Friday, April 27, 2007

Harry Yee from Labasa and a flood story

From w
Browsing through a bundle of old Fiji Times given to us, I found a story about Harry Yee, the oldest man in Labasa. The article was written by Serafina Qalo on February 15th.

Harry lived alone in his house in Naodamu though a housegirl came in the daytime to do his laundry and tidying up. The night of the flood Harry had made his evening meal and was in the kitchen when the water started coming inside his house. The kitchen door got stuck and he couldn't get out. Soon the kitchen was inundated with water up to Harry's chest. Fortunately by 9 p.m. his son had got worried about him and came to check on him and pushed the door in and rescued Harry. The next evening Harry was back to cooking his own evening meal! I guess a man of 101 years has had many adventures during his lifetime!

From Peceli
When I read the story in the Fiji Times about Harry Yee, the man who is now 101 years old I remembered an incident when I was quite young. I was a student from Davuilevu and on holidays in Labasa and Elia and I visited Ari in his shop. He asked us what we were doing and we told him we were theological students. ‘You read the Bible and pray.? Don’t you do any work? You both come and work with me in the shop.’ I told my sister what Ari had said and she laughed about it. Anyway both Elia and I went on to be Methodist ministers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Response to Labasa floods with a container

from w
The floods were in February but it has taken an involved process to get a container of donated goods from Geelong, Australia, to the schools in Labasa. Hopefully the container sent from Rotary Donation in Kind International will reach Macuata by tomorrow morning. The goods will go mainly to schools where there was severe flood damage such as Holy Family Primary School (coloured picture) and Guru Nanak Primary School,(black and white picture) both in Labasa township area which is low-lying and flood-prone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Fijian soldier remembered

From Peceli
Yesterday was Anzac Day and I watched one of the marches to remember fallen soldiers. In Melbourne there is an eternal flame at the Shrine of Remembrance and this is a symbol not to forget them.

I was thinking of my older brother Laisiasa Masidugu who died in the battlefield in the Solomon in 1944. I only discovered by using the internet that my brother Laisaisa is listed in the Rabaul War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea.

Rabaul War Cemetery
Roll of Honour
The Roll is in alphabetical order

MASI, Pata (Private), PN3526. A.C.M.F. 3 New Guinea Bn. 1. B. Australian Infantry. 28th June 1946. W.
MASIDUGU, Private, LAISIASA, 1336. 1st Bn. Fiji Infantry 13. A. Regt. Fiji Military Forces. 29th March 1944. Age 22. V.

I was about seven when the District Officer and a Fijian came to our house to tell my father that Laisiasa had died. The story was that there was a valley and three young soldiers kept on fighting while the others in his platoon of the First Battalian were told to retreat. Later on someone came to our house to give us his belt and water bottle. There were bullet holes in the belt. A few years ago I saw an honour scroll in my cousin’s house in Naseakula and it was a tribute to Laisiasa and I have it now.

Some Fijian soldiers have been particularly noticed such as Sefanaia Sukunaivalu from Yacata who was awarded the Victoria Cross. But of course there are many others who were courageous and died during a war. The Sukunaivalu Barracks of the Fiji Army in Labasa are named after Sefanaia.

visitor and locals in Papua New Guinea

from w
A visitor as stranger, a strange friend, a visitor as friend.

The stage-managed cultural experiences in short ceremonies and instant dance presentations that tourists see in some of the South Pacific resorts is not the only way for visitors to the South Pacific to meet with local people.

This afternoon I watched part of a program on SBS TV about a group of ten young volunteers from Australia who spent two months in a Papua New Guinea village. The program was called 'The Kokoda Trail - more than just a war memorial'. The subject was about visitor-local relationships, the exposure on both sides with different cultural understandings. Some of the initial discussions were about their fathers and grandfathers who were on the Kokoda Trail during the 2nd World War, a significant time in 2nd World War history for Australian soldiers.

The volunteers joined in the village life, (which was distant from urban centres) working alongside the local men and women. Language was a difficulty and the volunteers depended largely on the few local people who spoke English, though at the farewell there was a speech in Pidgin English by one of the women. They had developed a reciprocal relationship of give and take, though with some expenses and trade-offs on both sides.

When tourists/visitors spend only days with a host community, it is quite a different experience for the visitors than two months. There is little time to develop a relationship and a bit of the local language, know the names and family groups, see humour and irritation, the good days and the awkward. At some stage there comes a time when people treat one another as brothers, sisters, kin, and as equals - and this can then become a very rich cultural exchange, sharing food as well as stories, music, dance, family life, the use of money, the hands-on way people can improvise from resources available, and so on. Then it is an experience never to be forgotten.

However, sometimes, instead of curiosity and good will towards one another when two different cultural groups meet, there is fear and hostility, or alternatively a desire for exploitation of the other. Let's hope that does not happen in the 'friendly' islands of the Pacific!
Some background to the film is found in an Australian defence site.
Getting back on track
The Kokoda Trail : More than just a War Memorial

Ben Caddaye

The Kokoda Trail, in Papua New Guinea, is embedded in Australian history because of the campaign against the Japanese in World War II. But, as we see in this documentary, it is more than just a war memorial.

The native Koiari people, the custodians of the Kokoda Trail, have unfinished business with Australia over the support they gave our soldiers during the war.
But when the Kokoda Trail was closed in 2000, after greedy developers’ calls to the Australian Government for war compensation fell on deaf ears, PNG symbolically closed the gate on Australia playing in their backyard.

They promised to take action against anyone who flouted this ban and Australians were warned not to travel to the area because of violent threats against tourists.

In Kokoda Trail: More Than Just a War Memorial, a group of young Australians travel to PNG to live and work with the native people for two months in a bid to create a new generation of relationships based on the bonds of the past.

It’s a worthwhile hour of television that proves that bridges can be rebuilt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Relationship between tourist and local in Fiji

from w
I want to write something about my thoughts and questions about the relationship between visitors and local people in Fiji because I do sense there are many confusing and contradictory positions. Sometimes there's a love of the 'exotic' by the visitor, a know-all attitude by visitors based on stereotyping. At other times there are misunderstandings by different ways of speaking or manners.

Sometimes there is exploitation - by either side. Theft of articles that belong to the tourist is one. Another is asking them for too much - gifts for the village, money, help with immigration matters. I've heard many stories of tourists from Australia developing a relationship with a village or family and they are asked to give outrageous sums of money in an on-going relationship. Opportunism works both ways.

Anyway, to start the ball rolling here is a picture of Apenisa, Tui Mali, receiving a gift of books for a primary school in Mali Island. It looks good, but I've been told that some visitors to Vorovoro -in the tribewanted scheme, and despite the positive media stories - do not always pay the locals adequately for their time and work. Also, are books for a school library more important than getting the electricity working? It's worth a look at the tribewanted website to the tribe blog link to read articles that have been published about the project. They are based on short visits to Vorovoro Island. It would be good to read an article written by a Mali Islander as well.

More to come later....

Monday, April 23, 2007

Vina'a va'alevu All Saints Secondary School

from w
The Fiji Sun ran a story about the water sampling project at All Saints Secondary School in Labasa. This has been an on-going project for some time now to test the pollution in the Qawa River which has been very bad over the years. At least one thing the three floods did in Macuata this summer was to clean out the rivers!

Awareness project to protect river

From tomorrow students of All Saints Secondary school in Labasa will start their community awareness programme on pollution in the Qawa River.The aim of the students RiverCare Club is to make Qawa River a river and not a dumping ground.
This activity is part of their RiverCare project that has progressed after the last few years from just testing the water of Qawa River to community awareness a stronger partnership with the Fiji Sugar Corporation, and education signs on the river bridge. RiverCare, funded by the Vodafone ATH Foundation Fiji, is a project of Live & Learn Environmental Education carried out with Secondary Schools. The mission of the project is to empower people with the understanding that we can all be involved with caring for our rivers; we want to be able to drink from them, fish from them and pass them onto our children as previous generations have passed them on to us."This will be coordinated by science teacher Amit Maharaj and another three teachers. The students will hand out 200 pamphlets to people in Batinikama settlement upstream and the industrial area home to Fiji Sugar Corporation, Valebasoga Tropik Boards Ltd. and Fiji Electricity Authority.At a later date the students will present to the community their findings from the water monitoring and present.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More pictures of Levuka

from w
Four websites of interest that relate to Levuka are:
Fiji Museum
and Oceania ethnographica - pictures from 1840s to 1880s etc. for sale - photographs taken in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and other islands.
Gutenberg - another site.
A travel diary about Levuka in the present day.

Some of the pictures I found interesting from those sites are placed here. One is of Levuka in 1842, another in 1870s, the Cession document in English, one of Prince Charles - perhaps a century later.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sai Levuka ga - favourite song and place in Fiji

from w
Well, apart from babasiga land in Macuata I ought to say! The song was used in a Kiwi film set in Auckland, 'No 2' about a Fijian bubu. The people of Levuka are of course tauvu to Macuata! The pictures are of Peceli in the main street, Levuka hotel, a re-enactment of the signing of the Deed of Cession, and a large bure. Levuka is not a beach resort but a delightful little town on Ovalau Island and full of history and worth a visit by tourists to Fiji

Sai Levuka ga, au nanuma tu
Na kena vei lasa kece
Dau vovotu mai, e na veivei gauna
Vei siga kei Levuka

Vei vatu loa, ka koro makawa
Seva na vei biau, kei Viti-e-Loma
Dau vadugu tu, na kena cakau
Lali ni neirau vakamau

E makare tu, vei au oqo
Na noqu gauna e Levuka
E na noqu tu, kau raica lesu
Rui kamica dina vei au.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fiji Methodist Indian Division - historical photos

from w
While tidying up an old cupboard I found a magazine published in 1992 by the Methodist Church in Fiji to recognize the centenary of the work amongst people from the Indian community. I have posted three photos here and may scan and copy a few more later on.

One is from 1924 of the Indian Session of Fiji District Synod and includes Samuel Sharan, Nanan Sen Deoki, Rev W Steadman, Rev Richard Piper, John Lalu, Rev L Thompson, Rev Iswari Prasad, Rev J Long, and in front Alice Watson, Rev R McDonald, M Graham. The other photos are from 1957 - the opening of Jasper Williams High School and the other of delegates to the Indian Session of the Fiji District Synod.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wise words from Alumita. Vinaka Dr Durutolu

from w
Dr Alumita Durutolu, a lecturer at the USP talks about dialogue as the way to go in Fiji. This is part of an article by Verenaisi Raicola in the Fiji Times Friday April 13th. Some good insights and advice here. Vinaka Dr Durutolu!

He (Dr Brij Lal) and USP academic Dr Alumita Durutalo believe there is a need for space and time for dialogue as well as reflection.

"Perhaps, it is now time for dialogue and consensus. All parties should come together and discuss common ground for nominating somebody as Vice President," said Dr Durutalo. She said the GCC, as the foremost institution of Fijian society, should initiate and facilitate talks with discontented or aggrieved members of Fijian society to understand the thinking and actions of their people in the trying times we face.

Dr Durutalo said nominating a chief to assume the role of President or Vice President in Fiji was clear under sections 9092 in Fiji's 1997 Constitution.
However, the process of nominating chiefs to these positions is quite complex as it involves consensus and a flair for the "chiefly way of politicking".

"I understand chiefs of the vanua and matanitu in the Bose Levu Vakaturaga have worked out a way to rotate the positions among the three confederacies.
"Additionally members of the chiefly council usually appoint chiefs who command the respect of the majority of its members as representatives of indigenous Fijians in the vanua throughout Fiji."

Dr Durutalo said constitutionally and, at this point in Fiji's political history, one could say that the next Vice President would depend on the endorsement of the chiefly council.

Dr Durutalo said members of the GCC could only be removed if they were no longer nominated by their respective provincial councils to be representatives to the GCC. "I understand some chiefly members are in the council because of their high rank and status as title holders of various matanitu, for example.

"So to forcibly remove these chiefly members, in Fijian protocol, one is not removing one chief but the hundreds or thousands of Fijians whom they represent," she said.

Dr Durutalo said at the level of the vanua, removing some members could only exacerbate old rivalries and further aggravate ongoing problems.

"Additionally, one in the long-term may jeopardise chances of national resource development, especially if members of the aggrieved party are important resource owners," she said.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Maika asks, 'Do we need a Vice-President?'

In the Fiji Sun today Maika has his usual commentary about Fiji politics. See this page
It certainly sounds like a comedy of errors and reads like a song from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, such as 'I am a Major General....etc. etc.'
On the other hand, it can stay as it is - only change titles to their letters - which is usual in Fiji. This is the last paragraph then...

In such case, the P is said to exercise a reserve power. With the absence of parliament and in such an odd situation the nation is now facing, can the P use his reserve power to select a VP. With the suspension of the BLV, the P can use his reserve power. I know if the P uses his reserve power, it can be challenged in court. The only other way out of this crisis is to go without a VP until the government reinstates the BLV. The IPM can surely play the role of VP when the P is away. In the absence of the P, the VP will perform formal functions. He will attend all state functions, receive foreign dignitaries. He or she will sign credentials of the republic's ambassadors and receives those of ambassadors accredited to the FI. Surely we can be without a VP for the time being. The Office of the P has confirmed the P will soon name a VP. If this happens, the legality will be questioned. Already the legality of the P has been queried after the C removed him when he took over the EA on December 5, 2006. To avoid legal challenges against the appointment of the VP by the P at this time, the nation can go without a VP until the BLV is reinstated and recognised by the IG. Well I know the IPM and his regime want a VP and will surely go ahead with the appointment.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chasing the money tree in Brussels

So far (20th April) there has been no talk of money, only of dozens of conditions expected to be pursued by the Interim Government of Fiji, so time will tell what happens next. Fiji Times lists those conditions.

The article starts of as:
Fiji's roadmapFriday, April 20, 2007

THE European Union insists that the general election in Fiji be held before March 2009, it has been revealed. And it expects the interim administration to:
by June 30, 2007, adopt a schedule setting out dates for the completion of the steps to be taken in preparation for the new parliamentary election;
determine boundaries and electoral reform in accordance with the Constitution;
take measures to ensure the functioning of the Elections Office, including the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections by September 30, 2007, in accordance with the Constitution;
appoint the Vice-President in accordance with the Constitution.
A statement by the EU in Brussels dated April 18, 2007, and titled "Conclusions of the European Union" lists commitments it said Fiji had agreed to undertake.
It includes, among other things, the upholding of the 1997 Constitution and the preserving of the "substantial independence and functioning of the Great Council of Chiefs".
etc. etc.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

From Putsh to Shove - and responses

from w
The ordinary Fiji people have plenty to say, judging by forums, letters to the editors, have your say. Here are a few responses to the situation that arose yesterday when the Interim Prime Minister suspended the Council of Chiefs because they did not endorse the nomination of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as Vice President.

From Fiji Sun yesterday
Meant to be leaders?
Dr. Fereti Seru Dewa
It is interesting to observe the Great Council of Chief's deliberations about the vice president. The Roko Tui Dreketi claims that chiefs are "meant to be" leaders. Those that claim to support tradition, however, have not observed the tradition that the GCC endorses the President's nominations. It seems that tradition is meant to be observed only when it suits the purpose of those observing it. In fact there is nothing traditional about the GCC or even the chiefs' positions. These are all, creations of British imperialists who diverted the natural order of Fijian society to make it easier for them to rule. Similar structures were set up in all colonies, worldwide, which were neither about preserving tradition nor about moving countries to democracy but simply about keeping the peace and making the imperialists' lives easier. Our neighbour Tonga is a case in point.

Traditionally Fijian society prior to contact with Europe was led by chiefs who earned the right to rule, not just by their birthright but by their intelligence, their ability to lead their people wisely and their prowess in battle. A leader who did not protect his people effectively and lead them wisely was soon overthrown. One of our great leaders did in fact say "If you cannot measure up, stand down" or something to that effect. The essential difference is that between a leader and a chief. Leadership is not inherited but earned through hard work and good governance. Many modern day chiefs may want to hide under the umbrella of chiefs such as Ratu Mara who were both chiefs and great leaders. They ask us to believe that their abilities were down to the fact they were chiefs rather than great leaders and exceptional individuals.

Good leaders should be supported by their people for who they are, not for who their father was. They should lead wisely and plough back the money earned from leases to improve our environment, their people's homes, schools and medical centres. How can chiefs expect respect when they keep these proceeds for their own use when their people live in poverty? Leadership by birthright is not compatible with a modern democracy. It is time to move on. Nowhere in the world have indigenous people won rights by sticking to hereditary hierarchies. The rights of indigenous Fijians will not be won by sticking to hereditary hierarchies. The rights of indigenous Fijians will be won by working with all racial groups in our society through the ballot box through the chiefly system or the GCC.

From Fiji Times: Some responses: Your Say Current Topic
The interim PM has announced the suspension of further GCC meetings and the reallocation of their budget. Is this the correct way to handle the situation? Is the GCC being manipulated, and if so, by whom?

Laite of USA (3 hours and 18 minutes ago)
A suspension does not mean a complete removal of anyone or as in this case, complete removal of an entity. Bainimarama and the IG needs to use this suspended time wisely.

I think the suspension is simply a ploy to give more time to the Interim Government to take a deeper look at the GCC... its functions, responsibilities, fiscal integrity, strengths, weaknesses, and what its role should be in the future.
Some of us are old enough to know that our modern day GCC is as far away from how we viewed and revered them then as they are today. That is, the vanua was well taken care of, and managed accordingly from the Provincial Councils down to the Turaga Ni Koro. Now we see the degradation of Fijian societies across the country with the people of the vanua moving to cities and towns and adding to the unemployment and poverty numbers. There is no shame like the one you feel when you are poor in your own land.

The GCC as a polarizing factor for the vanua and the country, has become heavily politicized to gain any respect from the educated Fijians who truly care about the vanua.

The 1997 Constitution, which gave this august body more power than perhaps it deserves, has given rise to the number of political seekers within the GCC. For two reasons:

1. the electoral system has remained the same, that is, communal, which means easy votes for chiefs from their people in the vanua.
2. parliamentary set up that allows them to sit at the Upper House without being elected to it, if not by the whole country, then at least by the people of the vanua, and not by the GCC or the PM.
This coup was not backed by the GCC, therefore, some of its members who were ousted by Bainimarama are among the GCC members who voted against the President's nominee.
So, either they denied the nomination because they are angry at Bainimarama for not having them on board during the coup, for being ousted, or for being influenced by the anti-Bainimarama GCC members from the Methodist was a losing situation from the get go.

Manipulation? Big time. By disgruntled members, ousted cabinet members, Methodist Church members, and their combined political ideology as a whole.

1. Savusavu@CalgaryCanada of Canada (2 hours and 5 minutes ago)
Don't anyone care any more about what the "people" want and what the "people" have to say. What happened to the old and new teaching I ELect my leader and government. Way to go GCC when push comes to shove, you have done a good job. Fiji has a beautiful historic culture and values, as much as possible keep in touch with the historic culture and values.

2. Bowman of New Zealand (1 hour and 39 minutes ago)
Is there any other well educated chief out there to take that post (VP), that they only picking on those who just volunteer themselves because they cannot win any seat during normal election.
Slack tactics PM & President.

3. Osama of Fiji (1 hour and 10 minutes ago)
If you don't like what they say, sack them! That's the hallmark of VB.
It's not a question of whether the GCC is right or wrong, or if they should or shouldn't be there; the question is, "What gives VB the right to suspend them?"
This is an insult to Fiji.

4. crooked of New Zealand (38 minutes ago)
Theres two things in this topic to ponder about.
Suspension means they can have the meeting latter and reallocation means no more council of chiefs meeting.

It's a bit confusing, however let's get back to the basics on what the constitution say about Vore's action: is it legal or illegal.

If it's illegal that's the court to solve and if its legal let him please himself because all his actions will only prolong his term behind bars.

Another point to ponder how these chiefs are being nominated to be member of the GCC. I believe if we go back to the basics there were only about 13 chiefs (if my memory is correct) real chiefs I mean who signed the deed of cession at Levuka on behalf of all the Fijian chiefs whom we see nowadays. Ma'afu was one of the Tongans who signed, so I also believe that if we recognise the deed of cession then Nailatikau can represent Ma'afu because they are both Tongans.
Where are all these chiefs coming from? If we keep this trend we will end up with the saying "there's too many chiefs with no Indians around"

5. Davenport-Larking
The GCC had become politicised, and were doing a publicity stunt. (28 minutes ago)
The GCC would have rejected "any" 2nd VP, or 3rd nomination made by the president, had further meetings been allowed to continue.

They were using political arguments to reject the VP nomination. The writing was on the wall.

When you are a PM, or a Minister, especially in Fiji, with a road-map with a limited time frame, and pressure from the international community to meet dead-lines as quickly as possible, you can't get mucked around by publicity-political-stunts.
Prime Minister Bainimarama, and his Fijian Affairs Minister have shown foresight, and nipped this thing in the bud.

There's going to be a whole more of these "stunts", just like there has always been.
This time round, however, good governance/leadership/swift decision making is going to behaviourally modify the trouble-makers, once and for all.

This time round the road out of "third-worldness" is going to happen, because no road-blocks, or delays will be tolerated.

And the credible international community are becoming assured that a stable socio-economic environment will prevail.

And the people are being assured, that staying, or growing new businesses, building their house, keeping their educated children in Fiji, is the right decision now.

6. Historian of Suva (22 minutes ago)
Well done Frank for taking the first step towards removing the so called 'Great' Council of Chiefs. This group was a device constructed by the British Colonial Government solely to make Fiji administration easier. It is certainly not "ancient" as some people have written. These days it has entirely outlived its usefulness. (What was it doing between 1914 and 1987?) Nowadays it is costly, racist, ignorant and hopelessly undemocratic.

To media reporters: Please stop using the expression "august body". Many of you appear to think it means 'August body'. Look up the word 'august'. It is probably the last adjective anyone would use to describe the GCC anyway!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fiji Sun editorial from a lover of kava

from w
This is a copy and paste job - but it may inspire some commentary. The author is not given but it sounds like someone who really imbibes the narcotic Pacific drink. What do you think? The word 'taki' by the way is used a lot in drinking circles to mean - come on, serve it up!

Time to tackle the taki9-Apr-2007

WHETHER Fiji’s Sevens team has won or lost the big one in Adelaide by the time you read this, one thing is for sure, the nation will have consumed its fair share of the traditional indigenous beverage, kava, to either console disappointed hopes or calm excited nerves. Kava is a water-based preparation used in the indigenous Pacific for purposes and occasions that are medicinal, social, cultural, political and religious in nature. In Fiji, kava is referred to as yaqona and derives from the plant of the same name which is cultivated for many years, harvested, dried, and pounded into a powder form that renders its active chemical properties fusible in water.
It is an ancient practice.

Today, yaqona’s chief consumers are not just indigenous Pacific peoples, but include a whole range of ethnic peoples. As pointed out by Fiji’s indefatigable Kava Council Chairman, Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo, yaqona also has commercial chemical properties valued by international companies. According to the Kadavu high chief, Fiji’s yaqona export presently represents a $20million contribution to its economy (and doubling every decade). Despite its cultural mystique and fanatical opposition from a number of misinformed sources, scientific knowledge of kava is not new. It has been described and researched by Europeans since the 18th century. In 1781, Johann Georg Adam Forster, a botanist on Cook’s second voyage, gave it the botanical name of piper methysticum meaning ‘intoxicating pepper’. Laboratory analysis of kava began at the beginning of the 20th century and by the 1960s research scientists admitted that ‘this description was not botanically valid’. It is not an ‘intoxicating pepper’ as is commonly thought of in regard to alcohol, nevertheless, early European observers (including some missionaries) in their ignorance, misrepresented kava and gave it a bad name. The colonial era in which European prejudices dominated indigenous world-views perpetuated this negative reputation. Some fanatics still preach against it.

Contrary to widespread speculation, religious prejudice, and poor journalism, yaqona is not an alcohol, is not intoxicating, and is not addictive. It can only be made alcoholic if one contaminates it by adding alcohol to it; it cannot be fermented. It is in no sense a Biblical ‘strong drink’ – unless one prefers a strong preparation mixed with additives which are not kava. Yaqona has no addictive properties, but, of course, the social occasions (such as Rugby Sevens) which use it, may be ‘addictive’ – as they are in every society. Over the past ten years hundreds of published references to yaqona have emerged which variously describe and analyse it from religious, scientific and/or cultural viewpoints. Undoubtedly, yaqona’s chemical-botanical structure, its putative psycho-physiological effects, its social and cultural use, its religious and political significance will continue to be observed and measured, if not commented upon and sermonised. The fact is, kava is one of the Pacific blessings found in nature. If God created nature, then yaqona is one of the best natural-healing gifts the divine will has bestowed on South Pacific peoples.

From a scientific-health point of view, there can be no argument for not enjoying yaqona. If there is any argument against its use, this can only be constructed from social-cultural norms and Biblical-theological distortions. As in all matters of cultural taste, yaqona is best left to the individual’s conscience and cultural context to decide what their response should be. It is irresponsible of non-experts to either advocate nor dissuade it to others except on the basis of scientific consensus. As with the aspartame controversy, the most responsible position to take is to consider the overall weight of evidence.

Regrettably, too many Pacific island church, business and political leaders take a position which abhors the use of yaqona (even for its medicinal purposes) yet will indulge risky pharmaceutical prescriptions and neutraceutical alternatives without so much as a shrug. While condemning kava they will not blink at high sugar and high salt diets or condemn the risk posed by alcohol. Some religious leaders take an extreme position not just for the sake of demarcating themselves from others (in terms of some imagined ethical piety), but from a mistaken Christian anti-theology of righteousness by works. They believe that their place in heaven depends on their public abhorrence of yaqona. In this respect, they should be mindful of the apostle Paul who used strong language to condemn all forms of ceremonial legalism. Some employers similarly think, wrongly, that their workers’ productivity has no hope of improving as long kava is found in the workplace. Unfortunately they prefer their anecdotal experience to hard scientific evidence.

Our Interim political leaders could take the controversy out of the tanoa by simply studying the scientific evidence for yaqona’s benefits and commercial potential – much of which was made available in the proceedings of the inaugural International Kava Conference which was held here in Fiji in 2004.

The papers presented there, the background research, and resulting scientific studies since have all confirmed what Pacific peoples and Fijians have know for thousands of years - and what the Nawalowalo-led Kava Council has reiterated: yaqona is a beneficial root drink which if used in moderate quantities in suitable times and settings, relaxes individuals and produces collective bonhomie.

As such, it must get the policy attention and economic attention from our Interim government it deserves. As in all things sacred, kava blesses its imbibers. Obversely, curse it, and you curse yourself.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tui Mali - re one year one for Tribewanted

from w
Though they didn't get the 5000 numbers tribewanted visionaries wanted, the first year has been very successful. As I wrote a year ago, I had in mind several good outcomes that could be achieved: - a positive interaction with Apenisa, the Tui Mali and the Mali Island community, a respect for protocol, an ecological based environment for visitors to Fiji, and an appropriate development on Vorovoro. This has all happened - not that some things were easy to achieve, but the visitors persisted in their program, the internet connections have worked - up to a point. I guess the frustration of rain and wind were taken as adventures perhaps rather than difficulties.

The Fiji Times reported as follows:
'Use your resource, Chief urges'
Use your resource, chief urges
Thursday, April 05, 2007.

A CHIEF from the northern division believes if indigenous communities help the expatriate community in projects that deal with resources, then villagers will reap the blessings. Tui Mali of Macuata, Apenisa Bogisa made the comments at the England-based 'Tribe Wanted' group's one year anniversary celebration on Vorovoro Island on Tuesday. "Since this group came to our island one year ago, the villagers and the school have benefited in many ways. We have a library and clean water supply from tanks provided by our visitors," Ratu Apenisa said.

"We have never regretted accepting them on the island to carry out their project and whenever we have a village soli, they are always there to help financially."
He said the group had employed more than 100 villagers and provided them with income that was helpful for their everyday needs. "The villagers employed by the group are men and women and it has helped them pay school fees, bills, and basic necessities," Ratu Apenisa said.

He said over the past year the group had also learnt traditional customs including dress code. "We have not had any problems with them when it comes to Fijian protocol because when they first arrived, we informed them about our protocol and they followed well ever since," Ratu Apenisa said.

Tribe Wanted founder Ben Keene said the purpose of the group's existence on the island was to experience the Fijian way of living. "And that means everything from living in Fijian bure, eating the Fijian food, going out fishing with Fijian men, learning how to make a lovo, planting cassava and other root crops, cooking and baking in a Fijian oven," Mr Keene said. "So far every member has enjoyed the life style and never wanted to return to their home countries."

The group had more than 1100 members and Mr Keene said a major part of their project was to help the community by directly assisting them whether it was financial or physical. "Some of our members have helped out in schools teaching the students how to speak the French language."

Mali and Vorovoro are located off the coast of Macuata. It takes a ten minute drive from Labasa to Malau and a five minute boat ride from Malau to Mali.

Some tourism operators have begun the homestay experience where tourists live with Fijian families and experience the true Fijian experience, eating Fijian food.
• Bengazi @ 23:07

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cyclone Cliff damage in Taveuni and Udu Point

There are several pictures and first-hand reports of the damage caused by Cyclone Cliff in Taveuni on Panda's blog.

I had heard that the people in both Udu and Taveuni were not given warnings on their radios that a cyclone was coming. Here is a report from today's Fiji Times - about what happened in Udu Point area.

Cyclone alert came late, villagers claim
Sunday, April 08, 2007

VILLAGERS in Udu Point on Vanua Levu claim the Meteorology Department only issued a cyclone alert after heavy rain and strong winds had raged through the northern division. The villagers want the weather station to upgrade its system and workers' skills to ensure future warnings are heard hours or days before a cyclone.

Acting director of the department, Alipate Waqaicelua said he would reply to the allegations on Tuesday as he was in Suva. The director of the department, Rajendra Prasad is out of the country.

Wainigadru Village headman Netani Tuwei claims strong winds and heavy rains brought in by Cyclone Cliff started at about 10am on Thursday and villagers did not hear a warning before that. "That morning most of us had our radios turned on. We suspected the weather would change because it started to get dark and cold from 7am.

"And during that time, we did not hear any warnings at all so we didn't prepare ourselves or put up shelters to protect our homes because we never expected a hurricane," Mr Tuwei said.

He said about 9.30am, they started to feel the strong winds and heavy rain in the village and elders advised all women and children to go indoors. "When that started, the river behind the village started to rise and burst the banks, forcing flood waters into village homes. The doors to some houses were forced open by the flood waters. That was when the men ran out of their homes to help the women, children and elderly people onto higher ground," Mr Tuwei said.

Despite the heavy rain and cold weather, he said the villagers had no other choice but to flee to a hill beside the village as flood waters were almost 2 metres high in the village ground.

Mr Tuwei said babies and children were wrapped in blankets and bed sheets and their heads also covered to protect them from the rain. The villagers remained there until 12.30pm when the strong winds and heavy rain eased.

Jone Bakaicake of Vanuaumi Village said men had to carry elderly people across the village to a home that sheltered the villagers from the cyclone. "In the morning we didn't hear of any cyclone warnings over the radio stations although we noticed the weather changing and it was so dark that we had to use torches while carrying elderly people across the village lawn," Mr Bakaicake said.

Orisi Rawaqa of Vunikodi Village at the tip of Udu Point said villagers did not hear any cyclone warning in the morning. "We thought it would only be heavy rain because it was dark but when the wind started to grow stronger, we felt it was a cyclone although there was no warning."

Happy Easter Day

My you and your family have a happy and blessed day.
This morning about 6 a.m. we went to Eastern Park to watch the sun rise, this time from the boat ramp for the fishermen. The sun rose behind Alcoa. Back at home I did a pastel sketch as I remembered it.

Why is 'Good' Friday called 'Good'?

from w
In an Australian newspaper a few young people were asked, 'What do you think of at Easter?' The answer from all of them was 'Chocolate and Easter eggs!' I think if the question was asked in Fiji, the answer would be less flippant. The Good Friday and Easter weekend is taken seriously by many, many people in Fiji.

But why is Good Friday called 'good'? This is a question I have often heard. At first it certainly seems like an error, but some people, who are wiser than I, have decided that it is the right term. I looked up Google and found this article informative. I have cut out sections though as it is very long.

From Christianity TodayThe Goodness of Good Friday
An unhappy celebration—isn't that an oxymoron?
by Chris Armstrong | posted 04/18/2003

What a supreme paradox. We now call the day Jesus was crucified, Good. Many believe this name simply evolved—as language does. They point to the earlier designation, "God's Friday," as its root. (This seems a reasonable conjecture, given that "goodbye" evolved from "God be with you.")

Whatever its origin, the current name of this holy day offers a fitting lesson to those of us who assume (as is easy to do) that "good" must mean "happy." We find it hard to imagine a day marked by sadness as a good day.

Of course, the church has always understood that the day commemorated on Good Friday was anything but happy. Sadness, mourning, fasting, and prayer have been its focus since the early centuries of the church…

…I like to think the linguistic accident that made "God's Friday" into "Good Friday" was no accident at all. It was God's own doing—a sharp, prophetic jab at a time and a culture obsessed by happiness. In the midst of consumerism's Western playground, Good Friday calls to a jarring halt the sacred "pursuit of happiness." The cross reveals this pursuit for what it is: a secondary thing…

Today, Christian liturgies reflect the gravity of Christ's act. Services linger on the details of Christ's death and the extent of His sacrifice. Often the Stabat Mater is performed—a thirteenth-century devotional poem remembering Mary's vigil by the cross. The poem begins "Stabat Mater Dolorosa"—that is, "a grief-stricken mother was standing."…

…Good Friday has always challenged merely human goodness. Its sad commemoration reminds us that in the face of sin, our goodness avails nothing. Only One is good enough to save us. That He did so is cause indeed for celebration.
Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lord of the Dance

from w
We have two little pre-schoolers who dance at church, right up the front, everytime there is a song - and that's great. One of my favourite songs/hymns/carols is Sydney Carter's 'Lord of the Dance'. On Good Friday and Easter Sunday I am not comfortable with sentimental films or even Mel Gibson's violent exposition of the death of Jesus. Perhaps we are meant to be very uncomfortable. Bearing our sorrows though is what it's about, being incarnate in the world, experiencing our grief. However, I find songs like 'Lord of the Dance' closer to my way of thinking. We do not live with two feet on the ground, but dance – one foot on the ground, the other leaping. That’s what being a Christian is all about - well that's how I see it. And my concept of God is not sentimental nor fundamentalist, and we do not know it all.

Some of the words by Sydney Carter are:
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Nicholas Williams wrote about Sydney Carter (1915-2004) in The Independent as follows:

In a way quite unlike other forms of music, songs punch far above their weight. Simple verses and tunes in judicious combination can inspire nations and revolutions if the message and mood are right…"Lord of the Dance", perhaps his best-loved and indeed most characteristic creation, has proved especially susceptible to reinterpretation on these grounds. Ever since Carter began singing "I danced in the morning / When the world was begun, / And I danced in the moon / And the stars and the sun" to audiences in the early 1960s, the song has sunk deeper into the national psyche…

It was while serving in Greece that his first definitive encounter with folk music occurred, an event he later defined as more or less influencing everything he did subsequently…

Writing in 1969, he explained that "songs should be learned the way you learn to make an omelette or drive a car". And he went on to say of his own music:
These songs are not "folk"; but a singer in the folk or blues tradition might know what to do with them more easily than a singer trained ecclesiastically. Animal vitality, the pulsation of the human voice, the dramatic use of vocal texture . . . are the qualities you find in a blues singer. They are not always welcomed in a church.

… He had embarked on an enduring partnership with the publishers Stainer & Bell, who were bringing out his songs and poetry.

Many in the church establishment frowned upon his radical statements of faith and doubt. The song "Friday Morning", for example, written from the perspective of the unrepentant thief and containing the line "It's God they ought to crucify / Instead of you and me . . .", prompted thousands of letters of complaint…
…although he will be buried according to the rite of the Church of England, thereafter it was to the Quakers that he often turned as a spiritual home. In fact, Carter's openness to religious truth makes talks of religious categories rather superfluous, which was indeed a major irritation for the early critics of the open-minded, non-credal statements of his songs.

That two of his most popular lyrics, "One More Step" and "Travel On", should invoke the concept of journey was indeed no coincidence. In this voyaging faith of interrogatives, the creed lay in the question mark, often of a Zen-like paradox. In 1974, he wrote: Faith is more basic than language or theology. Faith is the response to something which is calling us from the timeless part of our reality. Faith may be encouraged by what has happened in the past, or what is thought to have happened in the past, but the only proof of it is in the future. Scriptures and creeds may come to seem incredible, but faith will still go dancing on. Even though (because it rejects a doctrine) it is now described as "doubt". This, I believe, is the kind of faith that Christ commended.

Such an approach, quite without post-modern irony, and uttered with the Blakeian candour of a man asking questions of himself, has brought comfort and inspiration to many similarly beset by uncertainty over the years…Music for him was above all a physical thing, a felt process of creation through voice and act preceding any notation. The American Shakers were a source of inspiration, with a transcendental sense of the link between creation, life, faith and the dance behind all dances…

Friends and colleagues will remember Sydney Carter as a tall, virile figure, slightly stooping, a compelling if idiosyncratic performer, and in private, in the company of his second wife, Leela Nair, no less entertaining and stimulating, and liable to burst into song at the slightest provocation.

• Lord of the Dance was composed in 1963 - many people believe it's old because it's a hymn they sang at school.
• No, Mr Flatley it's not Celtic!
• Sydney was born on 6th May 1915 and died on 13th March 2004.
• The tune is an adaptation of the Shaker tune 'Simple Gifts'.
• It's not 'Traditional' - it is fully copyright throughout the world - Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Sydney's faith was contained in this quotation from his poem Interview:
"So what do you believe in?
Nothing fixed or final,
all the while I
travel a miracle. I doubt,
and yet
I walk upon the water"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Solomon Islands experience a tsunami

from Peceli
It is so sad to hear about the death and destruction in the Solomon Islands by earthquakes and a tsunami.
from BBC
Aid reaching areas hit by tsunami
Tuesday, 3 April 2007 11:27
Emergency aid is finally trickling through to thousands of people stranded by the devastating tsunami which struck the western Solomon Islands following yesterday's earthquake.

The earthquake has left at least 24 people dead and more than 5,400 survivors homeless. There are so far no verified figures for the numbers missing. Officials said 13 villages were destroyed.

Most of the dead and displaced were around the seaside diving town of Gizo, which witnesses said was pounded by a five metre- high tsunami.

The 8.0 magnitude quake early yesterday sparked the tidal wave that also hit towns in the country's Western Province.

An Anglican bishop and three of his congregation were among those killed. Bishop Rowlington Zappo was presiding over an ordination ceremony on the island of Simbo, not far from Gizo, when the quake struck.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Davuilevu has a website but what is it?

pictures above are of the Theological Students Chapel and Baker Hall Church at Davuilevu.
from w
Church website boosts training
Saturday, March 31, 2007 (from Fiji Times)

THE Methodist Church Theological College at Davuilevu is set to boost its training of ministers with the opening of the library extension and launch of the college website yesterday. College Principal, the Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa said the occasion marked a new chapter in the history of the college. "The new extension will provide more space to the existing library, a computer lab for students, as well as two dedicated classrooms for the bachelor of Divinity students. The idea behind the extension was a natural progression of our academic journey," Mr Vakadewavosa said.

Visiting other colleges we saw the need to lift our standards of facilities and with the Bachelor of Divinity program applying for accreditation from the South Pacific Association of Schools, the time was ripe for us to enhance our provision of and access to quality research," he said. "There was an unmistakable need for more and relevant books in our libraries and access to the internet for the students," he He said the project was part of a concerted effort to raise the level of theological education offered at the school.

"As more of the laity becoming well educated and with the impact of the media, our ministers are being left behind. "The clergy needs to have a level of theological education to be able to read the signs of times and be aware of the reality of the issues that are affecting those under their care," he said. "While this is a humble beginning for us, we look to the future when we will be able to purchase more computers to accommodate the growing needs of students." He said the project was the result of the hard work of both the faculty and the students.
And may I add, the generous donations of many people overseas including a project of Dr Meo in Melbourne, and also Tepola Raicebe's church group in Melbourne.
I do hope the students are already accessing some of the church stuff on the web - which of course goes from the excellent to the ridiculous! Some gems are there to assist leaders and seekers. One blog I found to be super is by a Uniting church woman in Gippsland. It's simply called seedstuff. and I have posted two pics from her website.