Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy birthday Makalesi

from Peceli and Wendy,
A surprise party at the home of Makalesi last night was a great time to celebrate Makalesi's 60th birthday. She came home from work as a tram driver to find her house full of guests and a feast prepared. Makalesi migrated to Melbourne in Australia a long time ago and comes from Sabeto near Nadi. Happy birthday Makalesi.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Importing goats to Labasa

from w
I thought this was a joke at first, but no, it is surely serious. Palmlea (which I undestand is an eco-friendly resort in the Tabia area) is importing goats from South Africa. I hope they have better luck than we had - we set up a little goat farm one time, but neighbours stole the goats, members of the extended family ate the goats, and the flock just disappeared! I'm sure there will be a few jokes forthcoming about the need for goats in Macuata. But we all know that curried bakhri tastes tine.

Notes adapted from a government story on-line, 24 April.

.....This follows the imminent importation of 60 Boer goats from Australia by PALMLEA Farms of Tabia Labasa after finalization with the Ministry of Primary Industries.... Government has gone into partnership with PALMLEA Farms in the Boer goat breeding programme and hopes to distribute this new breed to farmers in the not too distant future for up-grading their local stock...

According to PALMLEA Farms, CEO Joseph Smelser who will spearhead the program in conjunction with the Ministry of Primary Industry officials, the first phase of this program is to build a generous stock of Boer goats for Fiji, which will ensure the viability of this new industry.

“The second half of the first phase of our cross-breeding programme will provide fresh goat meat on a year-round basis for local consumers at better prices than currently available. The second phase is to ship frozen goat meat to our South Pacific neighboring countries,” he said. “The third phase should see Fiji shipping frozen goat meat to other parts of the world.”

Mr Smelser said Boer goats were imported to Australia from South Africa and between1993-1995 were released for cross breeding with Feral goats roaming in Australia.
“That programme proved so successful that Australia has become the largest exporter of frozen goat meat in the world,” he said. “The global demand for goat meat is larger than the current world supply. According to figures from the United Nations 64% of all red meat eaten worldwide is goat.

The first consignment of goats will arrive at Nadi Airport on 28th of this Month and will be ferried to PALMLEA Farms, where they will be quarantined for 30 days.
This will allow the Ministry of Primary Industry officials to monitor the animals for diseases. After the quarantine clearance the goats will be moved on to the farm for the cross breeding programme.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Militoni's views on Election Office

from w
In the Fiji Times there's a letter from Militoni Leweniqila, a former politician of extensive experience. He writes about the choice of a new Elections Supervisor - that the position should be for a local person who knows the geography etc. of Fiji. As readers of the Fiji newspapers now know, the New Zealand lawyer who was appointed was found to be wanting - and had been disbarred for a period of time from practicing, yet that fact had not been disclosed. I have printed one paragraph in bold that I think is important.

Supervisor of Elections

THERE has been a lot of discussion on the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections, leading up to the appointment of a highly qualified New Zealand lawyer which is presently being queried.

I have had some experience on general elections.

I am questioning the necessity to look overseas when we have hundreds of locals who qualify and can easily carry out the functions of the Supervisor of Elections. While the Constitution requires a legal qualification, the functioning of this office is more logistical than legal.

A suitable candidate would be a person with local administrative experience, has a fair knowledge of the geography, communication and transport system.

The cost of an election is dependent very much on how the Supervisor of Election handles his logistics. Experienced Returning Officers in the planning (budget) stages are essential.

They should have a fair idea of the transport and communications system to each and every polling station. A local appointment on the above basis can cut costs drastically.

Militoni Leweniqila

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fiji people in Melbourne

from Peceli
I took some photographs last Sunday at Carlton Church of All Nations as we mourned the death of Rev Doug Fullerton and expressed our condolences to his wife Ethel and family. Many friends from Fiji churches such as Dilkusha and Dudley have migrated to Melbourne and on Sunday they sang a bhajan. To enlarge the photos, click on each photo.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rev Doug Fullerton

from w
Today was a day of mixed feelings, sadness, nostalgia, joy at meeting many old friends. We were invited to a 90th birthday at Carlton Church of All Nations for a wonderful man who had been a missionary in Fiji for many years, particularly connected with places such as Dudley church. A Fijian choir from the Coburg church and a Hindi-speaking group were planned to join the celebration. I knew it would be a party for meeting people and celebrating with Doug and Ethel.

However on Friday Doug passed away, a day before his 90th birthday, and he had been battling illness for some time. Only three weeks ago a chapel named after him was dedicated at the Carton church. Those who knew Doug with remember his readiness to listen to people, his wide smile, his intelligence and compassion.

The funeral will be at noon on Thursday at the Carlton Church of All Nations.

I'll write more later and there's a website with more information and another photo. at the Carlton church site:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peanut! Beans!

from w
In Fiji at the bus stops you always see boys and men selling hot peas, peanuts, and snacks. Here's a story from rags to riches of a boy who was one of these bean sellers in Labasa.

From the Fiji Times:
The street-smart bean seller who became a doctor
GERALDINE PANAPASA Sunday, April 13, 2008

HE may not have had a decent pair of shoes growing up but he sure had a heart for those who are disadvantaged in society. Doctor Abdul Wahid Khan knows what it is like to struggle in life. He was born in 1954 of a Muslim father and Hindu mother and grew up at Nasea in Labasa. His father, Abdul Sattar, owned a bus company which had a contract to transport passengers for Fiji Airways.

His mother, Audh Raji, was a simple housewife but an excellent cook and exceptional seamstress.

For Dr Khan, having a Muslim father and a Hindu mother made him appreciate his religious heritage. His father left when he was 10 years old and much of his life growing up was centred on the struggles his mother went through to provide for all of them. He said there were times when he and his elder brother used to sell peas to drunkards to earn money to help their family make ends meet. "When my father left, my mother was the only one to look after us. She worked very hard to put us through school and give us the best possible education. At one point in time, some people wanted to adopt us because they thought my mother could not look after us but she said no way'.

"Despite her struggle, our mother managed to send us to school which she said was the most important thing for us.

"I remember the times when we had to have tea and cassava. We walked to school because we did not have any bus fare. My mother sewed at home and was a cook at a restaurant called Ram Samy. We used to hang out there most of the time and eventually we got to know Ram Samy's children. Growing up that time was hard but at the same time, interesting with a lot of adventures.

He remembers the many times he and his friends would go and catch kuka in the dogo patch which is now Subrail Park. Even when he was in secondary school, Dr Khan had to sell bean to supplement the family income. He said they did not have much time to study but they were blessed with intelligence. Dr Khan said selling on the streets taught him a lot about different kinds of people and he saw many things which broadened his horizon.

"My brother and I used to sell peas and mixed beans.

"We had our own spot and mine was at Gibson's hotel. I sold bean to a lot of people drinking beer and most of the time they would give me a tip. We were too young to do these things but we did it anyway and we didn't question it. We just did what we were told. Selling on the streets was rough and eventually it made me become street-wise. I was able to identify all sorts of people, good and bad. When I was young, I was very shy, so in a way, selling on the streets enabled me to interact with people."

He remembers the time when someone gave him 10 shillings to meet him behind a barn near Morris Hedstrom. He was nine that time but he knew instantly the person had a bad intention so he just ran off with the money. Doing business on the streets made him street-smart and wise to the ways of the world.

It was this kind of exposure that enabled Dr Khan to handle life in the big world with ease.

ABDUL Wahid Khan has a family of doctors his wife Satya and their son Yashal are dentists.

Dr Khan married Satya in 1978 soon after they graduated from medical school.

He said his involvement with medical politics was a hindrance to family life but maintains that the demands of his wife's profession and his own made him tackled things in life with simple understanding.

A perfectionist, Dr Khan believes children should appreciate and value and treasure their parents as long as they are alive because you have one one father and mother.
"My wife and I come home together after a day's work. Our son is a dentist in Otago. We understand the hectic schedules and involvement of our work and I am proud to say that my wife has been my inspiration and my life.

"When we were posted to the rural areas, my wife and I always felt like doing something for the villagers. People appreciated our work and it was satisfying for us. Some years ago we started an outreach program where we would pack medical supplies and visit different rural areas once a month. We did this from 1999 to 2006 and in between we got caught up with our own busy work schedule.

"We have visited people and villages in remote places up the Navua river such as Naqelewai, Navunikabi and other isolated settlements and homesteads in the interior.

"It was something we liked to do but first we had to make time for our trips."

When he was posted to Tubou on Lakeba, Dr Khan had the opportunity to exchange a few memorable words with the late Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara about tomatoes. Dr Khan said despite not knowing Ratu Mara personally, he appreciated the comments he made. "In Lakeba, everyone was presenting Ratu Mara with food so I decided to take him tomatoes from my garden. When he saw the tomatoes he asked me if they were from Suva but I told him it was from my garden and he couldn't believe it. He called his brother and told him "if Doc can grow this, then we can grow it here too".

"We had a good laugh and I appreciated the things Ratu Mara said."

If there is one thing Dr Khan regrets the most, it is not being able to graduate in time to care for his mother.

His one wish is for his mother to be still alive when he started earning money as a doctor and pay back all she did for them.

His mother died when he was still in medical school but her teachings and spirit lived on in him. The values she taught him about love, sacrifice, hard work and most of all, respect and appreciation for the simple things in life, enabled him to understand the ways of the world.

"My mother died of kidney failure and it was one of the saddest moments in my life.

"I had wanted her to be alive so that I could look after her especially after all she had done for us when we were little.

"I don't like it when children do not look after their parents.

"It is something I really dislike.

"Life has become a whole lot easier for children nowadays. They seem to have everything and get away with a lot of things. In a way, I envy the young people of today because many of them do not have to struggle as we did in our time. I see a lot of children driving cars and living the life but it is important for them to realise and appreciate the fact that there is another group of people who do not have what they have." Dr Khan believes the key to success is to treat the other person as if if he is your brother or sister and respect older people as you would respect your parents.

The words of one of Lucky Dube's reggae hit come to mind "Be good to people on your way up cause you'll meet them on your way down."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two women of Fiji - Losalini and Lorini

from Peceli
I saw a picture of a woman selling bele in the market, making ends meet, Losalini Baraki. The price of food is very high now, according our relatives emails from Fiji and people have to use their own initiative to look after their families. Here is a story from the Fiji Times.

Vegetable prices soarSaturday, April 12, 2008

Losalini Baraki sells bundles of bele at the Suva Market yesterday
THE increase in food prices has forced vendors to increase their market prices in order for them to make profit. Vendors who get their supply from their own farms are not likely to be affected but those who buy from middleman say they have no choice. Vendors who buy from middleman said the low supply of produce had led to the increase of the market price of vegetables and root crops

Losalini Baraki, a vendor who buys from middlemen, said the prices of all market produce had increased. "I had to increase my price in order for me to make some profit," she said. Mrs Baraki said a sack of pumpkims that used to sell at $15 is now $50. "I know people would be complaining about the price saying that it's too expensive. I suggest that people plant their own food at home." ....

The second story is about Mrs Lorini Tevi, a highly educated Fijian lady whose concern for the whole of Fiji and the life of our citizens moved her to take up membership of the Charter group and she spoke in the debate. I watched it just now and her paper is about ideals for Fiji. Go to Fiji Times for video of debate and click on Lorini's photo to hear her speech.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Congratulations to graduands

from w
It always gives me a jump for joy to see hundreds of students graduating at the University of the South Pacific and other universities and Institutes. Congratulations. The way to go for Fiji. Intelligent young men and women ready to develop and use their talents and shift over some of those elders with tunnel vision!

In Labasa to see a game

from w
Here's a nice piece of writing from a visitor to Labasa to see the Babasiga Lions at play. From Fiji Times a few week's ago.
Labasa's friendly magic!CULDEN KAMEA
Monday, March 17, 2008

I rose early last Saturday morning, excited by the clash later in the day between the two Vodafone-sponsored champions - Labasa and Ba, in the first of two games in the Pillay Garments Champion versus Champion Series.

I could see Subrail Park from the bathroom in my hotel suite at the majestic old lady of the friendly north; The Grand Eastern Hotel. The empty grandstands looked eerily quiet in the soft light of the early morning sunglow, but I sensed that this magical serenity would soon surrender to the searing heat of the white-hot northern sun leading up to kick-off at 2pm.

Labasa's heat is a suffocating heat. It tries to drown you in your own perspiration. It sucks the breath of life out of your lungs, leaving your throat parched and dry. At its worst, it can cause meltdown of body and mind.

It was going to be a scorcher of a game between the raiders from Ba and their friendly hosts Labasa and I would be one of the lucky six thousand sports fans to witness the clash.

But before that, let me tell you about the absolutely best curry duck in the whole of Vanua Levu!

In fact I had two beautiful meals of duck curry during my short stay in Labasa. The first was at breakfast on Saturday morning, where I was told by my good friend, Pradeep from Tabia that the secret lies in the masala; that special blend of spices and chili handed down over the generations from Mother India through her daughters in the dusky light of kitchen fires. Thank you Imran and Jermima, your special duck curry masala was the best!

How Pradeep knows about the secret of masala I'm not sure, but I guess since we men know everything, he must be right!

Anyway, later at lunch I had duck curry made by Hamida and her masala was just magical. (Memo to me: Must get Tongan bride on masala mixing course at USP).

One can't visit Labasa and write about it without mentioning the huge crab and fresh fish so here goes!

The duck curry breakfast set me off on a trot following the rest of the tourists from Suva armed with fistful of dollars to attack the re-sellers, posing as fisherman on the banks of the river, which snakes around, but often pours through and floods Labasa town.

We were easy marks; taller, bigger to a man, decked out in the latest brands, flush with cash! They saw us coming and held their nerves.

The standoff was over in a minute, because while we paused the locals around us just kept buying up the best fresh fish and biggest crabs that I had seen in a long time! We had to move and we did: Within minutes the tourists from Suva had done the capitol city proud, snapping up bundles of fish of all shapes, colours and sizes, their eyes bulging-fresh out of their sockets. Long strings of gigantic crabs were next on our feeding frenzy. I bought my lot off a FBI (Fiji Born Indian) man called "Dalo" who I would meet again and hug later at the football such is the magic of Labasa!

It was all over in a sweaty, frantic burst of Super 14-like rugby action of wave-after-wave of turnover of possession - our cash for their possessions until they had all our cash and we had their possessions! In the end, everyone was smiling the re-sellers posing as fishermen home from the sea, the tourists from Suva with crabs and fish dripping from their arms and the curious bystanders who all suspected that somehow I was world famous! Well that's what I suspected that they suspected anyway!

We disengaged and retreated to the air conditioned cleavage of the grand old lady.

The block around Subrail Park was a tangled mess of a junkyard with cars, trucks, tractors and 4WDs strewn all over the place.

My good mate Satish double-parked on the main road right behind the main grandstand. We were running a little late but hey we were VIPs from Suva with reserved VIP grandstand seats, specially roped off and guarded for us. Yeah right.

When we finally made it into the arena, the game was already underway with the MiB (Men in Black) from Ba hard on attack. Did they say they expected a crowd of six thousand today? Well there must have been about five thousand of them sardined into my VIP grandstand area and they were mean looking cane farmer types - tough as nails. We glared at each other momentarily. Damn why didn't the NLTB just renew their land leases? OK guys you win. You stay seated in my VIP grandstand seat and I'll sit here on the ground behind the Labasa reserves bench with Dalo the crab seller.

The MiB were so confident, so strong, so purposeful in their play. Everything they did was forceful. They were unfazed by the crowd and they were so fast.

The Labasa boys seemed physically smaller, tentative, frail-almost. They lacked cohesion and struggled to maintain possession and so unable to apply any real pressure.

Ba on the other hand forced corner after corner and had a scorcher of a 40 metre shot at goal by Shameel desperately tipped over the crossbar by the Labasa goalkeeper.

Labasa could only mount long-range counter-attacks off scraps of possession. Still, they forced the Ba keeper off his line a couple of times and also made him work to keep a clean sheet with a couple of good saves.

It was well after 3pm that the referee blew for halftime. So much action, so little time, the pace was a killer. Who would crack first?

Dalo the crab seller shook my hand then without a sideways glance at the security guard slipped over the fence and joined the Labasa Team seated in a circle on the ground plotting their 2nd half strategies. Dalo put in his two cents worth before returning to my side saying, "Don't worry boss, Labasa will win"!

Ten minutes later, Labasa Captain Pita Baleitoga slotted home the winner and as they say in Bollywood, the rest is history!

Dalo the crab seller and I jumped for joy and hugged like long lost brothers!

Labasa hung on to win 1 - 0 with the rematch in Ba in early April.

Standing up for Tibetans

from w
Standing up for those who are pushed about, treated inhumanely, even in a distant country, shows initiative and in some cases, courage. A group of quiet protesters in Fiji were arrested yesterday, mainly women. This is unfortunate as they were the kind of protesters who speak up on injustices in Tibet. I certainly am appalled by violent protest as seen in other countries as the Olympic torch is taken on a 'friendly' tour. Wearing black or standing silently or turning your back is a better way to protest, not yelling and fighting. It is certainly hotting up with the Olympics in Beijing starting on my 70th birthday! Fiji's Interim Government spokesman has taken the side of China in the situation. Hmmm.

from the Suva papers: Activists held
Friday, April 11, 2008

Shamima Ali talks on her mobile phone as fellow protesters sit in the Central Police Station
SEVENTEEN people protesting against China's human rights abuses in Tibet were arrested and detained in Suva yesterday. The human rights advocates were being questioned by police at the Central Police Station last night. They could face charges of unlawful assembly.

The people held included Fiji Human Rights Commissioner Shamima Ali, Claire Slatter, a former coordinator of DAWN; Noelene Nabulivou, coordinator of Women's Action for Change, Tara Chetty and four other women's rights activists from the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Edwina Kotoisuva and colleagues from the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Jane Keith-Reid and three other activists from the AIDS Taskforce.

The group was taken away by police after being picked up from outside the Chinese Embassy in Suva shortly after 1pm yesterday.

Ms Chetty confirmed Neemah Khan, Unaisi Valenitabua and Shirley Tagi of FWRM, Tevita Seruilumi of FWCCC, Pita Sipeli, Niraj Singh and Jope Naviti joined them in custody later in the afternoon.

Talking from the Central Police Station last night, Ms Chetty said they had no complaints and they were being treated well. She said they held a peaceful vigil outside the Chinese Embassy, on the Suva foreshore on Queen Elizabeth Drive, to show their solidarity with human rights defenders in Tibet and Tibetans who had been killed and assaulted by Chinese troops. "These unnecessary arrests have made a big incident out of what was a quiet and peaceful vigil showing solidarity with our fellow activists in Tibet," she said. "The detainees attempted to sit in separate groups in order to comply with laws governing public assembly."

Ms Chetty said the interim regime supported China and the suppression of Tibetan activists.

"This violation of the human right of free speech and peaceful assembly, protected in the Fiji Constitution and in international law, is particularly troubling at a time when Fiji is ruled by an unelected government," said Ms Chetty.

She said the FWRM urged the authorities to release the detained human rights defenders and drop all charges.

In a press statement, the Citizens Constitutional Forum executive officer Reverend Akuila Yabaki called on police to immediately release those arrested. Mr Yabaki said the group was not violating the peace of the country and CCF was concerned that the interim Government appeared to be condoning human rights abuses.

Police spokesman Josaia Weicavu confirmed the group was being investigated for unlawful assembly outside the Chinese Embassy.

The protest by the activists in Fiji follows a global trend that started with the lighting of the Olympic torch in Athens, Greece, for its journey across the world to Beijing, the Chinese capital which hosts the Summer Olympic Games from August 8-24.

Protests have dogged the Olympic torch from the moment it was lit in Athens over China's handling Tibet's call for greater autonomy despite Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, supporting the Beijing Games.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ratu Eroni Vakacequ was the hero

from Peceli,
Here is today's story from the Fiji Times following the search for the Fijian man who rescued people on that fateful ship in 1968. This story is a good example of a good deed that was forgotten and never boasted about. Then after a long time, the story comes to light.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A SURVIVOR of New Zealand's worst boating mishap was devasted yesterday to find out the Fijian man who saved her life is now dead. Katherine MacGibbon, of Queenstown, in New Zealand, said, "I never got to say thank you for that," she said when contacted late yesterday. "If I had found him after the incident I would have flown all the way to Fiji just to say thank you," she said. "I feel really sad about this (his death). I feel devastated. I hoped and prayed that he was still alive so that I could say thank you."

Katherine, who is now known as Kate Watson, was only 19 when the inter-island ferry Wahine capsized and sank,taking with it 51 lives, 40 years ago today. She remembers seeing bodies floating beside her as she and others were saved in rough seas in of the worst storms to have hit New Zealand. She clearly remembers how she was saved by a "big Fijian man she knew as Eroni Vaceucau".

That man was Ratu Eroni Vakacegu, of Namata Village, Raralevu, Tailevu. Bau chief, relative and school mate in Levuka Public and later Wanganui College, in New Zealand, Ratu Tu'uakitau Cokanauto, said Ratu Eroni was a "noble man and a good friend".

"He was on his way to Christchurch at the time and was travelling on board the Wahine," Ratu Tu'uakitau said. "After the mishap he had a tremendous write up featuring his courageous deeds. He came back to Fiji and taught at Ratu Sukuna Memorial School and then did some marketing for Cold Power in Suva. He was a champion 200m runner and we played together for the QVSOB rugby club with the late Ratu Savenaca Draunidalo and other friends."

Ratu Tu'uakitau said he most probably died in the early 1990s. National rugby fullback Marika Vakacegu is his brother's son.

Today, Wellington Museum will commemorate the disaster. Last week national television in New Zealand featured shots of the young Ratu Eroni and Ms MacGibbon. An artist, now living in Queenstown, Ms Watson recalls her life jacket flipping back over her head when she hit the sea. Ratu Eroni, grabbed and pulled her into a rubber dinghy, directing the 10 people on board to a safe landing at Pencarrow Heads.
"I could not swim at the time so when we were told to get into the water as the vessel was sinking I just jumped in," she said. "Then he pulled me into the dinghy and started coordinating things from there telling us how to sail the dinghy to safety. Other dinghy's around us capsized and people died in the process but through his guidance we got back to shore. As we got out he went back into the treacherous seas and pulled out a young boy who was sitting on a rock."

Ratu Eroni was later singled out by a court of inquiry for his heroism in "distributing the people in (the life raft) to best advantage, doing much to ensure its safe passage to the eastern shore, and then going back into the surf after reaching the shore to help another survivor".

Ms Watson has made the photo of the pair available in the hope someone might pass on information about the man who saved her life. Until the tragedy of April 10, 1968, the Lyttelton-Wellington ferries were symbols of certainty and stability, part of the Kiwi way of life. The overnight service ended in 1976.

He is survived by his only daughter Adi Tuimatanisiga Maramawale Lalanavanua Vakacegu Kaumaitotoya, an information officer with the State.

Ratu Eroni's school mate and friend Isikeli Varea said was a champion middle distance runner at Queen Victoria School.

"I was in the same form with him at QVS in the early 60s, and he was always a man who would help others without a second thought. He came from a chiefly family and was a chief in the way he lived.

"Sadly, he passed away quite some years ago, but he will always be remembered for his kind and noble character. The story about him rescuing this girl was well known back then among his friends, and we'd comment that that was just like Eroni; never thinking twice to do what had to be done."

Does anyone know of Eroni Vaceucau?

Searching for a hero is a great story in today's Fiji Times as a New Zealand woman would like to find the man who rescued her in a maritime disaster in 1968. Perhaps his family will read the story in today's papers. The story reminds me of the Loch Ard shipwreck at Port Campbell, but that was in the 1870s when Eva Carmichael was rescued by a young midshipman, Tom Pearce. Both were eighteen at the time.

Kiwi woman looks for her heroWednesday, April 09, 2008

19-year-old Kate McGibbon (now Watson) and her rescuer Eroni Vakacegu on the shore near Eastbourne, on April 10, 1968. Picture: Courtesy of Kate Watson
Update: 2:37PM A New Zealand woman is looking for the Fijian man who rescued her in a maritime disaster 40 years ago.

Kate Watson, 59, was 19 when the Wahine capsized and sank, claiming 51 lives and deemed as New Zealand's worst maritime disaster 40 years ago. And she will never forget Eroni Vakacegu, who saved her life. Ms Watson, an artist now living in Queenstown, recalls her life jacket flipping back over her head when she hit the sea. She said Mr Vakacegu grabbed and pulled her into a rubber dinghy, directing the 10 people on board to a safe landing at Pencarrow Heads.

Mr Vakacegu was later singled out by the Court of Inquiry for his heroism in distributing the people in (the life raft)" and in doing so to ensure its safe passage to the eastern shore before going back into the surf after reaching the shore to help another survivor.

Ms Watson has made the photo of the pair available in the hope that someone might pass on information about the man who saved her life. This image and her story can be found here:

As New Zealand remembers its worst maritime disaster 40 years on, her story of rescue and heroism is told on the website as part of the feature on the event at

from the recommended website: (Notice the different spelling of name)
A Fijian heroThe Court of Inquiry into the Wahine disaster reported that:

'A Fijian named Eroni Vaceucau rendered great service to other people both on the vessel and at the abandonment and later by taking charge of a liferaft, distributing the people in it to best advantage, doing much to ensure its safe passage to the eastern shore, and then going back into the surf after reaching the shore to help another survivor.'
And an excerpt from her story:
For some reason I ended up on the Port side of the ship instead of the Starboard where we were meant to be to get on the life boats. I came across a man from Fiji [Eroni Vaceucau] who was also on the Port side I presume helping to get people off. I quickly told him I was lost and could he help me get off. He told me to be very careful and follow him. I can remember climbing around the outside rail of the deck and being really terrified in case I slipped, as that would have been the end of me if I did lose my grip!! Then we slid down a kind of chute and were onto the lower part of ship on starboard side. The Fijian jumped in the sea and I followed him. Luckily he was there to grab me, as my life jacket had flipped back over my head on impact after jumping into the sea. Obviously I hadn't done it up properly and there was no one who had time to check those kinds of things while on the ship. The waves were still quite big and there was a large swell, although it was no where as bad as earlier on. The Fijian man pulled me into a rubber dingy. There were about 10 people in it. We were being tossed around a lot and every time a big wave came at us, we all had to pull the edges of the dingy up to try and ride the wave. The Fijian man was giving directions. We were all singing songs and one woman was saying her prayers. We sang cheerful songs like 'pack up your troubles in an old kit bag' etc!! We seemed to drift out to sea again and it seemed to be hours, but probably only about 1½ hrs, before we were taken over to Pencarrow heads by the currents. We came ashore over there riding in on some very big waves and nearly losing our balance a few times. Luckily we missed all the rocks around the area. Others were not so lucky. It was a wonderful feeling being on land again. Everyone seemed a bit dazed.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

With a little help from your friends

from w
There are no politics in this kind of medical care. A team from New Zealand going to places like Labasa to perform urgent eye surgery. Peceli was telling me a story of how a family in Labasa was overjoyed because the lady of the household had been a patient from one of these teams from New Zealand. Now she can see her life has been transformed. So I searched for a website about the tour by a team of doctors such as this and found the following informatioo. Fiji certainly does get a lot of help from their overseas friends and there's no talk of politics in this kind of healing.

Eye doctors in Labasa
Humanitarian eye care
Dr McKellar is passionately interested in helping eye doctors and their patients in the 'Two-Thirds World'. He has worked in Vanuatu, Fiji and Israel-Palestine including the Gaza Strip.

VOSO, Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas, is a joint project of New Zealand optometrists and ophthalmologists which sends approximately six teams a year to various South Pacific destinations. Each year Dr McKellar travels to Labasa, Fiji with VOSO. The VOSO team that visits Labasa includes Dr McKellar, a senior trainee eye surgeon and four optometrists. Over two weeks the team screens around 1500 patients and performs 60-80 cataract operations, typically for patients who are totally blind.

The experiences of the team are described in the report below, written by Dr Andrew Thompson who went with Dr McKellar in 2006.

VOSO Labasa, Fiji
Dr Andrew Thompson
As a man walked along the beach he saw another man throwing stones into the sea. As he approached, he saw the stones were actually thousands of starfish washed up on the sand. He asked the man throwing the starfish into the sea if he thought he was making a difference. As the man threw yet another starfish into the sea he said “I made a difference to that one”.

The annual New Zealand-based Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO) trip to Fiji is no different, in that often the impact of restoring lost vision through providing glasses or cataract surgery is not immediately evident. However, the value and benefit of visual rehabilitation of those living in under resourced Pacific regions should not be underestimated.

In the last two weeks of July, New Zealand ophthalmologists Drs Malcolm McKellar and Andrew Thompson traveled to Labasa, Fiji to provide ophthalmic services. Optometrists Michael Brown, Kylie Dreaver, Stephen Macredie and Colette Read accompanied them. More than half the team has been involved in aid work before, and their experience was invaluable.

Labasa is the largest town in the friendly north of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. Labasa has a population of approximately 25,000 with a large Indian community and the only set of traffic lights on the island. Sugar cane is the principle industry that employs around 800 people in the local sugar mill. During our time in Labasa, there was an endless procession of sugar cane-laden trucks passing through the town to the mill. Thankfully, the traffic lights permitted us to safely cross the road.

Leaving behind the New Zealand winter, the team enjoyed the sun and warmth of Fiji. However, one of the more arduous aspects of the trip was the two days travel to Labasa. Although Air Fiji provided free internal flights and transfer of excess baggage from Nadi to Labasa, Air New Zealand was not so generous and levied approximately $1000 for almost 300 kg excess baggage. Individuals carrying examination equipment home were again charged by Air New Zealand for excess baggage on return flights to New Zealand. Fortunately, customs did not pose any obstacle. Their only question was whether the surgical instruments were for human or animal use.

Members of the Lions Club welcomed the team on arrival in Labasa, presented each team member with a floral lei and provided a barbecue lunch. The team stayed at the comfortable Takia Hotel on Labasa’s main street, complete with disco playing music loudly and late into the night several nights during the week. Box after box of equipment was transported to Labasa Hospital in readiness for clinic and theatre on Monday morning.

The Nutrition Centre of the hospital was set up to screen patients, around which an ever-increasing queue of people formed every morning. Areas were designated for medical records, examination, refraction, biometry and dispensing spectacles. During the 2-week visit, 1500 patients were consulted. This included patient review in several outlying villages within easy reach as a day trip from Labasa. Glasses were prescribed and supplied where appropriate and patients referred for ophthalmological assessment as necessary. Cases consulted included severe diabetic retinopathy, buphthalmos, longstanding trauma, advanced glaucoma, colobomata and retinal detachments. Despite English being the official language of Fiji and team members rapidly acquiring basic Hindi instructions to facilitate examination, translators were often required.

The hospital had 2 operating theatres, one of which was made available for our exclusive use during the 2-week visit. Two surgical teams enabled two operations to proceed simultaneously in the same theatre. The aim of the surgical team was to support local ophthalmologist Dr Sandeep Nakhate in the transition from extracapsular to sutureless small-incision cataract surgery. All 3 surgeons successfully used the technique to complete the majority of the 63 cataract operations performed. Pterygium and other minor surgery were also performed.

The following companies and organisations deserve special mention for their support: Alcon, Pfizer, the Lions Club of Labasa, Air Fiji and the Hot Springs Hotel in Savusavu.

Optometrists should consider participating in a VOSO trip. Advantages include a team approach to ophthalmic service delivery with ophthalmologists on hand to review pathology and provide feedback. Optometrists can expect to see more pathology in 2 weeks than in a year in New Zealand, and opportunities exist to develop friendships and extend travel en route home. Aside from improving professional skills in the developing world with all its inherent frustrations and difficulties, participation offers considerable personal satisfaction. During our visit, many starfish returned to the sea.

Has this land been sold yet?

from w
I saw this freehold land 10 k from Labasa for sale on an internet site - but the site seems to be a year or more old so I wonder if it's sold. The owner was migrating apparently. The price is high when you consider what it was once gained for - probably a gun - in the old days!
Freehold Land Now Available In Labasa


Location Labasa, Vanua Levu Island
Offering One specific individual property unit
Property Type Residential Land
Transaction For Sale
Title Type Freehold
Asking Price FJ$ 55,000
Lot Area 153 acres
Price/Lot Area FJ$ 359/acres


153 Acres freehold land in Vanualevu second largest Island of Fiji
Its 10km from Labasa town, and 30min from WaiqeleAirport The property is ideal for major Resort Development with seafront white sandy beach facing Vorovoro Island (Trival wanted Island) and Malau jetty and Mali Island. Ideal place for Marina development. One edge of the property is very deep. The property has two water edge with Coqrlda river and other edge is open sea. Its very Lucrative deal and cheap. Owner migrating. Price: $55.000 per Acre. (Negotiable)
Contact: Steven.
Phone: 9242522
Email address:

Facilities near this property

Medical Centres Yes Schools Yes Public transport Yes
Shopping Centre Yes Resturants Yes Post Boxes Yes
Tran Stations No Banks Yes
Very convenient location for all major facilities

Happy birthday to a babasiga boy

from Wendy and Peceli,
Happy birthday to our grandson in Suva. You have an awesome looking birthday cake!
Enjoy! Be good to your family, work hard at school, get fit for your athletics and team games, and say your prayers each night. Okay?

Friday, April 04, 2008

More about Donation in Kind

from Peceli
Here are some pictures about collecting for our Donation in Kind projects - a truck bought to send to Papua New Guinea after a tsunami, closing a container for Fiji, a woman giving us her knitted singlets for babies in Fiji. I'm a member of the Grovedale Rotary Club, mainly for my interest in international projects. A container arrived in Lautoka a couple of weeks ago and the goods are currently being distributed up the Sigatoka Valley Road to villages. We do not just send any kind of left-over secondhand goods but respond to a 'wish list' by a group of people in a Pacific or South East Asian country, trying to match their requests for useful donations. We do have to throw out some things given to us because they are not suitable so we recycle these in various ways. Our depot is part of Geelong Council land behind the Maritime Museum and Osborne House but there is a council plan going on to develop the site as it is located beside the sea in North Geelong.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Vanua Levu - small news items

from w
Bits and pieces relevant to Vanua Levu were in today's news - from more help to Cikobia, re-thinking about qoliqoli, to a dream-on workshop, a muck-up at Labasa hospital, (cartoon) and a trip by interim leaders. Hmmm. There's so much 'dream-on' talk but who is really gettin' on with the plantin' of food crops and fixin' the roads, etc. etc. etc. as the King of Siam once said (in a film version of course).

A letter to the Fiji Times editor complained about waiting at Labasa hospital with a chest pain while all and sundry were at the Labasa airport going through a drill of a small disaster - but it wasn't real!

More Daman relief reaches Cikobia
3-Apr-2008 09:57 AM THIRTY-six families in Cikobia that were affected by cyclone Daman have received additional farming assistance from the Ministry of Primary Industries through its Cikobia Rehabilitation Programme. A team of agricultural officers from the northern division led by the Principal Agriculture Officer (Northern), Ilaitia Naigani visited the island last week to hand out the farming implements to the affected families.

After a survey done by agriculture officials, a report was tabled to the Disaster Management Committee (DISMAC) who then submitted it to the Cabinet. Naigani said that the assistance worth $19,000 would benefit the families as they only plant for food security. “After cyclone Daman hit Cikobia Island, the ministry acted quickly and handed out to the families, kumala planting materials in January which have already been planted and is growing well on the island,” he said. “With the assistance that we have been granted, we purchased more root-crop planting materials, knapsack sprayers, vegetable seeds and fertiliser,” he added. Naigani said since the families live far off from the main land, they would only concentrate on rehabilitating their farms and food gardens for their own consumption. “These families only plant for their needs and the Cikobia Rehabilitation Programme is part of the Agriculture Department’s Vision of providing food and income security for all,” explained Naigani.

Recipients of the assistance were happy and will begin their farming activities after training courses with the agriculture extension staff. Headman of Vuninuku Village, Mesulame Ratulevu was happy that they were now able to plant a variety of produce for their family meals. The Agriculture Department would also be working with the Coconut Industry Development Authority (CIDA) in assisting the families on the island with a coconut nursery.

From Fiji radio
A $20,000 entry fee imposed on companies buying marine resources from Macuata has been put on hold. A province qoliqoli committee shocked many earlier this year when it imposed a $20,000 entry fee into Macuata fishing grounds. Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere says they are carrying out discussions with the Fiji Trade and Investment Board on the issue of business licenses. Ratu Aisea says these buyers are one of the reasons behind over-fishing in provincial waters. “Well FTIB issues their business licenses. It’s the fisheries that give the licence. But with them having the money up here it causes the people to go and over-fish and over extract so the element of control is minimum because we have no other alternative so it will be a catch 22 situation,” he added. Ratu Aisea adds marine protected areas have made Macuata waters the richest in the country and that could easily change if controls are not placed on over-fishing.

Interim ministers on North tour
Thursday, April 03, 2008
TWO interim ministers will visit the north today but on different schedules.
While the interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will visit government departments and the Labasa Hospital, interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry will visit cane farmers in the Labasa area. Mr Chaudhry is expected to arrive by plane this morning while Commodore Bainimarama will arrive at Nabouwalu by boat. Commissioner Northern Inia Seruiratu said Commodore Bainimarama would visit areas in the provinces of Bua, Macuata and Cakaudrove. "It's a tour of the division and he is also interested in seeing the much talked about road conditions in the division," Mr Seruiratu said.

Commodore Bainimarama is expected to visit the Public Works Department depot at Nabouwalu after arriving by boat and is expected to be at the Labasa Hospital later in the afternoon. He will also pay a visit to Labasa Town councillors and have a brief discussion with them on development issues. Commodore Bainimarama is expected to visit Seaqaqa, Batiri and Savusavu areas on Friday before returning to Suva on Saturday. NFU executive Rosan Lal said the farmers were all looking forward to the visit by Mr Chaudhry.

Learn new ways, chief saysSERAFINA SILAITOGA
Thursday, April 03, 2008

TUI Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere yesterday told participants of a community based workshop that there was a need to learn new ways of understanding people of many races, cultures and religions. His comments come as participants at the 'Sustained Dailogue on Identity and Belongingness in Fiji' workshop were encouraged to work towards finding a sense of belongingness and identity for the people of Fiji.
"We need to seriously survey the landscape of our mindsets and entrench patterns of interaction from which we view ourselves as insiders and outsiders," he said.
"Today, we can begin to recognise and acknowledge the challenges that threaten to blight our efforts of becoming a people and of building a common destiny." He encouraged participants to use the seminar as a platform of bringing people together to build a better Fiji. "This opportunity can be an opportunity for us to use to increase dialogue about issues related to identity and belongingness in Fiji. "We readily accept ethnic separateness as normal part of our national life in a way that our mutual fears and distrust have become greater than the risks of forging real bonds of friendship, collaboration and unity," Ratu Aisea said. He told the participants that after having four coups in Fiji, acknowledging fear in the community amongst people was more then enough reason to experience. "Our responses to issues that deeply divide us have been more the classic mode of fight or flight but hardly dialogue or we sit and wait for others to do the talking for us or even wait for others to facilitate space for us to talk like such seminars," Ratu Aisea said.

University of the South Pacific's Professor Vijay Naidu said that in this time of globalisation, there was a need for national harmony and stability to take Fiji forward for the benefit of all its citizens. "All leaders have special responsibility in promoting a more inclusive sense of the nation that goes beyond ethnic exclusiveness. "We have many identities and we belong to many groups and the possibility of making choices about which identity we use depends on us," Professor Naidu said. The three-day workshop at the Saint Mary's hall in Labasa ends tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Uplifting the women of Fiji

from w
The daughter-in-law of one of our Rotary friends who helps a lot at the Donation in Kind Depot has been collecting bras for the women in rural areas of Fiji and the Age ran an article about her project - called Uplift Fiji perhaps - you know, like a kelpie dog chasing sheep - round 'em up and point in the right direction. Okay, no more bust jokes. Anyway the young woman got a phone call this week from someone who said they had a few for her. 20,000 pairs! Mostly new I think. So that will certainly be nice gifts for the Fiji women up to size 26 F I believe.

So when we were talking about this yesterday, one guy said that someone had rung up that they had excess stock of surgical gloves and would Rotary Donation in Kind like them to send on. Yes. Well, a semi-trailer arrived with them. Well, I think that surely is an exaggeration!

Then, Heather, not to be outdone, and she has just returned from 3 months in Fiji distributing goodies to villages and settlements, including bras for the women, said that she went to church in a village and the women were not listening to the sermon, they were just checking out the nice lines on the other female singers in the choir! Hmm. And then we remember the time in Oz a few years back when we were getting rid of our bras and swinging along freely!

Peceli and I go to the Donation in Kind depot once or twice a week to sort books, linen, furniture etc. to send to Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other neighbouring countries. Last week three young woman and a little girl from near Werribee came to help us sort books. Thank you Lutu, Mere, Kara and Elisapeci - they hail from the island of Tuvuca on paternal side,... and Gau on the maternal side, but don't hold that against them!

(added later) Link to the project website is here. And a picture from Liz's website. I presume they mean Serua, not Gerua.