Monday, December 29, 2008

Yaqona, yaqona, yaqona

from Peceli
Every Tuesday late afternoon a few of us get together for an hour to drink yaqona in Joe's house, but today it was in our home. Just Joe and me today, everyone else is on holiday. We mainly tell stories, or Joe does, about his life in Italy when he was a boy but as he got a golf set for Christmas the subject today was - guess what - golf!

some unpleasant stats for 2008

from w
The Fiji Times have a feature article today (author not named) with some stats on the year 2008 - about sugar, tourism, employment etc. I do not know what the writer means about 'poverty line' - is that per person, or per household, but no way could an ordinary family find $600 or more a week for their needs! In Fiji a labourer might get about $100 per week. Subsistence farming/fishing/gardening of course complicates the statistics.

Bleak start to new year
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

THE year began with many promises from the interim administration; rescued state finances, decline in imports, increased employment, new investment and more transparency.

There was much hope in the air, as there was little else the people could do but hope that their best interests were being served by those who elected themselves into power.

But as the months went by, the rhetoric citizens were forced to endure persisted without much change in their circumstances.

Granted several investment-friendly policies were introduced, like more efficient processing procedures and better data bases, but in the end the positive difference this made to the economy proved almost negligible as the main industries fell behind in achieving their targets.

Wet weather, and mill and fertiliser problems have largely plagued the industry aside from the continued departure of sugar cane farmers. While the Fiji Sugar Corporation sealed a $1billion deal for the supply of raw sugar at a preferential price to the European Union market over the next seven years, the industry is danger of failing to fulfill its contract. Fiji is contracted to supply 300,000 tonnes of sugar per annum to its traditional EU market buyer, Tate & Lyle. Planned infrastructure reforms also encountered several hitches, one of which was the disenchantment of engineers from India who are instrumental to the reform. Much work lies ahead for the industry for it to be a viable competitor in an increasingly globalised world.

Tourists continue to flock to our shores despite the political upheaval. Neverthelss, the industry is estimated to record a loss of $150m-plus given the fewer visitors, the shorter stays and significantly discounted rates. The government forecasted a 10 per cent growth from last year's performance but the Fiji Visitors Bureau is expecting only half of that.

The bureau is banking on successful marketing of the Destination Fiji to spark a huge turnaround. The interim regime is hopeful for this after allocating $23.5million to FVB, a near 100 per cent increase in allocation from last year's Budget.

Fiji is not immune to the world energy crisis. We remain extremely vulnerable in the absence of well-established energy alternatives. The state is largely focused on bio-fuel from cassava or ethanol but water, farm land and labour could prove to be constraints.

Then there's the concern that bio-fuel from cassava was likely to drive the price of cassava high, depriving poor families that rely on it.

Remittances remain a significant foreign exchange earner for Fiji. Last year $247m was raked in remittances, placing Fiji as one of the top 10 remittance receivers in the Pacific/East Asian block. Remittances this year are suspected to be slightly less, due largely to people resorting to less taxing informal methods. Nevertheless, this source of income remains one of the top foreign exchange earners for Fiji.

Unemployment has not eased, despite the well-meaning National Youth Service Scheme which has taught thousands of youths basic skills in varied industries. In the absence of new large investments and the economic challenges posed by political instability and the world financial crisis, the prospects of this recording significant improvements in this field are bleak.

The curtain is about to fall on 2008 and the nation is still struggling to stand under increased economic pressure, from within and externally. All in all, it does not look very optimistic in light of recent developments.

Based on the Quantitative Analysis of Poverty in Fiji, about half of the populace live under and around the poverty line which is calculated as being $124.60 for rural Fijians, $126.34 for rural Indians, $138.39 for urban Fijians and $149.89 for urban Indians.

If a significant turnaround in the nation's economic status is not realized in the near future, more economic woes are forecasted. It is in light of these realities that the military over expenditure of $50million and the injection of millions more into the National Council of Building a Better Fiji drew widespread criticism.

Overall, the New Year is expected to be a bleak start for many.

Local people for local jobs

from Peceli
I read this morning a story about the mataqali Naberei out of Labasa town who are stalling a project because they say the local men should be given more participation. This is usually the way of doing a project - employ some of the local men as labourers. The new bridge at Vatuadova is a current project and many of the young men of our village have been employed. This makes them proud of the local project, rather than just watch a group of other people coming in to work. So I understand the point of view of the elders of Naberei in asking for more jobs in the project for their men.

Clan stops $4m project
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A GROUP of landowners, angry that they have not been offered work, have stopped the Department of Water Supply from laying pipes on their land. The action by landowners of the mataqali Naberei of Vunikawakawa Village could jeopardise the $4million project that involves the laying of 300 75mm pipes from the Navau water source at Dogoru to the Benau treatment plant. Landowners say they are frustrated with the department for not employing some members of their mataqali in the project. Mataqali spokesman Petero Namoce said a decision to stop the laying of pipes was made by their elders at a meeting.

"Our mataqali elders said the department officials had promised to employ some of the villagers, especially when the pipe was being laid along our piece of land," Mr Namoce said. "The area our land where the pipes are to be laid covers about 10 kilometres."

"The members from other landowning units have been employed by the department and our elders just wanted the similar treatment to be afforded to our members," he said.

The divisional water engineer in the Northern Division, Sekonaia Ratu, said the project was important because it would improve the water supply to Labasa town and the immediate surrounding areas. "Right now, we have put a stop to new meter connections because we simply do not have enough supply and this project will alleviate that problem," Mr Ratu said. "It would also boost water supply to the high areas and solve a lot of the water problems we have in Labasa."

Mr Ratu said his department stopped work on December 24 for the Christmas break and would resume in January.

"We will approach the villagers then and the number of jobs we will be able to offer will depend on the budget," he said.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Approaching the new year

from w
In the South Pacific the ending of the old year and the breaking of day of the new is often celebrated with worship by the Methodist communities. These are lengthy services – maybe two or three hours with several sermons and much hymn-singing. After midnight there is a feast and a bit of mayhem with throwing water and talc powder over people. Some of the migrant communities in Australia such as Tongans and Fijians still have New Year’s Eve services and many people stay up all night.
In Australia there used to be summer youth camps organised by some churches and I remember that John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer was used in these services in the 50s and 60s. Probably not today! Peceli sometimes organised a short New Year’s Eve program at East Geelong which had a bit of carpet bowling, supper and worship , but mostly these days we go to Fijian gatherings in Melbourne. It also happens to be our wedding anniversary on 31st December – once upon a time there was a party in Lautoka, way back in 1966!

Below is the text of Wesley's Original Prayer as it appeared in Covenant Renewal Services for the Methodist Movement in 1780.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
It appears a bit over the top these days to be so humble and self-giving, but in the days when we wanted to change the world with a passion and convert everyone (!) we were serious about it all. Today, I am more than a bit despondent that the world is seriously ill, that too many people are hurting and hurt one another in the process. I think that God lets us do the work, even when we muck it up!

I still like part of that poem by Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957 though, even though it’s not inclusive in language.

At the gate of the year
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.
So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."

Friday, December 26, 2008

An Australian Christmas

from w
While our Fiji relatives ate kokoda, fish in lolo and lovo food, we also had a fine Christmas feast with king prawns, roast and barbecued meats, salads, oysters, calamari - and that's only today's lunch! Peceli and I had a delightful Christmas and Boxing Day time with my brother's extemded family in a beautiful part of Victoria called Greendale. There were fifteen children and eleven adults and a great time of talanoa with relatives who we rarely see as they are scattered over the world even one family in France. Vina'a va'alevu guys. We had lots of fun toasts and when Peceli said 'Live simply that others may simply live' we just laughed as we chomped on the king prawns! Okay, this family do know that motto and thank goodness my brother's kids were brought up with confidence, with reverence for life, a motivation to change the world a little and a world view that does include the spiritual dimension. One photo is of the side garden of the beautiful house we slept in - a hospitable neighbour up the road from my brother. Some kids slept in a tent, others bunked down throughout the home of my brother and sister-in-law, and we were up the hill in a mansion with electronic doors and lights that go on and off as you move throughout the house! I wonder what fun a mouse would have creeping about with all the lights flashing!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Schools in Labasa area

St Mary's Primary School in Labasa.
from w
Following on from the previous post about the interim government proposing that schools change their names to leave out ethnic or cultural identifications, here is a list of the current names of schools in the Labasa area.

All Saints Secondary School, Labasa
Bulileka Secondary School, Bulileka, Labasa
Labasa Arya Secondary School, Nakama Rd, Labasa
Labasa College, Labasa
Labasa Muslim School, Wailevu, Labasa
Nabala Junior Secondary School, Naduri Rd, Labasa
Nadogo Secondary School, Nadogo, Labasa
Naikavaki Secondary School, Hospital Rd, Labasa
Shiri Guru Nanak Khalsa Secondary Sch, Korotari Rd, Labasa
Solevu Junior Secondary School, Bua, Labasa
Valebasoga Secondary Sch, Valebasoga Rd, Labasa
Vunimoli Junior Secondary School, Vunimoli Rd, Labasa
Waiqele Secondary School, Waiqele, Labasa
Bocalevu Muslim Primary School, Bocalevu, Labasa
Holy Family Primary School, Labasa
Holy Family Secondary School, Sarwan Singh St Labasa, Suva
Korowiri Tovata Primary School, Korowiri Rd, Labasa
Labasa Primary School, FSC Hill, Labasa
Batirilagi District School, Seaqaqa, Labasa
Boubale Indian School, Lot 20 Boubale Rd, Labasa
Daku Bhartiya School, Daku, Labasa
Guru Nanak Khalsa Primary School, Labasa
Korotari Arya School, Korotari, Labasa
Kubulau District School, Kubulau Bua, Labasa
Mali District School, Mali Dist, Labasa
Naduri District Schoo, Naduri Rd, Labasa
Nasekula District School, Delailabasa, Labasa
Natewa District School, Natewa, Labasa
Nabekavu Primary School, Nabekavu, Labasa
Namau Primary School, Namau, Labasa
Qawa Primary School, Vunivau, Labasa
Seaqaqa Muslim Primary School, Natua Rd, Labasa
Solove Primary School, Navidamu Rd, Labasa
Waidamudamu Sanatan Dharam Primary Sch, Korotari, Labasa
St Augustine'S Government School, Bulileka, Labasa
Tabia Sanatan Dharam School, Tabia, Labasa
Valebasoga Public School, Valebasoga, Labasa
Vudibasoga Catholic School, Korovuli Rd, Labasa
Vunicuicui Sanatan Dharam School, Vunicuicui Rd, Labasa
Vunimoli Islamia School, Vunimoli Rd, Labasa
Vuya District School, Hospital Rd, Labasa

An editorial from Fiji Post about Santa's gift

from w
Today's editorial is very funny, or is it, about Santa giving something to all the people of Fiji. Is it really funny though. Is it good news for every Tomu, Dike, Ari, Hari, Usha, Gangamma? And another thing, there's a suggestion that schools be renamed to take away any reference to ethnicity or religion. Hmmm.

A ‘Fijian’ Christmas

F: What is Santa bringing you for Christmas this year?

N-F: A new name

F: A new name - what kind of gift is that?

N-F: Good question

F: What name is it?

N-F: ‘Fijian’

F: Why did you ask for that – that’s my name?

N-F: I didn’t ask for it – it was someone else’s idea, but I hope you don’t mind

F: No I don’t mind, but is having this new name just going to be a toy you play
with or is it a practical thing you can use?

N-F: It’s practical – it means I can belong and not feel like a stranger or alien in Fiji anymore

F: Is that how you felt before?

N-F: Sometimes – especially when that Butadroka fellow was around.

F: So your children will be registered at birth as ‘Fijian’ just like mine

N-F: I suppose

F: So your ethnicity or race won’t be recognised even if you want it?

N-F: I’m not sure

F: Maybe you and your children will just be ‘Fijian’ on your passports

N-F: Yeah, maybe I will be ‘Fijian’ on my passport and ‘Non-Fijian’ on my birth certificate

F: And Non-Fijian to your wife and family and neighbours and work friends as well

N-F: So they can still call me by what they know me to be culturally, and by my
ancestry, but everyone else will be required to know me as ‘Fijian’ – is that what you’re saying?

F: Sounds complicated – we may end up with be two kinds of ‘Fijians’ still: traditional Fijians and ‘Passport Fijians’

N-F: Yeah, I guess

F: What if someone who has always known you as Non-Fijian refuses to accept your new gifted name of ‘Fijian’ – will they be prosecuted?

N-F: I don’t know how the law will work. Perhaps the new name of ‘Fijian’ is going
to be optional.

F: But all of us having the same name will make you feel more at home with us

N-F: Yeah

F: Well then everybody should share in your Christmas gift

N-F: So long as their rights are not subordinated to the state’s right to impose a
new name on them?

F: But it’s for their own good – and for the good of nation. After all, you say
you will feel better about it. Mark my words N-F, the social benefits of santa’s gift to you this year will be appreciated sooner or later by everyone who receives it

N-F: And what are those benefits again?

F: Like you said before: no one will feel highlighted or stigmatised any more. And
with everyone being ‘Fijian’ perhaps no one will know how many of the ‘old’ kind of
Fijians are in prison – if you know what I mean

N-F: National statistics will be racially invisible?

F: Could be - yes

N-F: We may be then one big happy indiscriminate family? All called by the same name to share and bear our various burdens and celebrate our various victories without regard
to what we are by history or ancestry?

F: Yes, maybe

N-F: Well, in that case, thank you Santa.
And then in the Fiji Times Dec 21st there's an article about names of schools in Fiji. I know that there is a sense of separation - which is not good - in the current naming, and I really like multi-cultural schools best, but it is an imposition to want to change e.g. Vunimoli Indian School and Vunimoli Fijian school - to First Vunimoli School, Second Vunimoli School. Okay, that's just made up.

FTA opposes name changeBy Verenaisi Raicola
Sunday, December 21, 2008

THE Fijian Teachers Association has condemned the President's approval of the People's Charter and the amendment to the Constitution to call everyone Fijian.

FTA president Tevita Koroi said eliminating racial profiling by the interim Government would remove the people's identity. "The FTA's position has not changed," he said.

"We did not endorse the document from the beginning and never will."

Mr Koroi said changing the names of schools to suit the charter ideals was disrespectful.

"It is the communities that have named these institutions and replacing names would take away the identity of the people," Mr Koroi said.

He said an institution's name reflected the make-up and values of a community in which it was located.

"Taking that away would remove the community spirit and that should not be allowed," he said.

Mr Koroi said he could not figure out why it was hurtful to call an institution Fijian school or Indian school.

"What's wrong with being Fijian?

"People should be proud of who they are and appreciate the differences that make us a community instead of tearing down identities because that will not unite the people," he said.

The People's Charter is based on 11 pillars that, among other things, aims to bring the people of this country together.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Christmas - mo marau ni Siga ni Sucu

from w
This morning we went to Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church where Peceli is a Minister in Association. All the Fiji gang seemed to have headed for Suva for a big wedding that was on last Friday! Anyway it was a lovely morning with so many dressed up kids and adults performing a nativity play. The top photo is of Leonie, the minister, with little kids, another is of the music band including a Samoan guitar player, one of boy angels, another of 'Mary' 'Joseph' and a real baby.

Friday, December 19, 2008

All I want for Christmas

- the beautiful tagimaucia flower from Taveuni
from w
All I want for Christmas
is a Fiji
where incompetence is not overlooked, or shrugged off,
where immorality is not seen as cleverness in the law,
where guile and rottenness is not the rule,
where bullies no longer bring tears and shame,
where every school child has an opportunity to grow without fear,
where gifted women can find fulfilment in careers and lifestyle choices,
where hereditary leaders act like loving grandparents,
where artistic achievement and cultural experiences are enriching,
where people are not manipulated nor the elderly misled,
where those who speak the truth are respected.
where leadership is about responsibility not personal greed,
where compassion and healing take priority.
That’s my wish for Christmas and the coming New Year.
Dilkusha church near the Rewa river.
And as someone else said so eloquently:


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

-- Max Ehrmann, 1927

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Labasa hospital extensions

Korean Ambassador Zeon Nam-jin lays the foundation of the hospital extension in Labasa
from w
In today's Fiji Times we are informed of a gift from the Korean government to upgrade Labasa hospital. Very good. I wonder why Korea is interested in a little country like Fiji?

$2m upgrade for hospital
Thursday, December 18, 2008
WORK has begun on a $2million Accident and Emergency and Eye Department at the Labasa Hospital that is expected to change health delivery in the Northern Division.

Korean Ambassador Zeon Nam-jin poured the first concrete mix into the foundation, marking the donation from his government to get the project, titled Improvement of Emergency and Community Care Systems, off the ground.

Health Permanent Secretary Dr Lepani Waqatakirewa said A&E has always been an area of concern. "The accident and emergency has been our area of concern because in the weekends when an accident happens the hospitals must be ready to cater for accidents and emergencies," Dr Waqatakirewa said.

Curative Health Care director Dr Ami Chandra said once completed, the new A&E department, which will also be outfitted with some of the latest technology, would be one of its kind in the country. The package is worth US$1.4m (F$2.5m).Mr Nam-jin said the Korean Government invested in Fiji's health care system because it wanted more Fijians to access better health care services.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A letter from Allen Lockington

(pic from flickr)
from w
Allen Lockington from Lautoka gets letters published nearly every day in one of the Fiji newspapers. Today I read one of Allen's letters in the Fiji Times. Yuck! How gross! That was my reaction to today's story, but it gives 'food for thought'. Why did this happen? Are some people so poor? Of course the man in the story may have been a little short of intelligence, not that there's anything wrong with that - as Seinfeld would say! What do you think? I think this story is a parable of our world - the leftovers go to the poor and troubled countries and peoples. Of the excess of the rich, the poor get second-rate things in order to survive. Some overseas aid might be in this category. Here is Allen's letter.

Eating leftovers

WE had been eating at the Lautoka City Mall when a young man came to our table, sat down, pulled the plates of leftovers and began eating them. He opened crumpled up food bags and ate whatever he found. We were stunned. He did not even notice us. He ate all the chicken bones, picked up what had fallen on the table and then licked the plates clean. He drank the bottle of partially finished lemonade, burped and left.

We were shocked. He didn't even say thank you.


Diversitat and Human Rights Day

from w
On Friday evening Peceli and I represented the Fiji community in Geelong by attending the Foods of the World celebration at the Wholefoods Cafe which it was really crowded with friends from the different ethnic communities, the Inter-faith Council and other groups. After speeches from representatives from the Aboriginal community and others on the topic of HRights, we were entertained by singers such as Leah whose Dad is from Tuvalu, a wonderful violin player who got our toes tapping with Hungarian music, and also young girls performing Spanish dances. At the same time we enjoyed delicious ethnic food. The Wholefoods cafe is a good venue for folk music while dining so I hope they have many more parties of this kind.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So what do the new coins look like?

from w
These are the old Fiji coins - and why do they have the Queen's pic on one side when Fiji is a republic? So what will be on the new ones? Something in keeping with the year 2008 so dare I ask what those things would be!

added later - Dec 19th
Here are pics of what those pennies with the holes in them looked like. Lovely pennies!

Gone fishing - what about in Macuata!

from w
The Fiji Sun and others sensationalised the arrest of Macuata men to do with confiscating someone's fish catch that the Macuata men assumed were caught in their qoliqoli area - the Great Sea Reef that came under conservation.

But it is more complex than that - if the Fiji Times journalist is right - that the prosecution is selective (which may be typical these days). From Fiji Times Dec 12

Fishing ground owners accuse police
Friday, December 12, 2008

THE Qoliqoli Committee of Macuata has accused the police of selectively prosecuting fishing ground owners and letting poachers get away with their crimes.

Committee advisor Mosese Nakoroi said several poachers had been arrested by fish wardens and in some instances the police were also involved but no charges were laid.

"Yet when fishing ground owners act to protect their fishing grounds they are arrested and charged," Mr Nakoroi said.

Macuata high chief Ratu Aisea Katonivere was recently charged with larceny for allegedly taking about 900 kilograms of fish from two boats.

Three other Naduri villagers have appeared in court for the same crime.

Mr Nakoroi said the boats were seized off Mali last year for fishing without a license. A boat from Lautoka was seized for the same reason.

"When we reported to the fisheries department and police however nothing was done," he said. "This is unfair because resource owners want to protect and conserve their marine resources for future generations because it is their food source and source of income yet these poachers are not being dealt with."

"Resource owners have been reporting and now they are taking the law into their own hands because they are tired or doing their best without support from the state.

"Earlier this year several boats in Naduri were seized for poaching and fishing wardens called the Fisheries Department to handle the matter and they were told a fisheries officer was on his way but none showed up.

"What has happened now undermines an effort by resource owners to protect their resources."

Deputy Director Police Operations SP Erami Raibe said they would look into the complaint from the committee.

Senivalati Navuku, the co-manager of the WWF Fiji country program, said charges being laid against resources owners protecting their qoliqoli could discourage greater efforts in the future."We are aware of the complaints from qoliqoli owners because a lot of the communities are reporting poaching but nothing has been done about," Mr Navuku said.

Former Prime Minister Laisenia Laisenia Qarase said Ratu Aisea's actions were illegal because he did not own the qoliqoli. "The reality is that Fijians do not own the qoliqoli because the ownership is still with the State and the Qoliqoli Bill's main intention was to transfer ownership to the indigenous Fijians," he said. Mr Qarase said had the bill succeeded resource owners wouldn't be in the predicament they face today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turning somersaults and jumping hoops

from w
When I used to see the Captain Cook cargo ship loading up wheat for Fiji or even rice, I just shook my head in wonder that Fiji cannot produce enough food for the people. Importing food is very expensive. The land in Fiji is so rich and there is plenty of it. In Taveuni you could grow dalo in your armpit! Then I read that enterprising rice farmers in Dreketi, Vanua Levu, don't have the necessary fertiliser to get their crops going. Okay it's not Taveuni soil, but do they need fertilizer? Maybe sugar cane land in some places has been degraded by a century of growing the same crop. Why not try differnet kinds of peas or beans? The government guys in the Ag department should be turning somersaults and jumping hoops to get the rural economy not only going but really flourishing!

From the Fiji Times today :

Fertiliser shortage affects rice farmers
Thursday, December 11, 2008

Update: 10:41AM Shortage of fertilisers remains a challenge for farmers in the Northern Division as it thrives to revitalise the rice industry.

Agricultural officer in charge of the Agricultural Station in Dreketi, Jone Matawalu said while rice farmers are using the Indonesian technology to increase their production, fertiliser shortage continues to be one of the major challenges faced.

"One of the main problems, which the farmers are facing, is the shortage of fertilisers as the South Pacific Fertilisers are not in the position to supply us with the fertilisers that we need right now and it is one of the major drawbacks we are facing," he said.

According to Mr Matawalu, with the support from the Government of Indonesia, China and Japan, the rice farmers have been introduced with new technologies to encounter other challenges.

"Secondly we are trying to introduce new technologies to these rice farmers with the assistance from the Government of Indonesia, China and Japan. However, we really need the constant supply of fertilisers," he said.

Mr Matawalu said the farmers are focusing on the local production and the main market for their rice is Rewa Rice.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Are we tired, are we pragmatic?

from w
It is 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but as time goes by we become despondent, perhaps shrug and just take the injustices. We get tired of being passionate and speaking up, and then of course, we become pragmatic, wanting to feed families, no matter what happens in the top tiers of society. Is that how some of us feel about Fiji and human rights today? Surely we still need to be vigilant, to actively work for justice and what is a fair go to the weakest people in society. Hey, what about today's Human Rights march in Suva, and guess who was leading the march. The military and police guys!

FWCC boycotts Human Rights March
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Fiji Women’s Crisis Center has questioned the involvement of the military and police in celebrations held today to mark World Human Rights Day and the end of the 16 days of activism on violence against women.

Co-coordinator Edwina Kotoisuva says the inclusion of the military and police is a concern especially since on the issue of human rights.

Kotoisuva said,” as human rights activists this day has always meant a great deal to us in that we’ve always always tried to make it visible – about human rights issues and human rights in general.”

“But we really are concerned at the security forces, you cant just sort of march to say that you respect human, there’s a lot more depth to it in terms of looking at ourselves and how we promote human rights in the work that we do, and how we respect human rights and whether we respect human rights through the work that we do,” she added.

The Women’s Crisis Center refused to be part of the march after they found that the military and police would be leading the procession which began from the Suva Flea market and ended at Sukuna Park.

The Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau was chief guest at the celebrations.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A whinge for today

from w
Sobosobo, the priority I think is health, education, infrastructure such as roads, water, etc. and as the President of the Fijian Teachers Association says, no way should the education budget be cut by sacking teachers. Already some children are in classes of up to seventy children and that is absolutely untenable. Cut the budget elsewhere....and it's obvious where it should be... but not in the schools!From FijiSun today:
Leave teachers out of cuts, says union

Government should exclude the education ministry from the budget reduction by 10 per cent said Fijian Teachers Association president, Tevita Koroi yesterday.
He said 1300 positions would be disestablished when the civil service reform is completed.

Speaking at the Civil Service Excellence Awards on Friday night, minister for indigenous affairs Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said the reforms would save the interim government $21 million.

Mr Koroi pleaded with the government not to include the education ministry in the 10 per cent reduction. “It will affect the quality of service in schools,” he said.“As a result students are affected by this. The 10 per cent reduction means there will be a $20 million reduction in the ministry of education’s budget.

“900 teaching positions will be affected and this is a huge number for a small country. So for the sake and future of our children we are asking the government to exclude the education ministry in the proposed public service reform.”

Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions general secretary Attar Singh said removing that amount of people would definitely affect the quality of services.“The government is making announcements and going ahead with its decisions,” said Mr Singh. However, it has yet to consult unions on this proposal.”

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Chkristmas aint what it ought to be

from w, aka Ba Humbug Mrs Scrooge
Stories about decorations and all the carry-on about pre-Christmas parties don't go over well with me. An Age writer explains:
When Santas dance in the yard, it must be Kitschmas time againPeter Munro
December 7, 2008

"People drive by and say my place is lit up like a fairy park." Bob Langley stands among his festive season creations outside his house in Ibottson Street, Watsonia. Photo: Pat Scala

SANTA Claus is crooning Jingle Bells and gyrating his hips alongside a plastic priest praying in front of a plywood chapel, as the North Pole express chuffs into a toy station bearing gifts.

A second Santa spins round a lazy susan, while a third snores like a bullfrog in a tiny bed. One Santa is lit up like a Christmas tree atop a see-saw in the ‘‘Australian corner’’ of Bob Langley’s front lawn, next to cement statuettes of two Aborigines, a koala and kangaroo. Flashing lights snake through the grass below 800 fairy lights and three reindeer, standing by an empty sleigh while Santa climbs a chimney towards a crucifix that lights up the night sky. "They call me Mr Griswold. People drive by and say my place is lit up like a fairy park," says Mr Langley, a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran.

Gaudy and glorious in equal measure, his home is a celebration of Christianity and kitsch, and that peculiar passion Christmas brings out in otherwise unremarkable people. Houses that lie dormant for 11 months of the year — typically in the outer suburbs, where front fences are lower — suddenly burst from the Christmas closet dressed in a full-length Santa suit and flashing, red Rudolph nose. ‘‘My parents died when I was young and I never had a Christmas, so I made sure our children and grandchildren were going to get the best,’’ says Mr Langley’s wife, Violet. ‘‘I am obsessed with Christmas. This is a must-do or die.’’

It started small, like most obsessions. One Christmas they co-opted their eldest granddaughter’s doll into playing baby Jesus on the front lawn of their fourbedroom house in Ibbottson Street, Watsonia. Almost 30 years later, the lawn is full of figurines and there’s a posse of plastic penguins in an illuminated crystal igloo, muscling in on the manger.

‘‘It just drags you in. If I see something that suits the theme, I’ll buy it,’’ Mrs Langley says. ‘‘Every year it’s a different colour theme. This year it’s ‘multi’ — purple, silver, red, green and gold — I haven’t done ‘multi’ in a long time.’’

Czech novelist Milan Kundera called kitsch ‘‘the absolute denial of shit’’. Much worse than simply sentimental, kitsch was a sanitised, bowdlerised, Disneyfied slice of life. But it’s a safe bet he’s never been to Melbourne’s north for Kitschmas.

‘‘There’s so much gloom in the world, you’ve got to make something happy, and Christmas is the best time to do it,’’ Mr Langley says. His wife points to a life-size, singing and hip-swivelling Santa, and adds: ‘‘What do you want adull Christmas for?’’

Why indeed, when you can go online to buy an inflatable Mickey Mouse on a rocking horse or the Simpsons in a sleigh; an inflatable crucifix and nativity scene, or a 3.4-metre inflatable Hannukah bear for the annual Jewish festival. At the Christmas Cave store in Brunswick, red plush Santa suits are sold alongside Santa bikinis. Christmas trees come in green, purple, gold, blue and upside down.

The Skidmore family stop to buy a chicken that clucks ouy Jingle Bells. Their home inNumurkah, in northern Victoria, lights up like Tullamarine at night.

Flashing icicles dangle from the eaves and an illuminated Santa in a sleigh flashes in Geoff and Kathleen’s main bedroom window, keeping them awake until midnight in the week before Christmas. ‘‘We started off doing it for the kids, then it kind of just grew,’’ Mr Skidmore says. ‘‘We’ve got schoolkids coming for visits and each year they expect something different.’’

He reckons he’s spent about $4000 on Christmas decorations in the past two years, while on a disability pension. The Christmas Cave’s most expensive item is an $18,000 animated Santa in a sleigh pulled by moving reindeer. But store manager Robert Passador says customers are spending less on expensive outdoor decorations this year amid the economic downturn. And yet, Kerry from South Morang confessed on Fox FM last week to spending $20,000 on Christmas lights for her home and the homes of her parents and sister.

Dr Peter Cotton, spokesman for the Australian Psychological Society, says such spending could point to an unhealthy obsession akin to problem gambling. ‘‘Some people can be inclined to overdo it,’’ he says.

‘‘Where it becomes a problem is where they spend so much time and money on it that it has a negative effect on other aspects of their life.’’

Chris Ellis, 45, assistant store manager of the Reject Shop in Wyndham Vale, west of Melbourne, says she has spent about $1000 on Christmas decorations inside and outside her home. Her dirt-dry front yard is filled with giant inflatable snow domes, which sprinkle white polystyrene balls over blow-up figurines of Santa Claus riding a reindeer, and a revolving carousel of penguins. Singing and dancing penguins form a guard of honour up her driveway, next to an illuminated reindeer.

‘‘I went really corny this year. I bought a wooden planter box and filled it up with hay and put little carrots in for the reindeer,’’ she says.

Santa dangles from the end of a white rope outside her front window. Inside are two Christmas
trees and Max, her cocker spaniel, struggling to fit into his Santa suit. ‘‘I think I do it because my day-to-day job does my head in,’’ Ms Ellis says.

‘‘It goes back to making other people happy. And I suppose it doesn’t matter how old you are — you can still enjoy that child in you.’’

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The on-going topic of the Qawa River trouble

a clean Qawa River upstream

a picture from google earth of part of Labasa town, via tribewanted.
from w
For years the people of babasiga just put up with the dirty river caused by the polluting Sugar mill and others who treated the river as a dump. Now it is an on-going protest and even the Methodist Church in Labasa has picked up the subject. Vinaka va'alevu guys.
from today's Fiji radio:
Protest march against Qawa river stenchWednesday, December 03, 2008
Taken from / By: fbcl
The Methodist Church will lead a march this Saturday in silent protest against the foul smell coming out of the Qawa River. Rev. Savirio Vuata says people living along the QAWA River will not sit back any longer while nothing is being done to rectify the problem.

Rev Vuata says all they’ve been told is that the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the Vatura sawmill is dumping their waste into the river and the march is for authorities to look into the matter and stop the continuation of pollution.

He says people living alongside the river can no longer draw sustain from it because of the foul smell it holds which only happens when the sugar mill is in operation Rev. Vuata says it is only at the end of the crushing season when the river is somewhat normal.

The Methodist Church march will be accompanied by other religious bodies and villagers who live alongside the Qawa River and will start from the Nasea Methodist church to Macuata house.

A government official will await them at Macuata House to receive their petition.

Who is wearing those silly hats?

from w
When sorting books this morning for Donation in Kind, I came across a very battered 1971's Fiji book by James Siers, too falling to bits to send to a school, and too good to throw in a bin. However I rescued it and have found some interesting pictures. Can you guess who is wearing the strange hats? And doesn't the man in the middle look like his son Will! What a crowd was there that day, and are they QVS boys dancing? You know the occasion I'm sure.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Fijian girl in Melbourne

from w
Elisapeci Vakaloloma's family live near Melbourne and are part of our Fijian community church at Altona Meadows/Laverton. Here are some pictures of her, with a Little Athletics trophy and one of Elisapeci reading the Bible at church. The family are preparing to go to Fiji for her Auntie Lutu's wedding in Suva so it is a busy time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New migrants in Geelong

from Peceli
On Thursday night we attended the Annual Meeting of Diversitat, the Geelong Migrant Resource Centre organisation that grew from a concern for new migrants to the region. The early migrants sixty years ago were mainly from Italy and Greece. The most recent migrant communities have come from either Sudan or Burma such as from the Karen tribes. We were delighted to have a Karen group sing to us at the meeting and I was surprised to notice that the songs were Christian, though in their language. The Sudanese and the Karen families who have come to Geelong as refugees are often busy with intensive English language classes or one to one conversation. There are over forty different ethnic communities represented on the Diversitat Council. It was an Awards Night also and I was honoured with a certificate as a representative from the Pacific and thirteen years on the committee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wadan takes a deep breath and then says it

from w
This is one of the strongest articles that criticize the recent Interim Government Budget. Hmmm. It's a feature article in today's Fiji Times. and also in the Fiji Sun. It's a strong article. Rather than copy it here, you can look it up on the Fiji Times or the Fiji Sun site.
Legacy of evil and deceit
By Professor Wadan Narsey
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who's got $20,000 play money?

from w
This new 'Second home visa' is only meant for rich people. Not everyone has $30,000 or $20,000 play money to put into a bank deposit in Fiji, so it is a selective visa. It's not for an ordinary bubu to go back to the village in retirement (if he's taken out another citizenship!) A second gripe is that the exit tax on visitors to Fiji has been upped to about $70 which is too much. Hey, if you want to attract tourists and visitors to Fiji, that's not the way to go, nor is the hefty price of Air Pacific tickets - e.g. Melbourne to Nadi return in the Christmas season is over $1500! You can just about get to Paris for that!
from Fiji TV news:
Attracting foreign currency funds through new immigration policy
23 Nov 2008 02:38:41

Non-Fiji residents who intend to settle in the country will have all legal rights, except for voting. The 'Fiji My Second Home' Program is part of Budget 2009 - which allows non-citizens to reside in Fiji on a multiple entry social visit pass. The Department of Immigration says, the goal is to attract foreign currency funds into the country.

The new 'Fiji My Second Home Programme' announced in the 2009 national budget is one of the many schemes by the interim government to attract investment, that will eventually grow the economy. The programme will allow non citizens to reside in Fiji on a multiple entry social visit an effort to attract foreign currency funds into the country including expenditure locally for retirement and here living by non-citizens. The programme has some requirements though those who use this facility, will need to satisfy certain critieria including a fixed deposit placement of $200,000 for those aged 50 and above and $300,000 for those aged below 50. Interest earned from deposits will be exempted from tax. Those who fall under this category will have all the validity rights in the country except for voting.

The program comes into effect on January 1st, 2009.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So why don't they get fined $1 million dollars?

from w
Today's Fiji Times - the FSC last..... they they caused the river pollution. It's been going on for decades I expect, so why weren't they fined? Thank you to the students of All Saints Secondary School for persisting in analysing the water quality of the Qawa River and alerting the adults that this is a problem that is not going away.

FSC takes blame for polluted river
By Theresa Ralogaivau
Monday, November 24, 2008

THE Fiji Sugar Corporation has accepted blame for pollution in the Qawa River after test results showed it dumped an excessive amount of untreated waste and toxic substance into it, killing marine life.

Test results presented to the Labasa mill management showed there was a heavy sugar discharge into the river.

Tests showed it was at an appaling 470,000 mg/litre when the normal standard was nil sugar presence.

Hot water poured into the Qawa River after being used for cooling purposes in the mill raised the river temperature, killing river plants and vapourising useful gases.

The bio chemical oxygen demand of a river, which is a gauge of the effectiveness of an industry's waste water treatment, showed 18,480 mg/litre when the accepted standard was 40mg/litre.

Macuata Rural Local Authority board secretary Rakesh Kumar said the river was in a bad state because of the high level of pollutant being dumped into it by FSC.

"Mostly in pristine rivers the BOD is 1mg/litre, in moderately polluted rivers, it has a BOD range of two 8mg/litre yet the amount in the river is beyond comparison even with the 600 mg/litre for untreated sewerage," Mr Kumar said.

There was also an unacceptable high level of nitrogen and ethanol discharge along with calcium, which is found in lime, used in the mill's production process.

The results explained that the stench emitted from the river, and which permeated the atmosphere for miles around, had a distinct rotten-egg smell which is a relevant feature of hydrogen sulphide.

Test samples were taken in two stages from eight spots along the river. The first stage was before the mill resumed crushing and after crush started. "Prior to the mill opening for crushing the BOD was low, however, there was a drastic increase to 18,480 after the mill started," Mr Kumar said.

Tests were carried out after All Saints Secondary School students and hundreds of residents along the river complained of headache.

"What we need to remember is that this management alone cannot be blamed for the problem because it has been there for decades,' Mr Kumar said.

Mill manager Uday Nand said the FSC was going to put in place changes to save the Qawa River.

"We will work together to get the things improved," he said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is a variation of the tagimoucia flower?

from w
Maybe it is the same species but there are often variations of plants so the one found in Bua could be the same or a little different. I had heard before that the tagimoucia did grow high up in the mountains of Vanua Levu. I read this on the Fiji radio site.
Fiji’s unique flower Tagimoucia discovered in Bua
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Revelations are that the unique flower Tagimoucia which is found only in Taveuni has been discovered in the highlands of Bua in Vanua Levu. In the interior of the district of Dama, stands the Na Votuvotu peak – the highest peak in Bua. It is said from the peak one can see the whole of Vanua Levu and its is from this mountain top the Tagimoucia which is known to the people of Bua as Tekiteki Vunimoceyawa has been discovered.

The difference between the Tagimoucia in Taveuni and that which has just been discovered, is that the Bua species has a mixture of red, purple and white colors in the inside of its petals.

Legend has it that it is the Na Vutovuto peak where Naulumatua planted the first Bua plant and named the province after the flower. However he did not want to reside there because he could still see his native Verata village in Tailevu where he was initially chased from. This prompted the young chief to move back down to Seatura and settled.

The Tagimoucia was discovered by the people of Bua and confirmation was done by USP researchers.

Packing a container for Fiji

from Peceli
The container is full and now locked, ready to send to Fiji. Here are some photos taken at the Geelong depot of Donation in Kind on Tuesday morning. One is of Wendy, Errol and Joy packing books donated by a local school. Most volunteers are retired people with connections with Rotary, or just friends who want something useful to do.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thank you Obama

from w
Does Obama drink Fiji water? Now that could be capitalised upon surely!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank you Kris

from w.
St Mary's Primary School right on the main street in Labasa town, has been there such a long time and is still going. The St Mary's hostel not far away is on land given by Peceli's Dad way back in the 40s. Anyway they are fund-raising at present and here's a story about a lad who is doing his bit for the school.
from Fiji Sun:
Charity begins at home
A 13-year-old boy has set an example that charity begins at home after he volunteered to raise $1, 000 for his former school. Kris Dayal, a former St Mary’s Primary School student in Labasa was part of the school’s fundraising drive as it desperately needs money to pay its debts.

Noticing his parents’ busy schedule at their newly opened hotel, Kris took a bold step of setting up a snow kone and pizza stall at the school ground where he was helped by the hotel staff.

The stall had a poster which reads “Every dollar you spend at this stall will be a direct contribution to the school”

“As a former student, it is time to do something as a token of saying thank you to the school for what it has done to my development as a person,” Kris said. His parents Vinesh and Rachel Dayal said they were proud of their son’s initiative to help the school.

“I am a proud father that my son is part of this effort,” said Mr Dayal

“This should encourage former students to come out and be involved. “Parents can only give as much time they have. Listening to your child can also make a big difference.”

There were lots of activities at the school ground where parents and children were busy selling soft drinks and sweets.