Thursday, January 31, 2008

Democracy and Fiji

from w
A thoughtful feature article in the Fiji Times today is by Appana and about democracy in Fiji.

Desperate for democracySUBHASH APPANA
Friday, February 01, 2008

The search for true democracy in Fiji has been long and arduous. Many have lamented the violent death of the 1970 Constitution at the hands of Rabuka's hitmen. There have been unending discussions of "if only" that constitution had been allowed to deliver.

Fiji was indeed at Rostov's "take-off" stage in 1987. Unfortunately there were those who supported that constitution only so long as it ensured political paramountcy in perpetuity.

Its electoral provisions were designed for exactly that.

The disproportionate number of seats allocated to "generals" and the carefully crafted cross-voting seats were meant to give the Alliance Party a sure head start every time.

Moreover, the two major ethnic groups were supposed to vote on strictly racial lines. If anything, the personal cross-cultural appeal of Ratu Mara would have ensured an Indian Alliance presence within government. That was the electoral focus of the 1970 constitution.

None of its engineers foresaw a convergence of cross-ethnic concerns at any time in future. That racial premise was supposed to hold in perpetuity.

Unfortunately the formation of the Fiji Labour Party in 1985 showed that race could be subordinated to bigger more pressing issues in Fiji.

Mutual concerns mixed with a bigger national agenda was the antidote to the race venom that had been such a salient strategic tool in Fiji's politics up till then.

Two years later the Alliance government fell and the whole set of premises (some articulated and some silent) on which the 1970 constitution rested was suddenly brought up for serious review.

A golden opportunity stared our leaders to steer Fiji onto a higher political plain, but power-play, parochial self-interest and opportunism ruled and those who had been revered and relied on came away permanently tainted.

Race suddenly became an issue of primary public concern; every problem was blamed on the kai idia because that provided a ready-made justification for the 1987 coup.

A string of punitive measures were put in place to harass and subjugate the Indo-Fijian community: humiliating searches by immigration officers, caps on capital transfer, blacklists, Sunday bans (no business, no picnics, no leisure, etc.) just to name a few. It came to a stage where even if it rained suddenly it was blamed on the kai idia.

The nationalists had a field day, calls were made for an all Fijian parliament, the "Indians go back home" slogan was again on the agenda.

And the notorious 1990 constitution was promulgated with the support of all of those Fijian institutions that had previously championed democracy amid token support from hand-picked Indo-Fijian representatives.

Rabuka as the newly elected PM knew that something was amiss. His concerted search for answers led to a personal accord with Jai Ram Reddy and the 1997 constitution was born.

That achievement cannot be taken away from either man despite the shortcomings of that constitution.

It is instructive that bigger agenda ruled that exercise — national interest superseded opportunistic short-term focus.

It can be argued by political sceptics that the 1997 constitution was supposed to propel both gentlemen into government. That is true, but the main difference between that and earlier constitutions was that electoral provisions were not designed for perpetual victory.

They were more focused on the collective and the designing of an appropriate democratic framework for Fiji.

That is precisely why it is invoked repeatedly in the aftermath of the 2006 coup by supporters and critics alike.

Now we are talking about a People's Charter that would guide Fiji and presumably help bring about necessary changes to the 1997 constitution.

This represents an ongoing search for a democracy that is suitable for Fiji. And the main glaring weaknesses of that constitution lie in its electoral provisions and the requirement for a multi-party cabinet.

A number of factors will need to be considered seriously for modifying the electoral provisions.

Firstly, population proportions have changed significantly since 1997 both in terms of ethnic composition as well as geographic concentration. Parliament must now comprise 37 per cent Indo-Fijians, 57 per cent Fijians and 6 per cent others.

In addition to this, Fijian representation must reflect urban-rural population concentrations.

The present constitution is heavily biased towards rural representation, and this is where the voting has historically been less issues-related. After all for democracy to deliver the voter must make an informed rational choice.

Secondly, constitutional boundaries need to be redrawn so that the number of voters that a member of parliament represents is balanced rather than skewed as at present where some represent 4000 while others represent as many as 16,000 voters.

This is why the constitutional boundaries commission has to be membered by people who are seen to be professional and non-partisan.

Thirdly, representativeness is an issue that lies at the centre of any democratic framework of governance.

Under the 1997 constitution, the NFP polled some 30 per cent of the Indo-Fijian vote in 1999, but ended up with zero parliamentary representation rendering their supporters voiceless for the next 5 years. That is not how a representative democracy should work.

This brings us to the most contentious and pressing issue that needs a serious selfless relook in the 1997 constitution.

The present preferential voting system where parties who cannot win outright at the first count choose to hand their votes to other preferred candidates on behalf of the voters makes a mockery of the whole concept of public choice as this gives the party precedence over the voter in choosing who ultimately represents them.

And the requirement for a multi-party cabinet further distorts the picture no matter how noble and visionary its original intentions were.

The public will recall Qarase's bloated cabinet of 36 with its associated costs. That was a mischievous response to a constitutional provision that was seen as a nuisance.

The bigger agenda of giving Fiji the best as envisaged by that constitutional provision did not matter.

In other words, just as forced marriages have a very slim chance of working, that constitutional provision for a multi-party cabinet may be too ambitious.

It is sad that the historically misguided preoccupation with shackling, curtailing and blaming the kai idia has diverted attention from the real issues facing the country.

There needs to be an understanding and appreciation of the fact that the Indo-Fijian no longer poses a political threat to Fijian rule. In fact the exodus continues like a tap that has lost its washer. That washer cannot be replaced because it's gone out of production with repeated political uncertainty.

Fiji needs to appreciate the fact that democracy is an answer that calls for honesty and a bigger concern for nation rather than self; therein lies the solution for true democracy Fiji-style.

The opinions contained here are those of the author and not necessarily shared by his employer, The University of the South Pacific, or any other organisations both local and foreign that he may be associated with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The clean-up starts

from w
It's easy for reporters to tell about the fallen trees, power-lines, lack of clean water in the taps, etc. in Suva, but the stories from remote areas barely get told. People with really flimsy houses in the distant villages, with subsistence food gardens blown away, sugar cane in puddles of water as the floods recede, the kids who can't go to school.

Anyway the clean-up has started but the major infrastructure will be an on-going financial nightmare. I heard that a $5 million bridge has all gone on the Kings Road and recently 'repaired' roads at Seaqaqa in Vanua Levu have fallen away again! And it seems that the wind and water damage this time was very, very widespread so impacts upon the larger and smaller islands.

Our son emailed yesterday (using a generator as all the electricity was down) saying the family are all safe, so that's what really counts. I say; Shelter your family, and look out for your neighbour. That's the only motto needed in life. In the time of the clean-up it's an opportunity for neighbour to help neighbour, and that's what the 'real' Fiji is about. Cut out the talk-fests about charters and just get on with real action.

Debris from Cyclone Gene evident in Central Division
29 Jan 2008 04:58:03 (from Fiji Times)

Scenes of up-rooted trees and damaged power lines were evident in the capital and surrounding areas, as daylight broke. But there have been no reports of major damage to infrastructure in Suva and Nasinu. In Nausori, the Rewa River was higher than its normal levels this afternoon, blocking access to certain roads.

The car park in the basement of the Civic Towers building became water logged last night due to blocked drainage trapping about 6 vehicles. The water could not be pumped out as there was no electricity. In other parts of Suva, workers were busy clearing fallen trees. It was the same along the Queen Elizabeth Drive in Nasese but none of the three fallen trees blocked the main road.

The strong winds also uprooted trees at the Suva Grammar School in Flagstaff near Marist Brothers and near the Nasese Police Post. In Laucala Bay, signage and bill-boards outside the Vodafone Arena also succumbed to the elements... A government quarters also had a close call with a large tree missing the house by mere inches.

A similar situation at a home in Nasinu near Pilling Road when a tree fell on what used to be a shed for church services, narrowly missing the home itself. This is the Toga Road, the only means of access for three villages situated next to the Rewa River.

As the Rewa River swelled to its banks, flood waters spilled onto the road, blocking of all access and leaving about 250 people of Moana village stranded. Some resorted to using make-shift bilibilis...before proper outboards could be sourced.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Telling it like it is - from Taveuni

from w
A Taveuni writer, Alohabula1, writes it like it is experiencing today's huge storm/cyclone in Taveuni which she felt hours and hours before Fiji's weather bureau even alerted people. Her post is on Fijiboardexiles.
Here is her personal story:
It is amazing to me, I finally e-mailed one of the credible weather sites and said...You need to update your site we are in the midst of a Cat 1 Cyclone. A couple of hours later I guess they finally realized I wasn't a nut, looked on the Satelitte Map and named the darn thing. My Fijian gang heard it on the radio and with their accent I thought they said it was Deena but I guess they named it Gene
From what I can gather from the past experience of 24 hours is that it began as a normal but large tropical storm and then formed into a cyclone over the back side of Taveuni, without an eye. I was watching the Coconut trees etc and they were all leaning heavily to the west, after a few hours I heard the direction of the rumble change and then it came from the Northwest, then all the trees started twirling.
I thought well..this should get interesting, maybe we will greet the eye soon and we can run out and do some things. But it never let up instead the wind shifted and came in from the North and as it moved down the chain. I know we are still experiencing the backside of it at 9:35 in the evening.. We are 24 hours into, the rains are torrential, the winds are still past a gale force in the North and poor Labasa and low lying areas must surely be underwater by now. .
The waves out front are huge, depending if you measure from the back probably 6-8 ft on average, any boats still surviving on moorings will soon be kissed goodbye. But you can't hear the waves over the wind and the rain. There are breakers in places out there I have never seen more than a ripple before, as in way beyond the reef.
This is the part that I don't get, you read the weather report and it always seems to minimize it. I use to be a wind surfer, I do know wind and if it was blowing at 50mph, (80kmh) that was time to throw the rig in the truck and have a great day rooster tailing out there.. I know the gusts which are almost as freguent as a heartbeat were past 100 mph maybe up to 130, there were times today it was bordering a Cat 2. That is not my imagination or me trying to dramatic. I have lived in places where 70mph winds were not out of the norm and nothing to worry about and I have been in worse cyclones in Fiji, but the last two big ones we have had zero warning.
So for the gang on Viti Levu, it has been 24 hours here and counting, so be prepared for a long haul and sustained stress on everything. Sorry I can't be more encouraging, but better to be prepared. The worst is over for the North except for the torrential rain and gale force winds.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another cyclone? As if life isn't hard enough already!

from w
A writer on a forum about Fiji who lives in Taveuni said it's been gale conditions or worse all day and the weather bureau warnings are half a day late!

mid-afternoon in Fiji today:
Cyclone Gene heads towards Viti Levu
Publish date/time: 28/01/2008 [15:20]

People living in Viti Levu are advised to take precautions now as Tropical Cyclone Gene is heading towards the main island of the Fiji group.

Deputy Director of the Nadi Weather Office, Alipate Waqaicelua said the rough estimate of Tropical Cyclone Gene is 178.5 East and 17.0 South or 90 kilometers South West of Labasa or about 150 kilometers North East of Nadi.

Tropical Cyclone Gene is currently moving in a South West direction at 20 kilometers per hour.

People likely to get affected on Gene's current path will be those living in Viti Levu, Western part of Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti, the Yasawas and Mamanucas.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The women of Fiji

This photo was taken at International Women's Day last year of girls from MGM school in Suva.

from w
I read with interest a very good letter in today's Fiji Times by Suzana Tuisawau and it raised a few issiues for me.
Here's her letter:

Respect women
I wish to respond to issues that the media has reported as being raised by the interim Minister for Women, Dr Jiko Luveni (FS 24/1/08 and FT 24/1/08) when addressing a workshop on CEDAW.
I have great respect for Dr Luveni and wish her well in her new post. However, I do feel duty bound to react to two issues raised.
Firstly, that when Fiji ratified CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), Fiji's government had in essence made the commitment to recognise the rights of women as citizens and ensure that all policies and practices that discriminate against women are eliminated.
This entails honouring women's right to make choices about their governance or the way they wish to be governed.
It means acknowledging the integrity and rationalisation of women NGOs of Fiji to make the collective decision through their national body, the National Council of Women, not to be part of the National Council of Building A Better Fiji.
They have obviously made a principled stand based on their organisations values. This is their constitutional right.
May I correct an outdated notion that may have been wrongly construed as projected by educators.
This is about "science being masculine while the arts is regarded as feminine and seen as an ornament of the domestic sector".
I kindly assure my good minister that in my long involvement with Fiji's education sector, the two subject areas mentioned have not been regarded or projected as such.
There were other factors which had prevailed upon the schools, their administration, teaching resources, facilities and teachers, right from primary school level to secondary and tertiary level which had contributed more to the lower number of women in the earlier days, taking up a science course (I suspect that figures will show that the situation has now changed.)
Let us respect the women of Fiji. Let us face it, history tells us that the women of Fiji were the first to establish NGOs and service the community as volunteers.
They still run or service the majority of civil society organisations of Fiji and are fearless when defending what they think is morally right.
As mothers of the nation and of the future of Fiji they serve as the conscience of the nation.
Their choice may just be the useful and timely guide we need at this hour.
Susana Tuisawau
Pacific Foundation for the Advancement of Women


(cover of January Marama magazine which has several articles inside, one about Dr Jiko, others about the Soqosoqo Vakamarama and CEDAW.)

my comments:

I. "science being masculine while the arts is regarded as feminine and seen as an ornament of the domestic sector". Hey, what a view! As Susana pointed out, this is a problem if people have such an outdated view. Women can do science really, really well, and some guys can do the arts really, really well.

2. Some excellent Fiji women have come forward to join in the discussion on the charter - Dr Jiko is one, Lorini Tevi is another, but the smart, ethical women will probably have a hard task alongside a large number of wannabee, opportunist guys in the committees.

3. Some excellent Fiji women have chosen not to be involved, taken a principled stand as Susana writes, believing that you do not team up with those who have created havoc in society, and that is understandable also.

4. I think it is true that women are the conscious of society when the men fail to be responsible fathers/mentors/leaders.

A transcript of Dr Jiko Luveni's speech at CEDAW can be found here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Preparing kokoda for a party

from w
About 10.30 p.m. last night at a kava drinking get-together, a friend asked me to make kokoda for her birthday party today, so at 11 p.m. we went to a supermarket searching for yellow-fin tuna but all they had was fillets of basa which is a fresh-water fish, so that had to do. The recipe I am using is from my relative but adapted a bit. I think some people use the coconut cream cold, not cooked, so we'll see what happens. My son bought fresh coconuts to scrape so that's in process.
Here's the recipe:
Fiji Kokoda

To prepare a dish of marinaded raw fish for twenty people – as part of a party. It’s best to prepare the first part in the evening so that fish can marinade in the lemon overnight.

I to 1 and half kg marlin or yellow fin tuna or waloo
Six lemons, two coconuts, salt, carrot, chillies, spring onions, tomatoes, celery

1 Cut fish into small diced piece
2. Place pieces of fish in a bowl
3. Add one to 2 teaspoons of salt
4. Add juice of six lemons and stir
5 Place bowl of fish into fridge to marinade for six to eight hours

6 Squeeze out lemon juice
7 Prepare coconut cream by breaking and scraping coconut, squeezing to cream (or use 2 cans of thick coconut cream)
8 Put coconut cream into a pot, warm, stir and bring to boil. Turn off stove as soon as it starts to boil. Cool off to room temperature.
9 Add coconut cream to fish.
10 Add small portions of grated carrot, chillies, diced spring onions, tomatoes and celery.

11 Serve as part of a dinner party.

(later: I used two coconuts plus one can of coconut cream as it didn't seem enough and also I didn't heat the coconut cream. I tasted a sample of the finished kokoda and so did my son and said that it's fine. But I think a better fish such as a yellow-fin tuna would have made it even better.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photos from the Nadroga Kaulotu Commemoration

from w
Vinaka vakalevu Kalusi for sending photos taken at the recent Commemoration at Cuvu about the coming of the lotu to Nadroga and remembering Rev Taniela Lotu.

Build it and they will come

from w
There's talk about bigger and greater wharves in Suva - with a view of larger crowds of tourists flocking to spend their money, be cheered up by the smiling people. (ha ha) But is this a reality? Build it and they will come? I wonder.

Decentralization in Fiji would be a better way to go. Spread the development in many parts of Fiji - Savusavu, Labasa, and other places instead of Suva. Tourists will come to Fiji - if the planes run on time, if there is word-of-mouth advertising with good travel experiences, if the local people not only smile but are satisfied with their lives. Don't just dream on about more money from tourism. Be resourceful and be self-sufficient with local food supplies etc. And be seen to be consistent and stable in leadership.

In Melbourne there's a huge argument at present about the proposed dredging of Port Phillp Bay so that even larger container ships can access Melbourne, whereas there's already a deep port at Hastings - Western Port Bay. The proposed dredging will upset the ecology of the bay and cause great destruction to the habitat of fish. Getting bigger just ain't the answer.

From Fijilive today:
$500 million wharf planned for Fiji
23 JAN 2008
A new wharf to replace the existing Queens Wharf in Fiji’s capital, Suva is being eyed to host cruise liners in future. The wharf, expected to cost around $500 million, should begin construction next year and will be in full operation in 2012, says Captain Cris Marshall, the chief executive of Fiji Ports Corporation Limited.

Marshal explains that the container yard at the Queens Wharf will be moved to the Rokobili site at Walu Bay to accommodate the changes. “Rokobili should be fully operational as a shipping wharf by 2012 and we are looking at gradually developing it into a major container terminal after the wharf is being built.” He adds that the Kings Wharf in Fiji’s second city, Lautoka will also be turned into a cruise ship facility, hosting shops and other services to tourist.

“Take for instance the Darling Harbor in Sydney where at one time that place was a huge shipping area and now the only ship you’ll find there are passenger ships and all the rest of the land has been developed into restaurants and shops.

“That’s the kind of concept we want to achieve here in Fiji in the next three to four years.”

With 550 port of calls in the South Pacific and about US$33 million spent by these tourists on shores, the cruise segment of the tourism industry in Fiji is expected to create a lot of commercial activities in Suva City.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just singin' after the rain

from w
Peceli sent me some photos of some of the people at Vatuadova just enjoying themselves singing and entertaining visitors.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A sad story of a whale

from w
Well there are many points of view it seems about the sad tale of a whale that was found, deceased, on the shore of Mali island. For me it is a sad, bad story, but for some it is a gift of many tabua - whale's teeth that can be later cleaned up and used for cultural purposes. The photo is of Lui Robinson and Waisea Makulau standing at the tail of the whale on Mali island. I cropped the picture from the one in today's Fiji Times. No one seemed to know why the whale died. Was it pollution, old age, or what?

Islanders discover dead whale
Monday, January 21, 2008

A 22 metre long whale with a belly about three metres high was found dead on Mali Island in the northern division at the weekend. Villagers say the whale was found lying on one side of Mali in Macuata. Waisea Makulau from Malau said the whale had been spotted swimming around the island since December 26. "That was Boxing Day and every time we go out fishing, the whale would come around but when it hears the sound of the engine, it disappears under water," he said.

"It used to enjoy the sea around Mali Island and near Malau and it was a thrilling experience to watch the whale freely swim around the sea." He received news of the dead whale on Friday from a friend on Mali Island. "A friend of mine that came from Mali told me that the whale was lying on one side of the island, dead. It saddened me and my friends because we had become fond of it when we sighted it several times swimming," Mr Makulau said. On Friday night, he and a group of men hired a boat to the site to remove 40 whalesteeth and sold most of it as tabua with the smallest for $300. When we arrived the whale already had this foul smell and it was difficult to go around it. But we wanted the teeth for tabua, especially in these hard times when we are all looking for money to support our families," Mr Makulau said.

He said they managed to remove 40 teeth from the bottom gum of the whale while the top set had all disappeared."We used a ladder to remove the teeth because the whale was huge," Mr Makulau said.

Yesterday thick oily substance covered the water where the whale lay. The substance was as thick and oily as ghee and covered a width of about three metres.

In Fiji whales teeth have particular cultural significance. Fijians from remote coastal areas wait for stranded whales. If there is no help available to assist the beached whale, they would wait for the whale to die naturally before the teeth are removed.

Update on Tuesday: from Fiji Times
WWF cautions against dead whale1605 FJT
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Update: 4.05pm THE World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the global conservation organisation advises that precaution is taken when handling the carcass of the sperm whale that was washed ashore on Mali Island.

WWF said reports obtained from the communities on Mali Island and the Fisheries officers in Labasa, indicate that at this stage of decay, it was urgent to ensure the safe and immediate disposal of the carcass.

''There are environmental risks associated with the dead whale, but equally important is the safety of the surrounding communities,'' a statement from WWF said.

''Undoubtedly, the dead whale will have some potential of infectious agents transmitted from the animal to those who come into physical contact with it. We are advising that extreme caution is taken when handling the carcass,'' said Penina Solomona, Regional Marine Officer, WWF South Pacific.

''While the cause of its death is uncertain at this stage, reports from observers have indicated that the whale may have been sick or distressed. However, further analysis of tissue samples will be required in order to better answer some of the queries that we have about this individual, and consequently, sperm whale populations in Fiji.''

WWF will be working with the Mali Island communities and the Fisheries office in Labasa to properly dispose off the carcass.

This makes interesting reading in light of the stories from down near the antarctic where there is a stand-off between the Japanese 'scientific (?) planned slaughter of whales for research and the protests on the Sea Shepherd and the Australian government monitoring the whole episode.

(later - on Thursday) The villagers of Nakawaqa on Mali Island have burnt the carcass of the dead whale after pouring about 48 litres of benzene on it, as the most logical way of dealing with the health problem. I suppose some of the men are making substantial money as they clean and sell the whale's teeth that they approprated a few days ago - maybe up to $300 for each tooth!

The 21st Birthday Party

from Peceli
Thanks be to God for his gift of grace to our family and Nemani Lala - Bameti's family to uniting us together in the life of Wendy Walolo Lala's upbringing.
They had a big preparation and beautifully decorated big verandah in Raikivi's home whch catered for more then three hundred guests and families. My job was to give a key speech and the Tui Wailevu and the Talatalas were there.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When cultural objects are overseas

Cultural objects that cross borders
from w
One of the hot topics at the Congress of the History of Art last week in Melbourne was the repatriation of cultural objects to their original owners. Should stolen items, gifts, found items, purchased items, be given back? For example in Museum Victoria there are collections of South Pacific sculptures, and also items from the indigenous people of North America such as the Mi'kmaq garments.

Should they be given back to the descendants of the people who made these items?

Regarding the South Pacific, over the past two centuries, many Fijian clubs, lengths of masi, carved bowls, have found their way to museums and private collections in Europe, America, Australia. I know one time, we were given some objects. held by the Uniting Church in Melbourne. to give back to the Methodist Church in Suva. Maybe they were historical items but there was no documentation with them to know if they were of significance. Is there mana in such objects that they should go back 'home'?

If such cultural items are repatriated, then the rest of the world is poorer in knowledge too. Maybe it is desirable to have a variety of cultural objects from different countries in art galleries and museums as 'cultural ambassadors'. A speaker at the Congress (I didn't go because it was too costly but it was reported in the Age newspaper), Michael Brand who works at the Getty, argued that cross-cultural exchanges are important.

So, should France give back the Mona Lisa to Italy?

Museum Victoria in Melbourne has a large collection of cultural items from the South Pacific. Some are listed here and Rod Ewens writes about the topic as it relates to Fijian objects in an article here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vanua Levu roads

from w
Peceli emailed that his friends did get through from Savusavu, in a four-wheel drive but had problems on the way because of the landslides. 'Joy and Andrew arrived at 1 30 pm in Vatuadova after a long delay in the Korosomo slope where the whole mudslide and the break in the tar-sealed road for abour 50 metres or more long is totally unusable. It has been a long queue of cars, trucks and buses were directed to use the Naduri Road going throught Nabala, Sasa, Korotuvu, Yalava, and to catch up with Tabia Road.

'When they arrived they were officially welcome and the Nau Kisi and ladies given them a light refreshments. After that we went to Nukutatava and it was a bad muddy road close to the beach. But fortunately they had a RAV four wheel drive that made the journey possible wherever they wanted to go.' The picture is of the visitors with Dakai and others crossing the rocks at high tide.

Labasa's journalist SERAFINA SILAITOGA wrote about the roads in today's Fiji Times.
Saturday, January 19, 2008

At 8am yesterday, about 100 metres of the Seaqaqa highway collapsed six metres down.
Acting Director Roads North Joji Mate said some PWD workers were dispatched to keep the public off the damaged portion of the highway."We are working on that area now and also putting up a diversion for vehicles to use instead of going through the coastal road at Naduri.

"That new road should be completed by this evening (yesterday) or tomorrow (today)," he said. Acting Director National Roads Paula Baleilevuka said it would take them the first quarter of this year to repair the fallen portion of the highway because of the process involved such as calling for tenders and complying with financial procedures.

Mohammed Salim, a carrier driver from Savusavu, said one side of the road started dropping at about 4am when he drove pass. "When I came through this morning to go to Labasa, the left side of the road was lower then the right side but by a few centimeters and we could still tell a difference," Mr Salim said.

"When I came back to return to Savusavu after 8am, the road was totally down by about two metres and as we stood there, we saw it go even further down to about six metres, which was dangerous."

Motorists had to use the Naduri coastal road to get to their destinations while bus passengers remained on the main highway, getting off on one side of the road, unloading their luggage and carrying it to the other end walking through bushes, on the side of the damaged portion.

But Macuata district rep Vereti Veisamasama said 10-wheeler trucks and buses that used the coastal road also got stuck after their tires got bogged in the muddy soil.
"This morning (yesterday) we came through that road and trucks, carriers and buses were stuck on the road as the condition is also bad," he said.

Edwin Chand, a director of the biggest bus owner in the division, Parmod Buses, said the PWD should quickly fix the coastal road because the situation could cause great inconvenience to the travelling public.

Mayor of Labasa writes about floods and rivers

from w
Peceli is still in Labasa and despite the continuing rain, is getting on with his tasks of meeting people, drinking kava (!) going to parties, etc. but there are numerous disruptions because of the very bad state of the roads, etc.

The Mayor of Labasa has a good letter in today's Fiji Times because the people of babasiga land are sick and tired of the continuing nuisance of floods - the disruption, the pollution, the danger to health, the financial burdens, time after time.

Flooded towns
THE flooding of some parts of Labasa town is not surprising. Flooding is imminent in all of Fiji's estuary towns. Damage from flooding will be greater in the future as towns become more populated. Some people have made calls for the dredging of the Labasa river and other rivers in Fiji. I have, in the past, stated that dredging is not a permanent solution to flooding. It is only a temporary measure.

A better, long-term solution to the problem lies in the sustainable management of forests and the entire watershed. Sustainable farming practices need to be encouraged and practised to control the silt going into streams and rivers. Indiscriminate logging practices must stop. Once that is taken care of, flooding of towns can be minimised.

Additionally, with more people living in towns and increase in urban activity, drains become overburdened. Rubbish, commonly plastic bags and bottles, clog drains and contribute to flooding of urban centres.

However, I believe there is an enormous amount of silt clogging the Labasa river from previous floods. This needs to be cleared so the river can start breathing properly.

It will give some relief and assurance to Labasa residents. But certainly, dredging cannot be done every time, otherwise the real cause of flooding (unsustainable watershed management and indiscriminate logging) will be left unchecked.

The permanent solution to flooding is relocation. Many towns in Fiji were built by the river and delta area which, today, are causing millions of dollars of loss and damage. Estuary towns of Fiji including Labasa, need to be relocated to a higher and safer location to avoid the problem of flooding. This is long-term planning which municipal authorities should seriously consider and start doing it without delay.
The development of small growth centres in safe locations, away from rivers, can be a start to the relocation of towns. For example, Namaka could be the future location for Nadi town.

Tuatua and neighbouring upper Wailevu in Labasa is the ideal choice for Labasa town. Varadoli, Yalalevu or Nailega in Ba could become growth centres and eventually, in five to 10 years, become Ba town.

The woes of flooding will then be a thing of the past. Millions of dollars in losses over the years because of floods will be saved. Property value will improve, investment will increase and benefits will be forthcoming.

Pradeep c. Lal

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy birthday Wendy Lala

from w.
I posted this story a week or so ago then deleted it because the photos were a bit too personal. Okay, here goes again with different pictures. The story is about what happened twenty-one years ago. Happy birthday Wendy for Saturday.

Watimeli’s Baby

I am enjoying cotton-wool lazy days as my Fijian husband is overseas. Our three teenage sons are surfing at Torquay. It's 1987. The phone buzzes: a reverse charge call, international. ‘I’m coming back Tuesday. I’m bringing visitors.’
This isn’t unusual. Extras in the household are common; in the Shenton manse in Ryrie Street, Geelong, where we live, there is always room for the extended family or homeless people. The house which is a cheerful mess will have to be cleaned up.
On the Tuesday evening there is a call from Melbourne. ‘We’ve arrived safely. We’ve taken a sick girl to St. Vincents. I’m bringing her father, Bameti, home. He's from Wailevu. Dr. Schramm asked me to help this family. The sick girl had to be brought to Labasa hospital by boat in the middle of the cyclone. Heart surgery in Australia is the only way to save the girl’s life, the doctor said.'
Three nights later, a phone call at 1 a.m. comes from the hospital. Watimeli has gone into labour.
I am amazed. ‘I didn’t know she was pregnant!’
Peceli wakes Bameti to dress up immediately. They drive to Melbourne to comfort Watimeli during the birth process. The premature baby girl – born three months early- and in the Heart Ward of St Vincents is shunted immediately to the Mercy Hospital.
When I meet the patient, gaunt like a long distance runner drained after a marathon, I ask if the baby has been named yet
‘Yes,’ says the girl, who is about twenty years. ‘She’s named after you. Wendy!’
The naming gives a sense of alarm of an on-going relationship. I walk to the Mercy hospital a few blocks away. Though the nurse encourages me to touch the baby's arms and legs, I cannot.
A week later Watimeli comes down to Geelong to gain strength before the operation for a heart valve replacement. Now 100 K separate her from little Wendy. In visits to Melbourne, both Watimeli and I feel uncomfortable with the prem. baby attached to tubes.
A month later the baby is transferred to the Geelong Hospital. Her limbs are strong and she is going well. She is nearly five pounds in weight so soon is allowed to go ‘home’. Baby paraphernalia is given to me from friends or bought in op. Shops. Our sons complain about the crying - until they start to talk and play with the newcomer. The church folk make a tremendous fuss over the tiny brown baby with the strong dark eyes, lying happily in a basket.

The operation for heart valve replacement proceeds and Watimeli becomes well enough to join the household. Now bonded with the infant, I am unwilling to give the baby up but I obtain a birth certificate, a passport photo, then a Fijian passport from the Fiji Embassy in Canberra. The baby is not allowed to be an Australian citizen as the mother had come on an emergency medical visa. When Wendy Junior is twenty-one, maybe then she can.
Several hospital bills come our way even though we had been promised free treatment. Some are waived, some we have to pay.
Watimeli tells us about her boyfriend, a Part-European youth who lives in Nadi. Her parents would not allow them marry. She already has a son to him, staying with Bameti's family. I wonder what her future will be as a single mother, but with the Fijian extended family there will always be someone to help.
At Tullamarine airport, Watimeli looks so well and little Wendy, now strong but still small, is swaddled in a blanket. There’s a massive amount of overweight luggage and there are no concessions and no allowance for the baby paraphernalia. We have to pay up heaps.
I let them go, return to Geelong to my routine of easy-going family care but I miss little Wendy very much and cannot concentrate when I go back to Deakin studies. I am still soft, and floppy and maternal-minded, not in the mood for academic study at all.

Eight months later there’s a phone call from Labasa, Fiji. ‘Watimeli’s very ill. She’s bleeding and in Labasa hospital.’
‘What happened?’
‘She was playing volleyball. Something in her chest just fell down.’
I feel breathless but can only say, ‘Keep in touch.’
Next day there is another phone call. Watimeli has died at the Labasa hospital. There is no sophicated heart machines there. This is terrible news.
‘Who’ll look after her baby?’
‘Her grandparents. Bameti and his wife in Mataniwai village.’

A year later Peceli and I are in Fiji: partly for an assessment of the situation after the 1987 coups. We visit Mataniwai village during a drenching dowpour and present a whale’s tooth to Bameti in respect of Watimeli’s death. I want to meet the little girl. As the family push the little girl forward, her dark eyes fill with tears when confronted with me, the beige-coloured Australian woman who is now a stranger to her. Tentatively she sits on my knee, just for a minute. She has sores on her arms but she is surviving.
I walk alone in the rain to visit Watimeli’s grave near a stand of mango trees. The mound is covered by a colourless tapa cloth. I am distraught by the waste of a young life.
A week later we are back on the Ratawa sugar-cane farm. Bameti’s family arrive with the little girl and boxes of her clothes. They want to give her to the Ratawa family for an informal adoption. I whisper to Peceli, ‘We can’t take her to Australia – the trauma would be too much. She’s had too many care-givers and mothers.’
He suggests, ‘My sister Suliana can take her.’ In her household there are already four informally adopted children including a little girl of one. Evia, my other sister-in-law has had eight children so far so gives a little girl, Pinky, to Suliana.
Suliana agrees and Ateca will help care for the little girl.

That was nearly twenty-one years ago.
Small Wendy knows she has an Australian family though I was not courageous enough to take that child on full-time again. Suliana became her grandmother and Ateca her new mother. So that makes her our grand-daughter.
I email Wendy Junior these days. She has left the Friendly North sugar-cane community to study in Suva and has already passed one certificate at the Fiji School of Technology, a course that will equip her to work in tourism. She is a beautiful young woman, tall, smart and her eyes are bright and black like the eyes of her mother, Watimeli.

When I see young mothers today fussing over their babies, putting them on their backs to sleep - because of SIDS, I think of Wendy when she was a baby, and how she slept on her tummy, and looked like a turtle, and the song Peceli sang to her. Wedi na yalewa re, na yalewa duadua e vale. It was about a baby girl who lay down like a turtle.

Here is a picture of Baba with Pinky and Ateca with small Wendy.

Here is a picture of Wendy Lala, almost grown up now with one of the young relatives.

Anyway, happy twenty-first birthday Wendy for Saturday! Have a lovely party in Labasa with your friends and large extended family.

Vorovoro Names and faces

from w
Tribewanted have altered their webpages a bit so go to here to see some faces of people on Vorovoro - visitors and locals.

By the way, how is the weather over on Vorovoro? By all accounts it's been very wild and windy and rainy in the Labasa area this week with flooding (as usual with lots of rain) in the low-lying town area of Labasa. Would dredging the rivers and cleaning out the drains really solve the problems? I guess you just can't relocate the town to higher ground but it certainly is disheartening for the people to have to clean up after floods, time after time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A rough trip to Nabouvwalu

from Peceli
Bula sia. I am back in Babasiga land this morning and the weather is not very good with a lot of gusty wind and heavy rain yesterday and today. But fortunately the town of Labasa is -sort of -back to normal but you have to use an umbrella and rain coat.

The trip of the Spirit of Harmony from Natovi to Nabouwalu was fairly good till we reached close to Nabouwalu then the sea became angry and it become windy and with a strong rain. The four boys were a part of my team so we had good cooked lunch and drinks prepared for our trip. The road to Nabouwalu was bumpy and rough. I wish maybe one day they will have a tar-sealed road like from Labasa to Dreketi.
Today I will be in Wailevu for the funeral of an elderly relative.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Climate change in Lau

from w
Pandamonium posted two videos about the bleaching of the coral reef, the reduction in fish supplies and other problems on the island of Kabara in southern Lau. The program was called 'Witness'. Worth watching. Go to his site here. He was made aware of the videos from a blog by Stuck in Fiji Mud writer. When I checked that out and tried to link to an article I got a loud noise from the computer that I couldn't access the particular site!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

a temporary church near Suva

from w
Peceli sent me some photos about a struggling community trying to build a church on the outskirts of Suva in a suburb called Newtown. The people meet in a tin shed and hope to build a nice building. As Fijians move to the urban areas they form a new social network and identity with a local community and seem to prefer to have a church within walking distance of their homes.

Peceli wrote: I thank God that I am able to spend my Sunday Church Service in the almost forgotten area that is Newtown close to Valelevu where the Housing Commission people struggle to make ends meet. Instead of spending my Sunday with Centenary Church.

As you can see in the picture they still worship in the tin shed for almost ten years and hope that one day they will finish their new church. So they need help money and working bees and our prayer are with them. One photo is of the two little girls before going to Church. Maybe one day they will be in their new Church building.

I preached there in the morning service and took photos of the Choir and some of the congregation. I got to know this community because they are related to my friend Sailosi Koto who is in my congregation at Altona Meadows in Australia.

This is a photo of the new church in progress. The congregation are struggling to get the funds to complete it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Year customs at Vorovoro

from w
Sharon writes in the chief's blog about the New Year celebrations on Vorovoro and Mali Islands. Sounds like tribewanted is still going strong. Or check out My space on tribewanted.
From Sharon:
New years celebrations were well underway with a party in the evening and the next day being invited to a combination of three villages celebrating the New Year. We entered the village with the men first in sulus calling out “oo ya” announcing to the village that we had arrived and were coming, the women followed in their sulus with a call of “mana vandoo “ (excuse all my misspellings of the Fiji words). There was kava ceremony, “meke” by two groups, dinner, and an exchange of a whales tooth between the elders of the tribes. I couldn’t comprehend all of it or the procedures, but it was very exciting. We had practiced a “meke” in the boat if we were to perform, but the rains came and we had to leave before dark in our boats so we did not perform. As we watched the other performances the tradition is that you try to distract the performers some by powdering them on the head and face with talcum powder, others by putting candy in their mouths, wrapping them in sulus or long pieces of cloth. The people were gracious and included us in all their activities.

Another tradition of the New Year is the throwing into the sea. Constant squeals of children and adults alike as men grab someone is grabbed from behind and thrown into the sea. You can go willingly or not, it’s up to you. There is a constant changing into dry clothes or at least the driest clothes. There is also the bucket of water gingerly dumped on a head of an unsuspecting victim or the bucket chase until all are wet, staff, tribe members, and children all laughing and enjoying the prospect of a new year and the changes that will come.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pictures from Nadroga/Navosa

from Peceli
Some of the photos taken a few days ago.
The trip to Korolevu Navosa was very interesting. The Valley road was not in a good condition so I felt pity for these people who live in the interior. Only the big trucks and four wheel drives could reach their destinations. While we were in Keiyasi village I said to the boys that in the last 40 or so year ago the road ended here.
We passed Vatumali the central station of Navosa where the Navosa College and the Police Station and the health Centre are. We went down to cross the Nasikawa river then we drove through and passed Vatubalavu and then climbed to the moumtaintop. It was a winding road and we crossed several creeks which we were lucky to pass through because of the four wheel drive.

There is a photo of the time we had lunch close to Korolevu, the last creek before the village. We ate dalo and tinned bulumakau and drank fresh pure water. We were sheltered by the rain forest. I told Bruce and Jerry I remembered the time I crossed this creek imany times with no shoes and no light.

Today I reached Suva today and came with Bruce Veikoso Ame's brother. We were staying together at Rukurukulevu in Jerry's house, the big brother of the late Ame from Savusavu. I happened to be in town so can send the photos.

How do I stop my sulu from falling down?

from w
That's what I hear often when visitors - vavalagis - put on the Fijian wraparound sulu. Well I just say, breathe in when you tuck it in, and then take care! (Also called the sulu vakatoga, and quite different from the tailored sulu Fiji men wear on formal occasions or Fijian boys often wear to school. Also, I have some that have elastic in the waist - when they are part of a costume such as a tiabe and sulu. Anyway I looked up stuff on the web and came up with some notes from Hawaii.

The basic garment known in English as a "sarong" is a sulu or sulu vakatoga in Fiji.

In East Africa it is called a kanga and usually made of brightly coloured cotton. In Madagasgar it is called a lamba. In Mozambique it is called a capulana. In Somalia a ma'wees. In Zimbabwe zambias.In South Africa a kikoi and commonly used as a furniture throw or for going to the beach. In South Asia a lungi. It is most often sewn into a large cylindrical shape, so there is no slit when the lungi is tied. In India it is colloquially referred to by the misnomer dhoti In Punjab it is a called maylee when worn by a man, and a gamcha when worn by a woman. In Indonesia a kain sarung ('sarong cloth'). In Malaysia it is known as a kain, kain sarung, or kain sampan In the Philippines a malong. In Hawaii it is referred to by the Anglicized Tahitian name, pareo In Samoa a lavalava In Tahiti a pareu.

It is a large sheet of fabric, often wrapped around the waist and worn as a skirt by men and women throughout much of Africa, Asia, India and on many Pacific islands. Usually made from cotton or other natural fibers, the fabric is often brightly coloured or printed with intricate patterns. Some prints depict animals or plants, checkered or geometric patterns, or resemble the results of tie dying & batiking. In many of the African countires, the fabric is designed with various symbolic prints, giving the garment more meaning and purpose. Sarongs are also used as wall hangings and other forms of clothing, such as shawls, baby carriers, complete dresses or upper body clothing. They are often used by women as a cover-up over swimwear.

Numerous tying exist to hold a sarong to the wearer's body. In some cases, these techniques customarily differ according to the gender of wearer. If a sarong has ties, they may be used to hold it in place. If no ties exist, a pin may be used, the fabric may be tightly tucked under itself in layers, the corners of the main sheet may be around the body and knotted, or a belt may be used to hold the sulu in place.

But most often it is just pulled in tight and tucked in and occasionally the wearer has to stand up and readjust his or her sulu as it tends to unwrap!

And some notes adapted from

Whole lotta Lava Lava going on
Call it a pareo. Or kikepa. Or sulu. But just tie one on and you're very much in style.
Story by Burl Burlingame Illustration by Kip Aoki Photo by Ken Sakamoto

The urge to wrap one's body in beautiful cloth is as old as cloth itself. In the Pacific, whether it's called sarong (Indonesia), pareo (Tahiti), kikepa (Hawaii), lavalava (Samoa), sulu (Fiji) or beach wrap (haole), it's an idea that has never loosened its grip on the opu of fashion consciousness. Today, however, the humble cloth rectangle is kicking off the sand. "Off the beach, into the closet and out to dinner," as Maile Meyers of Native Books and Beautiful Things puts it. "Some beads, nice shoes, a wonderful cotton print - you're fashionable, baby."

Colleen Kimura, who became entranced with the potential of kikepa while living in Fiji in the early 1980s. "It's called the sulu there, and a very tight, fitted version is the 'pocket sulu,' said Kimura. "There, it's mostly men's clothing, and I have vivid memories of the Fijian men wearing gaudy flowered sulus, purple shirts and heavy black leather sandals." Kimura began experimenting with natural designs using contrasting and complementary colors, bringing a new tastefulness to the beach wrap. Hawaiiana icon Haunani Kay Trask, for example, is rarely seen without kikepa, and she estimates that at least 60 percent of her kikepa closet is Tutuvi. "It's beautiful!" said Trask. "In fact, I'm wearing a Tutuvi right now. The perfect clothing to wear in a hot climate. And not just because it makes a political statement - I'm pretty political, you know - because the muumuu is an imposed clothing style. The kikepa ties us in with the South Pacific.

"And it's just cloth! No zippers, no buttons, incredibly inexpensive, you don't have to accessorize. It's something about the way they fit - a fluidity of line that goes with the body. It's why Polynesian women look so good in them."

And men. Kimura said she loves seeing the high-school football kids lugging their gear after practice, wearing a lavalava. "After practice, you want to wearing something comfortable," she said. They're also popular with canoe paddlers and other water-sports enthusiasts. "You can wear it with your bathing suit, and it gives the suit a chance to dry out, while you're dressed up enough to run errands on the way home," Kimura said.

Tutuvi pareo are generally printed on cotton, with the design bordering the bottom half so that it doesn't get lost in the tying...And kikepa is not just a body wrap. "You can also use it for a picnic cloth, a canopy, a curtain, an overnight bag, anything that can be tied up," said Kimura.

"When they get old and faded, then you take them back to the beach," said Trask. "Even if it's too worn to be used as clothing, you can still get plenty of use out of kikepa. I have some older kikepa that are perfect for use at the beach." And there's a certain full-circle aspect to that notion that ties things up nicely.

A beaut blog about Fiji

from w
is Meg Campbell's take on Fiji. The photographs are superb and copyrighted so I'm only posting one here as a sample. A really super blog about Fiji. I found it by accident when I was searching for pictures on Fijian dress especially how to tie on a sulu!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Peceli's pics from Cuvu

from w
But...he didn't write who the photos are of?

Permanent Secretaries are more important than

from w
A list of Fiji's Permanent Secretaries has been announced this afternoon. In my opinion, these men and women are more important than the fancy ones who attend bun-fights, cut ribbons and make hyperbolic speeches.
Here's the list:
Permanent Secretaries announced1456 FJT
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Update: 2.56pm THE interim Prime Minister, Commander Voreqe Bainimarama has four Permanent Secretaries to look after the various ministries under his charge. The four are: Pramesh Chand, PS PM's office; Manasa Vaniqi, Provincial Development; Taina Tagicakibau, Public Service; and Ratu Meli Bainimarama, Indigenous and Multi-Ethnic Affairs.

The other Permanent Secretaries are: Pio Tikoduadua for Justice, Electoral Reform, Public Enterprises and Anti-Corruption; Interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry has two permanent secretaries. Peceli Vocea is Permanent Secretary for Finance, National Planning and Sugar Industry while Cama Tuiloma is PS Public Utilities (water and energy);

Ross Ligairi remains with Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Civil Aviation.

Dr Lepani Waqatakirewa stays on as PS for Health with additional responsibilty for Women and Social Welfare.

The PS for Education is Emi Rabukawaqa. She also looks after National Heritage, Culture and Arts. Subhas Chandra is the PS for Youth and Sports.

Taito Waqa is PS Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment while Litia Mawi is the PS for Local Government, Urban Development and Housing.

Looking after Works and Transport is Anand Kumar.

Banuve Kaumaitotoya is the PS Industry, Tourism, Trade and Communication.

The PS for Lands, Mineral Resources and Environment is Dr Rohit Kishore.

Dr Niumaia Tabunakawai is PS Fisheries and Forests and Dr Richard Beyer is the acting PS for Agriculture.

For Defence, National Security and Immigration is Malakai Tadulala.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Peceli in Nadroga-Navosa

from w
Peceli has been staying at the Gecko Resort, Cuvu, for the past four days as part of the kaulotu (missonary) commemoration of the Coming of the Lotu to Nadroga which has been arranged by members of the family of the late Rev Taniela Lotu. Peceli said the program went very well with drama, workshops and discussions, photograph displays, talks, worship and great hospitality. Peceli's main contribution was a talk with powerpoint pictures entitled 'Carryimg the Lotu'. Today Peceli plans to go up the Sigatoka Valley to revisit Naikoro village, the place where he worked as a talatala (Methodist minister) for four years - a few decades ago.

The photos above were taken by University of the South Pacific students on a study tour. Peceli said he can't send his photos until he gets to Suva later in the week! I am jealous of his trip - I would love to do paintings up the Sigatoka Valley. Well, perhaps another time.