Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ninety-nine year leases

from w
When I read this item in the Fijilive news I wondered first of all, does an interim government have the authority to make changes in land laws or should they wait until there is an elected government?

Secondly I wondered about the implications of extending a lease from 50 to 99 years. Already it means two generations of landowning Fijians will not have access to that piece of land? Okay they get financial rewards in lease money, but access to land for the children and their children is a factor that must be considered. Will all the nice beaches be taken away from the indigenous people and leased for four or five generations to hotel developers?

In my opinion lease money is a lucky bonus to Fijian families as a reward for allowing strangers to use their land - short-term or long-term. Not all Fijians have land anyway so some will reap great rewards from the chance of owning a particular piece of land and others may only have rough mountainous terrain without any infrastructure, and others no land at all.

Land lease changes approved
Thursday November 01, 2007

Changes to Fiji's land law that will allow for 99-year leases on isolated areas currently leased for 50 years has been approved by the interim Cabinet. The changes will soon be gazetted as the Native Land Trust (Leases and Licenses) (Amendment) Regulations 2006.

Interim Fijian Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau explains that the land concerned include areas that are "isolated, unplanned or un-surveyed" as in mahogany and pine plantations, tourism leases, development leases, commercial agriculture and leases issued for public purposes.

Ratu Epeli said that the amendment will provide much needed stability in the production and processing activities not only within the mahogany and tourism sectors, but also in development leases for land subdivisions.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The population of Fiji

from w
Census figures are out - a provisional list
from FijiTV today:
Census figures released population increases 31 Oct 2007 00:47:46
Provisional figures from the 2007 Census point to a population increase by just over 50,000 over the past 10years. Statistics released by the Census Commissioner today shows a dramatic increase in the Fijian population compared to the Indian population.
It's the much awaited figures that the country is waiting for...although it's provisional at this stage.

Enumerated 827 900
Increase 52,326

Fijians 473,983
Indians 311,591
Other races 42, 326
Fijian Population increased by 80,408
Indian population decreased by 27, 227

Urban population increased 61, 591
Fijian population in Urban areas - 49,427
Rural population decreased - 8, 768.

Divisional level
Northern and East population decreased by 8, 908 and 1,696.
Central and Western
43, 236 and 20,192.

The Census office is now reporting that 827,900 residents were enumerated in the 2007 Census. his is an increase of 52,823 from the last census in 1996.
Ethnicity breakdown, Fijians now total 473, 983, Indians at 311, 591 and other races 42, 326.

In comparison to the 1996 figures..the Census office says there is a dramatic increase for the Fijian population of 80, 408 compared to the Indian population which has decreased by 27, thousand 227. ijian population now residing in the Urban areas has increased by 49 thousand, 427. ural population has decreased by 8, 768.

At divisional level...the Northern and East population has decreased by 8, 908 and 1,696. ut an increase in the Central and Western Divisions by 43, 236 and 20,192.
The Census office says more provisional results will be released next week.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Fijian custom

from w
In the South Pacific graves are often decorated with barkcloth, pebbles, coloured cloth, and of course flowers. Several weeks after Suliana's passing, one of our Australian friends kindly visited the Vatuadova village to pay respects and she took colourful cloth and flowers and decorated Suliana's grave in the Fijian way. She gave us this photograph taken during her visit.

Usually after 40 days there is a ceremony to mark the intense period of mourning, then another ceremony and feast after 100 days for the lifting of the mourning period, then one year. The 100 days will be around Christmas time this year.

Memo to NZM. This is the photo that had the problem of moire, but I used professional mode on the Epson scanner and clicked on one of the filters so rainbow stripes across the photo didn't eventuate this time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Once upon a time in Fiji

I. turtle trying out new undercarriage and uncomfortable - perhaps it's like trying out new dentures!
2. turtle eggs
3. baby turtles and baby butterflies

from w
A young mother read my turtle story-in-preparation to her four year old and suggested that I locate the story somewhere so it's now starts as 'Once upon a time in Fiji'. I've posted several of the drawings/paintings already on this blog or the geelong visual diary blog.

This morning I was woken up at 6 a.m. (though the clocks say it's 7 a.m. with daylight saving) by Junior (his day off work) who was playing a game on-line and the server conked out and he yelled out to me to block the firewall, but it didn't work so he dipped out - something about a blind coming down, he said. After coffee, I decided I needed at least three more pictures for the story book. But today was hectic and I had to draw some turtles, go and play music at a funeral,(Pacelbel's Canon, 'Alleluia', a bit of Bach, 'Abide with me' and someone's mobile phone was interfering with Eb and I was going to play a contemporary song I like 'Our life has its seasons' and someone clicked a button and Louis Armstrong's voice filled the chapel!) coffee, spent $49 at Not Quite Right shop for food we needed/or didn't need, (went in to buy three pies for lunch) prepare lunch, draw some more turtles and butterflies, catch a bus to a book club coffee and chat afternoon at a cafe, (a strange book called 'Arthur and George') come home, more coffee, and draw some more and now I've scanned them in here. Possibly will need to use colour though.

Meanwhile Peceli put up more walls and is into carpentry mode this week so I won't disturb him.

(Later) - Peceli cooked the dinner so that I could do more work on the drawings - I added some colour to some - and here is the turtle again without the cool blue tone as white would really look better on the page with writing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A problem with scanning

from w
I was posting a normal sized colour picture after using Epson scan and then Picasa to lighten, and I got rainbow like stripes over it. I scanned a B and W pic and it was okay, then a colour pic from a newspaper and that was okay. What could be the problem? I need to clean the scnaner perhaps? Short of ink? Mana?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A curious story about a man with flowers

from w
As I read a story in today's Fiji Times about a Fijian couple boarding an Air Pacific plane for Fiji carrying flowers I was astonished because normally you are just not allowed to take flowers, seeds, leaves etc. to another country. What about customs and taking Ozzie bugs to Fiji via the plants! Then I read the name and story and realized there was a Labasa connection. These people are going to their youth training centre next to our land at Nukutatava. It was a 60 acre freehold land (once owned by our relatives and lost for a gun possibly) that was just grass and rolling hills - typical babasiga land - owned by Halka.

Anyway a wealthy church group bought the land to make an excellent development project. But they did remove some mangroves which was very naughty because my sister-in-law Evia and I used to collect oysters off the mangroves there.

The site has been cleared nicely, replanted and buildings erected as a place to train youth. Well, as you might know, I am not a fundamentalist in my religion but rather liberal and even inter-faith, though in Fiji my heart is that of a Methodist of the 60s kind - into social justice etc. Hmmm.

Anyway here are a few pics of their development and of course the man with flowers, Pastor Inia Rokovosa and his wife Bose at the Northern Horticulture Workshop in Labasa yesterday.

Fiji and tangled wire

from w
As I listen to the FBC and hear points of view and read the various Fiji newspapers on line I come to the conclusion that the situation is like a mess of tangled wire and I cannot decide what is truth, what is fiction. People I admire and respect are saying this, friends and people I admire are saying that. The appointment of the Catholic Archbishop as co-chairman of this new committee comes to mind, and our friend the Anglican bishop in Labasa, Father Epi, is supporting this stance. Others such as Ro Teimumu Kepa are vehemently not. Chiefs are silent, or saying yes (to please) when they possibly mean no. We find it easy to judge, but really we all live in glass houses. So I am getting tired now of trying to untie the tangles in my own assessment. One unseemly outcome however is that more and more people are confused and taking sides instead of finding some kind of common ground in the middle - how to untangle the wires and smooth the path ahead.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The bus from Savusavu to Labasa

from w
Wave2Angela wrote in Thorntree (Lonely Planet) about a bus trip from Savusavu to Labasa. Thorntree is an internet site with comments by readers and responses. One section is Australia and the South Pacific and there are always questions by intending travellers about advice on getting around Fiji and other South Pacific islands, good resorts, etc. This time the writer described her trip by bus from Savusavu to Labasa. The map above refers to the route to Palmlea Lodge west of Labasa.

Still awaiting replacement parts that will let us continue cruising, we take the early bus from Savusavu across to the north-west side of Vanua Levu to Labasa, its largest town. The windowless bus leaves at 7.30 a.m. and makes a slow start as we drop school kids at various destinations, geranium pink or deepest turquoise uniforms suit the surroundings but who on earth decided to outfit the boys at one school in WHITE sulu (tailored wrap-over ‘skirt’ with pockets) and shirt….?

Long passed its use-by date, the bus continues even more slowly, climbing the range at walking speed, you could almost dismount, take a few photos and get back on!! Up into the rain clouds that cause an on-board scurry for something warm to put on, canvas covers the windows if necessary. The land looks so fertile but most of the vegetation is covered with some kind of invasive creeper which obviously has the same intent as the dratted mynah birds, Total Take Over.

Picking up local people and assorted produce (including enormous ceremonially tied bunches of yaqona aka kava or simply ‘grog’) at small villages en route, we pass a variety of churches with interesting names we also see several mosques, these provoke some discussion on how current world events cause the Muslim religion to be viewed; traveling slowly, cruisers are frequently out-of-touch with the latest developments.

It takes over 3 hours to cover about 35 miles as the crow flies, and the crow would surely beat us there! Dust-covered and aching we lash out on breakfast, $3.20 ($1.80 US) feeds us both; as my Skipper says – you can perhaps get a cup of coffee for that in the States!

Pay Check day at the local sugar cane mill (every third week) means Labasa is crowded, cutting cane is HARD work and most of the super-fit Fijian workers look like star rugby players to me! Waiting in a queue I’m told that this week everyone has plenty money, next week some people still got some money and the following week…..

With a more mixed population, many of the stores are Indian-run with sari and shalwar kameez on sale with interesting jewelry and henna products and in the market big piles of spices. We wander to the muddy river front, 5km inland Labasa has good water access and there is a great selection of fish for sale, including a ‘mixed bunch’ to please every palate. I admire the piles of fresh vegetable and fruit but I can get these in Savusavu so I just grab a double heap of HUGE passion fruit, 20c each and kana malaka (delicious food). Waiting on a dust-lashed corner for the Skipper (off buying small bunches of yaqona), I am invited by the straight-faced Meli to sit at a fresh juice stand, told the prices and nudged to make sales……..then told to turn up for work at 8 a.m. the next day!!

We retreat from the dust to flop for a while in an air con internet cafĂ©; one of us promptly falls asleep! I party on, buying fabric to make slip covers for the boat’s lounge area, appropriately decorated with honu , for in Hawai’i turtles are considered the guides of the sea. Then back to the riverside park to catch some breeze and wait for the return bus (groan, next day we are more bone-weary than after the passage from New Zealand).

Groups of locals drink ‘grog’ under the Council permitted picnic-type shelters, we sit under a tree and are beckoned in by an elderly gentleman who explains in basic but charming ‘English’ that he is ex-stall holder Mohammed, a Muslim, old but happy. Having been ill and given up on Western medicine, he has to laugh every day thus we are invited to be part of his daily medicine.

We meet his grandson and nephew and various friends, conversation is wide-ranging, we laugh and chat the afternoon away. Skipper becomes an instant expert on choosing and preparing yaqona; our two bunches are examined and pronounced good enough to make sevusevu. An obligatory ceremony when entering most villages, it announces your presence (although any boat is spotted miles away) and you are given permission to stay, areas of tabu are explained and protection granted during your visit. Mohammed explains his take on sevusevu: ‘Ask for everything, tell the Chief that you don’t want any broken legs or to get sick….that you want to end up happy, like me’

Running for the bus, Mohammed asks me to pray for him. Indeed I will.

A connection between Geelong and Vanua Levu

from w
I was surprised to read about our friend Joy in an article in the Fiji Times though we know how she loves Fiji and especially the people of Vanua Levu.
from Fiji Times today. The photo of Peceli with Joy was taken in September in Suva.

It is manna from heaven: Villagers
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A friendship formed in 1985 between a Nabavatu villager in Macuata and a retired nurse from Geelong, Melbourne in Australia has reaped sweet rewards for the villagers who would soon witness a great change to their living standards. The villagers have considered themselves lucky after the Geelong Rotary Club, of which the retired nurse, Joy Baxter, is a member, offered to help improve the living standard in the village.Planned developments includes, home renovation, improvement on water supply and sewerage system and electricity supply.

Village headman Sekisalia Taione said the help was manna from heaven because requests for development aid made to the ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Government and the interim regime had fallen on deaf ears.

"It is indeed manna from heaven because we have done our part in fundraising and waited for the Government to put in their share and help us improve our water and sewerage systems and electricity supply to the village, but nothing came through," Mr Taione said.

He said the generosity of the club could never be compared to any local help because the areas identified to be fixed by members of the Geelong Rotary club were enormous.

"We are just grateful and without the club's assistance, I don't think we would easily achieve our goals in making a better life for our future generation."

The friendship between Kelera Ligairi and Mrs Baxter was conceived during a a Methodist church choir visit to Geelong Methodist church in Australia.

"When the group came, we made friends and got to know one another and Kelera and I became friends then and have always been in touch since the visit," said Mrs Baxter. "Our friendship has also seen my frequent trips to Nabalebale village, where Kelera lives and I have enjoyed my trips to Fiji.

"I don't go to any other parts of Fiji but to the North because it's peaceful and I enjoy it better then Viti Levu and for all my trips, the villagers have been friendly and made me feel at home with drinking kava and experiencing the local life," Mrs Baxter said.

Through Mrs Baxter's recommendation Nabavatu, was identified by Mrs Baxter. This resulted in a special trip to the village two weeks ago by Mrs Baxter and the club's international director David Barkley, who is an engineer by profession.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vorovoro - teaching Mali kids new things

from w
The latest from the tribewanted website includes stories in the chief's blog about the relationship between the tribewanted visitors and the local Mali school children with a competition on growing sunflowers and a fundraising with pressed flowers. Way to go!

A 'Green' Theology - way to go

from w
Though the article in today's Fiji Post website is full of multi-syllabic words and ought to be written in plainer English, the crux of the matter is that religion in Fiji should shift from being man centred to a view of conservation that is inclusive of all living things on the planet. Groups call for Green protection
22-Oct-2007 11:12 AM

REGIONAL religious and environmental organisations say a committed response to a Pacific environment theology is a moral imperative by all who call the Pacific home. The call was made at the end of the inaugural Conservation and Theology Consultation on the Pacific environment that ended on Saturday

The consultation compromised of representatives from Christian Theological Institutions who are members of the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS), Inter-Denominational organisations and Fiji-based Conservation Organisations met at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre of the Pacific Theological College in Suva.

A joint statement from the participants of the consultation said there was a need for collaborative action by both the Pacific churches and regional conservation organisations and called on Pacific Island governments and other interested partners to join them in working towards a Pacific environment theology.

“We recognise that this is but the first phase of collaboration aimed at raising theology on the issue of conservation and commit to continuing to engaging further in the next two phases of this effort,” the statement said.

“We recognised that the basis of our “ecological” theology lies in the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of redemption.”

The statement went on to say that, “discerning a trinitarian relationship between God, the land and humankind we acknowledge that when the Land cries, humankind cries, and that when humankind cries the land cries and that when either the land or humankind cry, God cries.”

In their discussions participants identified the weakness of anthropocentric theology as contributing to the current attitudes to the environment.

“We call for a simplifying of ecological theology to enable the complex eco-theological concepts to be understood at the grassroots level and for the creation of an electronic forum through the SPATS website for discussion of issues related to conservation and theology,” the statement said.

“We commit to developing a curriculum on conservation and theology for the member institutions of SPATS and commit to developing a handbook on conservation for the churches of the Pacific.”

Two working groups will be formed (Curriculum and Handbook) to continue to work together on drafting the documents. On completion of the draft curriculum and handbook, a second consultation will be held to finalise the contents of both publications.

The final phase before implementation of these documents will be a “Training of Trainers” phase.
Another article in a Fiji paper today was very practical - about banning plastic bags which can kill fish and turtles. Yes. Supermarkets at least can offer green recycle bags to shoppers.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Flower women

from w
A friend recently came back from Fiji and had bought the October Turaga and Marama magazines for his wife. I've borrowed them to read. Both magazines are glossy, full of great photos and informative stories, mainly positive, upbeat and telling of achievements against great odds. I liked the photos of the Naitasiri women who go to Suva market to sell glorious bunches of flowers - wild ginger, orchids, anthuriums and other flowers. About twenty women journey to Suva every Saturday and maybe each make $100. Vinaka vakalevu Alivina, Maria, Meresaini, Ivamere and Litia.

The Turaga magazine this time had many stories of political figures in Fiji over the past fifty years which wasn't as interesting as the ordinary human stories.
I'll write more later.

Labasa soccer team going well

Lions thump Suva, stays unbeatenOctober 20, 2007
Labasa kept their unbeaten run in the Super Six competition with a thumping 3-0 win over Capital City side, Suva at the Post Fiji Stadium last night.

Goals to Maciu Dunadamu, Dinesh Mudliar and Thomas Vulivuli was enough for the visitors to romp home to the convincing win in front of a packed Post Fiji Stadium grandstand crowd.

The Lions are now one point behind current points table leader Lautoka. Labasa will take on Nadi tomorrow at 3pm at Prince Charles Park.Ba plays Navua at Govind Park also atthe same time tomorrow.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

How's the life for elderly people?

from w
Well, some go on and on. Harry Yee in Labasa is over 100. My uncle who died last week was 101. Peceli's great-aunt Nau Besila was over 100. But that doesn't happen too often. The Beatles sang a song, something about 'Will you still love me when I am 64' - well make that 94 eh! I read a story in yesterday's Fiji Times about an elderly woman in Macuata. Her name is Miliana and she just goes about her daily life without fuss, without the need for others to do her chores. A good example to grow old gracefully. You see, I really don't like nursing homes and aged care places where the elderly are separated from the young and middleaged and away from their families. What do you think?

Miliana: Relationships matter
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Miliana Qica at her home in Nabavatu Village. Having 95-year-old Miliana Qica around has been good for villagers of Nabavatu in Macuata. She guides villagers through difficult situations especially when it comes to differences among them.The villagers have used her words of wisdom as a pillar of strength to maintain healthy and long lasting relationships. "I believe that whatever the situation we face in the village, we must always remember that at the end of the day, it is our relationship that matters especially when we are all related," Mrs. Qica said.
"It won't be a healthy environment to live in a village where there is a lot of hatred and no care for each other. As a family we should love one another and take good care for each other."

Mrs. Qica who has eight children, is originally of Batiri Village in Cakaudrove and married Orisi Sokonivatu who hails from Nabavatu which is an hours drive south-west of Labasa. Although she does not remember the year she got married and settled at the village, there is one thing she clearly remembers and that is not regretting marrying a man from Nabavatu because as she puts it: "They are the best kind of men in Fiji."
With a smile on her face, Mrs. Qica added: "That's why I am still alive and healthy at the age of 95, because my husband and children have looked after me well, even though my husband has gone first from this world."

Mrs. Qica is known for being independent. She washes her own clothes, bathes herself, cooks family meals and cleans the house. "I am fit and can still walk around and do things on my own so every time I just do my own things like wash my own clothes and cook food. I scrape the coconuts, clean the fish, pick bele leaves from the nearby plantation and peel cassava and I enjoy it because it's healthy and helps keep me fit," Mrs. Qica said.

And when her children and grandchildren take her clothes first to the laundry to have it washed, Mrs. Qica will go to the laundry and collect her clothes. "They use the washing machine which I don't like because it doesn't wash the clothes properly but just spins around all the time so I wash my own clothes. After I wash my clothes then I hang it out in the sun and I enjoy doing it but I will never allow for my clothes to be washed by anyone else or in the machine," Mrs. Qica said.

She has 45 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren and as part of her leisure time, she makes sure that she spends an hour or two of a day with them."Seeing my great grandchildren is indeed a blessing and I have been blessed by God to be alive at the age of 95 and still fit and healthy to do work around the house," Mrs. Qica said.
Weaving mats is another favourite activity she does at home. "I only weave mats for my children, grandchildren and relatives who have functions to attend or for special occasions. I don't weave mats for people who order because it's not easy to weave so many mats especially at this age so that is why I just weave for my family," Mrs. Qica said.
Fiji Times

Here is a picture of my Uncle Noel and Auntie Norma. We went to Noel's funeral yesterday. He was nearly 102 years old and played bowls during his last year. Norma lived to be about 98. Must be that fresh country air.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tongan girls in the rain

from w
Hundreds of Tongan girls from Queen Salote College waited in the rain for two hours to greet the visiting delegates to the Forum in Tonga. No wonder they cheered when some of the visitors arrived. Typical treatment of girls to let them sit it out in the rain while digitories drive around in fine cars.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aussie Aid offered for small projects

from w
This will be shared out between many different countries and projects but maybe some can go to Macuata projects:

from the Austaid website:

Enterprise Challenge Fund for the Pacific and South-East Asia (ECF)
We are now inviting applications for projects in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, eastern Indonesia, and southern Philippines. Applications close on 31 December 2007. The ECF will extend to Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor in early 2008.

Australia will provide $20.5 million over six years to pilot an Enterprise Challenge Fund for the Pacific and South-East Asia.

Providing access to employment and markets is vital to generate a sustainable reduction in poverty. The White Paper: Australian Aid: Promoting Growth and Stability strongly emphasised the private sector as a driver of growth and it foreshadowed the development of a pilot program to support private sector led growth. The Enterprise Challenge Fund aims to stimulate growth and ensure that the poor are included in the benefits and opportunities provided by that growth.

In many countries in our region, innovative private sector projects fail to attract financial backing, not because of low returns, but because of weaknesses in financial markets and the 'public good' nature of some of their benefits. The private sector may be reluctant to undertake pro-poor projects because of perceived risks, lack of information or the high costs of creating new markets. The ECF will help to overcome these constraints.

Through open competition, grants of $100,000 to $1.5 million will be awarded to business projects with pro-poor outcomes and that cannot obtain financing from commercial sources. At least 50 per cent of the project costs must be met by the partner business, and all projects must be commercially self-sustaining within three years.

Initial research for the ECF in the Pacific and South East Asia indicates that potential projects are likely to relate to the extension of financial services, agricultural advisory services to poor people, and investments that create new or improved market linkages. These will lead to the creation of jobs and income-earning opportunities.

The success of individual projects will demonstrate to business and governments that pro-poor commercial opportunities exist in our region. By raising awareness of these opportunities and what may limit a firm from successfully pursuing them, the impact of the ECF can extend beyond individual projects to improving the business environment for all firms.

A Fund Manager will manage the ECF. They will be responsible for marketing and managing the Fund. Tenders for this position have closed. For more information please send an email to

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Tongan taualuga

from w
I wonder if the Fiji delegates at Nukualofa will have time to watch or even to join in the dance of the taualuga. Nah, I don't think so. It's about grace and beauty and being feminine, but also about participation, as others join in with the solo dancer. Money also rains down as gifts shower the main dancer. Go to youtube to see some samples of the dancing of the taualuga from Tonga or Samoa.

Jonah and the whale

from w
One good thing about the forum in Tonga is the presence of Jonah and his attentiveness to the plight of whales. I'll try and find out more later. This is the snippet I read in the Fiji Post. Go Jonah! Stories also in Scoop from New Zealand.
Jonah Lomu may be at this year’s Forum in Nuku’alofa because he wants to lobby for Forum action against Japanese whaling in our region. Tongan tourism needs all the humpback whales it can get and humpbacks need all the friendly Jonahs they can find. Spitting this Jonah out on to a Vava’u beach won’t help the humpback cause one bit as the Japanese threaten to harvest 50 of them this year.

Fiji Post article - re Who let the blogs out

from w
There's an interesting article in today's Fiji Post about a researcher on Fiji blogs since the Dec 5 coup. The title is misleading however - it doesn't mean the military write the blogs - it means they triggered the huge response in good and bad blog posts, mostly anonymous.

Military responsible for political blogs15-Oct-2007 10:28 AM

A SENIOR local journalist believes the military is partly responsible for the number of political blogs that mushroomed after the December 5, 2006 coup.Sophie Foster, a former deputy editor of The Fiji Times, said blogs flourished because of the restrictions the military placed on dissenting opinions in the mainstream media and across the nation in general.

The University of the South Pacific postgraduate student in Pacific Media Studies said that while some blog content was racist, defamatory, provocative and irresponsible, the argument for a free responsible press was also strengthened as an option worth maintaining in any society.

Her article, entitled, “Who let the blogs out? Media and free speech in post-coup Fiji”, is published in the latest Pacific Journalism Review. The edition has been produced jointly by the USP journalism programme and Auckland University of Technology Pacific Media Centre.

Foster said blogs came into their own in a climate where sources of information were running dry, mainstream media were under fire and the military was not averse to “repatriotising” outspoken critics. She said: “Blogs presented a platform through which anti-takeover views could be aired publicly, anonymously and without restriction. In effect, by cracking down on media and freedom of expression, the military had unleashed the blogs - and its subsequent public relations nightmare was worse than anything that could have been delivered under a fully functioning free press.”

This article uses materials which were gathered using qualitative research methods to. The research was aimed at gauging changes in the local media environment as a result of the country’s fourth coup.

The report, based on interviews with media executives and a survey of working journalists, assesses the impact of military repression of dissenting views in the press, the subsequent rise in anonymous political blogs and the type of content delivered.

Foster’s research found newsroom managers were very aware the media environment was not a free one and staff needed extra protection.

Among crucial measures taken during the period were attempts to reduce the unpredictability of the military’s response to criticism.

Editors from all six organisations said they received phone calls from soldiers over any anti-military stories they published. However the Fiji newsroom survey she conducted earlier found most of these had ceased by May 3.

While the blogs were initially welcomed, Fiji Sun publisher, Russell Hunter, said blogs and journalism did not have common ideals.

“The basic ideals of journalism are accuracy and credibility. You achieve that by being accountable to your readership. Blogs are not accountable to their readership because nobody knows who they are,” said Hunter.

Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte, acknowledged blogs were a growing phenomenon the mainstream Fiji media would eventually have to deal with but refused to give anonymous blogs any credibility:

“Blogs that are properly signed and sourced probably have got a place in journalism,” he said.

Foster concluded the rise of blogs showed the press was not the only champion of freedom of expression in the digital age.

When contacted yesterday military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga refused to comment saying Sunday was his day-off

Saturday, October 13, 2007

John Howard maybe will not go to Tonga?

from w
I heard shouting from the lounge room and wondered what was the matter. Junior was shouting that 'he's on every channel!'. Who? Okay, at last, at long last, John Howard has announced an election date - November 24th.

So, now will he go to Tonga for the South Pacific Forum and have a nice little chat with you-know-who from Fiji? I think not. He's in election mode and not in the mood for eating pork and palusami and huge yams for breakfast and running around Nukualofa with his bodyguards in tow. Anyway, I'm all for prime ministers trusting their foreign affairs ministers to do the work instead of traipsing off to every-which-way.

(later - on Monday) As expected Johnno will not go to the Pacific Leaders meeting, but instead, Australia will be represented by Alexander Downer - which is probably a suitable choice after all he is the Foreign Affairs man and he has a firm opinion on Fiji, though he is usually polite.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

churches in Fiji

from w
A linocut - white printing ink on black paper - of a Methodist village church and a photo (from flickr by Edaex) of a cathedral in Suva.
(added later) Here's a photo of Centenary Church, downtown Suva, the hub of Methodist life in the city - I found in October edition of Turaga magazine. There were two side-by-side articles, one from Akuila Yabaki saying there is great prejudice between religions in Fiji, the second article a U.S. report saying there is tolerance and good will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What Ecrea says

from w
In today's paper I was disturbed to read in the Fiji Times that Ecrea supports the set-up 'to move Fiji forward'.
ECREA supports Bainimarama
1051 FJT
Thursday, October 11, 2007

Update: 10.51am WITH the launch yesterday of the People's Council that will be tasked with drafting Fiji's Charter for Change, the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA) has come out in full support of Commander Voreqe Bainimarama, who co-chairs the council with the head of the Catholic Church in Fiji Archbishop Petero Mataca.

ECREA's Semiti Qalowasa said what Commander Bainimarama has done was a good thing and it was bringing the people together. etc. etc.
So I looked up their website and this article gives a fuller account of their position so it's not as simplistic as the daily newspaper writes. The statement is a few months old but it's still relevant.

ECREA Statement
Written by admin
Thursday, 26 July 2007
THE Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education & Advocacy (ECREA) is aware of the interim administration’s struggle to move Fiji forward. We note the attempts at stabilising our economy and international relations by establishing alternate trade relationships.

We understand that the interim administration is attempting to move Fiji forward and put us on track toward the next elections.

We note the normal approach taken by them in negotiating with the unions, asking questions of high-profile civil servants and even members of boards.

We even support the concept of the People’s Charter and we look forward to continuing work with communities on leadership and voter education in time for the somewhat shifting election schedule.

At the same time we note with growing concern a mass deterioration in relationships within Fiji society brought about through the military’s insistence to continue it’s clean up in the aggressive and abrasive manner with which it began. This has engendered ongoing deep seated anxiety and frustration within civil society including the judiciary, unions and NGOs.

This concerns us: the military and its continued presence and methods to institutionalise such entities as FICAC and the subtle shift toward a possible militarised state. We are not entirely sure if or when we are going to see a conclusion to the military’s presence. While the interim administration struggles to move us toward some form of multi-culturalism amidst all the controversy, the military continues on its own particular path.

We choose to draw attention to three specific matters.

Firstly, the ongoing lack of military and therefore political will to bring justice to the families of the three men who died: Tevita Malasebe, Nimilote Verebasaga and Sakiusa Rabaka. We choose not to forget nor ignore the unresolved deaths of these men while in military and police custody. As many have more eloquently stated these men died while in custody of those sworn by oath to protect us; so here the nation watches helplessly as justice is ignored. Families are now fearful of male relatives ending up in custody somewhere or being dragged from their homes and families in the middle of the night. We pray this is not a deliberate strategy by those in charge of whichever institution to delay the delivery of justice.

Secondly, the continuous installation of military personnel in key public positions is a form of nepotism. It also raises alarms of a possible militarised state. Perhaps this needs to be looked at from the perspective of civil society: it does not augur well for any military person to be in such positions for we are essentially still a civilian state.

This continuous installing, albeit through seemingly transparent channels, of military personnel into such key positions indicates two things: (a) perhaps a growing sense of paranoia within the military which they are attempting to alleviate by installing in such positions persons trustworthy to them or (b) a deliberate strategy by the military to turn Fiji into a fully militarised state.

Finally, the travel bans imposed on certain members of Fiji civil society: this not only reflects malice and spite but also abuse of freedoms. We are interested to know how the travelling of an individual out of Fiji would adversely affect the work of moving Fiji forward?

When the military finally removed the SDL government they cited multi-racial and justice reasons.

Perhaps it is important for us all to understand that justice works both ways. While in power SDL policies were indeed racially divisive for example the Affirmative Action and the Reconciliation Tolerance and Unity Bill. SDL deliberately set about using the race card to gain support and they succeeded through the elections. Every Fiji citizen, especially the marginalised among us, suffered, and was going to suffer more had they been in power to implement VAT increases.

The unique situation before us now is that the military itself appears to be promoting a slanted version of justice and there needs to be caution exercised by them. Violence should not be used to settle violence as every peace builder knows; neither can injustice be settled with injustice.

There is much confusion around the manner in which Fiji will move forward. The thinking illustrated by the military and their supporters is that the clean up will provide hope for the future, that this military takeover is what Fiji needs to set us on the right path. It is difficult to see where Fiji is heading at present. Our people are struggling to find hope for the future in this confusing situation.

We need to understand that nation building rests on relationships, good life-giving relationships that are deliberately nurtured and maintained. Business people understand this very well as it is a form of survival for them.

The past few months have seen a breakdown in relationships from families, villages, to unions and sadly our judiciary brought about by this military clean up. With each person removed from office, stopped from leaving the country, murdered in police, or military custody, a seed of hatred is sown.

This seek will bear fruit no matter how much anyone tries to convince themselves that the cause justifies the means.

Rev Tevita Banivanua is the Chair of the Executive Forum of ECREA


Last Updated ( Monday, 17 September 2007 )

Should we change the Fiji flag?

from w
An academic says that the current Fiji flag does not really represent who the Fiji people are. - the story in FijiTV yesterday:
Question raised about Fiji Flag symbol
10 Oct 2007 01:43:47
As we mark the official Independence day - today - there are suggestions that our National Flag revert to the first Fiji Flag of Ratu Seru Cakobau, with a few modifications. USP academic, Vijay Naidu questions whether the current symbols on our National Flag are approriate given the country's independence 37 years to the day. etc. etc.
Bananas - well, that does suggest something other than a small crop of fruit doesn't it! Coconuts? Not a great industry at present. An English lion and the Union Jack - shows us something of the colonial past which is surely now shed. The blue of Pacific of course is an excellent choice of colour. Here are some of the Fiji flags over the past 170 years starting with the Cakobau flag.

Of course it's hard to reconsider changing the present flag because it is now associated with Fiji and waved with pride on numerous occasions.

Robert Wolfgramm - what Fiji Day means to me

from w
In the Fiji Post I read this story by Robert Wolfgramm who speaks honestly of some of his experiences, particularly about racism.

What Fiji Day means to me10-Oct-2007

ONE winter’s day in 1976, I found myself in the Australian city of Wagga Wagga. No one calls it Wagga Wagga, they just say ‘Wagga’. I was a truck-driver at the time doing an interstate run that took in the large south-western New South Wales city that sits at the top of the region called ‘the Riverina’. t was my good fortune to be in the town the very day when a Fiji rugby team was touring and playing, I think, Country New South Wales.

The Fiji team comprised players such as Naituyaga, Veidreyaki, Cavuilati, Waisake, Tuisese, Ratudradra, Lobendahn, and others, but who exactly was on that Wagga field – I cannot remember. It wasn’t much of a day - certainly not one worth remembering in some ways. Overcast, wet and cold, and Fiji losing.

But as I stood cheering among the hundred or so that turned out to watch, I realised that whatever else I would become in life, I would be a pro-Fiji ethno-nationalist. Why? Because I felt every single one of the Australian racist taunts that were hurled at our brave men on the field that day.

It was a galvanising experience. One that shaped my outlook deeply and permanently.

Our team probably never heard the racist insults screamed whenever they had the ball in their possession or made forward moves on the field. I expect their minds were on the game. But I stood among the insult-hurlers feeling great pride in the Fiji team, and deep shame and anger at what some Australians are capable of – especially when it came to sport, their unofficial national religion.

Indeed, it took Australian sporting and government authorities another 20 years before sport racism became an issue for them. It took 20 long years after multiculturalism was official Australian policy for conservative sport authorities in that country to do something about the rampant racism that attended every international meeting with their opponents in just about every code of sport. Cricket and rugby were especially bad.

I gained first-hand experience of it that winter’s day in Wagga Wagga and while the Fiji team could return to the cocoon of their home turf here in Fiji and simply forget about any such experience, I couldn’t. I was stuck in Australia facing up to it day after day, year after year - in one form or other. Mine can’t have been a unique experience, but it was one that makes an ethno-nationalist out of the uncommitted. Fending or rather defending your homeland, your country of birth, your ancestral Fijians, your relatives, your people, to non-Fijians for 40 years made me hyper-sensitive to anti-Fiji and specifically anti-Fijian criticism.

It still does. When I hear people rejecting ethno-nationalism, criticising it, scared of it, I just wonder whether they have suffered for Fiji in the same way I have. Not that I would wish it on them – no, not at all. But I wish they would be more understanding of what it means to stick up for your country abroad for as long as I have.

Some will have been exposed to it abroad for some period of time (for sure); and some will even have surrendered to it. But I couldn’t and can’t.

I remember how in 1964, a Sydney school friend of mine came home to celebrate my birthday. He was genuinely shocked to find I was then living in a middle-class home – clean, tidy and with all the signs of having accommodated myself to civilisation. ‘Boy’, he said to me in the middle of the party, ‘your house is great – I thought you’d be living in grass dump!’ We laughed.

I laughed with him at the time, but was equally shocked at his ignorance. But I didn’t laugh much 10 years later, when strolling across Sydney’s Domain with my then young (white) Australian wife. A stranger ran up to us, and, taking exception at her being with me (a ‘boong’ as he put it), spat at her. The poor girl! She had already sustained a long battle with her own white Australian parents, who objected to our relationship and had banned her seeing me, had confiscated my letters to her, had cut their telephone line, had banned her sisters from visiting us, and had (naturally) refused to attend our wedding. ‘You should go back to Fiji and marry one of your own kind’, her father told me many times before we had a punch-up.

I didn’t start that fight, but the one time when I did was when I was confronted by a couple of young neo-Nazis in Bourke Street, Melbourne. It was back in the mid ’70s and I was street-preaching for my Christian faith. The Nazis always came along to listen and laugh at us street-preachers. They usually stood at attention in their Australian army overcoats hiding their Nazi uniforms underneath – this in itself must be a great insult and sacrilege to the Diggers who fought Nazism.

But what upset me on this particular occasion, were their taunts of ‘go home Nigger’ that greeted my testimony. It wasn’t that they were ridiculing my faith, but my race, my appearance, my people. I jumped off the trailer I was speaking from and we wrestled to the ground. It wasn’t a great advertisement for my faith, that’s for sure, but it felt good and right to stick up for my people.

So these are just some of the things that made an ethno-nationalist out of me. The thought that some 250,000 people then (400,00 people now) were worthy of racist ridicule just because of what they are, who they are, and who I am, by history, by culture, and by birth stirs my pride in Fiji. It invokes deep respect for my Fijian relatives and ancestral connections. It causes me to want for them the best kind of prosperity and national political profile we can give ourselves. As I see it, Fiji is a precious minority in the global scale of things. We have to protect and maintain ourselves against the tide of wishy-washy global sentiment that wants to erode ethnic distinctiveness and make us all into one big bland family of nothin g-in-particular.

If Fiji Day means anything to me, it doesn’t mean loss of pride in who we are, but it does mean hope for the end of racism in Fiji. As one who has experienced it for too long in another country, I would not wish racism on anyone here. Especially not those who through no fault of their own, have no other country other than this one.

I think of Fiji as an accepting, tolerant and understanding nation. We can all proudly be a part of its growing, maturing history. We can all be ethno-nationalists, but never racists. When I hear some of our citizens disparage ethno-nationalism, I just think back to that winter day in Wagga Wagga and smile. And dream about a Fiji team winning the Rugby World Cup. That’d show those appalling Wagga Wagga racists a thing or two.

More about Robert on his website.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fiji Day

from w
It's Fiji Day, 10th October. We remember when Fiji became independent in 1970. There were celebrations throughout Fiji. We were in Rakiraki and there was a formal function there. Some of the children from the local Methodist Primary school where Peceli was the chairman sang 'This land is your land' to new words, appropriate for Fiji.
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From Suva Harbour to Yasawa Islands.
from the raintree forest to the Rewa delta
This land was made for you and me.
It was an optimistic time. Hmmm. Those were the days, my friend... The days when there was respect and optimism and Ratu Kamisese Mara was at the helm.

Monday, October 08, 2007

And the turtle saga goes on and on

from Fiji TV tonight:
So it's wasn't an environmental group that ordered those dratted T-shirts! It was a bunch of tourists who thought the slogan funny. Yep. I think the NGO's would have been a little more cautious! And Mr Coddy tells it like it is now. Is that Mr Murray Coddy?
9 Oct 2007 01:43:25
The Apparel company which printed t-shirts with the slogan, Save a Turtle, Eat a Methodist, says the orders were not made by any environmental advocacy group, as claimed by the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Environment in a memo to the Home Affairs Ministry has requested that the advocacy group responsible for the t-shirts, be given 24 hours to leave the country.

It has now been confirmed that the T-shirt orders were placed by tourists from the nearby resorts outraged by the mass slaughter of turtles during the recent Methodist Church conference in Macuata.

Windward Apparel of Savusavu took orders for t-shirts with the slogan, Save a Turtle, Eat a Methodist... These have already been delivered. Its the t-shirts that has infuriated the Environment Ministry, which is requesting Home Affairs to kick those responsible out of the country in 24 hours. Its also caused the Environment Ministry to request Home Affairs to assess and undertake background checks on all foreign funded environment groups in the country.

Windward Apparel says, the Environment Ministry has been misinformed. Coddy says, the intelligence arm of the Police Force has also come around calling.
Coddy says people making a fuss about the t-shirts seem to have forgotten the bigger issue at hand. In the business of putting what clients want on their t-shirts, Coddy says this is all part of freedom of speech. He says, calls by the Environment Ministry to kick those responsible out of the country are just going overboard.

Pic of the Murray Cod in an Australian town used in a movie.

Watching brotown again

from w
In Australia Brotown is currently being screened Monday nights – I think it is series 3, and they are making series 4 so it must be popular. It’s offensive and crude but very funny for South Pacific Islanders who don’t mind the mickey being taken out of ‘em. If it was briefly shown in Fiji, I’m sure it would be regarded as offensive and racist because it’s about stereotypes and caricatures.

Check out here for the writing process

One blogger writes about the series here for an introduction to the series.

And for those who haven’t caught up with watching brotown yet here is a video sample.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Stan Ritova, retired Fiji journalist

from w
Here's a story about a guy whose mother is from Naseakula from the chiefly Ritova family, and his father, Whippy, a sea captain. Stan worked at first as a journalist in the Labasa office and had adventures later on as recounted here in a Fiji Times feature article. In the photo he is pictured with Stan Simpson who was honoured with a journalism award in Suva.

Adventures of a spontaneous spiritSunday, October 07, 2007

IN his long career as a journalist in Fiji, Stan Ritova has had many adventures and covered many exciting stories but there is one particular incident that still gives him a rush of adrenaline.

It all happened because of his belief that journalists should be spontaneous and look for the stories people will want to read about. That is what led him to Fiji's rural areas.

"I spent most of my time as a journalist in the rural areas but nobody told me to do this," he recalls. I used to travel a lot and I would just jump on a plane and go to Savusavu or Labasa and do features or 'countrywide'."

It was one such trip that led him to an oil rig close to the Tongan Islands.

"I met this guy who was in Labasa during one of my trips and I asked him what he was doing there. He said he was working on a supply ship and he told me that he was going to take the supplies to an oil rig, which was on its way to the Persian Gulf from Canada," Mr. Ritova said.

Thinking he could get a good story, he decided to join his new friend on his trip to the oil rig. "So I went with him and my God I had never been so sick in my whole life. Four days we travelled because the supply boat was not a very big vessel and it diddled and danced. And then early one morning he woke me up and said come, this is what you came for'. We were near this island near Tonga and there was this huge rig like a city and it was all lit up and moving and when we got close to it, it looked like a 10-storey building and moving! I asked this man how we were going to get up there and he told me to wait and see," he said.

Mr. Ritova said they hovered near the oil rig at about ten in the morning and to his amazement a huge wrench came down to pull their supply boat. "He told me that the regulation was that we were not allowed to sit while the wrench was pulling us up and we had to stand up because if anything happened, we would have to jump down. There were these big sharks following the rig and I told him that there was no way I was going to stand up all the way to the top of the rig. I told him I was going to sit down and when we reached the top I saw how they worked and we didn't leave the rig until about four in the afternoon."

Mr. Ritova also recalled when he was allowed to spend close to two weeks with the New Zealand military, dressed in their uniform and eating their ration. "We spent some time with the NZ army when they came to train here and I got to dress up in their army uniform and I stayed with them in the bushes and camped with them, eating their ration in camp," he said.

Mr. Ritova said his work is important to him and his advice to young people who are thinking of joining the media industry is to have total commitment to the profession.

"The young journalists in Fiji are very good because of the formal training they received. But as I said to become a journalist you have to be very dedicated.

"I more or less neglected my family too but I had a very strong wife who was a nurse and she raised the kids when I was away.

"I treated my work very importantly because it was part of my life."

Mr. Ritova was forced to take some time off from his busy journalism career some years back due to health reasons but says he never stopped working and is now working hard to get an online Pacific News website launched.

"I have been in Sydney for the past seven years after I got sick. I have to have my dialysis injection every two days but I am still very involved in the work," he said.

Mr. Ritova is working at finishing his book on the newspaper industry in Fiji and now that he has been honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fiji Awards for Media Excellence last week, he says he will work extra hard to get the book out of the way.

"I am very proud of it. Honestly, I am very proud of the fact that I am the third living person to receive that award because the other two winners Sir Leonard Usher and Robert Keith-Reid also received the award but only after they died."

Babasiga soccer going great

from p
The Babasiga Lions are on track to be winners.
from Fijilive:
Labasa on track to clinch Super 6 soccer title
The Labasa soccer team's dream of winning the New World Super 6 league play-off is on track after a 2-1 win over Navua at the Post Fiji Stadium. The Babasiga Lions continue their fine performance from last weeks 3 nil win against Ba and looks good to be one of the front runners of the league title.

In other game Ba defeated Suva by 3 goals to 1.

The Babasiga Lions has taken the lead in the Super 6 play-off and are now in first place with 6 points and are followed closely by defending champions Ba on 3 points.
The New World National Soccer League will take place tomorrow at the Post Fiji Stadium at 3pm Suva host Nadi while at Thompson park Navua will face Lautoka.

Good job, vinaka tagane Flying Fijians

from p
Vinaka vakalevu tagane to the Flying Fijians. It was a free flowing game and they nearly did it. South Africa won 37 to 20. The team did well to get this far. We watched from 10 p.m. and they started at 11 p.m. It was an exciting match. You created your own mark in the book of history about the game.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Davuilevu 100 years on

from w
I noticed a small item in a Fiji paper about Davuilevu one hundred years on from moving from Navuloa in Rewa. It's the focal point of Methodist institutions in Fiji with a high school, lay training institute, bible school and theological college. I lived there one time when I was teaching at Lelean, and Peceli spent several years training there. A place where we have made many friends. Baker Hall on the hill, Lelean, sports fields, all near Dilkusha and nowadays opposite the new Rewa Bridge.

The picture at top is of Baker Hall. The one below is of five graduates from Davuilevu Theological College - but many years on!

from a Fiji paper
Davuilevu celebrates 100 years
5-Oct-2007 11:07 AM

THE Methodist Church in Fiji will next week hold a centennial celebration for its Davuilevu property, which is the home of Methodist Education.

College Librarian James Bhagwan said the first Teacher-Training and Technical Institutes in Fiji were established at Davuilevu just outside Nausori. He said this was also home to Lelean Memorial School, The Methodist Young People’s Department lay training centre and Davuilevu Theological College.

Bhagwan added the October 7-10 celebrations are to commemorate the shifting of all the major Methodist educational institutes from Buretu in Navuloa to Davuilevu in 1907.

“The celebrations committee made up of representative from the institutions currently based at Davuilevu released its programme yesterday”, he added.

Bhagwan said the highlights of the week would include a special thanksgiving at the original site.

There will also be a march from Nausori to Davuilevu led by the youth band, a special Meke Ni Davui to commemorate the occasion, church services, the dedication of the Centennial Monument and the viewing of the Davuilevu Archives at Baker Hall.

(later: I found a few pics - one of Baker Hall at the celebration, one of Lelean Memorial School and one of the new bridge which now is at the entrance to Davuilevu instead of beyond Dilkusha.)

What I like about Fiji

from w
It's Fiji Day on October 10th and I don't care about 21 gun salutes and speeches with spin, but here are some of the things I do like about Fiji. The mountains, the flowers, the sea, and of course the people, but the ordinary people - the kind hands massaging a sore back, the young men like Ari in the street earning a living by polishing shoes and the physical beauty of many people. Not much to do with newspaper exaggerations and political mischief making.

Three of the photos were taken from an Air Pacific magazine and the one of the Three Sisters Mountains near Labasa - oops, don't know where I found it!