article about the 2000 coup and he tackles it by using poetry, plays and fiction. The writer is Vilsoni Hereniko and his article is entitled 'Interdisciplinery approaches in Pacific Studies; Understanding the Fiji Coup of 19 May 2000." He attempts to give voice to the under-represented rather than the know-alls and chiefs. It is open and questioning, not closed and final. Perhaps that's what we need at present, not have the final answers but raise questions that might lead to an orderly return to what is best for the people of Fiji.

Michael Field's article is in his own website.

What do you think?

Also, Australia's SBS radio Fijian program is on the web with highlights from the Saturday broadcasts. The program live is from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, but on-line, well, it's any time you choose.