Friday, November 30, 2007

Women help in Labasa cane cutting

from w
The cane season is coming to an end for the year and the Labasa people still have cane to cut. The women are helping out - getting up at 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast and then going to help the men in the fields. Aruna Wati 31 and Suman Lata 30 are pictured here - photo courtesy of Fiji Sun.

Our Fijian family have a few cane leases at Vatuadova and for a few months each year teams of young men come from Mali Island and other places and camp at the village to work as cane-cutters in the surrounding areas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Never give up on street kids

from w
A feel-good story was in today's Fiji Times about a street-kid going back to school and doing well. Another article was about his school - Lami High School which has been criticized for not producing outstanding results all around. Come on guys - don't blame the teachers. Someone in the Education Department wants to shuffle teachers around based on the kids' results! This school apparently takes in kids who might not be accepted elsewhere and if a kid goes from a D to a C well that's okay. Not all kids will get lots of A results. Anyway, congratulations to this young man.

Former shoeshine boy tops schoolERNEST HEATLEY
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A FORMER shoeshine boy who spent two and a half years roaming the streets of Sura was named Dux of the Year at Lami High School yesterday.

Maikeli Pio Bale, 19, topped the school in four subjects Agriculture, English, Chemistry and Biology. He said he was motivated by his street struggles and encouraged by his grand-uncle, who adopted him when he was a child after his parents split up. "I just thought of all the struggles I had while I was in that situation and I thought to myself that I had the potential to go in the opposite direction and achieve whatever I want," he said.

Having come from a broken family, Maikeli was moved from school to school and spent time in his village of Tukavesi at Buca Bay in Vanua Levu about three years ago.

In 2000, he was beaten up by soldiers for breaking a curfew. Two years later, he was pulled off the streets by his granduncle and made to sit for his intermediate exam which he passed. But he returned to the streets and started shining shoes for a living and sleeping rough.

Eventually, Maikeli said he learnt the error of his ways and, like a prodigal son, returned home, went back to school and started going to church regularly. "I still meet my street-kid friends in town once in a while. They try to influence me back but I just tell them to go back to school," he said. Maikeli has now set his sights on becoming a primary school teacher.

His granduncle, Saimoni Naqete, a carpenter by trade, was a proud and a shocked man yesterday. He said Maikeli never told him how well he was doing in school.

He said he never gave up hope on his adopted child, despite his waywardness. "He was a street kid on and off for two and a half years but even while he was like that, I used to keep advising him that it was not the right way to go,'' said Mr Naqete. "Just looking at what he has achieved today is amazing because he never even told me how he had been doing in school. I came to the prize-giving not expecting to see him collect so many prizes."

Monday, November 26, 2007

When a container of gifts is sent

from w
Deja vu - as I read a story in today's Fiji news about a container of gifts being sent to Suva and there's a problem at the wharf. This is the story and my comments after:
NZ Fijians need urgent State help
1602 FJT
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update: 4.02pm A CONTAINER of clothes and furniture donated by the Fijian community in Auckland will be auctioned off at the end of the month if the storage fees accumulated in the past three months is not paid up. The container of donated secondhand items was sent for the Central Christian Centre at Davuilevu and the CWM Hospital but was not released because the recipients were told to pay $4000 in duty.

Included in the container are medical equipment and supplies for the hospital, sent in August this year.

A concerned former Fiji citizen now living in Auckland, Janette Hennings said the Fijian community had contributed the items including $2800 for freight.

She said both the CWM Hospital and the Central Christian Centre were told to pay $4000 if they wanted the container released. Ms Hennings said the storage fee has been increasing since August and the relevant authorities are threatening to auction off the items to recover the storage fees.

In September this year, Fiji Times Online had queried with the interim Prime Minister's Permanent Secretary, Pramesh Chand about the matter and a letter from the Fijian community to Commander Voreqe Bainimarama. Mr Chand acknowedged a letter had been received but said the relevant authority to deal with the issue was the Finance Ministry. The New Zealanders claim they have not received a reply from Commander Bainimarama. In the meantime, the Fijian community in Auckland are reluctant to send any more donations.

Okay, that's their experience and let me tell you, lots of stories abound about problems when kind-hearted people in places such as New Zealand and Australia send a container of donated goods to places like Fiji. The wharf fee in Suva or Lautoka has to be paid, if the container stays more than about five days then a huge fee accummulates in storeage. There may be (though there shouldn't be) customs duty. One of the containers we sent was put into storeage when the recipient (a volunteer mind you) wasn't notified quickly. Then there's the risk of theft. Then there may be more charges to transport the gifts to Vanua Levu or elsewhere which can be as high as the cost of sending a container from a city in Australia to Suva! Join the club, kiwis, and think twice about sending gifts to Fiji. Of course it can be worse - in Sri Lanka one time they didn't even want donated second-hand goods - they only wanted brand new stuff and the container just was left on the wharf forever!

Our Donation in Kind has just sent another container to Lautoka so - I'm crossng my fingers that it will get through okay. A friend in Melbourne is sending a container to Suva with gifts to go on to Lakeba and we gave him wheelchairs etc. so I hope that gets through okay too. Maybe there needs to be clear guidelines set by the Fiji end as to the regulations about sending gifts to Fiji.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Downgrading from ministry to a department

from w
Many people are shocked by a decision of the Interim government in Fiji to change the Ministry of Fijian Affairs, to a Department of Indigenous Affairs, lumped in with two other departments, all under the Interim Prime Minister. It shows that the the word 'Fijian' will mean something other than describing those who descend from the native Islanders. The want it to be inclusive of all citizens - a topic that has been around for some time. Fiji National, Fiji Islanders aren't good enough terms apparently.

An editorial from the Fiji Times is about the change - without consultation. The fear is that this is a confrontational stance against Fijian isntitutions.

Indigenous affairs
Monday, November 26, 2007
THE downgrading of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department will not go down well with the indigenous community. Already we are beginning to see signs of Fijian chiefs and individuals stirring and murmuring against the interim Government's decision to convert the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to the Department of Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs.

This department, under the portfolio of the Prime Minister, will most likely have a State minister and will cover the affairs of the indigenous people as well as the Indians, part Europeans and everyone else who falls under the multi-ethnic banner. Many Fijians will see the downgrading of their ministry as a reflection of how the interim Government perceives the indigenous community and their concerns, interests and rights.

And, by extension, it will also reaffirm their belief and suspicions of the interim Government's opinion of the Great Council of Chiefs. It will also reaffirm the suspicions of many indigenous Fijians that this coup is supported by non-Fijians and aims to water down the powers and interests of their community.

Since December 5, 2006, indigenous affairs have been subjected to a whirlwind of change starting from the top the council of chiefs going all the way down to land. The GCC was suspended by the interim PM after the chiefs refused to endorse the President's choice with the blessing of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama for Vice-President. Like an errant child, the council was punished with a review commissioned by the ministry to look into functions and its membership.

And the changes haven't ended there. As announced in the 2008 Budget, the Ministry of Lands will receive a mandate from the People's Charter to conduct land reforms including a review of ALTA.

As the leader of the interim Government, Commodore Bainimarama needs to explain why he downgraded the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department.While his motives appear unclear at that stage, he owes the people, especially the indigenous community, an explanation. He must also be prepared to face the backlash of his decision and there will be backlash from individuals, provincial councils and chiefs and he should not ignore the concerns of the indigenous community. They deserve to know why.
And FijiTV tonight;
Even the linguist Paul Geraghty has his say:
Mixed reactions to Ministry name change 27 Nov 2007 00:52:58

The recent name change of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs continues to received mixed reactions. At least two USP academics have called on the interim government to explain the reasons or motives behind the change in name from the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to Department of Indigenous Affairs.

The recent announcement by government for a name change for the Ministry of Fijian Affairs TO Department of Indigenous Affairs has been met with more criticism. Academics are now calling on the government to openly explain their latest move.The political analyst says, the name change will create more political ripples adding the ongoing debate of the term 'Fijian' has now moved to a concrete direction.

Ratuva agrees that consultations on the matter should have been conducted first.

USP linguist Paul Geraghty agrees likewise saying the English word 'Fijian' has been in use for more than two-thousand years since Captain James Cook visited the Pacific and it now seems strange that people want to change it now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Fiji/Cook Island wedding

from Peceli
Mac and Irene's wedding. The new pacific generation in Australia.

Mac, the bridegroom came from the Cook Islands and the bride Irene came from a Fiji family, her father Australian and her mother, Sylvia from Nairai in Lomaiviti the centre of Fiji and they are part of the Fiji community in Melbourne. We have known the two sisters, Irene and Natalie for many years and Irene stayed with us in Geelong for half a year when she was a teenager.

The formal church ceremony was held at Williamstown in a large Anglican Holy Spirit Church. This grey stone church had beautiful coloured stained glass windows. It was full of people in the pews and a group of young people sang during the service. Irene had seven bridesmaids dressed in blue and seven grooms dressed in formal black suits. Her little daughter was dressed up also. Irene looked confident, beautiful and relaxed. She was all smiles as the wedding ceremony concluded with prayers and the bridal party walked out to the wedding march.

Williamstown is the oldest suburb of Melbourne and the church was across the road from waterfront and many boats. The priest was a woman who lived in an old two-storey house next door with an enormous Moreton Bay fig tree in the compound. We talked with several people we already knew but there were many others who were new to us especially many Cook Islanders.

The venue of the reception was a large Catholic Church Hall in Yarraville often used by the Fijian community for functions. About seven hundred people were there and the Island food was spread out on long tables and guests sat around smaller round tables. We sat with some Fijians we knew who were talkative even over the sound of the band.

The Master of ceremony, father of the groom, with a roving microphone was the Cook Islander Dad of the bridegroom and he spoke in English. He tried hard to control the very large crowd which included a hundred or more children. There were about fifteen speeches and many songs and dance performances. The most interesting speech was from a passionate Cook Island woman who was the groom's mother and the speeches by Mac and Irene.

We enjoyed the lovo food and found some new delicacies that were new to us. The wedding cake which was dark chocolate was made by Raijieli Loganimasi and was enjoyed by all.

This young couple are part of this new generation of Australian people of Pacific Islander background. May God bless them on their new journey. We witnessed not only the big wedding of Irene and Mac as a couple but also the binding together of two families together. A young Cook Island dancing girl led the bride and groom into the hall as a song in their language was performed on stage by a Cook Island singing group.

We witnessed the second and third generation of a new kind of Pacific Australians whose parents or grandparents came from the Pacific and are now taking their place in the new home of Australia. We have to encourage young people to look for new ways to settle in Australia. May Blessing be upon you both for now and for your future.

Photos: Rai from Nairai made the chocolate mud cake for the wedding.
There were seven bridesmaids and seven grooms and the celebrant was an Anglican woman priest.
Irene and Mac after the ceremony.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black and white photo exhibition in New Zealand

from w
There's an art gallery in Kiwi land which has some good looking exhibitions. One on currently is based on a number of black and white photographs telling the story of the Indo-Fiji community. They have been published recently in a book also but it seems to dwell on displacement, disenfranchisement of people rather than a positive spin on ordinary people getting along. And stuff about 2000, well, that is a long time ago!

The art gallery has a website with pics about their exhibitions.
Bruce Connew is the photographer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning Hindi and Fijian

from w
They've been talking about this for years, and in fact in many schools there have been classes in the two languages. Grade 5 and Form 3 apparently have been chosen as the period for specialist classes - for all children. Way to go!

However it is also necessary in the very early years of schooling that the children sing songs and learn some basics of 'other' languages because the earlier they learn the better. I don't thing that knowing language alone will overcome prejudices that still exist in some people, but communication with neighbours with local languages and dialects is a very good thing. So, what about local variants of Fijian then? Nadroga dialect for example for the Huva people!

from Fijilive today:
Fijian, Hindi classes for all Fiji schools
Tuesday November 20, 2007

Fiji's two major languages, Hindi and Fijian are expected to be taught from certain classes in all primary and secondary schools around the country starting next year. The new language policy is expected to be implemented when Term 2 starts next year.

The Fiji Cabinet today approved the implementation plan for the language policy based on the use of Fijian, Hindi and English "as a long-term and sustainable strategy for a peaceful and stable, multi-ethnic cultural living in Fiji". Minister for Education, Science and Technology Netani Sukanaivalu said that this new programme will begin in Term 2, 2008 at all classes 5 at primary schools, and at all Form 3 levels at secondary schools.

"The courses will start at beginner's level and gradually progress in proficiency year by year as students progress through schooling, class by class."

He said that this programme is earmarked to start from class 5 mainly because classes 1-4 concentrate on socialising the child into the 'schooling' process and on introducing the teaching and learning of the English language. He said the course structure will comprise two components - conversational Fijian or Hindi, starting at beginner's level then progressing to intermediate, then onto an advanced level, and a component on basic culture studies, that is, Fijian culture or Hindi culture.

"Part of this component will require students to take part in situational learning, either by visiting/assisting a family or through projects to enhance cultural understanding." Sukanaivalu said that students will be assessed at Class 6, Class 8, Form 4 and Form 6 levels.

"Certificates would be given to students after completion of study at each level and after passing the assessment tests." He further said that all teachers and officers at headquarters, divisions and districts offices and also at teachers' colleges will also undergo the same language learning programme. Currently, English, and either Hindi or Fijian is taught based on whether it is an Indian or a Fijian school. Teaching Hindi and Fijian languages in all schools has long been proposed in an effort to bring more understanding between the two races but has never been implemented.

Meanwhile in Labasa...

from w
While the interim who's who make speeches and go on nice overseas trips, ordinary life goes on in Labasa town, women making crafts, caring for babies, gathering for fellowhip and fundraising. Unlike many of the Labasa area churches in villages which are made up from local people, Nasea church includes many families of civil servants and others who have come to Labasa from other places. (Our youngest son was baptised in Nasea Methodist Church, though we were then connected to the Wailevu circuit. I remember a function there where the church president and his wife were visiting and a lovely feast was prepared. The president's wife said, 'Wendy, you eat my share dear. I am fasting today!) The women of Nasea Methodist Church in the town area of Labasa are the focus of a story by the Labasa based journalist. Vinaka Serafina.

Circuit plans special day
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

IN a bid to attract women to be active members, the Nasea Methodist Church circuit women's group has plans to organise a special day next year. But last week, the group, to see how successful such a day might be, organised a day for members to display their works of art.

President Talaite Rabuli said the day was a success with more than 50 women participating. "The women brought in their different handicrafts ranging from mats, kuta, embroidery, dresses, table cloth, kettle cover, home made jams, different types of chutney and baskets of different sizes," she said.

"And it was an interesting day because all women worked together to set the platform to achieve our goal in bringing women together and making them become active members," Mrs Rabuli said.She said the main aim of having such a day was to involve women in the show and at the same time bring them to church."We have so many members, more than 200 but only a group is active and that's why we are organising a handicraft day because women love doing that. "So through this art work, the special day will bring them together and it will eventually bring them to church and to become active members," Mrs Rabuli said.

Friday, November 16, 2007

from the archives - some Fiji talatalas and padres

from w
I was doing some research about the Fiji Methodist Church the other day at Deakin University and came across some interesting photographs from the archives - from 1890onward. The photo of the large group includes men and women ready to be missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Another is of Fijian minister at Davuilevu about the 1930s. Also, two of the photos were given to us from an elderly woman in Geelong, photos taken in the 1930s of Fijian ministers on deputation. The photo of Daniel Mastapha, Ramsay Deoki and Edward Caleb was taken in the 50s.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chants and calls heard in Labasa

from w
Here are two pictures I took when I was researching the music of Labasa - at a South Indian temple and at the Naseakula mosque just below the Fijian village. I recorded the chants and calls to prayer from both places that day. For two to three years I was immersed in ethnomusicology - okay it's sounds academic but it was just going around with a portable tape-recorder and asking questions and listening to a huge variety of music - in villages, churches, homes, schools, sitting on the side of a mountain as the men and women cleaned a yam garden, festivals and so on. Very enjoyable field-days. Well, I only used about 5% of the tapes in the thesis but still have hundreds of cassette tapes. My thesis never got on-line, just copied for some universities. Nowadays it is a delight when someone allows their research papers to be read on-line. What do I do with all those old tapes?

Monday, November 12, 2007

tribewanted celebrate diwali

from w
The new chief Carol writes about how they celebrated Diwali with a family connected to Govind's restaurant internet cafe. That's the place where Peceli and I post from when in Labasa. She writes:
Last night was a special off island night. Sham, who owns Govinda’s Internet CafĂ© in Labasa invited the tribe over to his home to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light. We loaded ourselves into the boats for gorgeous starlit night ride into town. After being presented with plates of incredible Indian sweets, we headed out onto the cement awning above Govinda’s and proceeded to behave like overgrown 6 year olds given access to things that go BANG! FLASH!. It was absolutely fantastic, so much fun. I had a terrible case of the giggles through our delectable post-delinquint dinner in Sham’s living room.

They also posted a picture by John Hendicott of the bure and it does look different with some kind of extension in the roof. I've never seen a bure like that in my life! Perhaps they have sleeping quarters up there!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

:Poppies in Flanders fields

from w
Today is Remembrance Day and there are ceremonies in many countries including Fiji. It is not a celebration in my view but a lamentation because wars are wrong, there is so much death and injury, that there are other ways to settle conflicts. At the same time the greedy and aggressive people need to be put in their place. That is the dilemma for someone who wants to be a pacifist.

The famous poem about Flanders field and poppies came from World War 1.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is a good time for reflection in Fiji of the role of the military forces, their function, their purpose, their actions.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Diwali

Good wishes to our friends who celebrate Diwali today. May light shine in the darkness of our world. Clean up our houses, our minds, our hearts.

Our relatives in Vatuadova today are focussing on today's holiday to do a few things: cementing the grave of our beloved Suliana then a church service of thanksgiving, the baptism of five new babies, and a small feast for everyone in the village.

from Fiji Times editorial today:
Time for reflection
Friday, November 09, 2007

AS Hindus around the country celebrate Diwali today, we, as a nation, need to reflect on how far we have come and where we are going. The simple message of Diwali is about good overcoming evil. This is a theme that resonates in all religious beliefs that one day good will overpower evil and when that happens, then the world will be set right.

For the Hindus, that day has come and it is celebrated once a year. For Christians, that day is yet to come. For Fiji, that day has come and gone or is yet to come depending on who you talk to and where their allegiances lie. There is without a shred of doubt that we are a divided nation. We are divided by our ideologies, our political preferences, our faith, our culture, our race and language and our geographical location.

We have been divided by our racism and our hatred, our discrimination, our biases and prejudices, our short-sightedness and by our unwillingness to forgive. We are also divided by the sides we have chosen in our current internal conflict. People have decided that if you are not with them, then you are against them. For them, there is no middle ground. You can't sit on the fence, so to speak.

As a result, families have been torn apart, neighbours fighting neighbours and Catholic pitted against Catholic. We need to have a symbol of hope.As citizens of Fiji, we need to come together and learn to agree to disagree if we cannot find a common ground. For a start, we need good leaders.

Leaders who will bring the light back into our lives, our economy and our country. We need to reconcile our differences. Some of the divisions are so deeply rooted that they are depressing and oppressive. We need to be able to see the other side of the story and accept that people will always have different opinions. We need to learn to live with each other faults and all. No one is perfect but together we can complement each other.

Fiji needs to move forward.We need to pull ourselves out of the doldrums and put ourselves back on the international chart as a safe destination with a thriving economy and a productive and united workforce. Let's use this holiday to refocus and recharge.

and a letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times later on:
Diwali reflections

As I wandered around Lautoka looking at the many homes lit beautifully for Diwali, I couldn't help but notice something.In many streets one would pass a house that was very brightly lit and right next door was a humbly lit one.

People who can afford it have electric lights and children can be seen lighting very expensive fire crackers and wearing new expensive clothes. Right next door would be a house lit with the simple candle, not even crepe paper to shelter the candles form the wind.

Society is such that the poor live right next to the rich and in these trying times it is very noticeable. And if things don't improve less homes will be lit next year. Here I'm talking about the poor.

Allen Lockington
I agree with the sentiment expressed here. I was brought up in a town where everyone was more-or-less equal -and very rarely did we see spectacularly large houses and high fences, etc. But in Fiji it really shocked me when I saw the proximity of extremely fancy expensive houses opposite dilapidated flats in a Lautoka street.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fiji Post editorial on arrests

from w
There's not much in the Fiji news about the current arrests that is not sensationalised. However the editorial in the Fiji Post is a little more restrained.

What about this angle?

The best light we can cast on the goings-on of late concerning the alleged conspiracy against the Interim government’s leaders is that it constitutes a kind of pre-emptive strike, a willingness on the part of government to seize the initiative before things got out-of-hand.

This view of the seeming confusion sees the Interim administration as endangered, but in wanting to diffuse that danger, it has demonstrated a willingness to potentially embarrass itself by being seemingly ill-prepared in legal prosecutorial terms.

Hence, in this light, the government has launched its counter-measure knowing that while it may have to suffer ignominy for its half-baked legal case from a sceptical international community looking on, it can rest assured that it has prevented assassination and bloodshed by doing so.

Going off half-cocked is not, from this view, what this is all about. Rather, it is an attempt to hose down potentially murderous dissent before it has time to form into resolve and action. This is the best light we can put on the events of this week.

That is to say, governments are entitled to have and hold views about certain persons it considers unhelpful in the least and downright disruptive at worst. The Interim Government is therefore entitled, in its view, to seek preventive action against these persons who are, in its view, guilty until proven innocent.

Their ‘guilt’ is defined by government as a natural accompaniment to their past actions which, although within the formal boundaries of the law, are not in accord with the spirit of the new order the interim regime is seeking to administer and encourage, if not impose. That is to say, how is any government to deal with persons it already knows, by virtue of who they are, to be trouble-makers?

etc. etc.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Meanwhile, back on the farm...

from Rinieta,
We all well in Vatuadova and everything else is fine. We just finished our Training in Vatuadova village. The F.S.C. arranged for a Workshop in how to plant good sugarcane so we are blessed by all the happenings in Vatuadova. Everybody was at the workshop except Bulou and Baba who were catering for one week for the finance of women's group.We collected 1,300 dollars from the workshop.

from Wendy,
Vina'a va'alevu Rini. Very good work. It's good to hear that the Fiji Sugar Corporation are doing something about improving cane farming. The family have about five sugar contracts so it is now a busy time - but very hard work for rather small financial rewards I think.

Efficient in Australia but Fiji....sobosobo!

from w
Okay, the horse Efficient wins the Melbourne Cup so now we can get on with 'real' matters such as the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, oh dear, the sensational news in Fiji with highly exaggerated stories/media reaction/ forgetting to say 'alleged plot' is still on a merry-go-round. Sobosobo!

What do the children think of their elders' behaviour, the inefficiency, the madness, the alleged assassination plots and kava bowl grumblings. I don't want to add to the sensational stories that, of course, reach other shores and surely will make potential tourists wonder why they have bought tickets to a paradise holiday! Just on Sunday a Fijian girl was telling me about three families of workmates who recently holidayed in Fiji, one at Denarau, one at the Fijian, one at the Warick and they had a marvellous time, their children looked after by Fijian nannies. One child from a family that has travelled widely all over the world said, 'This is the best holiday ever' and wants to return as soon as possible. Isa lei, then those guys in Suva and their kind muck it up once again.

From RadioFiji this afternoon:
Move away from violence: activist
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Youth activist Peter Waqavonovono says Fiji must move away from the coup culture, confrontation and violent reactions from the security forces. Waqavonovono said acts by the law enforcers last weekend has cast doubts on their reputation. “We should be like a nation that is moving away from this coup culture and from this kind of reaction where we see the security services reacting very violently to opposition and people.

“With the case that happens just soon…this leaves a very bad reputation on police force and on the security services and a very bad imagine for this nation,” said he. Waqavonovono is also calling on all citizens and youths not to be silent anymore and address issues of human rights and upholding the constitution and the rule of law.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

No taller than a coconut tree - part two

from w
Of course there is a flaw in that nostalgia because here is one building that isn't too tall, but it has such a story of privilege and separation - the Grand Pacific Hotel. I found these pictures on one of Jane Resture's wonderful sites and a note before the building went up:
The construction of a magnificent building in Suva, such as the Grand Pacific Hotel will be, is a good augury for the future of Suva as a tourist resort ... when finished the hotel will be in every way a model of luxury and comfort and should compare favourably with such buildings as the Galle Face Hotel and the Grand Oriental of Colombo."
Extract Fiji Times, 24th August 1912
Our family stayed in one room one night about 20 years ago - it was cheap and ordinary then. Today it is practically derelict and the last I heard soldiers were hanging around there.

No building taller than a coconut tree

from w
My romantic ideal for buildings in a South Pacific island is to go by the old saying 'build no higher than a coconut tree' but that is considered to be very old-fashioned these days. I say we are not rabbits to live in tunnels and we are not birds to live in the sky. Well, two letter writers to the Fiji Times during the past week are similarly romantics when they wrote these words - and they raise some other important points about 'over-development', pricing of land, gated communities, exploitation and a divided society.

Monstrous sights

ARTICLE 12 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples gives us the right to practice and revitalise our cultural traditions.However, preservation of our culture and preservation of our environment does not appear to be on the agenda when planning permission is given for housing and other developments, especially in rural areas.

One only has to visit Denarau Island (with any luck you will never have to) to see how easily one is transported from Fiji to suburban Sydney or Auckland in the sun.
The place is full of walled and gated developments where houses are so close together that you could cook on your neighbour's BBQ without leaving your yard. For sure these are BBQ folk as no one who ate lovo would want to live in such a place!

More worrying is the new developments along the Coral Coast, where land is being sold freehold and surrounded by mile long walls to prevent local people accessing the properties and the beach. What are these walls for, one asks? Of course, they re-inforce the stereotype that local people are dangerous thieves and the residents want to confine contact to organised village visits. They certainly do not want to reciprocate and see black people walking on their land or beach. This reflects a non-acceptance of the freedom to roam which is inherent in Fijian culture and criminalises those who wish to retain their traditional access to the beach and their qoliqoli.

Why have we let this happen? As well as the gated development, we find a newer phenomenon of the tower block. You only have to go along Delainavesi Road to see the two monstrosities that have appeared across the river in Wailoku. They are a blot on the landscape of the beautiful Tamavua Valley, one of the loveliest valleys in the Suva area.

Many of you may not have seen the so-called "Dream View" development along the coast near Rakiraki. Well they must have been the result of a pretty bad dream to think of such a monstrous sight on that beautiful and remote coastline.

Why are we letting this happen? Come on Fiji, let us put aside our differences, whether we are for or against the Charter, for or against the interim Government. Let us find a way to block such monstrous developments and build in sympathy with our culture and environment before our beautiful islands become just another Waikiki or LA.
Dr Fereti Seru Dewa

Say no to developers
I AGREE with Dr Fereti Dewa's letter (FT 3/11) on developments. And what Dr Dewa has seen is not isolated only to Denarau, Delainavesi Rd, Tamavua Valley or Rakiraki, but to other areas in Fiji as well. I speak of copra plantation land being bought by speculators and subdivided after 12 years to make millions for their buyers because they are freehold land and are targeted and sought out by speculators.

The buyers have no wish to farm or grow copra for a living but to sell subdivisions for a greater profit. And they do not care of the job opportunities these copra plantation can provide for locals who have no other means of making an income but work from these plantations. Let's hang on to our land before it leaves our inheritance forever.

And as Dr Dewa said, before our beautiful islands become just another Waikiki or LA. Sad to say that the reality of the situation is already upon us and we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg now. Be proud of your islands and learn to make a stand and say no to these developers now.
George W. Driver