Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fiji photos from the 1930s

Click on each photo to enlarge. Do you recognize anyone in these photos?

from w
An elderly lady in Geelong gave me these photos, taken from the 1930s it seems - some are postcards, the others small pictures from Matavelo Girls School in Ba and Dilkusha near Nausori. The notes on the back say;
Dilkusha Methodist Mission Dispensary. Sister H.J. Clark and a few Hindu patients. Jan 1935 (is this Shantiniwas, below the Dilkusha orphanage?)
Mariam aged 14 (Dilkusha)
Matavelo girls with Miss Foulcher. Sewing machine was given by ladies from Donald. Girls make their own frocks.
front view of school (Matavelo)
four senior girls Matavelo
our house (missionaries house at Matavelo?)
Fiji Scouts Choir 1935
Ropate Varo and David Mone
Ropate Varo

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy birthday Dakai

(Thanks Rini for the photos taken on Dakai's birthday.)
from w and p
Today, 30th October, is the birthday of brother Epi Dakai who was born 70 years ago. There is a great celebration going on this afternoon with many guests at Vatuadova village.
Mo marau ni nomui siga ni sucu Dakai! The picture was taken on the boat, going to Mali I expect, with Dakai in the middle.

Has the Labasa mill started crushing again?

from w
It is shameful that the trucks full of sugarcane have to wait eight or nine days. If the sugar industry is to survive the mills must be in perfect working condition. The farmers work very hard for little money and times like this are even harder for them.
from Fiji Village yesterday:
Labasa Mill to resume crushing (perhaps?)
Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Labasa Mill is expected to resume crushing today after an eight-day breakdown, but that will not stop farmers’ representatives from pursuing the matter further.

The National Farmers Union has written to the Divisional Commissioner Northern on the performance of the Labasa mill.

NFU secretary Surendra Lal says they have asked for a meeting of sugar industry stakeholders in Labasa.

Lal says the continuous mill breakdown and disruptions in crushing has led to a drop in the number of quotas being issued and insufficient and irregular supply of rail carts to harvesting gangs and farmers have to incur extra cost of providing food to cutters in order to retain them in camps.

Meanwhile, the Sugar Cane Growers Council Director Jwala Prasad says the mill will crush all the dumped 500 tonnes or so cane before it will start to crush the cane still loaded on trucks.

He says the 8 – 14 days old cane is not suitable to produce sugar and FSC has said they will try and make some sugar out of this burnt cane and the rest will be used to make molasses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When vavalagis dance the meke

the pics are from
from w
Certainly this is a first - a group of vavalagi visitors to Fiji perform mekes at a Fijian traditional gathering such as Macuata Day in Naduri! Way to go - instead of tourists sitting down watching the locals perform their dances. Shows there is a good cultural exchange and a patience to learn the dances, to dress up, go the distance.

from the Tribewanted website:
Macuata Day
Community → David Randall's blog
By Kai Viti, ,
Posted 4 days ago
Bula sia tribe.

Last week was a full on cultural week for the tribe here on Vorovoro. All the tribal chief’s of the Macuata region were having a four day meeting in Nadori. On the Monday we had the Sevu Sevu so Tui Mali could leave for Nadori early Tuesday morning. We were to meet up with him on the following Friday to perform meke for the chiefs on their day of celebration, Macuata day.

So the week begun with the tribe eager to learn and perfect the meke for our performance on Friday. It is a great honour to be invited to a gathering of chiefs and to perform a traditional Fijian dance to them. So the tribe were all very excited and determined to get the meke well and truly ingrained into their psyche. We split into men and women so the girls could do a fan meke and the boys would do the vuikimalua and the katuba nivucu, commonly known to us as the 1 to 6. The moves are easy but there are a lot of intricacies that make it frustrating to learn. [Moves can be very similar but have very different endings which is a tad confusing. ] The girls were taught by Va until she had to leave on Wednesday and then by Anna. The boys were taught by captain culture himself, Savé.

On Thursday afternoon we had a ceremony to welcome in Tui Mali’s new boat. This was a great opportunity for a dress rehearsal for Friday’s big event. I was dressed up in tapa and a huge piece of cloth that was carried by most of the tribe. Having 12 girls in my costume was really nice I have to say. I had to walk very slowing into the Fijian village so that my entourage would keep up. Movement is a tad restrictive when you’re attached to 12 girls.

Earlier that day we had gone on a mission to find materials for our costumes. We used leaves from the duva vine. Savé took us on a rummage through the jungle to find some and then we all got to tie them up to be used around the wrists for the men and around the waist for the women. We got to wear them later that day as part of the boat ceremony we did for Tui Mali’s new boat. The ceremony consisted of drinking grog (now there’s a surprise) until the boat came and we made our way to the beach. While the boat was coming into the shore 3 guys jumped off the boat and swum the last 50 metres or so. We then covered the boat in the huge piece of cloth that I had been wearing earlier. Tevita then offered some grog and Puasa accepted on behalf of Tui Mali and much was said in Fijian in a very fast and loud way by Tevita. We then made our way to outside Tui Mali’s house. His veranda had been done up by Tevita earlier and looked really amazing. We drunk more grog with the boat captain who had come all the way from Suva and Puasa’s son. Then I was invited on to the veranda to watch the guys perform the meke. I hadn’t seen it from such a vantage point before. The girls one looked great as did the boys although there was much room for improvement on the last meke for the boys. We then ate and carried on the grog session. I left after a few hours but team Fiji kept drinking until the wee small hours.

The next morning we had an early breakfast and all got on boats and headed for Malau. There we boarded a bus which took us to Nadori. The bus journey was fun, if a bit dusty, and everyone was in a jovial mood even though team Fiji had very little sleep. They don’t seem to need much. I was excited as I didn’t know what to expect although I knew everyone would be extremely welcoming. When we got to Nadori we were shown to our area. Each district had it’s own covered area with matts and a tanoa. We had our own section as Mali district’s area was full. Almost as soon as we sat down a group of women came over with massive amounts of tea and cake. No one else seemed to be offered any and I’m not sure if that’s because everyone else had eaten already, we were a tad late, or Fijians only offer tea and cake to foreigners. We seemed to be given heaps of tea and cake everywhere we go but I rarely see Fijians eat it themselves. I’ve never eaten so much cake in all my life until I came here.

After tea the meke started. We watched one and then when behind a building to get ready for our performance. I again got a special bit of tapa to wear as chief but it was very minimal compared to the previous day. The girls performed their meke first and the crowd absolutely loved it. You can judge how much they like what you do by the amount of cloth that is given during your performance. Collectively we came away with a huge amount of cloth even after giving loads to other groups. When it came to the boys performance I was really calm and looking forward to it. When you are performing in front of people who just want you to do well and are really happy that you are embracing their culture then you can’t go wrong. Of course you want to do your best but I felt no pressure from the audience. We were warmly received and I felt it was over far too quickly, I loved it. Performing Fijian dance to Fijians is a wonderful way to show your appreciation and love of this beautiful country and people. I felt such an honour to be there. It was a very special day. When the mekes were done, and there were some amazing ones, especially the last group of ladies, the band started playing and people started dancing. Many Fijians would come to us and ask us for a dance, another way of showing their appreciation.

The journey back was great as team Fiji sung their appreciation of the day. When we got back I was very tired and very dusty from the bus trip and everyone had a swim and wash in the sea before getting ready for Roger and Franklin’s leaving party. Macuata day was a day that will live with me for many years to come.
Meanwhile Tui Mali, Apenisa, relaxes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Charter for water

from w
Now who wouldn't want a nice new water tank in a village! Pic of water tank - not Mali but another island.
Nice one - gifts of fresh water tanks and people will sign on the dotted line. I Guess this is a tactic used all over the world.
from Fiji Village:
North Charter Consultation On Hold
Publish date/time: 28/10/2008 [12:01]

The consultation of the Draft People’s Charter process in the North will be put on hold and be rescheduled to the 3rd of next month. This was decided by a meeting chaired by the Commissioner Northern Colonel Inia Seruiratu yesterday allowing for the completion of some projects that needs to be cleared before the end of the year.

However, Press Secretary Northern Filipe Cula described the outcome of the consultation as being positive as people have decided for themselves what they think of the proposed Charter. Meanwhile, Cula added close to 200 islanders living on Mali Island just outside Malau, Labasa, are expected to receive 400,000 litres of fresh water by the end of November. The Government assisted the villagers of Ligaulevu, Vesi, Napoidi and Matailabasa with fresh water tanks which cost them $10,000. Cula said this should solve the water problems on the island of Mali.
one of the eco-tourists participating in the Fijian lifestyle on Vorovoro Island has been looking at other ways of finding/retaining water on Vorovoro island (next to Mail Island and the same tribe)
He writes on the tribewanted website:
Water storage solution...
Community → Benjamin Katz's blog
By Benjamin Katz, Hawaii, USA
Posted 1 day ago
Water. The plants would be crying if they could spare the moisture to produce tears. Instead, they are just shriveling up. The plants, the garden, our food supply, is suffering because of the lack of water on the island. The problem is not that we don’t get enough rain. We get more than enough rain between the months of November and May. The problem is storage. Basically, we are wasting huge amounts during the rainy season. For this project to be successful, this problem needs to be fixed before the end of the upcoming rainy season.

A few days ago, Tevita, Leavi,and I sat down to determine how many calories we need to get out of the garden and how much space we will need to do it. The island has enough land with enough decent soil that if we can store an additional 40k liters of water, we should be able to produce all of our vegetables year round.

I did the necessary soil tests for the pond and discovered that the soil contains too much sand to hold any water. Without a plastic liner, this option is not possible.

We also looked into the plastic water tanks. The tanks themselves cost between $2500-$3000 for a 10k liter tank. Add to that the cost of shipping and the materials needed to build a base for them we estimate that to get the neccessary 40k liters we are looking at a cost of about $12,000-$13,000 fjd.

We quickly began looking for a more elegant solution. I am happy to report that We have found one.

It is, of course, the solution that was originally put forward by the Fijians at the beginning of this mad adventure.

For those of you who have been here during the rainy season, you will remember the joy of looking out at the ocean from beneath our beautiful waterfall. It is here that we have been told that we should look to find our water and we have finally found a way of doing it that makes it both cheaper than either of the other two options and will definitely cover all of our water needs.

Paul,Amy, Suzie, and I climbed up to the top of the waterfall this Sunday to survey the area and to measure the distance from there to the village. Above the falls is a natural ravine that during the rainy season fills with water and is what allows us to have a waterfall 24/7 for half the year. All we need to do is store this water. We had previously thought that piping any water from here would be cost prohibitive.

In steps Pupu to the rescue.

Using black polythene piping we can create a reliable and durable water storage area and pipe system for around $2000. Due to the fact that this area is already flooded half the year there are no large trees in the area. By creating a more permanent water basin we will increase the biodiversity and health of the ecosystem of the island so that any loss of vegetation will be quickly made up for by the added diversity that the stored water will allow. The cliff formations will enable us to do all of this without effecting the waterfall itself nor will the fruits of our activities be visible from the beach.

We would like to put this to a vote starting next week so If you have any further thoughts on this topic, now is the time to voice them.

And also: Serafina, Serafina, what are you thinking?
The Fiji Times journo in Labasa is picking on the Mali Island people for their toileting habits in an article today - Wednesday - oh dear, and the first time I ever saw those little bridges out on the sea with a little lean-to at the end, - Bau Island - I did not know what for? Mangroves are better actually. Serafina, your article is full of mistakes I reckon! Perhaps you are from Lomaiviti and havin' a go at the kai Labasa?
and a comment in Fiji Times relating to Serafina's article. I am amazed that people will comment on such an unsavoury topic! This writer gets to the main problem of pollution at Malau - the sugar mill and the Fiji Forests timber mill!
Samunivalolo of United States says…
Agree with "Valataka na Dina" that Industrial pollution is by far the greatest threat to the marine ecosystems in this area. Unless the meagre population of Mali is producing huge ammounts of Human waste they should be discounted from this allegation. Thier toilets need to be fixed for thier own personal hygeine not because it is destroying the ecology of large swathes of reefs and waterways. This leaves us with the other two horrors, FSC will never admit that it is dumping at least 500 kilograms a day of sugar into the Qawa river via its return injection water. This is a fact in sugar production and that is why sugar mills in developed countries have self contained injection water cooling, recycling, and treatment plants that dont use water from natural waterways. When Sugar degrades in the river it uses up all the oxygen in the river water, produces that horrible smell and thats why all the fish are belly up and the crabs are scrambling onto land to breath. Tidal wash moves this blanket of death up and down the river until its all black and as concentration increases bigger tides cary it out to sea and viola, watch out coral reef. Worse still is the company sitting on reclaimed land right near the waters edge at Malau. The FFI mill has been there for decades bathing sawn timber in an arsenic based poison to termite proof our lumber, burning of offcuts right at the shoreline and buldozing contaminated soil out into the seashore to expand its log stacking yard. Can someone take drilled soil samples from the periphery of thier lumberyard and analyze this for arsenic, tanalith, caustic, diesel and heavy oil. The reefs around Mali and Vorovoro are dying a painfull death because of these two companies, not from the Mali crap. Peace, Out

And a website about how a village in Rewa solved their problems.

Swimming for your life

pic from a Taveuni blog by Pandamonium

from w
A story from Vanua Levu / Taveuni about a tourist who had to swim for his life. Sobosobo, why wasn't he found quickly? The sharks were surely there but did not bite. It was indeed fortunate that he survived.
from Fiji Times today:

Left-behind tourist swims 12 hours for life
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A TOURIST battled an all-night ordeal swimming 10 kilometres in shark-infested waters near Vanua Levu for about 12 hours before reaching land in Taveuni. Thomas Holz, 40, of Berlin in Germany, said he was a lucky man to have survived the strong currents of Somosomo Strait between Taveuni and Vanua Levu.

"I felt alone and couldn't stop thinking of my family back in Germany, my wife and children and how they would be devastated if I didn't make it. That gave me the strength to keep on swimming," Mr Holz said. Mr Holz and three other tourists holidaying on Taveuni were part of a diving outing organised by Bubble Divers at the Rainbow Reef near Viani Bay in Vanua Levu at 5pm.

Twenty-five minutes into the dive, he surfaced for air after exhausting his oxygen supply. "The dive master told me to hold on where I was while he dived for the remaining three who had also run out of oxygen," Mr Holz said. "The boat was about 100 feet away and I could see it on the horizon but couldn't swim for it because the currents were too strong."

Police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri said when the dive master resurfaced a few minutes later with the other tourists, Mr Holz was nowhere to be found. "They searched until 9pm and called it off and started again at 5am yesterday," Mr Sokomuri said.

Mr Holz said he could hear the sound of the boat engine but it was far away and he could hardly see through the dark. "I could see lights at a place in Vanua Levu but was worried if I swam for it I would wash up in an isolated place with no one around to help so I swam for Taveuni which, although further off, was more populated," he said.

"I felt alone so I decided to swim slowly to balance my energy so that I could last.

"The currents were strong and my main fear was for my family in Germany. Even though I was tired, I hung on to the oxygen cylinder and kept swimming. Then early this morning (yesterday), I felt the seabed and just screamed out for help before I collapsed on the shore."

A woman from a nearby settlement at Wairiki heard Mr Holz's shout for help and rushed to the shore. She helped him to the safety of a home where he recounted his ordeal.

When The Fiji Times called Mr Holz at about midday, he was revived and on an eco tour. "I am feeling tired and although the experience was scary, it is something I won't forget," he said.
The website for diving in Somosomo Strait with Bubble.

Friday, October 24, 2008

fiji cartoon

from w
There are a few messages in this Fiji cartoon which I saw in a recent Fiji Times. Something about no longer using the 1 cent and 2 cent coins, about Suva's street beggars, and of course the distribution of a certain booklet. Reminds me of a song 'I cannot come to the banquet (meeting) so the servants are told to go out to the streets and lanes and invite all and sundry!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have a happy Diwali next Tuesday

Next Tuesday Fiji will celebrate the Festival of Lights, Diwali. It is a lovely custom with houses lit up with candles welcoming the light from darkness. Neighbours sharing delicious sweet food, and goodwill. I think of the goodness in outstanding people bringing light from chaos, such as Mahatma Gandhi at this time of year. Though he had some quirky personal habits, his life is an inspiration showing that non-violence is one answer to oppression in society.

The Tradition of Lights

Lighted diyas represent light in darkness, achieving knowledge where there is ignorance, and spreading love amidst hatred. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Light signifies goodness. So, during the Festival of Lights, 'deeps', or oil lamps, are burned to ward off darkness and evil. Homes are filled with these oil lamps, candles and lights. Some people use decorated light candles, some decorated diya or clay lamps, and other decorative lights and put them in their windows for the festival. Traditionally people use 'earthen lamps' with cotton wicks and oil to light up the dark night.

The idea behind the Festival of Lights comes from various versions of an ancient Hindu story. In northern India, the tale tells about the holy Lord Rama's return from a twelve-year exile and the celebration by the people for their beloved hero. The rejoicing people decorated their city with lights to welcome him back. In southern India, the story talks of the Goddess Durga's triumph over the evil demon Narakasura. In Fiji the festival is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

This year Diwali is on Tuesday October 28th. It is a recognised public holiday throughout the Fiji Islands, with the Indian community decorating their homes and offices with bright, flashing lights and baking special sweets to celebrate the occasion.

A colourful design called a Rangoli is made near the entrance to a house to welcome guests. Traditionally they are painted or created out of coloured sand/rice powder. Like Hindu and Buddhist Mandalas, the reason for using powder or sand as a medium for creating Rangoli (and its resulting fragility) is sometimes thought to be a metaphor for the impermanence of life and maya. The motifs are usually taken from Nature - peacocks, swans, mango, flowers, creepers, etc. The colours traditionally were derived from natural dyes - from barks of trees, leaves, indigo or are synthetic dyes.

There is a nice blog with pictures of rangoli on:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Labasa rivers - same old story

from w
The story is told, ad nauseum, about the degradation of the Labasa and Qawa rivers, but who cares? The mill continues to chuck sludge and gunk into the river. No wonder the fish die!
from today's Fiji Sun.

Large quantity of dead fish found in river
The fisheries department is investigating the discovery of a large quantity of dead fish in the Labasa river. Labasa was flooded with the dead prawns, crabs and fish yesterday and caught the attention of the Labasa residents.

The divisional fisheries officer North Apisai Sesewa who was in Suva yesterday said he was not aware of the incident but had sent a team of fisheries officers to investigate the cause of the dead fish.

He said the team had surveyed the mouth of the river and found out there were dead fish there.

Sant Ram from the fisheries department said while surveying the river he was informed by the villages that the dead fish had been noticed for some weeks and yesterday it got worse. It is believed that chemicals from the nearby Labasa sugar mill could be the cause.

Mr Sesewa said they had taken some fish for a test at the Koronivia research station. He said once they confirmed the chemical which killed the fish, they would then take further action. Meanwhile it was a shocking scene for the people of Labasa.

Moape Serukalou a fish sell(er) said it was normal to see dead fish when cleaning of the sugar mill was carried out because chemicals would be drained into the river, “It is the syrup and chemicals from the mill which caused the death of a large amount of fish”.

No comment could be obtained from the Fiji Sugar Corporation.
Shame on the polluters in Babasiga land!

ANU forum about Fiji

from w
Duncan Kerr chaired a meeting at the Australian National University with the topic 'Courts and Coups in Fiji' One of the speakers was a highly esteemed Fiji lawyer Graham Leung. I saw this on Fiji Village this morning. (Fijilive also ran the story.)
Leung Attacks Court Decision
Publish date/time: 22/10/2008 [08:02]

One of Fiji's most senior legal figures has launched a scathing attack on the recent High Court decision which has declared the interim government lawful.

Radio Australia has reported that former Fiji Law Society President, Graham Leung said that it is cruel blow and has led to a climate of fear and retribution.

He made the comments at a forum at the Australian National University which has been chaired by the Australian Government's Pacific Affairs Parliamentary Secretary, Duncan Kerr.

Leung said he believes that the court decision in Fiji has inflicted some serious blows, if not grievous to the fabric of the constitution.

Meanwhile Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama said Leung should stop lying to the people.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Secretary of Pacific Island Affairs comes to Geelong

from Peceli
Today Wendy and I had lunch at the Wholefoods Cafe to meet the Hon Duncan Kerr who is the Parliametary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. His constituency is in Hobart as he is the Federal Member for Denison. He came to Geelong for a youth program which was a kind of United Nations forum on Climate Change, but he had time to meet with about twenty people for lunch, some local Labour Party leaders. Wendy and I represented our local Fiji community which is part of Diversitat who hosted the lunch. Two Maori women, Fran and Joanne, were there also. I was able to talk to the Hon. Mr Kerr about Fiji and he seems to be a very understanding man. He said he had been in Fiji a few times, including to monitor the last election. We talked also about the seasonal workers scheme and he hoped that Fiji could be included later on.

From Labasa to Savusavu, the long way

from w
I have never gone by bus this route but some tourists from Slovakia did and here is their story from their website.
Thus we exhausted pretty much all that Labasa offers in terms of activities, spent a night in the Riverview Hotel, from which we had no river view, and the next morning we were back on a bus to Savusavu - this time the one with the "long" route.

The first part of the trip lead through more sugar cane fields and was mercifully paved. Within 2 hours, though, the tar gave way to a bumpy and dusty back road and we started climbing ominously higher and higher into the thick bush again, getting swallowed by the overgrown jungle, from which we would emerge only on precariously steep climbs with sweeping views. On some of these inclines, it seemed that the bus was on its last legs - spewing clouds of black smoke and creeping up the hill so slowly that it seemed it would roll back any moment and hurl us down the mountain. But, miraculously, the extremely rugged Fijian bus never failed to get up on those hills or brake on the way down and we didn't get stuck by the road side 4 hours away from the nearest phone. (Only once did we have to coast down the hill in reverse to get a better running start up the hill.) And since the bus, like most Fijian buses, didn't have any glass in its windows, it was a breezy, safari-like ride, with clouds of dust and an occasional branch penetrating inside.

All along the way, we rode through villages so remote that the daily passing of the bus looked like an event in itself. Groups of locals were gathered at each bus stop, either sending off or welcoming people, or just sitting around, waiving at the passing travelers. And everywhere we stopped people would load countless pieces of luggage, rice bags filled with taro* and other crops through the windows and stuff them wherever they would fit them - on, under or between the seats. (Grabbing and loading other people's stuff is a part of the unwritten Fijian bus-travel etiquette and we were involved in the ritual a few times, as well. Just grab the stuff people hand to you through the window and give it to someone behind you who will stow it away.) Since Ryan and I sat in the back of the bus, we were eventually completely boxed in into our seats by loads of bags, rolled up mattresses and bunches of kava root.

*note: Taro and other crops are the only things freely available everywhere in Fiji, yet the locals always have a need to bring their own supply wherever they go, perhaps just in case the other town/village ran out...?

We rode forever - until the shadows grew longer, our spines felt impacted and every single pore on our bodies was covered with road dust. The views from the bus were sometimes quite beautiful, but overall, the ride was fun because it was so unbelievably out of the ordinary - and so Fijian.

And since Ryan and I were the only 2 people who stayed on the bus for the entire 8-hour trip, I really believe that we deserved some sort of a "Completed-the-most-arduous-bus-ride-in-the Pacific" medal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Privacy and space for Suva residents

from w
When I visit Suva I notice so many contrasts in how people use space. Some houses are so well secured for privacy and safety from theft and others are small, crowded flats. Here is a house in a Suva suburb with high security, and the other picture is of a bunch of kids doing their maths homework, all arms and legs touching, feet almost in your face. There's a different concept of space and privacy that surprises some vavalagis who are used to keeping a distance. Is privacy and space to do with wealth or to do with cultural norms?

Back in 1953

from w
I was googling something about nose flutes and you know how you get side-tracked - well I found these delightful photos of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Fiji back in 1953 and little Adi Mei Ganilau (daughter of Adi Laisa I think) gave a bouquet of flowers to the Queen. Probably the first time I really heard about Fiji and saw photos of Fijians was when I was a kid and the Australian Woman's Weekly published one or more of the photos of the Fiji visit. She came to Australia the same year and in those days we were keen on royalty. Hmmm. Today... well, not so much. These photos are from Rod Ewin's excellent website and link to the Royal Visit.

Isa, Adi Mei passed away two months ago. Adi Mei Torika Kainona Gauna, eldest in a family of seven, passed away after suffering from a long illness. Adi Mei was a former member of the Soqosoqo Vakamarama, the Cakaudrove Provincial Council and a former announcer at Radio Fiji.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Australia not looking at Fiji, but China is

from w
from the Canberra Times journalist looking at the relationship between Oz and Fiji.

Poor links with Fiji part of wider Pacific problem
7/10/2008 9:43:00 AM

The Pacific has always been our backyard, and a friendly place that we've used for restful holidays to ''get away from it all''. As a result we took the tiny island states for granted, even when they were beginning to fall apart from internal conflicts and violence. We're still doing it; sleeping in blissful ignorance, even though the old regional dynamic is dangerously threatened and about to change forever to our immense disadvantage.

The clearest example of how these secure regional waters have suddenly changed into treacherous ones can be seen in Australia's relationship with Fiji. A series of coups, and the current military-dominated Government (that we don't approve of) threw up a series of diplomatic challenges. How would it be possible to criticise the army for seizing power and still maintain a close relationship with the people of all ethnic groups on the islands?

Achieving this balance has proved to be completely beyond Australia's capacity. Instead of redoubling efforts to find a new way of engaging with different constituencies, Australia is now perceived as a wishy-washy regional power, prevaricating between action and rhetoric, completely unable to decide how it should act. By trying to walk in the centre, and sticking to a delicately neutral line, it has managed to alienate everyone.

The biggest blunder was probably the heavy-handed military exercise that took place just off the coast of Fiji in 2006. This was gunboat diplomacy of the worst sort; farce that rapidly descended into tragedy when a helicopter was lost off the deck of HMAS Kanimbla. Two men died and another eight were injured. This terrible event vividly demonstrated if there was any doubt that Australia had absolutely no capacity to take any military action against the coup leader. But when Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama visited China recently he didn't just intend to spend his time watching the Olympic Games. When he left Beijing he took a sensational present with him: a multi-billion-dollar soft loan that at one stroke has completely emancipated the islands from any reliance on Australian aid. Fiji has realised as have other Pacific islands that the emerging Chinese superpower is now ready to back its desires to engage with the region with serious money.

In a matter of weeks Australia has lost its once pre-eminent status in the region. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was unable to provide even an off-the-record briefing about either the detail of the loan to Fiji, or how it might be spent. It would be difficult to find a clearer indication of just how we were blindsided by the Chinese initiative, which has left our own efforts in the region completely outflanked.

It is neither possible nor desirable for Australia to buy influence in the region as it cannot hope to match the large amounts of money that a superpower can throw at the island states. Nevertheless, where Australia has been able to shine in the past is by demonstrable goodwill, contact and genuine assistance over a long period of time.

The flagship of our defence program has been provided by the Pacific Patrol Boat program, which was announced with much fanfare by then prime minister Bob Hawke, at a Pacific Forum meeting in 1983. Originally the program was to equip eight countries with 10 patrol boats; it was such a success that 12 countries now operate 22 of the boats.

The vessels are small (just 31.5m long and operated by a crew of 19 sailors), but they're crucial for the islands. The boats represent the only way the forum countries can police their waters; by preventing illegal fishing and providing a presence for the fragile governments of the Pacific. The micro-states don't have a lot of money and as a result there have been difficulties with the program.

For example, instead of being at sea for up to 50 days a year, some of the boats have averaged less than 36 days. That's been caused by crewing difficulties and the cost of the fuel needed to operate the boats. Unsurprisingly, some of the micro-states find it difficult to obtain the hard currency required to achieve everything they'd like, but at least the program demonstrates that Australia does care for its neighbours. Instead of costing us about $12million a year, costs have blown out to nearly $50million a year.

This coupled with the fact that the program will come to its natural conclusion in less than a decade has now led to an amazing submission to a Senate inquiry. Despite the program's success, some bureaucrat has decided our military ''does not intend to recommend a Defence-led follow-on [Pacific Patrol Boat] program in the options taken forward to Government''.

This may save a few dollars, but the idiocy of this approach should be self-evident. The program comprises influence and access beyond its financial value. If Australia doesn't choose to maintain its links with the islands, they will quickly become the beneficiaries of Chinese aid and a crucial interaction with the region will be lost forever.

In a move that could have relevance for the way we treat the Pacific, just last week the United States military established its own new regional grouping. Africa Command will now join the three other US military headquarters that span the globe (in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific). The US military understands that the skills necessary to guarantee victory demand an understanding of the unique geographic and cultural factors in different areas. This is an insight that has seemingly eluded Australia's military which concentrates on teaching officers how to fight; they are meant to pick up the other equally crucial skills along the way. This might have been acceptable in the past, when the Pacific was just a backwater, but now that it has become a significant area of conflict, Australia needs commanders who have intimate familiarity with the region and personal contacts with the islands. Assuming the region will just look after itself is no longer good enough.

Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I like people who are different

from w
Being out of step is fine by me as I dislike conformity, all kinds of marching in step, all kinds of uniforms. But... some people like marching in step, so at the Fiji Day Parade, oh dear, how embarrassment!

Rewa chief visits Labasa

from w
Missing the gun salutes in Suva, the chief of Rewa, Ro Teimumu, visited Labasa.
Rewa folks up North rekindle ties
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Ro Teimumu Kepa enjoys Rewa Day with Nasea Church minister Reverend Savirio Vuata and his wife Kelera.

KINSHIP ties were renewed and thousand of dollars raised as the people of Rewa living in Vanua Levu gathered yesterday to celebrate Rewa Day. The crowd included people of the Burebasaga Confederacy who came to pay homage to their paramount chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa, who was visiting her people in Vanua Levu for the first since becoming the Roko Tui Dreketi.

People from Lau were also present because of their close kinship to the chiefly Rewa clan.

Ro Teimumu said the visit was linked to the province's preparations for the Methodist Church conference to be held at Lomanikoro in Rewa next year.

"We are seeking the thoughts of the people on the preparations we need to make and also to relay to them the decisions of the recent bose vanua," Ro Teimumu said.

"We need to prepare because we need the villagers to know who they're hosting because times are really hard nowadays so we need to get ready," she said. She said they were glad that the conference has been reduced to a week.

Day organiser Reverend Savirio Vuata said the money collected would be distributed among the nine tikina in Rewa for the conference. "It's also a day to be together as veiwekani and to value our traditional ties," Mr Vuata said.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Brij Lal's view

from w
Some clever minds like Brij Lal ought to be able to think clearly on the matter of yesterday's court case ruling by the three judges.
From the Fiji Sun
It could create havoc, says Lal


The judgment has the potential to wreak havoc on the operation of parliamentary democracy and on the supremacy of parliament, says academic and co-author of the 1997 Constitution Dr Brij Lal.
“It is a prescription for political paralysis,” he said.

“The first is whether an unelected head of state should have the wide ranging reserve powers the court says he in fact has. “The judgment recognises a real rival centre of power whereas in the Westminster system of democracy, the head of state acts on the advice on the elected government of the day. In the hands of an unscrupulous head of state, Fiji runs the risk of becoming a presidential dictatorship.

“The whole thrust of constitutional developments since the 18th century has been to rein in the power of the sovereign in favour of the power of the people, so the court’s reading of the history of constitutional evolution comes as a surprise.”

He said the court’s ruling recognised the President’s power to authorise a whole range of activities.

“He will act in his own deliberate judgment to decide when the conditions are appropriate to hold elections; he will decide what ‘fair and free’ conditions will be. The judgment has not made a declaration on the legality or illegality of the coup itself, but it has certainly given developments since December 5, 2006 the cloak of legality.

A bit heavy on the religion this week but

it's Fiji Day and some people are even wearing black today - with their disappointments.
from w
One of the Fijian ministers working in Australia has emailed a letter around to the congregations as follows:
Tukutuku mai vei Talatala Iliesa Naivalu.

Below is a reflection towards our anticipation to celebrate the Fiji Day:
Request to Pray and Fast for Fiji - Sunday 12/10/2008
Should I be singing, chanting and dancing when my people are suffering
Should I be playing and celebrating when thousands of my countrymen are tormented in grief
Should I be indulging myself in feasting when many children in Fiji are starving
Should I be spending exorbitantly when mothers stare aimlessly trying to figure out as what to give their little children to survive.

Yet here in Australia we hear so much of the hype where our people brace themselves for extravagant celebrations of all sorts. We are so addicted to the annual event that we couln't even ponder whether it is still meaningful to us. Because back home, people are no longer part of the day as they are to weary in their plight. More so the day is taken mostly by military parades and a show of more combat weapons and more ridicules from the power that be..

As you are thinking of a way to celebrate, I would request you to take a minute to ask yourself: What am I celebrating? Should we celebrate a doomed economy, a rise in employment, poverty, rise in suicide (rated top 10 in the world), shattered dreams for thousands of our youths, stife among the mess and a sense of hopeleseness to many thousand more.

Oh yes, where you are there will be a lot of fun, sporting activities, feasting, chanting and dancing. There will be a lot of singing too.

But I wish to remind you of Psalms 137: 1-4:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
When we remember Zion
Our captors asked us for songs
Our tormentors demanded songs of joy
They said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion'
(But we said): 'How shall we sing a new song in a foreign land.

Nehemiah was well off in being an attendant at the royal court in Iran.

The sad tale of his country Israel saddened him so much that King Artaxerxes commented on his appearance. “I had not been sad in front of the king. He asked, Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but the sadness of heart. I answered the king, Why should my face not look so sad when my city and country have been destroyed?”

Nehemiah was saddened by the news from home. People in Israel were in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gate had been burned with fire. Nehemiah said: "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."

My plea to all people of faith, is to pray and fast for Fiji this Sunday 12th of October. There is no other way that our beloved country can be redeemed from its doomed destination. It is only through the power and the love of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit.

May God shower His peace upon you. Lord save Fiji.

Rev. Iliesa Naivalu
Melbourne Fijian Uniting Church.

Courage brother do not stumble

from w
Many people in Fiji today are hurting, dismayed, bewildered by what is happening in our beloved land of Fiji. A Bible reading this week reminds us to be gentle and honourable, no matter what. Paul is talking to a community where there is quarrelling and concludes that despite the difficulties, the people need to do what is just and excellent.

Philippians 4:1-9
4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

David returns to Labasa

from w
I was interested to read in the Tribewanted website that a young (?) man, David Randall, has spent some time on Vorovoro as part of his 'coming home' experience. He was a little kid in Labasa when his dad was a doctor at Labasa hospital. Peceli says he remembers the Randall name but I don't think the doctor was around when I gave birth to our third son at Labasa hospital in mid 1972. My Fijian doctor was absent at the time and I had a very bossy nurse to deliver a boy who was 9 and a half pounds!

Here is Randall's story from Tribewanted.

The local boy returns home
Community → David Randall's blog
Tags:Chiefs Fiji By Kai Viti, ,
Posted 5 days ago
Bula Sia Tribe,

I’ve been on the island for just over 2 weeks now. I was only intending to stay for a week and then explore a bit more of Vanua Levu for the rest of my month in Fiji. I came here to check out my birth place, Labasa, and to discover as much as I could about Fijian culture and life. I left Labasa at the age of 2 and so I have no memories Fiji. I decided to spend a few days in Labasa finding out about the place. I went to the hospital to look around and met with so many lovely people. I was shown my record of birth and many of the nurses told me to say thank you to my dad for his work in the hospital. He was a doctor there in the late 60’s early 70’s. I also visited Vaturekuka, the government complex where we lived. That was beautiful and again I met some really lovely people. I had my first grog session with an Indian family I met there.

It was only when I was in Labasa that I decided to come to Vorovoro. I knew very little about the place and the Tribewanted project but I had signed up to the web tribe a few months before. I was attracted to the fact that it was an eco project and it was so close to Labasa. I only signed up for a week though as I had no idea what to expect. It took around 24 hours for me to put myself up for chief. I felt that this was going to be the best place for me to learn about Fijian culture. Save teaches the meke (traditional Fijian dance), the language and some songs that we can sing around the tanoa. Tribewanted are bringing back many of the traditional ways that have been lost in many villages. Why leave when all the things I want from my trip are here on Vorovoro. Also I wanted to be the first Labasan chief of Tribewanted. So it felt right to extend my stay in Fiji and be chief for a month.

The first 2 weeks were great, learning the meke, some language and having plenty of grog sessions. I also painted one of the compost toilets using stencils in the style of the traditional Fijian tapa. Then last Tuesday we had the chief’s hand over and I was installed as chief of Vorovoro. The day starting with a send off for Ben Keene as he was leaving the island for a few months to continue promoting the project. We then went on the ‘4 peaks challenge’, the first time I had the chance to do it in my 2 weeks here. I loved it, the nature here is gorgeous and I must have taken around 300 photos. When we got back we sat with Save and got the low down on what to do for the chiefs hand over and those presenting their Sevu Sevu got their instructions.

I was a bit nervous during the hand over but I really enjoyed it as well. It was only when Tui Mali left and I then had to sit at the front and was served yagona first that it really sank in that I was now the chief of this island. Team Fiji all shook my hand and welcomed me as the new chief and we had a really good grog session in which Paul, the out going chief, seemed to really enjoy as it was the first time in a month he could move around. It does feel quite strange that as chief you have to stay in one place. I’ll have to learn to make the most out of my wingmen. I know that this month will be a big learning curve for me as I have never done anything like this before, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

Broken eggs in America

from w
What does the American tragedy (for many people) have to do with Fiji? Yes, there will be some effects as the value of dollars shift, etc. I think those who caused the financial mess ought to pay for their sins. The obscene greed has been there for some time it seems so it's hard to not be angry at the injustice of it all. Deregulation and capitalism gone mad and people in many countries get entangled in the mess, even little Fiji.

I can't get an old nursery rhyme out of my head as it seems relevant.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

The boat builder from Mali

from Peceli
Pita the boat builder
Tuesday, October 07, 2008

WHEN Malau, Mali, Kia and neighbouring Vorovoro islanders in Vanua Levu want a punt made, they seek out Pita Buisena the only boat building expert for miles around. Sixty-eight-year old Mr Buisena has spent the better part of four decades building boats, perfecting not only his skills but also building a reputable name in this industry.

His skill is a necessary one and attractively remunerated because punts are an important part of island life both as a means of transportation and more important still for making an income from the sea.

As a child Mr Buisena didn't have those big dreams of becoming a hotshot pilot or lifesaving doctor or anything else that captivates a child's imagination.

"I just wanted to grow up to be a boat builder from the little I learnt from my father," he said. "I wanted to be a good father and to provide for my children as best as I could and because I liked to work with my hands I thought this was a good way to make money," he added.

In 1969, on a provincial council scholarship he graduated from the then Derrick Institute of Technology with a Certificate in Boat Building. Back on the island, his service was in high demand because those were the days of wooden boats and punts.

"I made money to help feed and put my five children through school and that I did," he said.

"I also learnt a lot about building a boat and making it the best around. My reputation was important to me because with that people spread the news of my skills and I had more customers. So I put my best in the more than 100 boats I have built over the years."

With the advent of everything modern came the fibre glass boats that would prove to be his biggest challenge yet because not only were they sleeker and more durable than a wooden boat, their design made them speedsters on the seas. "Every islander wanted a fibre glass so that affected my business," he said.

However, the fact that fibre glass boats were considerably more expensive for the average islanders pocket worked in his favour.

"So even though I lost some customers I retained some and that helped my family survive throughout the years," he said. "The important thing is to have patience with life, work hard and put in the best you can in your work," he said. "That is what God wants from us so once we show that he rewards us with exactly what we need to make it from day to day." Now on the verge of retirement, Mr Buisena is passing down the skills he once learnt from his father to his son.

One day the boat builder everyone in neighbouring Mali, Malau, Vuo and Vorovoro Island know will call it a day, but his son will continue his father's legacy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Labasa boys get ready for Aussie Rules!

from w
I was very suprised to read that Hawthorn (the recent winners who demolished Geelong in the Grand Final) are recruiting in Fiji for new players. They are even going to Labasa because the rugby and soccer lads up there are promising, butI don't know if 'aerial pingpong' is their style! Good luck though if they are picked.
from a Fiji paper on Saturday.
IT'S COMING4-Oct-2008 10:48 AM

IT’s a game that Australians love more than their rugby. Aussie Rules football is to make its first foray into Fiji as Australian Football League club, the Western Bulldogs plans to sign four Fijians. The Herald Sun yesterday reported that as many 5000 hopefuls from Fiji are expected to attend Bulldogs trials in Labasa and Suva later this month. Bulldogs recruiting manager Scott Clayton last night confirmed to the Herald Sun that at least one player will be signed.

But the Dogs are willing to commit to as many as four under AFL international rookie rules. fter several months of planning, the Bulldogs hope the trials will uncover the next Nicholas Naitanui. And they are leaving nothing to chance, distributing 3000posters throughout Coca-Cola outlets in Fiji.

The posters urge anybody tall, fast and agile with a desire to play elite-level sport to attend. Ruckman Will Minson, who will travel to Fiji for the trials, appears on the posters with Josh Hill.

The Labasa trial will be held on October 17, with the Dogs moving to Suva the next day.

Naitanui, a top-three draft prospect of Fijian origin, sparked Clayton’s interest in what was uncharted recruiting territory. Clayton, seduced by the athletic talents of Naitanui at first sight, has travelled to Fiji several times this year perusing talent.

The Dogs’ “Project Fiji” has been bankrolled by influential supporter and businessman Shaun Bassett.

Clayton said the Fiji push was not a gimmick. “Everyone is looking at internationals. There are eight clubs in Ireland,” Clayton said.
“We aren’t involved there, but we are on the ground now in Fiji.”

The Dogs will take advantage of a rule introduced in March that allows clubs to secure internationals for an up-front $1000 payment. It is likely the players signed will remain in Fiji next year, where they will be closely monitored. There is a strong chance any signed player who shows significant progress will then be relocated to Melbourne and added to the Dogs’ list as an international rookie.

Clubs can sign up to eight internationals a season for as little as $1000, in a move designed to promote international expansion. Previously, they could sign six players and had to pay them $10,000 each if they remained in their home country.

The Herald Sun revealed the Dogs’ Fiji experiment in April, but it has gathered significant momentum since, with trials and now a commitment to sign at least one player. The Dogs are eyeing taller mobile athletes a quality in abundance in Fiji. The promotional material states: “Our primary focus will be on athletes with a strong vertical leap and exceptional ball handling skills who are tall, fast and agile . . . if you have these attributes, come along and try out, you might just be the next AFL superstar”.

Clayton has already built a strong network throughout Fiji, including members of Naitanui’s extended family. He is intent of plucking players from the South Pacific before leaving to take up a new role with Gold Coast after the national draft. Backer Bassett, who runs a cleaning business, said early indications from Fiji were that 5000 could try out.

He said the $1000 sign-on fee was not the main carrot, with Fijian athletes eyeing a five to 10-year career earning significantly more.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More stories from Malau

from w
The Fiji Times reporters have been busy in babasiga land this week; maybe not much is happening in Suva and politics this week!
It was the jetty the girmitiyas built
Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ashok Kumar and Noa Ratulegi at the Malau Bulk store
A dilapidated jetty stretches 100 metres out to sea and is one of the few remnants of an era when the girmityas toiled sweat and blood to build the sugar industry.

The old jetty which has withstood the battering of the sea is now dangerous to walk on but Noa Ratulegi, the security officer at FSC's bulk terminal looked reverently at it.

"My father used to tell me the stories of how the girmityas built the jetty," he said.

"They were really hardworking people," he added.

Beside the jetty and the new port that towers above, twisted rusted iron littered the shoreline, the remains of barges that once transported sugar to international cargo ships.

They are now skeletal reminders of the old FSC.

Bulk terminal engineer Peniasi Tamanitoakula said back in the days of the barges and the old jetty, people from all over Fiji and as far as Lau would arrive at Malau to load sacks of sugar into the barges. "There were no conveyor belts at that time," Mr Tamanitoakula said.

The 190 metre long new port was commissioned in 1978 along with a gigantic shed with the capacity to store 28,000 tonnes of sugar. Inside sugar rose in mountains to the ceiling. Three big towers with the collective capacity to store 21,000 tonnes of molasses dominate the yard. An average of six shipments of sugar worth millions is exported out of Malau every year. FSC has indeed been a long time fixture of Malau well before the landowners moved away from their old village site to where they are currently located.

(and another story! My word, those Malau guys had time on their hands to talk so much with the journalist! We've been to Malau and Vuo many times to visit relatives and Peceli has conducted church services there and many people are related through the Mali Island connection. Ah, that song 'Vorovoro, Malau kei Vuo!')

@theresa main story
Sunday, October 05, 2008

+ Enlarge this image
CLINGING to the edge of the sea Malau seemed like a little township with its brilliant lights that glistened over the waters.

You can almost mistake it for one especially when you are miles out to sea and the myriad of lights shining forth from that little corner of Vanua Levu grabs your attention as it did mine returning from Vorovoro Island one dark night.

The glaring lights is somewhat softened by its rays that dance and shimmer in the dark sea creating a picture of ethereal beauty.

But from land, the harbour basks in the glow of a captivating reddish orange sunset just too beautiful to describe.

In the harsh glare of the sunlight, the big metal tanks of oil, gas and molasses, the smoke from the bustling timber mill, the long 'T' shaped port that stretches out to sea and the gigantic tower on the hilltop that lords over it all outlines a metallic landscape that lies against a backdrop of stony faced cliffs.

Biggest industrial port in Vanua Levu

Malau holds the title of being the biggest industrial port in the Northern Division.

The other ports in Taveuni, Savusavu and Nabouwalu are different in that they are also passenger ports.

Malau's all industrial with big names like the Fiji Sugar Corporation who have a humongous sugar bulk shed and three towering tanks of molasses whose sweet pungent aroma perfumes the air.

Mobil's huge tanks of oil that supplies its Northern Division outlets stand out prominently on the hillside and precautions against dangerous hazardous material flash everywhere.

The Fiji Gas terminal is right next door storing cooking gas that are pumped in through long heavy pipes from the big visiting vessel berthed in the harbour.

At the end of the stretch stands the Fiji Forest Industries, the biggest setup around employing about 300 people, some locals from neighbouring Vuo Village, Malau settlement and Mali Island right across the harbour.

The newest entrant in this industrial picture is Digicel which has planted a tower atop a hilltop overlooking Vunimeli resident, Epeli Asaisea's home, and the sea.

Hundreds of millions of dollars exchange hands at Malau every year in the form of stock, making it a very important industrial port in the country.

Once just a land of caves

It's hard to imagine that not long ago really only less than 60 years ago Malau was littered with caves and spotted with hundreds of mango trees and pandanus.

Some of the mango trees remain but the caves were crushed and vanished under the onslaught of development.

Landowners of the Mataqali Ligaulevu, Tokatoka Nukuseuta, whose settlement is nestled between the high rise towers, remember the caves and the mangoes and how inhospitable Malau once seemed.

Clan head Iliesa Wainigale, 63, recalls that there was a lot of sand while now the sandiness of the area is only visible at low tide.

"Sa dua na ka na levu ni qaravatu ena gauna oya," he told me.

"Ia ena gauna oqo sa sega sara mada ga ni qai laurai e dua ka sa qai vo tiko ga e dua ia e yawa toka na vanua e tiko kina," he added.

Mr Wainigale also remembers the rocky landscape and how difficult it was to grow root crops in a commercially viable way. "Keimami sa bula tu ga ena qoli," he said.

"Ya na bula e bulataka tu ga mai o ira na neimami qase," he added.

Yet unbeknownst to Mr Wainigale's ancestors that out to sea was a deep treasure that would draw industrialists from all over. The channel of water that runs between Malau and Mali Island is 11 meters deep at its minimum easily allowing in big international cargo ships without the fear of shipwreck. The first industrialist was FSC that built a small jetty about 50 metres long during the CSR days, a legacy of the hardworking girmityas.

Remnants of this old jetty remain today, missing planks, almost sinking under the waves and completely dwarfed by the expansive new wharf commissioned in 1978. Other companies followed and what was once just a land of caves and a rocky landscape became a blessed piece of real estate for the Ligaulevu clan.

Always a port never an entry

The buzzing conversation in Malau right now especially amongst landowners is the possibility of government declaring it an international port of entry. Recently officials from the Ministry of Transport met with the Labasa Town Council surveying port of entry sites.

Malau competes with Balaga Bay in Savusavu for that recognition which is important because it carries the power of influencing prices of goods not to mention a boom of business in its vicinity.

Governments have stood and fell and they've all promised to declare Malau a port of entry, something landowners want but the Labasa Town Council, its public and business community fervently desire.

Town mayor Dr Pardeep Singh explained the ramifications: "Because of having to transport cargo from Savusavu and Nabouwalu to Labasa, consumers are paying additional costs," Dr Singh said.

"A port of entry here will reduce freight and costs, and additionally promote business and investment in Labasa Town," he added.

But with many promises unfulfilled, a belief that it could happen wanes and then peaks and then wanes again. Right now it's peaking after the scouting trip by officials but it will wane once weeks pass without any word.

The pulse of Malau

Irrefutably the pulse of Malau is its people. From the landowners that make long hikes through the jungle to reach their plantations, and scratch a living from the sea, to the industrial workers at the timber mill, oil, gas and sugar bulk terminal, they all make Malau happen.

Although different in their lines of work there is an underlying thread of unity about building the place because Malau is not just FFI, nor FSC. It is every face from the people of Ligaulevu to those at neighbouring Vuo, the industrialists and even Kiran Pillay at the grocery store.

The shroud of night

When night falls, softening the stark outline of the big tanks, the industrial port breaks forth in splendor. The lights, the dark sea, the deep shadows and the dying sun throwing out its last breath, all combine to make it the best time of the day.

As I sat on the seawall with little Vilimaina Talei, 8, and her mother Taraivini Maluka, legs dipped into the high tide, the lyrics of the favourite Fijian number, 'Vorovoro, Malau kei Vuo, Koro oqori au dau domona lo, Ni dau lutu sobu mai na buto, Lekaleka tu na sala ki Vuo,' strummed a beat in my mind.

A tall tale or two from Vuo

from w
Don't know what Peceli will say about these stories. When he comes back from church I'll ask him about it. They are the kind of tall stories that are told around the yaqona bowl perhaps. The name 'Noa' suggests that the name is -post Christian entry to Fiji, but the story sounds much older. There is a present-day Noa in Labasa who is a musician - I guess he's related.
from Fiji Times today:
The first man on Malau
Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ratu Peni Vuakanisakea of Vuo Village who is also a member of the Mataqali Ligaulevu and his relation Josefa Poe related the story of the conniving warrior on the run who first settled Malau. His name was Noa Ratulegi and he was an able warrior from Lekutulevu who was called by the Tui Labasa, the fearsome Qomate at Nasekula Village. Joining Qomate's warriors, Ratulegi was supposed to march into battle with Qomate and Tui Wailevu and his warriors to overpower chiefs in Seaqaqa.

Ratulegi never reached the battle fields in Seaqaqa but returned to Wailevu Village where only the women were left behind. Mr Poe said his ancestor had affairs with most of the village women impregnating them.

Almost a year later, warriors of Wailevu Village returned from Seaqaqa. Ratulegi fled the village but not before clubbing another man and stealing his takia which he used to flee to Mali Island where he sheltered for many years under the protection of the Tui Mali. He fled Mali Island when Qomate and his warriors arrived to battle Tui Macuata for ownership of Mali.

Mr Vuakanisakea said his ancestor arrived at Malau with a Mali woman called Taraivosa Ili and so began the 'kawa of Malau' in a cave about 10km from where Malau is today.
(and the second story)
Where wishes can come true
Sunday, October 05, 2008

Noa Ratulegi, who mans the gate at the FSC Bulk terminal, told me about Viriviri.

He said: "In that cave if you throw stones at the roof of the cave, you will get the man or woman you've been having the hots for," Mr Railegi said.

I must see this cave I promised myself. And the very next day armed with a camera, flip flops and dressed for the occasion I was off to Viriviri, struggling through the swampy mangrove, enduring the slashing

Para grass, stumbling over fallen logs and exposed roots with children from the village and my guide Josefa Poe and his wife. They answered my groans of pain with "qo sa voleka sara, vo walega e va na miniti".
Four minutes stretched into one hour but Viriviri was well worth the walk.

Viriviri is a cave formed by a big, black rock with a ceiling curved into an arc jutting towards the ground. There is a little opening towards the jutting edge of the ceiling.

Mr Poe who related the legend said their love struck ancestors, desiring someone would go to the cave, place a pebble between their toes and kick it out towards the opening in the ceiling. Legend has it if the pebble lands on the edge of the opening than man or woman being desired is won. But if not, better luck next time.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Believe it or not -is Katafaga in Kadavu?

from w
The Fiji TV have a story today about an under-the-sea resort nearing completion called Poseidon or something. The story ran a few months back and the island of Katafaga (in north-east Fiji certainly not Kadavu) was suggested as being the location of this Mystery Island being turned into an underwater millionaire's paradise. For real or a beat-up or fantasy? Well, their website is very pretty... believe it or not

One National News
Exclusive underwater resort in Fiji nearing completion
3 Oct 2008 02:06:11

An exclusive underwater island resort believed to be located near Kadavu (!!!!!) is reportedly nearing completion. etc. etc.
I don't believe it will happen.

A visit to Dilkusha

Above photos: Deaconess Olivia when younger, and birthday of Dilkusha with Olivia and PM Qarase and his wife.

from w
Recently when we were in Suva Peceli and I decided to visit Dilkusha, because many years ago we lived in Shantiwas, a house below the hill. Our old house is gone now, probably removed when they built the new Rewa bridge.

Shantiniwas had been a strange building - once a hospital, once the home of a missionary sister with a hall used by the Dilkusha church. When we were there, we had two bedrooms for seven of us, an office facing the road, a huge hall so we had a piano and a table-tennis table, two rooms for storing clothes, etc. to give away. The neighbouring house was that of the pastor, Deo Dass Reuben and his family - very kind people.

Anyway we climbed up the steps and met with Deaconess Olivia on the verandah and had a beautiful view of the Rewa river, the two bridges, as we drank our lemon drinks. It was lovely to talk with Olivia who we hadn't met for a long time, and we noticed how well-presented the buildings of the orphanage and the nearby Girls School were.
These days they look after less than forty children. In the days when Gwen Davies was in charge there were over a hundred children. Through the years Dilkusha has indeed been a place of a 'happy heart'. and of course now there are three schools, Girls, Boys, and a High School.