Thursday, April 28, 2011

Best wishes to Will and Kate

It's always nice to see a fine looking couple with good teeth getting married so best wishes to the eldest son of the eldest son of a privileged family. And of course any young couple getting married today, the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter as well.

Some of the Australian newspaper writers gushed about the whole event, but the Age staunch writers gave a more perceptive analysis, such as by Michelle Griffin, showing that our relationship with the royal family isn't just about obedience and gush over spectacle and pomp. The bride and groom did look happy of course. The bride's sister nearly stole the show with her simple gown and her shooing of the little girls and boys in attendance.

Who represented Fiji at the event? I didn't see the President or PM there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fiji night at a Rotary Club

from w
Last night the Grovedale Rotary Club in Geelong had a Fiji theme night with a guest speaker, Joy Baxter, whose expertise in nursing and her passion for Fiji has meant mny years of visits to Vanua Levu, especially Nabalebale and Dreketi and Rotary projects there. Donation in Kind depot in Geelong sends numerous containers to the South Pacific and South-East Asia and items such as books, computers, hospital beds, household items are given out to schools,hospitals, villages. Teams of volunteers also visit villages at times to help with water pipes and so on. These are places far away from Suva where there is little money. It was an informative presentation (and not a whisper of Fiji politics!) by Joy. Peceli had prepared a display of Fiji items and mixed yaqona in a large tanoa for several of the Rotary members and their partners to sample. The meal was also Pacific style- curry, rice, roti, yoghurt, after a thick soup of dhal - not quite Fiji style but tasty. We had invited the Rotary members and partners to dress up Pacific style and many obliged, even with sulus that threatened to fall down.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anzac Day

from W
This year Anzac Day was on Easter Monday and we spent a couple of days in a friend's holiday house at Torquay, a beautiful town with several beaches. A tradition in Torquay each year is for thousands of people to gather at the top of Point Danger to remember Gallipoli and many other tragedies of war. Our family got up early and went along but we didn't join the crowds for the whole service. It is a time to remember how dreadful war is, that solving problems by killing is not the answer, and to recall family who died as soldiers or victims of war. We watched the sun rise over the sea. Later we had sausages and coffee with the crowds of people and watched a Scottish pipe band playing.

The day before about sixteen of us at Geelong East had gathered overlooking Corio Bay to watch the sunrise to remember the resurrection of Jesus. We were not as quiet as reflective as we had planned because we were dancing and jumping because of the huge mosquitoes. The sun had also hid behind clouds and only rose when we turned our backs to drive home! Anyway Easter Day was a good day with a breakfast up at the church, a 9.30 a.m. service at which our grandson Jordan played excellently, then the kids had an easter egg hunt at a friend's house. In the afternoon we packed up and left for our short holiday. It's been a refreshing but busy week as usual.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday and Children's Sunday

from w
In Fiji in the Methodist tradition Children's Sunday is on Palm Sunday and the children dress in white and lead the worship service. Here in Australia sometimes this is the custom but for us this afternoon, well, some kids dressed in white but they still had their Sunday School where they made palm leaf crosses to give out to their parents and others. Here are some pictures from Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church Fijian group from this afternoon.

And a photo from our village of Vatuadova with the children dressed up in white for Children's Day. Vinaa vaalevu Talei for the picture.

Kava in Northern Territory

from w
I found this news item from Fiji Village a bit strange. Kava is sold in Australia at present at about $100A per kilo, so 16 kilos should be no more than $1600, but of course if put into small envelopes the seller could make a huge profit. Looks like this is what the estimation is about. The current rule is that passengers from Fiji can bring only 2 kilogram of kava per person so I wonder how this man could get hold of 16.

There's plenty of articles about kava and the Northern Territory of Australia, and mostly about the dangers of it. Of course that is debatable.

Here’s the article:

Man charged with supplying trafficable quantity of kava
16/04/2011 [09:41]

A 45 year old Elcho Island man in Northern Territory Australia has been arrested and charged with supplying a Trafficable Quantity of Kava at Gapuwiyak Airstrip yesterday afternoon.

Police seized just over 16 kilograms of kava after searching the man’s baggage and reveal the kava was split into 451 bags and is estimated to be worth approximately $13,530. Superintendent of the Arafura Division Northern Command Brendan Muldoon said police will continue to crack down on kava runners. He added that the trafficking of kava is causing a lot of concern in these remote communities and black market kava trafficking is taking a lot of money out of these communities, money he feels that could be better spent on food for families.

The man has been bailed and will appear in Court at a later date.

Story by: Selina Navuso

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy birthday to a babasiga woman

from w
Mo marau ni siga ni sucu to a special woman from babasiga. Have a great day today for your birthday Ateca. One photo of the time I first met you, a little smiling kid in Maravu Street Lautoka, one picture taken in Geelong when Ateca was twenty-one and represented Fiji at a multicultural event, and a photo with Jordan in a sling in the verandah of a house at Vatuadova.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The shock of an amputation

from w
A story in todays Fiji FBC news reminded me of stories I've been told about amputations in Fiji. A close relative who had diabetes was told his toe would have to be removed. He woke up after surgery to find that half a leg had been amputated. Another story - the doctor decided a leg had to be cut off, and after the surgery the patient woke up to find that his healhy leg had been amputated. That's only two stories.

Diabetes is a serious disease and apparently is rife in the Pacific Islands, perhaps due to poor diet and other factors. If there's a sugar shortage, then go with it - don't think we need to use the stuff! Medicine is one thing, a lifestyle change is another. Both need to go together, and we certainly don't want more amputations.

Fiji records high amputation rate

Friday, April 15, 2011

"If they do have diabetes and high blood pressure - they should have access to medicine," says Dr Saketa. Fiji has recorded a high rate of amputation says the Permanent Secretary for Health Dr Sala Saketa. Dr Saketa says most of the amputations stem from infections due to diabetes. She says a recent Non-Communicable Disease survey revealed that one in every eight person in Fiji has diabetes. “One of the things that we try to ensure in the reforms is that we have adequate supply of medicine – right down to the nursing station level so people in the rural areas and villages – if they do have diabetes and high blood pressure - they should have access to medicine they require to control the condition.” Other complications that arise from diabetes are eye infections and kidney problems.

Report by : Elenoa Osborne

Fiji National Anthem

from w
Quite some time ago Fijians sang a patriotic song – sere ni vanua to the tune ‘Dwelling in Beulah Land’. adapted from a hymn by C. Austin Miles. Many years later, in 1970, the leaders of Fiji wanted a national anthem in English and this tune was suggested and a competition held. I went in it and wrote some sweet words but I didn’t win.

The original Fijian words are as follows and the English song is not a translation of this though.

1. Meda dau doka ka vinakata na vanua
E ra sa dau tiko kina na savasava
Rawa tu na gauna ni sautu na veilomani
Biu na i tovo tawa savasava

Me bula ga ko Viti
Ka me toro ga ki liu
Me ra turaga vinaka ko ira na i liuliu
Me ra liutaki na tamata
E na veika vinaka
Me oti kina na i tovo ca

2. Bale ga vei kemuni na cauravou e Viti
Ni yavala me savasava na vanua
Ni kakua ni vosota na dukadukali
Ka me da sa qai biuta vakadua


The winning anthem is as follows and is sung today. Now the Education Department want flag ceremonies in all schools with the singing of this song. The words are ironic actually but in 1970 there was optimism. The words are by Michael Francis Alexander Prescott.

1. Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
As we stand united under noble banner blue
And we honour and defend the cause of freedom ever
Onward march together God bless Fiji

For Fiji, ever Fiji, let our voices ring with pride. For Fiji ever Fiji her name hail far and wide,
A land of freedom , hope and glory to endure whatever befall.
May God bless Fiji
Forever more!

2. Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
Shores of golden sand and sunshine, happiness and song
Stand united , we of Fiji, fame and glory ever
Onward march together God bless Fiji.


A note from the internet: The third most common ethnic group on the islands are Indo-Fijians and it was proposed in 2008 that the national anthem be in the three primary languages of the country: English, Fijian, and Hindi. Was the anthem ever translated into Hindi?
from Fijilive:
Flag raising ceremony a must: Bole
April 15, 2011 09:17:54 AM

Schools in the country have been reminded that flag ceremony is compulsory and students have to memorize the pledge as well as the singing of the national anthem. This has been brought to attention by the Minister for Education, Filipe Fole during his tour to the Secondary Schools in Ra. “It is so moving and inspiring to see students honour their country in conducting the flag ceremony.” Bole said. Bole said student’s involvement in the flag ceremony ensures they are taught loyalty, respect and love for their beloved country. He added that having the flag ceremony in schools is also the basic ground for teaching unity to the children for a multi-cultural nation like Fiji.

By Nasik Swami

Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't bath in that polluted river

from w
I was really disturbed to read that because of a poor water supply to parts of Labasa that some families actually have to wash in the dirty Qawa River, even clean there teeth in the polluted water. This will certainly lead to illnesses. The talk about the pollution caused by the Labasa Sugar Mill just doesn't seem to be heard and acted upon and the Qawa River year after year is a disgrace.

from the Fiji Sun today:
Residents drink, bathe, wash in Qawa River


Residents of Bulileka, Labasa, had to resort to drinking water from the Qawa River since they have been without water supply for two months. Qawa River is said to have been contaminated because of industry waste from parts of Labasa Town.

A FijiSun crew caught up with a group of school children brushing their teeth and bathing in the river while their mothers were washing clothes.

Kinisimere Botai, a Class Eight student of Valebasoga Public School, said she did not go to school because there was no water to brush teeth and have shower at home. “At school I was taught that personal hygiene was very important and so with this teaching I decided not to go to school,” Botai said. She said it was dangerous brushing teeth in Qawa River because it was contaminated.

She said it reminded her of the dangers of the recent outbreak of leptospirosis. The eldest of three siblings said she understood that it was not right being absent from school so she stored few gallons of water to take home and use it today.

Arieta Pita, 45, a resident of Bulileka, said there had been frequent water cuts for two months. “Since the first flash floods hit the North on February, the people of Bulileka have been without proper water supply,” Mrs Pita said. The mother of one said for the past few weeks the water would arrived at 2am and lasted for only four hours.

Water Authority of Fiji, in a statement, confirmed that water supply would be restored by tomorrow.

WAF was aware of the disruptions that have been occurring since the bust along the Navau line to the Benau water main was damaged during the flood. The authority said repairs would last a fortnight.

It also mentioned that two trucks were carting water to affected areas like Bulileka, Boca, Vunivau, Basoga and Urata while WAF’s special teams were currently working at the site.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Too much fishing

from w
I thought that many islanders were having trouble getting enough fish for their families because some foreigners were sneaking inside the designated areas to pick up bait. Does Fiji really want more overseas companies trawling around Fiji taking all the good fish, and occasionally the smaller fish. Also who gets the profits - not Fiji people I'm sure. And what's happening in Levuka these days? What studies have been done on fish resources in the Fiji region? What papers have come out recently. The only one I found was on a website about tuna

from Fijilive
Indonesian fishing company set up in Fiji
April 11, 2011 11:46:10 AM

A renowned Indonesian fishing company; Gilontas Ocean Company is setting up its operations in Fiji.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said that the setting up of Indonesian fishing company in Fiji is expected to further enhance the prospects of rural and marine based communities.

MINFO reports Commodore Bainimarama made a courtesy call to the head office and operation base of the Gilontas Ocean Company last Friday in Jakarta.

“I am extremely happy and excited that Gilontas has decided to set-up in Fiji and that he and his office will do everything possible to ensure this becomes a full reality.” Commodore Bainimarama said. Commodore Bainimarama based his emphasis on the development of the fisheries sector, which included a specific focus on the tuna industry given the various developments elsewhere in the world.

Gilontas has been in operation over the past 35 years and specialises in the capturing, processing and marketing of fish.

By Nasik Swami
added later:
Alert on fish stocks
Samantha Rina
Monday, April 18, 2011 from Fiji Times
EMERGING threats to local fisheries resources have prompted the Fisheries Department to expand its awareness campaign on biodiversity. Overfishing, unsustainable fishing practices, unregulated extraction of other marine resources, land-based pollution and overexploitation of sedentary species of holothuria such as bÛche-de-mer were a big concern, the department said.

It said these resources could easily be over-exploited beyond regeneration.
Last week, officers from the department were deployed to the yavusa Nabukebuke's qoliqoli at Vunisoco Village in Namosi for a two-day marine awareness workshop. The department said fishing resources were crucial to local communities for food security and economic independence and although renewable, they could also be easily over-exploited beyond regeneration.

Fisheries research officer Nanise Tuqiri said neighbouring villages would also be alerted about the campaign. "Part of this program is to establish marine protected areas and qoliqoli management plans to conserve reproduction and juvenile growth ecophases," she said.

Workshop participant Taniela Tuivonovono said they used to catch big fishes around the shoreline when they were younger but this had changed. "These days we have to look for alternatives before we decide to go out fishing for we fear of going out to sea and not finding anything to bring back for the family," he said.

Fisheries officers are positive the training will greatly assist the future generation of Vunisoco and neighbouring villages if they take ownership and practise what they have learnt.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ghosting Miss Mary

from w
An article in today's Fiji Times by Seona Smiles set me on the trail of an Australian artist who lived in Fiji from 1944 after a huge kerfuffle about the Archibald Art prize. She apparently died in 1988 and is buried at the Nasinu cemetery. There's something about Mary alright! Mary Edwards as she once was called, though dismissive of her early life when called Mary Edwards, she then called herself Mary Edwell-Burke after her father and mother. What an interesting woman - one of those loner vavalagi artists or writers who choose to live on a Pacific Island rejecting their own culture for some reason or other. Apparently she lived in a house on a hilltop in the Deuba region at one stage. One time she frightened children when they saw a 'ghost in white' in the middle of the mangroves - just an artist drawing - something that I may also have done! Another time she was mistaken for the 'white lady' ghost at the Royal Hotel in Levuka. (Apparently they have a resident ghost of a missionary's wife who did some transgression but I can't find out the whole story there.)

Mary painted in oils, mainly portraits in a kind of realist style but a bit painterly and colourful. When Dobell was awarded the Archibald in Australia with a lean/mean kind of portrayal of his friend, Mary and other artist were outraged and called it a caricature and went to court over it. Dobell defended the painting of course, and he won. That's when Mary took umbridge and probably had lost her money so set off for Fiji and lived for another 44 years as a colourful expatriate.

She wore white writes one contributor to the internet though a self-portrait has her in flamboyant colours. She apparently disliked children but loved cats. A retrospective of her paintings was put up at one time sponsored by Qantas and Air Pacific and Qantas claimed the rights to ALL the photos of the paintings because they gave her a free plane trip!

Two people - and maybe more - are trying to track down the paintings, especially the one of Ratu Sukuna that was in the Grand Pacific when it was grand - and to write an entry into the net about her, claiming she is much underrated. Qantas has a huge painting by her of Ratu Seru Cakobau - presumably this was copied from a photo. A google search of art sales today shows up prices for her paintings as ranging from only $300 to about $3000 though some suggest $5000, which is not much at all. I wonder if my paintings and drawings - in a few homes in Suva, or down the Coral Coast or elsewhere - will one day be offered for sale on the internet. Nah.

Anyway if you are interested there's a lot about her on two websites - one facebook even under her name and a blog called Travels with Denise in the January 2011 posts.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

So what about the Methodist Church?

from w
I read in the on-line version of Radio Fiji that religious gatherings do not need a permit, yet I wonder what are the rulings regarding the up-coming Methodist Conference to be held in August which I have heard is only allowed to gather for one day. That means talking fast, praying fast, eating fast! You can't have one rule for one group, another rule for another religious group.

From Radio Fiji today:
Permit not required for religious gatherings
Wednesday, April 06, 201

Religious organisations do not need to apply for a permit to host religious functions says Solicitor General Christopher Pryde. His comments follow speculations that religious organisations are required to get a permit before organising a function – in this case the Ram Naumi festival which many Hindus are celebrating around the country.

Pryde says there is a provision under the Public Order Act for religious functions. “Under the Public Order Act the religious organisations are exempted from applying for a permit for a gathering. So for religious organisations that have to hold celebrations on a private property anywhere – there is no need to get a permit.
There maybe something the Suva City Council has concerning noise abatement – those sorts of by-laws then of course they will have to abide by the by-laws.”

The Ram Naumi festival will be celebrated by Hindus around the country for the next 7 days.

Aboriginal group visits Labasa

from w
Wnat a beaut idea to send a group of Aboriginal people to visit Fiji and get to know one of the South Pacific cultures. Though their stories and background are so different, there are some commonalities. Both Fijian and Australian Aboriginals are First Nation peoples and both have rich cultures. Over the years of working in Australia as a talatala Peceli has had a lot to do with the indigenous people, starting from his early contacts in Swan Hill, Robinvale and the Mallee and now in Geelong. They have a good relationship and many call him a 'brother'.

from Fiji Times:
Club bridges cultures
Serafina Silaitoga
Wednesday, April 06, 201

ABORIGINAL women Kay Bingham and Tracy Latukulikefu caught the eyes of Labasa residents as they sat on the street bench, oblivious to the commotion they were creating. Even The Fiji Times team was moved by their presence, seated as they were just 10 metres from the office ù so we approached and greeted them. The women seemed content, watching locals carry out what they were in town for. They mentioned their cultural exchange trip to Fiji; Cakaudrove was the starting point of the program.

Without any hesitation, the women said that they were enjoying the hospitality of the Fijian people. "The people here are so friendly and easy to talk to and we have just enjoyed the local environment in Taveuni, Savusavu and we look forward to the Viti Levu trip," said Mrs Latukulikefu. "We are here to learn more about the Fijian culture and get to know the various Fijian protocols, which we have.
"And it's just unique."

The group from Wiluna, North East of Perth came under the banner of Rotary International, Group Study Exchange. Team leader Hugh Lavery said the trip was the first for the Aboriginal community to Fiji. "This idea came up after some Fijians living and working with the community in Wiluna, discussed how good it would be," he said. "We have learnt a lot about the Fijian culture and we are learning more as we continue to visit villages and other places."

The group will visit some villages this week in Namosi, Ra and Wainibuka, Mr Lavery said. He said they would take a group of Fijian people to Wiluna (Australia) this year, in June.

Monday, April 04, 2011

China and the South Pacific

from w
I am not surprised by the story I listened to this morning on the ABC Asia Pacific program.

Loans to Pacific give China leverage: report
China: new banker to the Pacific
Created: Mon, 04 Apr 2011 06:58:44 GMT+1000
Jemima Garrett
Last Updated: 9 hours 43 minutes ago

A new report warns China is gaining political leverage as it rapidly expands its loans to Pacific Island governments. The report, to be released by the Lowy Institute on Tuesday, says China has pledged over $US600 million to the Pacific since 2005. China is the biggest lender to Tonga with loans worth 32 per cent of Tongan Gross Domestic Product.

Samoa and the Cook Islands have loans worth 16 per cent.

The author of the Lowy report, Fergus Hanson, says those funds are increasingly in the form of soft loans rather than grants. He has told Radio Australia that maintaining the support of Pacific nations for China's sovereignty claim over Taiwan may explain the trend.

"One possibility is that they're trying to build up leverage with Pacific island countries in the event that there is a return to dollar diplomacy and diplomatic competition with Taiwan," he said. "There's a need to exert pressure on them to maintain relations with China."

The report says debt burdening and aid co-ordination with China are pressing issues for the Pacific governments, Australia and multilateral aid donors.
Debt distress

In some countries, Chinese debt is threatening to overwhelm.

Tonga's former Finance Minister, Josh 'Utoikamanu, says it is possible that health and education services in Tonga may need to be cut to pay back loans to China. Last week the International Monetary Fund warned Tonga is at risk of debt distress.

Mr 'Utoikamanu told Radio Australia it is very likely that Tonga won't be able to service its debts in future.Tonga's debt servicing commitments are expected to grow between 70 and 100 percent in the next 5 years. Mr 'Utoikamanu warned that if Tonga goes into debt distress it will have to scale back spending on government services to meet its loan repayments.

More story details can be found on Australia Network and Radio Australia websites.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Swimming pool for Labasa

Patrons at the newly opened Gurbachan Singh Swimming Pool in Labasa yesterday 2. Sakiusa Bukalidi, left, enjoys a swim with three-year-old Iliesa Tanivula 3. Wati Vulava with her two daughters Abby, left, and Sera Pictures: TIMOCI VULA.

from w
What a good idea to have a public swimming pool for the kids of babasiga. The only pool I know of is the one at the Grand Eastern Hotel. A pool is better than swimming in the Qawa and Labasa rivers which are often rather foul. And there are so few beaches - Nukutatava, our place, isn't what it used to be and there's a couple of others that mean a taxi or car ride.

From today's Fiji Times

Public pool brings families together

Timoci Vula
Monday, April 04, 2011

RESIDENTS of northern Labasa Town have welcomed the opening of the new public swimming pool they anticipate will be an excellent recreational activity for their families. Leased to the Gurbachan Singh Memorial Trust by the Labasa Town Council, and now called the Gurbachan Singh Swimming Pool, it opened its doors yesterday after almost a decade.

"This is really something new for Labasa, especially on Saturdays," Wati Vulava, a working mother of three said.

"There are no recreational activities here, especially for children so this new pool is really good," the laboratory technician at the Labasa Divisional Hospital said. "It should be good for the children after a week of school to relax, and also for parents to come and de-stress, something to keep us relaxed," Ms Vulava said. "Families can come here for quality time so we hope this will not be the only one and that there will be more introduced here in Labasa.

Another parent, Sakiusa Laladidi was at the pool with his children and his friends children. He said the new pool was greatly appreciated and would create an excellent opportunity to teach swimming classes to Labasa.