Friday, February 29, 2008

Tui Labasa title - back to square one

From Peceli,
The title of the Tui Labasa has been resolved after the Native Lands Appeals Tribunal. Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma has retained her chiefly title. The Tribunal has advised the Drauna family to reconcile with the Qomate which is good. Mainly this was a problem for people who lived outside Labasa anyway. We pray for the people of Labasa and the leadership by Adi Salanieta, for the vanua and for the lotu in Labasa, Macuata and the whole of Fiji

Vinaka NLTB

from w
A good decision was made to shelve the inappropriate Krishnamurti report. Vinaka NLTB. The vanua (Fijian culture) needs to be strong when the matanitu (government) is in trouble. TV news ran this today today on One National News.

NLTB discards Krishnamurthi report
29 Feb 2008 00:54:21

The Native Land Trust Board has rejected the M Krishnamurthi Report.The NLTB Board says it doesn't endorse the report which proposes the de-reservation of native land as a way to rehabilitate the sugar industry..

The Native Land Trust Board meeting took place yesterday...And this report by Doctor M Krishnamuthi was discussed.. Amongst proposals in the report, is a call to dereserve native lands to introduce large scale sugar cane farming...

This message has been relayed to the Interim Sugar Minister Mahendra Chaudhry..
The NLTB decision was unanimous - agreed by President RT Josefa Iloilo and the Interim Pm and Indigeneous Affairs Minister Frank Bainimarama.

The NLTB says the reeccomendation on dereservation has serious implications to NLTB and and it's custodial duties. But the NLTB says the issue of de-reservation hasn't been entirely shelved... The NLTB says their decision should put to an end any further discussion on this report..

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The late Ratu Esala Golea Lautiki

from Peceli,
The late Ratu Esala Golea Lautiki died on 23/2/2008 and the Memorial Service will be held today near his residence Lovonivonu, at Mataniwai, Bucaisau, Labasa. His family came from the Qomate clan in Labasa about a hundred years ago to reside in Mataniwai, a village near the sea.
God has given. God has taken away Job 1:21.

This is a great loss in leadership to the people in Labasa and I am mourning for this man. In January I spent a lovely time with him at Mataniwai, Bucaisau, and with the talatala there, Rev Ratu Mudu when they celebrated the coming of the talatala there. Here is photo taken at that time of Ratu Esala Lautiki, Rev Ratu Mudu and me. Many of my family will go to the funeral today and it will a huge event. Wendy's namesake is there also, her Uncle Dakai and the vanua of Labasa, Mali, Wailevu and others in the Macuata province.

Losalini, mentor for Fiji's youth

from w
Amidst the bad-news stories in the Fiji media, here is one positive story of a beautiful woman, Losalini. I don't know her personally but I know her husband's parents. This is the kind of Fiji woman to mentor the young people of today, a person who is passionate about helping others, working for Habitat for Humanity, and who has worked as a missionary. Way to go Losalini!

Happy to help others by GERALDINE PANAPASA
Thursday, February 28, 2008

You can never be too young or old to dream. For Losalini Tuwere, 43, wanting to become a doctor and a missionary at the age of nine was a spiritual awakening. But later God showed her a direction in her life she took to help others. The human resources manager and program assistant of Habitat for Humanity Fiji has been away from Fiji for almost 22 years serving her missionary work in Hawaii, India, Kenya and Bangladesh.

The desire to help people in need has always been something Losalini strived to achieve. No doubt with her milestone of experience working with less fortunate people, she is one of few people who dedicated their lives to help others. Losalini was born in Nabouwalu, Bua but she hails from Keteira, Moala. She spent most of her childhood days growing up in Levuka, Savusavu and Vanuabalavu because of her father's busy work schedule. Her father, Taitusi Waqainabete was a Fijian magistrate for the Fijian Affairs Board and her mother, Lusiana was a nurse.

Fourth in a family of seven children, Losalini has only vivid memories of her childhood days in Vanuabalavu and Levuka where she stayed with relatives. "We moved around a lot because of my parents' work commitments. Even though we moved around a lot, it was not hard for us because the whole family was still together. I remember most of my childhood days with my relatives in Levuka and also with my grandmother. Our life growing up was community oriented and we lived a normal life. Financial wise, we were secure because our parents were both earning. In those days, we were doing well like any average family.

"I can still remember growing up in Vanuabalavu. Life in the village was like in any other typical village. I used to go with the other girls in my village to catch crabs and fish in the sea. Sometimes, we would even collect coconuts and sell them to the shops nearby just to earn some money. I learnt a lot about working together as a family. My parents were very busy people.

"I attended pre-school at Delana Missionary School and later attended Class One at Nabua Fijian Primary and because we moved around a lot, I attended Class Two up to Class Four at Adi Maopa Primary. For Class Five, I attended Draiba Primary and Form One to Six at Adi Cakobau Secondary."

However, despite all the travelling they did, Losalini believes her parents' hard work and dedication was what kept their family tight-knit. Unfortunately, her father passed away in 1978 and her mother was left to shoulder the responsibility of looking after the family. She said when her father passed away, life was not the same. "My father always took care of the family and when he passed on my mother took it upon herself to look after us. She worked very hard to give us a good upbringing.
"She didn't want us to miss out on anything in life especially when we were all growing up so fast.

"When I was in Form Two, my older sister started working and she helped out with the financial expenses. Sadly, we lost our mother just last year in October after my brother was the first graduate of the All-Rounder Scholarship at the University of the South Pacific. I became involved with the scripture unions in secondary school and in 1983, I heard about Youths with A Mission. I was 17 turning 18 when I made a big decision to do voluntary missionary work. I was at a stage in my life where I was preparing for University but somehow when I was nine years old, I felt God had put it into my heart to become a missionary and a doctor.

"I went for missionary training in Hawaii and then in 1984 I left for India where I stayed for three years. It was a very big challenge because I had to adjust to the lifestyle and the culture. I was so excited at the same time to be able to help those less fortunate and needy in society. During those three years, I was privileged to have made friends in India and the places I travelled.

"After India, I spent 16 years in Bangladesh but in that time, I was able to help a lot of people. It not only changed their lives, but mine as well. Sometimes, when I see the kind of lives they lived in these places, I think we are so lucky here in Fiji," she said.

Losalini returned to Fiji in 2005 with her husband Josua Tuwere. The mother of two is fluent in speaking and writing Bengali and believes her spiritual experience has contributed to her personal development and work at Habitat for Humanity Fiji.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Australian media jumping with the deportation story

from w
So much for the good intentions of those who want Fiji's tourist industry to improve when stories like this make the headlines! Many of the Australian newspapers and media outlets have taken up the story of the deportation of the Fiji Sun manager, prsumably because of Victor Lal's stories about an alleged tax evasion by the Interim Minister of Finance.

An example of the reporting is from SBS.

Australian publisher deported from Fiji
Tuesday, 26 February, 2008
An Australian publisher has been taken from his home and deported from Fiji after his newspaper ran a series of controversial articles about a government minister. Russell Hunter, 59, the managing director and publisher of the Fiji Sun, was put on a Sydney-bound plane from Nadi on Tuesday morning, said editor Leone Cabenatabua. Cabenatabua said Hunter was taken from his home in the capital Suva on Monday night and he believes articles highlighting alleged tax evasion by a Fiji minister may have been behind the deportation.

Fiji is led by an interim government after military leader and self-declared prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006.

Cabenatabua said two immigration officials and five civilians took Hunter from his home at about 8.30pm (1930 AEDT). "They took him with just the shorts he was wearing and a shirt. His wallet and everything was at his home. That was the last time we were in contact with him.

"About 5.30am (0430 AEDT) this morning we called up the airline and were told that a Russell Douglas Hunter was one of the passengers. That is when we came to know he was being deported," Cabenatabua said.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "extremely concerned" for the welfare of Hunter, and had sought consular access to him.

It is understood Hunter's Papua New Guinean partner Martha Waradin and his Australian daughter Reama Hunter were not at the airport when he was sent back to Sydney.

"They are really worried," Cabenatabua said.

He said it was possible a series of stories the newspaper had published were behind the deportation. "We have been publishing a series of stories from one of our London writers which concern a tax evasion matter and a minister in the Bainimarama government," he said. "I have spoken in a meeting to my staff today. I have stressed to them that this is part and parcel of being a journalist. What has happened today will not weaken us," Cabenatabua said.

"I said we'll handle this just as we would if Mr Hunter was here. This is the only way we can repay him, to continue going out and breaking big stories," he said.

Hunter became editor in chief of the Fiji Sun in 2003 and was appointed publisher in 2005.

On Sunday Bainimarama accused journalists in Fiji of being unethical. "Where is the supposed balance, intelligence, analytical and responsible reporting?" he said at a press conference. He attacked the Fiji Sun and Fiji Television for some of their stories, including those about finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry's alleged tax evasion.

It is not the first time Bainimarama's government has been accused of trying to intimidate journalists. Soon after the 2006 military coup, army troops occupied some offices of media companies and demanded the right to scrutinise reports before they were aired.

Last year some journalists were taken in for questioning following reports on internet blogs, and in another incident Fairfax journalist Michael Field was deported from Fiji.

(later) Martha, his Papua New Guinea wife, and daughter Rhianna have been given 21 days to leave Fiji. Isa lei, Viti! What manners, what lack of hospitality!

(later again, on Wednesday) from RadioFiji
State clarifies on Hunter’s case
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taken from / By: Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
The Interim Government has clarified that Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter was removed and not deported as cited by various sections of the media. etc. etc.
----Am I missing something somewhere? What is the difference between 'deport' and 'remove'?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Paying taxes in Fiji

from w
Saw this picture in an advertisement in some newspaper magazine and it reminded me of something.

Hands up all those who have paid their taxes!

take care when speaking to journalists

from w
When speaking with the media, be very, very cautious, is my advice.
There is a nice sentence in the Fiji Times today about the Sunday press conference given by the Interim PM. Nice to hear some humour amidst the quagmire of current politics.

‘As the reporters were ushered out, Commodore Bainimarama thanked them and said he hoped that what he had said was enough to depress the media.’

There is always a risk in doing interviews with journalists or giving press conferences unless you are an expert in ‘spin’ and have the gift of the gab. So often people ‘put their foot in it’ and do not come over well, and the journalist can 'have a field day.' (Forgive all the cliches!)

Another thing is the titles given to articles can be very misleading. I think the following one is misleading and does not say what Tui Macuata really did say, when you real the fine print, especially the last paragraphs where he really cautions the idea of de-reserving land.

Macuata chief supports moves to rake in more money for landowners
Fiji Times
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Update: 9.07am
The paramount chief of Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere says he supports the Dr Krishnamurthi report recommending the de-reservation of native reserves if it boosts the production of ethanol. The report had made recommendations to help the sugar industry recover.

Ratu Aisea says if producing ethanol is going to fetch greater returns to the landowners than more land should be made available to make its production a reality. "Well yes as you know the province of Macuata has been enjoying the lease moneys from the past sixty years, if it addresses the ethanol issue which we are being told will result in bigger yields I'm behind it," said Ratu Aisea.

But he adds that only land that requires development must be de-reserved to fetch better returns for the landowners.

"Well not all native reserve that is a blunt statement but NLTB is being tasked to look after landowners interests well I have all the faith in NLTB, only those that need to be developed where the returns are in favor of landowners.

Not all this is our life, our culture.

The initiative is okay but to use words encompassing all the reserves is a threat to the existence of the traditions of the Macuata People, he told Radio Fiji.

And a second article - an interview with Tui Macuata and the Labasa journalist.

Catch centre will help people
Serafina Silaitoga
Monday, February 25, 2008

Times: Macuata has been identified as the province with the highest number of people who have moved elsewhere in search of a better life. As the paramount chief of the province what is your view of this?
Ratu Aisea: That is a fact and is a concern as people continue to move out of Macuata or the Northern Division because of the expiry of land leases.
This has happened since the political upheaval of 2000.
It is because of the lack of employment and study opportunities.
I believe that is why the interim Government has brought in the Northern Development Program, with an investment of $5million.
Most of the population in Macuata were descendants of the Girmitiyas, having cane farms in the province and with the expiry of land leases, they moved out of Macuata.
Times: So you believe the NDP will prevent or halt the vast majority of people moving out of Macuata.
Ratu Aisea: It will help by using the capital provided by the NDP to raise participation of the community in businesses at every level from micro to mega businesses.
This will help and increase development in not only Macuata but the Northern Division.
It will enhance and upgrade the livelihoods of the people as there will be capital available here.
Times: Apart from the NDP assistance, as the paramount chief, what else do you propose to do to change this?
Ratu Aisea: Yes, the chiefs are looking at other things we can do to help the people, one of which one is the qoliqoli where plans are under way to establish a market for fishermen where locals can sell their catch instead of struggling to find markets themselves. We will set up a centre where they can bring their catch to and we will sell it to markets in Viti Levu.
We are looking at a small business scale, like PAFCO, in Levuka, to stand at Naduri, and part of the funding we will apply for to the NDP.
Times: How much will this cost?
Ratu Aisea: We are looking at a quarter million dollars to start off the project for the people of Macuata.
This will be the initiative of the vanua to prevent the rural urban drift as it will create employment opportunities.
Times: When do you expect to open this centre?
Ratu Aisea: It's in phases and right now we are involved with the issuing of fishing licenses, which will close this Friday and the set up of the centre is the next phase of our plans.
Times: Do you feel that the lack of utilisation of resources by landowners and the people of Macuata over the past years has contributed to the slow pace of development in Labasa?
Ratu Aisea: I believe the improvement of the economy in the North lies with the people and even though resources can be a source of finance when marketed, the problem was with the technical side of it where mills are needed to produce furniture or there were limited markets for the products.
Like with honey, farmers have struggled to find markets, so I believe the problem was with the market and technical assistance because if these were available a decade ago, then Macuata would have been fully developed by now.
Times: Cane leases have expired, tenants have been displaced and yet it's an irony there is so much idle land around. What is your opinion on the members of your province who demanded land back but have done little or nothing to improve it?
Ratu Aisea: We are mobilising that right now by working with the Native Lands Trust Board to create and change the mindset of landowners to capitalise on their cane farms.
We are looking at the total involvement of landowners in the cane industry from leasing to farming to marketing instead of just receiving lease money.
We are working on landowner involvement in the production of ethanol and we believe landowners should be shareholders in whatever companies we will work with or set up to produce ethanol.
Times: What do you think of the suggestion by an Indian consultant to dereserve reserved land?
Ratu Aisea: I believe that not all reserved land are to be derserved but the reserved land that is not being cultivated or made use of.
However, a very good consultation and negotiation is to be done with the landowners where the sugar industry can be allowed to use only small areas of reserved land where landowners will benefit greatly.
But not all reserved land is to be used because it is part of us passed down from our forefathers and should be kept aside for our future generation for their own use.
Times: Are there any plans by chiefs to discuss with their people renewal of land leases because basically this town is suffering economically because of the land problems?
Ratu Aisea: We are working with the NLTB and our people talking to them about getting involved with cane farming themselves.
So it will be a different approach altogether as the landowners will have another option to cultivate their own land and not necessarily renew their leases, which they will decide themselves.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Meanwhile back in the rural areas

from w
Life in Labasa justs goes on with people trying to feed their families with higher prices in the markets, kids walking to school or catching buses, civil servants shuffling papers in their offices, hospitals trying to survive, sometimes without electricity such as Nabouwalu and Taveuni, readers of newspapers shaking their heads at the news of the day, farmers recovering from flood damage. Here are some pictures of babasiga anyway, mainly taken by Robinson and put on the internet.

Co-operation or dissent in Fiji

from w
We are not posting much lately there's too much going on that is controversial, and some say, shameful. Anyway just a couple of things: some sensible people who did put their hands up to work on committees set up by the interim government are changing their minds. Such a person is Suliana Siwatibau who apparently finds that the appointment of Voreqe Bainimarama as Chair of the Council of Chiefs to be wrong.

The other item I'm posting is from Rev Josateki Koroi who has given an interesting point of view that the men and women in the army would be better off going back to plant in their food gardens.

One National News
Suliana Siwatibau quits
23 Feb 2008 02:26:42

A high profile member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji has resigned from the NCBBF, and the two working groups she was a member of.
NGO representative Suliana Siwatibau has quit, in protest of the recent changes made to the Great Council of Chiefs. Siwatibau was the chair of one of the Working Groups established under the NCBBF, dealing with Public Institutions. She says she cannot work with the interim Government anymore. Siwatibau adds, she will re-think her decision if the interim Government changes the way it operates.

from Talatala Rev Josateki Koroi 18/2/2008

A METHODIST minister has called for the dissolution of the military and labelled the institution as one that comprised lazy, non-productive members who spent most of their time polishing shoes. Reverend Josateki Koroi said he outlined this in his letter to the National Council for Building a Better Fiji when he turned down the invitation to join. “The coup is based on a robbery philosophy. It’s like stealing from a bank to set up a school,” he said.

“If they want to create a better Fiji, then Frank (Bainimarama) and his army should grow their own food and produce food in their own villages. That’ll make a better Fiji. The faster they do this the better.”Mr Koroi claimed the army did nothing “all day, everyday” which led them to pick up their guns and frighten ordinary civilians.

“They don’t produce anything yet they receive hard-earned money. The army should be dismissed and their members sent back to the villages where they can farm and produce something for their family. They shouldn’t be allowed to depend on people’s money.
“In fact, they should not be paid. They don’t deserve any wages. The Bible says the labouring people should be honoured and fed, and the lazy should not be fed,” he said.
After he declined the invitation to the council, Mr Koroi said he was surprised at a second invitation to join an arm of the council. “I was invited to join the second working group in the good governance task team,” he said. Mr Koroi was asked to join the working group on institutional and public sector reform. “I didn’t agree with the philosophy of the charter. The whole thing is illegal. The charter is trying to create a new Fiji. I don’t believe a coup can create a new Fiji. Only God can create a new Fiji and it’s our responsibility to respect that,” he said.

Mr Koroi said the interim regime wanted to abolish the identity of Fijian people and recreate Fiji into a non-racial country. “I don’t know any country in the world that doesn’t have its own unique people. What part of the world has no indigenous people? God made all his people distinct from those of other countries, from India, China, New Zealand and Australia and Fiji is no different. The different people of each country are to be respected for that,” he said. He said it was “totally blasphemous” to deny God’s creation from being indigenous people of their country.

“A better Fiji will be built on righteousness, hard work and good governance,” Mr Koroi said. Mr Koroi said another reason he rejected the invitation to join the council and its working group was because of the interim regime’s philosophy that might was right.

Military spokesman Colonel Mohammed Aziz questioned whether Mr Koroi was speaking as a military officer. “If so, does it apply to him also? He served in active service and remains on the Retired Officers list. Officers do not resign unless they wish to be decommissioned,” was all Colonel Aziz said.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


from w
From FijiTV news:
One National News
Taskforce surprised at new legislation
19 Feb 2008 00:54:09

The taskforce which carried out a review of the Great Council of Chiefs has expressed surprise at the new legislation that has been gazetted by the interim government. The chair of the taskforce says it didn't recommend that the minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs become the chair of the G-C-C. Instead the team had recommended the President, Vice President and Prime Minister NOT be part of the G-C-C.. The Taskforce commissioned by the interim government to review the Great Council of Chiefs is surprised by the new legislation gazetted last Wednesday..

Amongst the new changes is that the minister responsible for Indigenous Fijian is to be the chair of the GCC..In this case - its Frank Bainimarama..

The chair of the review team Ratu Tua'kitau Cokanauto today admitted this wasn't part of their recommendations. Ratu Tua'kitau stressed the independence of the Great Council is paramount ....and this was clearly reflected in their recommendations...
Ratu Tua'kitau hopes the new Gazette will be reviewed..

While the Committee says the consultation was the most rewarding they had with the chiefs, Ratu Tuakitau admits this new changes will certainly upset them. Ratu Tuakitau says they will meet the interim Prime Minister to discuss their concerns.
from Fiji Times this afternoon:
Cabinet appointed Bainimarama chair of GCC says NailatikauWednesday, February 20, 2008

Update: 5.35pm Acting interim Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said Cabinet deviated from the recommendation of the GCC Task Force. Ratu Epeli said Cabinet made the decision because it felt that the Minister for Fijian Affairs Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama should not only be a member but also Chair the GCC.

"The new Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) Regulation 2008 which governs the administration of the GCC is clear on the issue," said Ratu Epeli.

Regulation 3 (5) clearly stipulates that the Minister shall be Chairperson of the Council, Ratu Epeli said.He said Cabinet made this decision to ensure a direct link between the GCC and the Government through the Office of the Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs."Therefore, Commodore Bainimarama as Prime Minister and as Minister for Indigenous Affairs in this case chairs the GCC under the regulations," said Ratu Epeli.

He said Commodore Bainimarama did not directly appoint himself as GCC Chairperson.

The move has shocked many chiefs in the country.

My comments: Let it speak for itself.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Compare sugar in Mauritius

from w
With Krishnamurthi's proposal a hot talking point in Fiji I would like to make some comparision with another small island nation with a major crop - sugar. I had been watching a very funny travel program - Pilot Guides where a young guy travels to unusual places and I noticed the sugarcane fields and predominance of people of Indian background. Another indenture story there I expect. Mauritius is a similar country to Fiji - about the same size, same major industry and they also are having difficulties. Here's what they are doing about it. (from 2006)
MAURITIUS-ECONOMY: Helping the Sugar Industry Regain its SweetnessBy Nasseem Ackbarally

PORT LOUIS, Nov 9 (IPS) - The Mauritian government has embarked on a campaign to transform its sugar industry as international sugar prices plunge, leading to a loss in the country's foreign exchange earnings.

Sugar prices are projected to drop by 36 percent in the next three years. In response, Agricultural Industry Minister Arvin Boolell has been trying to convince large and small farmers, factory owners and institutions in the sugar industry that they have no choice but to reform their practices.

Boolell is pushing for a reduction in production costs while encouraging economies of scale. He hopes to achieve the latter by clustering together small farms to improve productivity.

At the same time, the government is promoting the production of electricity from bagasse, a residue from cane, and the production of ethanol which is combined with petrol for use in vehicles.

"There is need for a national crusade to save our industry," says Boolell. "We have been losing about four billion rupees (about 125 million dollars) annually in foreign exchange because of price cuts."

On average, the industry has previously contributed around 306 million dollars in foreign currency annually.

Today, Mauritius exports about 505,000 tons of raw sugar to the European Union under a preferential trade arrangement, about 30,000 tons to the United States and some 54,000 tons of other kinds of sugar products to buyers in European countries.

The government has made it clear to producers that, internationally, the sugar market is no longer a seller's market but a buyer's market. This means that buyers dictate the prices.

If the industry fails to perform and to become competitive, adds Boolell, Mauritius's competitors will take over. The sugar industry, which has been the backbone of the Mauritian economy for decades, will collapse -- although exports will continue to contribute foreign exchange for several years into the future.

The government is also concerned about the 60,000 people who are still earning a living directly or indirectly from the industry.

Therefore, it plans to maintain the sugar industry while promoting alternative products related to cane production. In previous years, only sugar was produced from cane and the electricity generated from bagasse was just enough to run the sugar mills.

Since 2002, the industry has been producing electricity for the country's national network. Currently, it provides about 40 percent of the total electricity consumption on the island, using bagasse combined with charcoal imported from Mozambique.

With next year's opening of a second electricity station, presently under construction in the south of the island, between 60 and 70 percent of electricity will be generated from bagasse and charcoal.

The molasses created from the sugar during the refining process is being used to produce ethanol. A distillery called Alcodis has boosted its annual ethanol production from a few million litres to 30 million litres for the export market.

Ethanol is also being blended with petrol for running cars on the island. Another distillery will be commissioned soon.

The other initiative is to centralise and modernise sugar factories to reduce their numbers from 11 to a maximum of five in the next few years. To make this possible, a voluntary retirement scheme was launched for workers older than 50. So far, about 8,000 workers have taken up the offer.

A related idea is to cluster together the 28,000 small farmers who produce about 30 percent of sugar to make them more productive. "The future of the industry depends on these small farmers as the big sugar estates have already reached their maximum in terms of productivity," says Guirdharry Jugessur, a small farmer who is also president of the Mauritius Cooperative Agricultural Federation.

Small farmers are utilising 21,000 of the 72,000 hectares of land under cane cultivation. Their products range from sugar to electricity to ethanol.

Already launched, the clustering project aims to regroup plots of land of up to 10 hectares into larger plots of 20 hectares or more. The idea is to enhance economies of scale in cane and sugar production. The targeted land area is 12,000 hectares.

This scheme involves the mechanisation of all practices, including cane harvesting, irrigation and land preparation. The fields will be replanted with cane varieties with higher yields. All the inputs, including fertilizer, herbicide and cement, will be provided free of charge.

The expected increase in cane and sugar yields is around 20 percent, whereas the cost of production will decrease by 20 percent.

Small farmers will have to commit themselves to keeping their land under cane for one crop cycle of seven years. The ownership of the individual plots in the regrouped area will be maintained during the first seven-year crop cycle.

Sugar has been associated with Mauritius for 367 years and has shaped the history and culture of the island. Covering more than 40 percent of the surface area of the island, this industry has made the island state what it is today.

For many years, the island has benefited from a high price for sugar under the preferential trade arrangements with Europe. The price for sugar was three times higher than the price on the world market. The revenue has been used to diversify the Mauritian economy into tourism, textiles and financial services.

But, Boolell insists that Mauritians "should stop looking back. We have to move forward and change our mindset. We need everybody in this industry to not only save the sector but to transform sugar into green gold." (END/2006)

What is sandalwood really worth?

picture from Colo-i-Suva of yasi seedlings.

An article in today's Fiji Times shows that the men in Dreketi are only being paid 50 cents a kilo for sandalwood. That sounds disgracefully low to me. It's called yasi in Fiji. I thought sandalwood eventually can make $1000 per kilo! What should be the price at the first stage? It's not really a plantation item as yasi requires a host tree, so it's a bit complicated. Once upon a time Vanua Levu had a large amount of sandalwood but traders, mainly from USA, just chopped down the trees and made their own fortunes selling sandalwood in Asia.

If a suitable price was offered, wouldn't this be a more lucrative product than sugar?

Sandalwood rip-off
Sunday, February 17, 2008

SANDALWOOD traders in the North have called on the interim regime to secure a market for them because they were being ripped off by local buyers. The comment comes after buyers at Labasa dropped their purchase price from $1 to 50c a kilo. The disgruntled traders, who are members of mataqali Nakorovatu of Nabavatu Village in Dreketi, want the Ministry of Forestry to look into their concern. Clan spokesman Alifereti Esala said the price of 50c a kilo was a rip-off.

"It is not a good price especially when we cut the wood and bring it to town. To hire a carrier for our sandalwood from nabavatu to Labasa costs $200."

Mr Esala said the sandalwood trade was an expensive exercise especially for villagers who depended on money from sales for their income. Divisional Forestry Officer Northern Noa Vakacegu said the ministry did not control the price of sandalwood sale and for licensed harvesters, there were markets in the North they dealt with. "For yasi, the market price is $20 to $25 a kilo but we don't control the market price. There are only a few who have a licence to harvest and sell sandalwood."

Krishnamurti report

from w
It's the talk of the town but who has read the whole report? Anyway those who have more information are certainly saying what they think. It was commissioned I guess to try and get the sugar industry in Fiji out of the doldrums but the emphasis on changing the present way of leasing tribal lane. The idea of de-reserving chunks of Fijian owned land has certainly caused a kerfuffle. At the same time, there needs to be a strong commitment to wisely using some of the vacant land as the soil is so rich and Fiji could be self-sufficient in food if thousands of better, larger fruit and vegetable gardens were planted.

I'm not so much interested in sugar production these days as I do think 10 acre farms have had their day... and...I don't like the idea of huge mechanised plantations in Fiji either!

Anyway, here is one take on the report as in today's Fiji TV news:

One National News
Land Report critised by Academic 17 Feb 2008 02:39:42

A critical analysis of the Krishna Murti report which was commissioned by the Finance Ministry, has described it as lacking depth and understanding of the current situation here.

The University of the South Pacific's head of economics, Professor Biman Prasad says, the report fails to draw on numerous other studies done in the area, that have also offered viable alternatives to the land issue.Its a report that has stirred strong reactions. Now an anlysis of this report by the USP's head of economics concludes the authors of this report lack understanding and depth.

Professor Biman Prasad says the 12 page project proposal fails to highlight the various other factors that have led to the decline of the industry.He says it is misleading to say that land tenure alone has led to the decline of the sugar industry and using land de-reservation as a possible solution. Citing examples which Professor Prasad says illustrates the opposite, between 1997 and 2003, some 5,506 leases were renewed.

This critical analysis goes on to say that the Krishna Murti report is not about the availability of land but more to do with the inefficiencies of our farming techniques right through to milling processes.

In 2006 Professor Biman Prasad and fellow academic and now FIT director Dr Ganesh Chand had proposed the concept of a Master Lease.

Professor Prasad has even proposed a new institutional mechanism to steer the reform of the industry and the doing away of bodies like the Sugar Commission as adding uneccesary expense to the industry.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ulai from Vorovoro's blog

from w
I notice that the tribewanted website includes postings from a blog from Ulai who seems to be in England at present. He thinks back to his earlier life and also has comments on how he views the project at Vorovoro. Ulai is a bright young Fijian lawyer who has been around a bit including a stint in Australia helping with Aboriginal land problems.

Still got the dreadlocks Ulai?

There's a program on the BBC at present called 'Paradise or Bust' which tells the story of the eco-village project. There are plenty of short videos on Youtube including one of the Mali District School children singing, one on exploring the reef which includes Fijian string band singing and a bit from the BBC program Paradise or Bust.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Loloma for Valentine's Day

Two roses from our garden: part of a bunch of flowers I was given at 10 p.m. (!!!) after Peceli finished his jobs with Donation in Kind, checking out a truck in Melbourne to send to Papua New Guinea!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is Fijian land safe?

from w
Some scary stories have been published in the Fiji media today about proposals to muck about with Fiji land,(such as this one ) even a suggestion about de-reserving Fijian-owned land - based on a paper from a consultant from India, intent upon finding ways to improve the ailing sugar industry.(Reserve land is that set aside for the use of the mataqali owners for current or future use and ought not be leased out at all. For example our family has reserve land at Vatuadova where the village has been developed, including a church and cane farm.)

A response from the Native Land Trust Board is published in today's Fiji Times, this afternoon.

Native land is safe: Beniuci
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Update: 3:13PM NATIVE land is safe and protected under the law, Native Land Trust Board's Acting General Manager Meli Beniuci says.

Mr Benuci was reacting to news reports and enquiries of concern from landowners that all native reserve land was bound to be de-reserved by the government. Mr Benuci said the law is quite clear on control and protection of all native land. Under Section 4(1) of the Native Land Trust Act NLTA, the control of all native land shall be vested in the Board and all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners, said Mr Benuci.

He added that under Section 15(1) of the NLTA, it is lawful for the Board to set aside any portion of native land as a native reserve. In other words, de-reservation of native land cannot be done without the express approval of a majority of landowners concerned.

"This guideline is enshrined in the Native Land Trust Act itself, and therefore if the Interim Government is now wishing to de-reserve all native land we would need the express approval of a majority of all native landowners in question.

Notwithstanding the above, such an exercise is not one which the NLTB should even consider given our fiduciary duty to landowners to ensure that they always have sufficient land for their maintenance, subsistence & survival, Mr Benuci said.

Any action to de-reserve all native land is in itself contrary to this duty, as landowners will no longer have any native reserve to use as they please. It is more than just economics, said Mr Benuci. Land represents life and sustenance, identity and culture.

Mindful of its role in providing maximum benefits for the landowner, the NLTB also has other important roles to play in providing for lands for national development and giving access to land for others. "The system is provided for flexibility in that it can de-reserve customary lands for the need of others.

"This however, must recognize the special connection the Fijian has to the land. It is the one tangible asset possessed by Fijians in an insecure, changing world in which material progress seemed to pass them by.

Added later: Several articles and responses have been written in today's Fiji papers and websites and in Comments in the Fiji Times. The term 'reserve' I had taken only to mean in the technical sense - that set aside for the landowners' use, but now I realize that Mr Krishnamurgi is really talking about ALL Fijian mataqali land! Now that really stirs up people and is a much different issue than just the wish to make the sugar industry viable.

By the way in Australia there has been a recent revamp of the sugar industry with millions invested into the mills and the changeover from burning cane to using the trash to make electricity is an interesting move.)Story on ABC TV Landline last Sunday)The cane in NSW is of course harvested by machine and not by hand.

Rudd apologizes to Australian indigenous people

from w
We watched (on TV) the speech at Parliament this morning and the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd is a statesman in the making. It was a fine, well-considered speech of apology for the impact upon the 'Stolen Generation' taken from their parents in the 40s to 60s. It is a new beginning in the process of reconciliation. It has taken a long time for someone from Parliament to say 'Sorry' and this was bi-partison with the motion seconded by the leader of the Opposition, though a couple of points raised by the latter were not appreciated as some people from the Aboriginal community turned their backs, a sign of disagreement. Still a lot of work to do.

Later Kevin Rudd embraced an elderly woman whose story he had told during his speech.

Listen to the speech here via Youtube.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Typical Sundays

from Peceli
No Sundays are the same but usually I go up to Altona Meadows (Melbourne) to join with a small Fijian congregation and often lead the service. Once a month we join in with the Aussie congregation at 10 a.m. Yesterday it was a a baptism and what a happy occasion it was with Rev Leonie leading.

In the afternoon I went to Chadstone to the Fijian congregation there and met with Dr Meo who had come down from Sydney for the weekend and many friends.
The Sunday before I joined the Geelong East church at morning tea (where Wendy plays the music) and they were farewelling a young man who I have known for twentyfive years - Chris Machar - who is going to Sudan tonight for an assignment with Africa Inland Mission. Siteri (from Levuka) is in the photo.

Green Sugar in Australia

from w
Today I watched Landline an ABC TV program at midday and their lead story was about the sugar industry in Australia going green by using the cane trash to make electricity. Very interesting. And they are going to stop burning the cane which has been their practice for years and years. I couldn't find much written on the web except this, but the video of today's Landline program is available to view - maybe on the Landline website.

Green PowerReporter: Pip Courtney

In northern New South Wales the sugar cane industry is undergoing its biggest revolution since mechanical harvesters replaced cane cutters and their knives. The industry's 650 growers are the key components of a 180 million dollar green energy project that will radically change every aspect of their operations. It's a huge and expensive challenge but if it works it will put more money in farmers’ pockets, make green energy available to hundreds of thousands of homes and snuff out spectacular cane fires forever.

What implications does this have for Fiji's ailing and inefficient sugar industry?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fijian migrants in Melbourne

from w
Yesterday Peceli and I went up to Melbourne to a singing and dance practice as a small group of Fijian people prepared for their items at the upcoming Pako Festa in Geelong planned for Saturday 23rd February. We met at the Altona Meadows Uniting Church where a Fijian congregation meet every Sunday for worship. This continues the cultural heritage of singing in harmony, remembering the string band songs, the polotu from Lau, and the Methodist hymns. Some of the girls who were born in Australia and haven't seen the villages of their parents and grandparents are learning to perform their traditional dances. Rev Eseta Meneilly was the teacher of the set of dancers and songs.

As I listened to the full voices especially in the singing of the hymns I realized how important it is to keep up the practice of this beautiful style of singing in four voice parts. If the migrant Fijians 'assimilate' into the Australian norm (whatever that may be) the world would be a poorer place. To maintain language, music and dance for Pacific Island people makes for a rich multicultural society here in Australia.

As they sang I sketched two views this modern church - the colour purple dominating and the cross and round window suddenly became the icon for women so that was interesting. On the way to Melbourne the sky was very dark and cloudy but a rainbow was visible for about ten minutes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tui Labasa title - part four

from w
The on-going discussion about the Tui Labasa title now includes stories about the Rotuma connection. I think that Hocart did refer to a Losalidi in his anthropology book 'The Northern States of Fiji' - his field work was about 1912 I think. But here we have Rotuman people chipping in with their famly stories of the connection. The plot thickens. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.
From the Fiji Times today:

Rotuman link to Tui Labasa titleSERAFINA SILAITOGA
Friday, February 08, 2008

AS the dispute over the holder of the Tui Labasa title escalates, a woman claims the Rotuman blood link to the chiefly family was through the maternal and not the paternal side.

According to distant relative Faimanu Mua, her family has evidence and pictures of how the people of Malhaha in Rotuma traditionally welcomed Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Ritova and Ratu Viliame Ritova, and descendant Rosarine, a woman of Rotuman chiefly rank.

A faction that appealed the Native Lands Commission decision that the chiefly title rightfully belonged to current holder Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma, had claimed at the NLC Appeals Tribunal hearing this week that the chiefly family had links to Rotuma through the paternal side.

But Ms Mua, whose aim was to clear the air on the issue, said that in the 1900s, her grandfather Gagaj Varomua' Muamea travelled to Fiji from Malhaha to learn to speak English and to return with his uncle Tukaha who had left the island to dive for pearls.

"My grandfather, while in Fiji, found himself a job as a sailor where they travelled to islands around the country delivering water," she said.

"On one of these trips, he was told of how a tafaga (Rotuman canoe) drifted towards Labasa and remained there."

The story goes that the natives of Labasa slaughtered everyone on the canoe except for a young woman called Rosarine and her elderly father.

Ms Mua said when her grandfather Gagaj Muamea heard about this, he travelled to Labasa and asked to be taken to Naseakula Village where he found Rosarine.

"But by this time, her name had changed to Losalini and she was old and she told my grandfather their sad story and that she was married to the Tui Labasa's son at that time," she said. "My grandfather promised to return to the village to take her to Rotuma but when he returned in the 1920s, Losalini had died and her two children Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Ritova and Ratu Viliame Ritova were there.

"These two then came to Rotuma and were accorded full traditional ceremonies and my mum still has pictures of that function when Adi Tui and Ratu Viliame as they are known to the people of Malhaha, visited the village."

Ms Mua said the two were taken to Malhaha by the people of Naseakula, some of whom remained in Malhaha where they found jobs at the copra plantation of Ono and Gasta.

"I know that some people in Naseakula Village will still remember this and in the 1960s, my mum, who is still alive and 94 years old, attended the funeral of Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Ritova at Naseakula Village."

A real Marama

from w
There are many outstanding women from various races in Fiji. One of them from our generation is Marama Sovaki whose story is told in a feature article in today's Fiji Times. She comes from Lomaiviti, which also makes her special. From this generation there are people like Esiteri Kamikamica and Lorini Tevu. Also we know there are many intelligent Fiji women of the younger generation who are making their mark in today's complex society. They are the young teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists, home-makers. The magazine Marama includes many stories every issue about such women of Fiji.

Joy in living for othersGERALDINE PANAPASA
Friday, February 08, 2008

Having the support of family and friends is one of the most important factors to living a happy life. Ask Marama Sovaki, a person who has dedicated her life to her family and friends. Ms Sovaki is the coordinator of the National Committee for the World Day of Prayer on March 7.

Her life may not be full of drama, but she says she had a happy, satisfied life living for others. Ms Sovaki's had a normal childhood growing up in Bureta in Ovalau. Life in Bureta was like any other typical village life. Her father was a native magistrate.

Ms Sovaki has been involved in social work most of her life and is proud of the fact that she can help make a difference in someone else's life. She spent her primary school years attending Bureta District School and later Ballantine Memorial Secondary and Lelean Memorial Secondary school.

Ms Sovaki is a staunch Methodist but believes her experience at school exposed her to ecumenism and multiculturalism. "I believe my learning in school exposed me to ecumenism which is a kind of cooperation and unity among Christian churches,'' she said. "I was always interested in this unification. "Even when I was a child, we had family friends who were Punjabi and they used to sleep over at my house.

"I learnt from a young age how to love and accept people of all backgrounds,'' she said. Ms Sovaki says life in the village was good. There were six of us in the family and we had a normal upbringing. At that time my father was a native magistrate and he worked in Vanua Levu. One of my uncles also worked as a doctor in Savusavu. I had wanted to become a teacher at one stage but then I changed my mind and became a qualified nurse. Even then, I was always surrounded by a loving and caring environment. In the 1960's I worked as a social worker.

"My interest in social work may have been because I lost my parents when I was still young. My mother passed away when I was only eight years old and my father passed away when I was 15,'' she said.

Ms Sovaki said when her parents died, her relatives both immediate and extended were very supportive all throughout her life in school. She said there was never a time where she felt lonely after her parents' death because she always had relatives around her to support her.

When she was eight years old, Ms Sovaki lived with one of her relative in Suva for a short period before she went back to Ovalau. She believes the experience of losing both her parents was a contributing factor to her desire to become actively involved with children in need of care and protection.

"I did a lot of probation work with orphans and juveniles. In this line of work, it is not only about giving but also taking something in it is about learning the needs of other. Social work also contributes to personal development and for me that's what it did. It helped me understand the people I work with and to appreciate them as a whole person. For me, the most memorable and happiest moment is adoption when a child is placed in a family with parents to look after them. I really enjoyed working as a social worker.

"I also work as a volunteer at Saint Christopher's Home helping the Sisters out whenever I can. It is a really good feeling knowing that I am able to help people in need. At present, I am the Coordinator of the National Committee for World Day of Prayer.

"This year's theme is 'God's wisdom provides new understanding' and this is a day where people are spiritually enriched. This World Prayer Day was prepared by Christian women of Guyana."

Ms Sovaki is the contact person in Fiji with the International Office for Christian women, most of who belong to more than seven denominations. "Many of the Christian women are from the Methodist church, some from Anglican, Catholic, Salvation Army, Gospel and John Baptist. The aim of the World Day of Prayer is to get people together ... not only Christian women but everyone. This day also enables people to build their spiritual life as well as understanding the different lifestyles of women living in different countries,'' she said.

Under the sea - in Lau?

from w
An intriquing news item yesterday raised the topic of the building of an underwater resort on a mystery island in Fiji - clue 1, it once was a copra plantation, clue 2, it can be accessed by sea-plane. clue 3 - there's a lagoon. Well, the secret is out. It's Katafanga in the Lau group! But who wants to sleep in an underwater bedroom looking at little fishies googling/ogling you?

But.... is the project on hold, because of uncertainty in investing in Fiji? The claim is that it is the only resort in Lau, but I don't think so.

In today's Fiji news: Multimillion dollar Fiji resort identified 07 FEB 2008

The mystery island on which a $US105m undersea resort is being built is believed to be on Katafanga Island in the Lau Group, to the southeast of Fiji. Currently, the Katafanga Island Resort & Spa is the only resort in the largely uninhabited and pristine Lau Group.

A staff in the resort’s Suva office confirmed that an undersea resort was being built on the island but said that work currently on the project was at a standstill and that bookings are also on hold. This was largely due to the uncertainty created by the coup of December 2006, the staff said. The staff was unclear when the project would restart.

Called the Poseidon Mystery Island, the project is estimated to cost $105 million.

A questionnaire sent to Poseidon Resorts director of communications early this week, Riki Cameron remains unanswered. The details about Katafanga Island on the resort’s website match that of the Poseidon Mystery Island on its website. According to the resort’s website, Katafanga (a Tongan word that means smiling beach) is a 225-acre private island. It is a former 19th Century operating coconut plantation surrounded by a 5000-acre lagoon, located in the eastern Lau Group. A coral reef surrounds the entire island, offering protection from extreme tides. Katafanga Island is 1 mile long by 1/3 miles wide and 150 feet high with numerous caves and tide pools to explore. It is home to rare coconut crabs, giant clams, leather back turtles and other birds and marine mammals, the website says.

The project is being developed by Poseidon Resorts whose president is Bruce Jones.

Poseidon’s website described the undersea resort as the world’s first seafloor resort and the only place that visitors could spend the night 40 feet underwater in incomparable luxury. Nestled in the crystal clear waters of a 5000 acre Fiji lagoon, it would be accessible by an elevator.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tui Labasa title part three

from w
The debate continues and here is a letter from today's Fiji Times.

Qomate challenge

Maikali Drauna's letter (FT 4/2) and his challenge to Stan Ritova to admit to the "truth" of his Rotuman heritage show a deep-seated prejudice based on a mythical notion of Fijian racial purity and homogeneity.

If we applied Mr Drauna's logic that the present Tui Labasa, Adi Salanieta, has no claim to the title of Tui Labasa because her great-great-grandfather was Rotuman, then Queen Elizabeth II has no right to claim the throne of England because her great great-grandfather, the Prince Consort, Alfred, was German.

For heaven's sake, Mr Drauna, give us a break.

My readings tell me that we Fijians are a mixture of Melanesian and Polynesian stock and we are genetically linked to the aboriginal people of Taiwan from whence we originated.

Some of us might not like this idea but hey, that's what the scientific evidence tells us.

Recent research into mitochondrial DNA confirms indigenous Fijians have the highest genetic diversity of all Pacific Island peoples and the ancestral mother of all indigenous Fijians living today, was wait for it Polynesian.

Linguistically, Fijians also have a closer affinity to Polynesians than they have with their cousins in Melanesia. Dr Paul Geraghty can expound more on this.

In light of these facts, my immediate reaction on reading Mr Drauna's letter was "... so what then, is so alien about Adi Salanieta's great, great-grandfather being Rotuman (if indeed he was) when the facts show extensive gene flows between Polynesians and Melanesians in the indigenous Fijian makeup"?

If we look around us today many of the chiefly families in Fiji as well as ordinary Fijians, have either Samoan, Tongan, English, Scottish, Irish, Chinese or even Indian blood in their veins (and I contend they are better persons for it).

So too does Adi Salanieta, if indeed she has the blood of a noble Rotuman chief in her veins.

She has conducted herself thus far in the good grace that I expect of a bona fide Fijian marama which confirms to me that she is indeed descended from a chiefly line.

But it seems Mr Drauna and his group won't allow these facts to stand in the way of their prejudice which must have a deeper motive.

Nonetheless, what this issue demonstrates is that indigenous Fijians do suffer from an identity crisis that is loaded with false perceptions of racial purity where we insist on homogeneity, scientific facts to suggest diversity.

We have been programmed by British colonialism to believe we are a special people, superior to other people in the Pacific, when in reality we are very much part of them, albeit a highly diversified version of the rest of our own kind which probably explains our present confusion and political travails.

For me, as a Fijian from Tailevu, I do think while our cultural values are basically patrilineal we should acknowledge and promote our matrilineal or vasu bloodlines because they have so much to offer in terms of enriching our own lives.

Culture is an evolving phenomenon and if we don't change with the times, we will be doomed.

Timoci Delana
And an item in the Fiji Times on the dispute that has not yet been resolved.
Tribunal hears chiefly argumentThursday, February 07, 2008

THE Native Lands Commission will decide by the end of the month who should be the Tui Labasa. This follows presentations by two factions to the Native Land Appeals Tribunal yesterday. The tribunal hearing, chaired by Ratu Inoke Seniloli and co-chaired by Ro Alipate Mataitini and Ratu Solomone Buaserau, was held at the Commissioner Northern's office.

The Drauna family, a faction of the chiefly clan of the Mataqali Wasavulu in Naseakula Village, of which the current Tui Labasa Adi Salainieta Tuilomaloma is a member, appealed against the decision made by the Native Lands Commission on July 28, 2006 which ruled in favour of Adi Salanieta.

Ratu Inoke allowed the 18 tribes of the vanua of Labasa to present their views on the chiefly title held by the Qomate family and challenged by the Drauna family.

Adi Salanieta and Ratu Epeli Drauna, who challenged the decision by the NLC were also given time to speak but both identified themselves and their links to the chiefly title through blood lines.

Most of the 18 tribes supported Adi Salanieta as their chief while a representative from the Drauna clan spoke of the Rotuman blood line the Ritova and Qomate families had. Ratu Inoke said they would look at the presentations before making a decision.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sai Levuka ga, as the song goes

from w
Sai Levuka ga
Au namuma tu
Well, it just ain’t up there with the pyramids of Egypt but as far as Fiji goes, Levuka is one of my favourite places. I thought it already had a listing as a heritage site and already visitors go there in search of history, hospitality, and a good feeling. Our tauvu friends from there of course will really look after babasiga visitors anyway!
from today's Fijiradio news: Heritage site plan to boost tourism
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
A plan to list Levuka town as a United Nations World Heritage Site can boost the tourism industry in the country and the island of Ovalau. Director of Heritage and Culture Peni Cavuilagi told Radio Australia that Levuka Town and the surrounding areas can a tourist attraction once it is declared a World Heritage Site.

“In fact - in terms of tourism this will boost the tourism industry particularly the Ministry of Tourism also set aside Levuka as a heritage zone so that development can be done to protect the site, which is also a very attractive.

“In terms of tourism attraction and then will generate economic activities in the area and the tourism in Fiji as a whole,” he added. The Heritage and Culture department hopes that Levuka will be listed as a World Heritage Site by next year.

I've been to Levuka a few times and climbed up to the top of those pesky steps, but I do have a bone to pick with Levuka. Once upon a time we packed up dozens of boxes of beautiful children's books (including all of my own children's books) to send to St Mary's School Labasa, via the Uniting Church Mission Liason group. They somehow got waylaid and sent instead to Levuka! Not happy!

The photos here are from Dave Robinson and his superb set of photographs of Vanua Levu, Taveuni, and Levuka can be found here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Day in Rukurukulevu village

from Peceli

The last day of my recent trip to Fiji was spent in Rukurukulevu village in Nadroga. The first five days of the trip had been in Cuvu for the kaulotu (missionary) commemoration of 160 years of the coming of the lotu, and of 10 years since the passing of Rev. Taniela Lotu. I was invited back to Rukurukulevu before departing on the Air Pacific flight on the Sunday night. I spent Saturday night with them wtih the Talatala Qase, Rev Jokini Siva who is from Kadavu. I was surprised to meet Rev Inoke Nabulivou there who was holidaying with Lillian in Suva and he was in Cuvu for the weekend.

Here are two photos of the Sunday morning - the Sunday School children during the church service which was packed, and secondly, five of us are standing near the memorial stone of the late Rev. Taniela Lotu which is close to the church. The vakatawa, another man, Jerry Veikoso, a deaconess and me. We had a beautiful Sunday lunch at the vakatawa's house, and later they drove me to the Nadi airport by 4 p.m.

When I checked in my luggage was found to be 10 k in excess. I said I didn't have any money left as I had given it all away in Fiji. Later on they said it's alright sir. Later again, in the transit lounge my name was called. 'Rev Ratawa, please report to the Air Pacific Desk.' I thought I was being told to find the money, but to my surprise, they asked for my boarding pass. What would happen next? I was really surprised when they said I was upgraded to sit in the Number 1 seat in Business Class! So what an enjoyable journey it was, being so well-looked after. Fir the first time ever, I sat in the Business Class!

The Tui Labasa title continued

Discussion and comments have been deleted by the administrator as this is not the forum for rude comments on the chiefly title.

The Tui Labasa title

from Peceli
Stan Ritova / Whippy wrote this passionate article for the Fiji Times defending his relatives right to the Tui Labasa title. Stan's name however was not put on the article but it's obvious that he is the writer. Here is his article. I will make comments in the next blog posting.

Defending the Qomate legacy
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Labasa was defended by Ratu Tevita Qomate against marauding tribes The fight for the position of Tui Labasa has been on going for generations with two family members of Labasa's chiefly Mataqali Wasavulu, the Draunas and the Dimuris, forever vying for a position they know is not theirs traditionally.

The current holder is Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate Ritova of the Qomate clan, who has been officially declared by the Native Land and Fisheries Commission (NLC) in Suva, as the rightful holder of theTui Labasa title. But this has been challenged by factions of Labasa's chiefly mataqali (land owning unit) of Wasavulu and the NLC appeals tribunal is sitting in Labasa on February 8 to hear the appeal.

Adi Salanieta succeeded her younger brother, Ratu Joeli Tinai Ritova, when he died in 2004. Ratu Joeli in turn succeeded his older brother Senator Ratu Tevita Qomate Ritova, who passed away prematurely in July 1997.

I am their first cousin because my late mother, Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate, and their late father, Ratu Viliame Baleilevuka Ritova, were siblings and the recognised paramount chiefs of Labasa when their father, the then Tui Labasa, Ratu Viliame Lautiki died in the late 1800s.

He was allegedly killed by Fijian sorcery (draunikau) administered by his enemies, according to my information which I've explained in my book, which is in the throes of completion.

Ratu Viliame Lautiki was the son of Ratu Tevita Qomate, the true paramount chief of Labasa, and who was a descendant of the adventurous and colourful chief Ratu Ritova. He was one of the two chiefs from Macuata province who signed the Deed of Cession ceding Fiji to Queen Victoria in October 1874. The other chief was Ratu Katonivere, whose great-grandson, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, is the current Tui Macuata.

Ratu Tevita Qomate was adored and revered by the people of Labasa because he defended them repeatedly against marauding tribes who tried to conquer Labasa and never did.

He was reported to have been seriosly wounded during one of those conflicts and was taken to his island of Yanuca situated between the two Labasa rivers, the Labasa and Qawa rivers, to recover. Labasa Town is on banks of the Labasa River and the Fiji Sugar Corporation sugar mill is on the Qawa River.

Where were the other so-called chiefs claiming the Tui Labasa title, when Ratu Tevita Qomate was busy defending Labasa and her people in those early wars?

For their qusi ni loaloa (the Fijian custom of washing off of the war paint) and in gratitude for his leadership, the people of Labasa presented him with just under 1400 acres of some of the best land in Labasa listed officially in the records of the Native Land Trust Board and the NLC as the land of the Descendants of Qomate. And that is proudly us my first cousins and I and a surviving half brother plus all our children and grandchildren.

I think this is a unique situation in the annals of the NLTB and NLC and we treasure it.

In actual fact the people of Labasa also presented Ratu Tevita Qomate with all their fishing rights because the NLTB and NLFC records show that the Labasa fishing rights belong to Qomate and is listed as Qomate's Fishing Rights, which extend seaward to the main sea reef from the Wailevu river just south of the Labasa river mouth,and northwards from there to the Mataniwai river.

The records are there for public information.

Other factions of Wasavulu Mataqali muscled in after Ratu Viliame's Lautiki's tragic passing and took over the position of Tui Labasa and ruled without any people because the people continued to recognise my mother, Adi Salanieta and her brother, Ratu Viliame, as their chiefs and have contined to do so with us, their children.

About 60 years later in 1975 my first cousin, Ratu Tevita Qomate Ritova, later appointed a Great Council of Chiefs Senator representing Macuata province, and the eldest son of my mother's brother, was named Tui Labasa, returning the title to its true owners, but only after official intervention.

The late Ratu William Toganivalu, who was Minister for Fijian Affairs at the time, intervened and recalled Colonel George Mate who had just retired in 1975 as Chairman of the NLC and requested him to "straighten out" the situation which he did.
I know this because I was involved.

Col Mate ruled then and informed the elders of Mataqali Wasavulu, many of whom have since passed on, that only the direct descendants of Ratu Tevita Qomate as head of the mataqali were entitled to the title of Tui Labasa and no one else. Period.
The descendants of these family factions who are now claiming the title, know this but have chosen to ignore the information.

Ratu Tevita's installation was a historical and colourful affair in the rara (village green) of Nasekula, the chiefly village of Labasa, in June 1975.

The Tui Macuata at the time, Ratu Raio Katonivere, assisted by his close relative and also high chief of Macuata, Ratu Vuki, and members of the chiefly clan of Caumatalevu conducted the installation ceremony and all the pomp that went with it on a typical beautiful sunny Labasa day.

The fact that the Tui Macuata agreed to conduct the ceremony was in itself evidence that he recognised and believed the true holder of the chiefly position.

And what's more, it had never been done before not in a long time anyway.

Ratu Tevita and I later undertook to build Ro Qomate House for the people in Labasa. This being rented to the Fiji Government for office space.

It was started in 1996 and when Ratu Tevita passed in 1997, I took it over and with the help of Ratu Joeli who succeeded him, finished it in 1998 free of charge apart from being paid for air fares from Suva to Labasa and telephone charges to show our allegiance to the vanua of Labasa and its indigenous people.

And though I live in Sydney now for the time being for the sake of convenience, my allegiance and pride for the place where I was born and lived my early life is still very strong and undying.

The records of the Qomate dynasty are available at the NLC for the public to inspect.

There is nothing sinister or secret about them.

The information was recorded during the Veitarogi Vanua in 1948 organised and administered by the late Fijian high chief and statesman, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, when he was inquiring into Fijian-owned land boundaries and fishing rights for the NLC and NLTB records shortly after he established the organisations to administer and control all Fijian-owned land.

And it is just as well he did because unfortunately there are no dedicated written records of early Fijian history and what transipred in the early days apart from early missionary records, after Christianity arrived on our shores in 1835.
Fijian family history is handed down by mouth and fortunately I took note when the aged told stories of the olden days.

I might just add for the record that during my mother's and her brother's early life they did not complain to anyone about the title of Tui Labasa being taken away from them.

They just carried on with the work of the vanua spending their personal earnings from the six-monthly proceeds of rent from the descendants of Qomate land on their people and their needs.

The British colonial Government recognised them and no one else as the paramount chiefs of Labasa.

We, their surviving children, were also brought up on this money and were well cared for.

In actual fact we did better than most but my mother was always concerned about her people who adored her, visiting them regularly in the 43 villages in the district at the time with me as a young boy, in tow.

Our mode of transport was by taxi as there weren't any buses back in those days the late 1930s, the 1940s and 1950s. It was just after the cart and horse era. I am afraid it is always the colour of money that inspires people to claim something that is not theirs.

The appeals tribunal is going to sit in Labasa next month. The question the tribunal should ask these pretenders is, "where are your people and whom do you represent?" Simple.

Meanwhile, the Tui Labasa, Adi Salanieta is in Suva preparing for the NLC appeals tribunal and has engaged the services of top Suva lawyer, Wendell Archibald, to represent her and the Qomate family. "Meanwhile, life goes on," she said.