Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some stats on migration away from Fiji

from w
from today's Fiji Times
- but in the details there are only references to occupation, not reasons for leaving Fiji such as for marriage, study, family re-union, economic opportunity, etc, nor is there an indication of the age of people leaving Fiji. I wonder how many went to USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and other places.There are other statistics such as Fiji's population on this website, but not much information since2007.
Bureau reveals migration data
Monday, March 01, 2010

A TOTAL of 13,798 Fiji citizens migrated from 2007 to August 2009.

The Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics recorded 4949 locals migrating in 2007 and another 5391 in 2008.

For the first eight months of 2009, a total of 3458 workers migrated at an average of 432 per month.

The Bureau categorised these workers as legislators, senior officials and managers; professional workers, technicians and related workers, clerical workers; service workers; skilled craft and related workers; agricultural and fishery workers; plant and machine workers; elementary workers; armed forces and other workers.

In 2008, the most number of migrations were from the "others" category totalling 1600, followed by professional workers at 1398.

There were 198 service workers who left the country in the year including 369 legislators, senior officials and managers.

In 2009, there were 945 professional workers who left the country.

Most migrations occurred in 2009, totalling 569. February had the second largest volume of migrations at 463 followed by July with 427.

There were 1074 migrations by workers in the "others" category.

Only four migrations were from the armed forces compared to 13 in 2008.

Church and State

from w
I came across this article and thought it worth posting for consideraton as it does not only view the church as impeccable but acknowledges weaknesses also.
In Defence of the Methodist Church
By SWM for a better Fiji

How did the perceived political relationship of the state and the Wesleyan Methodist church in Fiji come about despite no formal constitutional recognition? For an understanding of this perception we rely on, Commissioner of Colo East in 1884, Adolf Brewster in his wide chronicle as colonial administrator, ‘The Hill Tribes of Fiji’.

In his chapter on ‘State and Church’, Brewster proclaims, “Wesleyanism, owing to its dominant numbers has come to be tacitly acknowledged as the state religion, although it has no official recognition as such.” This assertion remains extant today because of the civilizing influence but more so the spiritual salvation of Christianity that has now been embedded into Fijian culture and individual consciousness. Into the future Brewster’s hypothesis may still have greater currency.

With the ever increasing 57 % Fijian population, (2007census) the Methodist church and its adherents will still be the de facto ‘king maker’ in Fiji politics akin to Catholics in many Christian countries. As an example, the church’s role in Poland and the Philippines as the catalyst for the fall of communisism and the dspotic dictator bears to mind.

Otherwise for Fiji, the Methodists unofficial relation with the state remains a powerful vote or veto in elections. Hence the churches influence cannot be discarded as insignificant even with the illegal regimes proclaimed election reforms as presently touted. In the United States the WASP, Catholic and Evangelical religious votes are openly wooed by Presidential candidates.

For Fijians coping with modernity, it is religion that anchors his identity to his community. For he has learnt that tradition is somewhat an illusion of permanence and has sought change. In 1876 Ms C.F. Cummings witnesses in her rich descriptive ‘At Home in Fiji’ the power of the new religion in Dreketi, Macuata. She enthuses, “Reverend Langham gave the multitude what seemed a most impressive little address and a few minutes later the whole 3,000 were kneeling prostrate on the grass. It was a very striking scene remembering that some people were only emerging from heathenism; but they are so very cordial to the mission”. For today’s faithful this reverence for Christianity and its tenets has endured and has even transcended their respect for chiefs in truly uniting them as described by Cummings.

Simply it can be said that through greater Methodist influence modern Fijian society was born. The establishing of Methodist urban circuits in Fiji from the 1960’s to today in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, California and the UK is testimony to this now global unifying force for Fijians.

As it were, this modern unifying force first surfaced in the failed attempt to create a Christian state as spelled out with the Wakaya Letter of 1963.

This letter articulated Fijian political aspirations post independence signed by a few elite chiefs. However this agenda was eventually compromised during the Alliance -NFP pre independence constitutional talks. Ironically what was finally achieved was a mirage of political paramountcy for the Fijians, parity for the Indians and privilege for the part Europeans. Again, in the 1997 Constitution despite Christian zealot attempts to sway government the modern democratic theory of separation of state and church remained intact.

As for the enduring bond between the Military and the Church, Brewster confides, “In my time it was the only domination whose members were employed and paid as chaplains by the government. Every Sunday at Nadarivatu I attended the Armed Native Constabulary church parades, the service being conducted by our native Wesleyan padre”. This tradition still continues as in far off Fiji military stations in Egypt and Iraq, the cradle of human civilization and monotheism religion.

So it can be derived that it was Methodist Wesleyan influence through its clergymen that has in the main acted as the moral compass for Fiji’s military and its leadership and where the state institution finds itself established and entrenched today. Coups and all!

Herein lays the inherent human fault. Down through the years military chaplains have rose to become Presidents and held other important executive positions in the church. These former and serving padres have confused their military and pastoral roles in times of political turmoil. The tension between the church and the state embodied by the military has been fuelled to a large measure by their duplicity. Methodist clergymen have way led their flock. This criticism time and time again has been laid against some of them. Much as it was wrong it was Brewster’s hypothesis that in part spurred Rabuka’s supremacist coup and drove Reverend Lasaro and followers to take matters into their hands in the 1989 Sunday Ban protests. This led to them infringing on public and church law which led to the unlawful ousting of Reverend Josateki Koroi the Methodist President and the damaging court case that ruled for the ejected President.

Again as it was, during the ‘Truth and Justice Campaign’ prior to the elections, the military had openly used its chaplains and former chaplain network within Fijian society to foster its ‘guardian’ role of the state. Thanks to the ‘Christian spiritual guidance’ from these so called men of the cloth, the 2006 coup was unleashed.

Presently the regime’s quest to weaken the Methodist church’s inherent influence over the state through its believers is seen with the decreed postponement of its annual conference or Bose ko Viti till whenever. This is despite Brewster’s enduring hypothesis.

Kai Colo
And here is a nice segue from today's Fijivillage:
Religion plays an important role
Publish date/time: 01/03/2010 [12:58]

This is time religion plays an important role in the nation building and to move the country forward.

That was the message from the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau when he addressed members of the Muslim community during the Prophet Mohammed birthday celebrations at the Vodafone Arena said that

Ratu Epeli said the Peoples Charter has highlighted that we should work together for a better Fiji and come together closely to be united as one with high hopes for a better future for our generations to come.

He believes that religion lays the foundation of our future and how it will look but it will depend on us on what we do with it whether and we can accept each other in our multi-racial society will be the biggest challenge any religion will face in their everyday lives.

The 300 plus crowd who were present at the Vodafone Arena was then challenged by the President if they can live up to the expectation of their leader Prophet Mohammed and instead of making excuses.
or perhaps not a segue but a leap sideways!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fijians at Pako Festa

from w
Today was the Pako Festa in Geelong West with hundreds of cultural groups performing dance, song, selling delicacies an marching in a parade. A contingent of Fijians from Melbourne came down to perform - mainly families who migrated to Melbourne but came originally from Lomaiviti such as the islands of Gau, Nairai, Koro and a group of children and young people from a Fiji outreach congregation in Broadmeadows. Vinaka Bui and Rai even though you both were away at a camp. We had a lovely afternoon watching Dutch clog, Hungarian gypsy, Spanish dancing, etc. while waiting to take our turn. The Fijian item went very well with songs of the Lomaiviti islands such as 'E dua na siga' and three dances. It was good to see the children participating. Here are a few photos from todays' events. Afterwards two car loads of Fiji famlies came home to drink kava, eat fish and chips, rest a bit and the children played outside. I also watched a presentation dance workshop by a group of Cook Islanders and I'll post that on the Geelong Visual Diary blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How does your garden grow

from Peceli,
I took some photos this morning of our garden, though it's near the end of summer and most of the crops are nearly finished. We have had tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, chillies, sweet corn (though that was a bit tough), beetroot, Chinese spinach, silver beet, etc. and now cantelopes are started. If we lived in Brisbane we could also have taro and tropical crops but we are in the southern part of Australia. I am writing this to just show that it is easy to make good use of any space you have in your front or back yard to get a good supply of vegetables. In a country like Cuba when there was so much hunger with bans against them many years ago, the people grew vegetables even beside the roads. In Fiji no-one should ever be hungry because the soil is rich and vegetables are easy to grow. For those who live in flats, you can grow vegetables in pots on a small verandah.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Singing to recover from strokes

from w
Several of the world media outlets today are running a story that someone has discovered that singing a song helps stroke patients recover their ability to speak words and sentences. As if this is something just discovered. Fifteen years ago I was helping a Fijian relative recover her speech after a stroke by doing this. She stayed with us for two months. After I read up about strokes and speech at the Deakin University library in Geelong, I decided to ask her to sing Fijian hymns for a start, then sing sentences. All this was part of her rehabiliation in regaining her speech. So it's not a new discovery at all. It has been a method used in speech therapy for a long time. I don't mean that I discovered it! I read about it then. It's about left and right hemispheres of the brain. I wonder if there is much therapy in Suva and other parts of Fiji in helping people recover their speech. It's not even a specialist kind of job. Anyone in the family can help a patient to sing! An article about music therapy by Oliver Sachs is worth a read.

This is how the BBC wrote up about it today:

Singing 'rewires' damaged brains in stroke patients
AdvertisementTeaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists. y singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech. If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead. Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sit up straight and do what you're told!

from w
Orders from the top (in Suva of course) now require Fiji children (in the bush, in the islands, in the towns) to start school at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. and still finish at 3 p.m. So they lose one hour of schooling every day, so what happens to timetables and subjects deemed to be less important? Will they push art and music and physical education aside now? Seems like this directive from Suva hasn't been thought through very well. Are the bus companies happy about this? What about families who drop children off on the way to work? Will this new ruling change when daylight saving moves in late April?

from Fijilive:
School start hours extended
February 19, 2010 06:34:20 AMA+ A-| || Fiji school hours will begin from 9am and not 8am as of Monday 22, the Education Ministry has confirmed.

Teachers however are expected to be at school by 8:00am.

Education minister Filipe Bole said the changes had to be made because of the extended daylight savings in place that is affecting school children and their parents who have to prepare for school while it is still dark.

Bole said this was especially so for those who reside in interior places, who could be at risk because they travel to school under near dark conditions.

Senior education officials have been instructed by the Permanent Secretary to immediately inform their respective schools on the change.

The Ministry has also advised the Land Transport Authority about the new school hours so that transport providers are aware.

The daylight savings began last year on November 29 and will end on April 25.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Funeral of Archbishop Bryce

from w
Our condolences go to the family of Archbishop Bryce and the Anglican people of Fiji. He has been a very nice pastor to his people with the spirit of ecumenism. His funeral was held in Suva today.

Anglican Communion News Service
Archbishop Jabez Bryce Bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia has died in Suva
Posted On : February 15, 2010 11:01 AM | Posted By : Webmaster

Archbishop Bryce, who was 75, had led the Diocese of Polynesia for almost 35 years – and he was, at time of his death, the longest-serving bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In 2006 he was also chosen as one of the three leaders of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – the far-flung Anglican “province” which includes Anglicans in New Zealand, and in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa.
Jabez Leslie Bryce was born in Vavau, in Tonga, in January 1935, but grew up in Samoa.

He went to Auckland to train for the ministry, and was ordained priest in 1962. In 1975 he was ordained as bishop, and he led the Diocese of Polynesia from a colonial past – his predecessors had all been either British or Australian – into a genuinely Pacific present. His stature, seniority and leadership in the church in the Pacific was recognised in August 2008 when he was chosen to crown the new Tongan King, His Majesty King George Tupou V.

Archbishop Jabez was keenly focussed on the mission of the church, and this bore fruit in 2005 when he led the diocese to choose three assistant bishops – an indigenous Fijian, an Indo-Fijian, and a Tongan who lives in New Zealand[1] – to strengthen the outreach of the diocese in its various regions and islands.In 2008 he also presided over the centenary celebrations of the diocese, which he’d led for fully one third of its life.

He was, by reason of his birth, almost uniquely equipped to do that: his mother was Tongan, his father had Samoan and Scottish heritage – while he himself had lived in Fiji since 1960.

Archbishop David Moxon, the senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses, had known Archbishop Jabez for 40 years. He says that during Archbishop Jabez’s time “the Diocese of Polynesia has grown in a hundred ways – in its sense of identity, its ethnic diversity and in its ‘Pacificness’.

And Archbishop Brown Turei, the third of the leaders of the church, describes Archbishop Jabez simply as: “A prince of the church. A man who was dignified, kindly, who liked things done decently and in order – because that reflected what the church meant to him.”

Throughout his priesthood and episcopacy, Archbishop Bryce was also a keen ecumenist, building bridges between the various Christian denominations in the Pacific. He served the Pacific Conference of Churches for many years and was a president of the Pacific region of the World Council of Churches.

In those roles he also spoke out for the wider good of the Pacific – for instance, advocating for the ending of French nuclear bomb testing at Mururoa Atoll in the 1970s.
He was also a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue in Fiji.
Archbishop David Moxon says he will always recall the “grace, strength and energy of the man.
“Jabez leaves so much to value and treasure behind him; and he will be honoured and remembered for a long time as the greatest of the Bishops of Polynesia.”Archbishop Jabez’s health had been failing for some time, and he died peacefully in the Suva Private Hospital on Thursday evening.

He is survived by his wife Tilisi and their two children, Jonathan and Fitaloa.
The funeral service will be held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Suva on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 10.30 a.m.

The funeral gathering (reguregu) will be on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 16 and 17) in the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.A memorial service will be held at St. Mary's in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. This will be a Eucharist service at which the Rt. Rev. Winston Halapua, bishop for the Diocese of Polynesia in Aotearoa New Zealand, will preside.

Article by : Lloyd Ashton media officer to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From Pancake Day to Ash Wednesday

from w
There's a more serious note in this post after the boat-ride story from Lomaiviti. Today is Ash Wednesday, the pancakes of yesterday are eaten, and it is time for some discipline, self-control, reflection. May this time be a period of discernment on decisions you make on your life journey. I like the words of the Desiderata, some of which I used in the picture above. Good words for the Fiji of today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A tauvu story about an inter-island boat trip

from w

Last Sunday the Lomaiviti group from all over Melbourne met at the Uniting Church at Altona Meadows/Laverton for worship then a meal together. This is the church where Peceli goes each Sunday afternoon for the Fijian service.

During the meal two Lomaiviti women were sharing stories - Tau from Gau and Rai from Nairai who had recently come back to Melbourne from Fiji. Then Peceli sat with them and asked Rai about her holiday in Fiji and the conversation went something like this.

P. So how was your Christmas in your island of Nairai, Rai?
R. Well, it started off badly as there were no boats going to Nairai from Suva, only one going to Lau via Gau. I could get off at Gau and my relative would bring an outboard. So I bought a ticket for that one.
P. Which wharf were you leaving from?
R. At Walu Bay. We were told to go to the wharf at 12 midday Christmas Eve. I expected the journey to be about seven hours. Okay, about a hundred people mainly from Gau and Lau waited on board. They said 4 o’clock it would sail, then 6 o’clock, then 11 o’clock. So we just ate some food and waited. Then the boat moved and we bedded down as best we could, wherever we could. Some people, though they were brought up in villages by the sea, aren’t good sailors so you can imagine what happened as the boat started rocking and smoking a bit. Many got seasick. Anyway we slept.
P. So you got there by early Christmas morning?
R. Not really. I woke up when the sun came up about 6 a.m. and I asked the crew where we are now. I thought we were near a village in Gau. No, he said, we are still near Viti Levu just past Naselai.
P. What happened?
R. There was a problem with the engine so they could only go slow. So we just sat on the decks and everywhere, eating some more food, and people still seasick a bit and I thought maybe another hour of this suffering. This was Christmas Day and we were still on a boat! But the boat just went slower and slower and smoked a lot. We got to one village in Gau at 7 p.m. on Christmas Day. So the Gau people got off, the Lau people got off and I got off because a punt was waiting for me to take me to Nairai, only an hour away. So the people from Gau looked after the people from Lau.
P. I suppose the captain of the ship was accommodated well too?
R. Not exactly. The boat got stuck on the reef then sank.
P. That boat – the Sealink should be called the Sea Sink!
R. The ladies from Lau were yelling out about paying $120 each to get to Lakeka.
P. But you got to your home island, Nairai, Rai?
R. And I had a lovely time on my home island.

Okay, though the story sounds amusing now, but really the passengers were very anxious and frightened during the voyage. Rai really thought about Australia, and that she should have spent ‘Christmas in Melbourne. The boat was overcrowded, overloaded, and was there any safety equipment? Rai was reminded that many inter-island boats in Fiji are like this, and there have been many tragedies of boats sinking and lives lost.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Confusion for Indian students in Australia

from w
A Punjabi girl knocked on the door the other evening and tried to sell us a scheme to put insulation in the ceiling. I told her we already had old pink bats but she was insistent. I changed tack and asked her if she was a student. Yes. What course? Hairdressing. Oh. Then I just wished her a good day in the only Punjabi words I knew. There are two problems here – insulations were on the TV news that very night as untrained young men do this for a quick buck (the government pay $1200 for each installation making it free for the householder) but four young men died when they touched live wires. And then Indian students want part-time jobs to support their expensive studies so often are in call centres or door knocking and so on.

The second story was about students and courses such as hairdressing. Recently the government has announced that some categories of international student visas will no longer be on the list for the possibility of further stay and on to permanent residence. There are too many students taking certificate and diploma level courses such as hospitality and hairdressing (often rather shonky, costly and badly managed) and some courses are not on the newer desired list for permanent residency. This must trouble many students whose intentions have been not only study but looking ahead to permanent residence. Such college courses are being used to jump the queue ahead of people who fill out their immigration forms offshore and wait patiently for their turn.

The third story in the news in recent months has been of course robbery and violence against Indian students but I won't go into that as I think most attacks are opportunist, though there is a bad element in our cities, and racist, which is to be condemned.

So what are the statistics about international students in Australia? Why are there more international students than even five years ago?

from Australian Bureau of Statistics and doesn't put the emotional TV news spin on it. By the way the courses are expensive, maybe $60,000 a year so this is very lucrative for the tertiary institutions.


The growth of transnational education over recent decades has provided Australia with the opportunity to develop a market for international students, offering courses and qualifications that are accredited globally. The provision of education services is a major export sector for Australia, worth an estimated $13.7 billion in 2007-08. As the number one and two source countries for overseas students, China and India together accounted for $5.1 billion of these exports.

Although overseas students are temporary migrants (they do not hold a permanent residency visa), while in Australia, they are generally counted as part of the estimated resident population. At June 2008, there were 66,000 Chinese and 63,000 Indian students temporarily in Australia. (Endnote 4)

As students may be enrolled in more than one course, and many study English language courses concurrently, the number of enrolments is well in excess of the number of students. Together, students from China and India accounted for 267,000 enrolments (or two-fifths of international student enrolments) in the year to June 2009. In addition to being Australia's largest markets for international students, they have also grown very fast and account for most of the growth in overall student numbers.

In the six years to June 2009, the annual number of enrolments by Chinese students in Australian institutions increased by an average of 16% per year to be 146,000 in the year to June 2009. Over the same time, the number of enrolments by Indian students increased by 46% per year, on average, to 121,000 in 2009.

-------------------- and other views:

Higher education was the sector with the largest share of student enrolments from China (42% in the year to June 2009) with the number of higher education enrolments almost trebling in the six years to 2009. While making up a smaller share (22% in 2009), Vocational Education and Training (VET) enrolments among Chinese students grew even more rapidly (showing a four-fold increase in the six years to 2009), with 'Management and commerce' and 'Food, hospitality and personal services' popular fields of education. English language courses are often studied concurrently with other qualifications and nearly one quarter of enrolments by Chinese students were in English language courses.

Among Indian students, VET made up the greatest share of enrolments (62% in the 12 months to June 2009). The number of VET enrolments by Indian students has grown very rapidly from 1,600 in 2003 to 75,000 in 2009. Higher education made up 24% of the enrolments by Indian students, growing three-fold between 2003 and 2009.

Studying in Australia can be a step on the pathway to permanent residency. Of the 44,000 Chinese and Indian born people who committed to permanent settlement in 2007-08, more than a third (36%) had applied from within Australia and most were students.
I do not know the statistics of Fijian and Fiji-Indian students in Australia, and when we talk with Indian students we meet in supermarkets, petrol servos, etc. they all seema to come from India, not Fiji. Anyway, the website Fijilive did write a piece about this.

Aust migrant scheme review to affect Fiji
February 10, 2010 05:23:13 PM
Fiji citizens intending to study or migrate to Australia will need to familiarize themselves with changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program. This follows this weeks’ announcement that Australia axed 20,000 migrant applications in a major overhaul, aimed at clamping down on foreign students gaining permanent residency through courses such as hairdressing and cookery.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced major changes to their GSM program and revoked the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL).

Australian High Commission spokesman in Suva, Dennis Rounds, confirmed the changes made to the GSM program. However, he said this has not altered student visa regulations.

“Anyone studying or intending to study in Australia should ensure they meet the current visa requirements,” he said.

The MODL prompted a massive influx in foreign students attending courses that put them in line for permanent residency. Such courses included cookery, hairdressing and accounting.

But Rounds noted that the revocation of the current MODL will not affect those who at the date of the announcement, hold a skilled-graduate visa. Also according to Rounds, it also won’t affect those who have yet to apply for a permanent or provisional GSM or have a pending GSM visa application lodged before 1st of September, 2007.

Evans earlier said the reforms, which follow a sudden rise in Australia's Indian population and an embarrassing rash of attacks on students from the country, would give priority to migrants with higher skills. The new measures are likely to weigh on Australia's large overseas education sector, which successfully targeted Asian students to become the country's fourth largest earner of foreign money.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Land snakes are not common in Fiji

from w
Only once did we find a land snake up a tree near the beach at Nukutatava and the kids took it to one of the high schools to show the teacher. But that's the only time. Of course there are plenty of the striped sea snakes. So here is a story in the Fiji Sun a few days ago about a man finding a land snake near Labasa. So do you kill a snake or not? I guess if it's not poisonous it's okay, but how do you know! I don't know if the facts are right in the article below, but certainly there's a temple near Labasa with a rock and a belief in a snake god.

People should not kill snakes, a Hindu priest says. Akhil Shree Sanatan Dharam Brahman Purohit Shabha priest, Kamlesh Maharaj said he was very disappointed to hear of people killing of an important creature.

His comments come as Ram Naicker, of Vunika, Labasa, killed a snake outside his home on Tuesday. Mr Naicker, 67, usually visits the forest several kilometres away from his house to harvest fruit and vegetables. He said while he was on his way to the forest on Tuesday to pick fruit, he saw a thin, dark brown snake hanging from a star fruit tree. “When I saw the snake I quickly ran to my house, picked up a spear and killed it,” he said. Mr Naicker said he did that to stop other residents being bitten by the snake.

But Mr Maharaj said, “we see and respect the creature because we see that as a form of God.”

Snake gods adorn and are celebrated in all Hindu temples. From many centuries Snake gods have played a prominent role in the lives of most Hindu people. The female snake god is called Nagarani and the male god as Nagarajan and idols of both gods are placed in all the major Hindu temples. In most depictions Lord Shiva, wears Nagarajan on his neck and the Lord Krishna has made the snake god Adhisheshan as his bed. Hindus believe snake gods are associated with wealth and healthy life and they act as a great security when people meet difficulties in life.

“I would like to request the people not to disturb or harm the snakes in the forest,” Mr Maharaj said. He said a Hindu belief was that if anyone killed a snake, he commited a sin and would surely face the consequences. Mr Maharaj said in the past there were few people who tried to play with snake or harmed them and they had ultimately faced many health problems.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Way to go Rev Manoa

from w
Here's a good story from today's Fiji Times about a Fijian pastor in Labasa who is committed to the Fiji Indian community in his area. The Friendly North is how Labasa people see themselves. (Though not always - I remember a time in 2000 when there was confusion and abnormal behaviour in Labasa when there was trouble in the military barracks and the usual friendliness evaporated.) It takes patience and commitment to go beyond the easy path of just being associated with your own language and cultural group, but it certainly is the way of progress.

Learning different languages in primary and secondary school is a good starter for communication. Way to go, Rev Manoa! Just like in Navua, at Timothy Memorial Church, another Fijian talatala, Rev Waisake, is building up some rural church communities.

Reverend lives for unity, peace
Jone Luvenitoga
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Reverend Manoa Kalouniviti pins a prefect's badge on a student at Bainivalu Primary School. Reverend Manoa Kalouniviti has been working as an Indian community christian pastor for the past 19 years.

He believes the lack of knowledge and understanding of cultures (Indian and Fijian) is the greatest crime people commit. He blames Christians for their lack of commitment and persistance to reach across the fence first as the Bible teaches and learn other cultures. For when Christians miss that, he says, they miss the promise of prosperity they believe in. For without peace, understanding and working hard to alleviate differences first, there can never be prosperity."Acceptance will only come about if we fully understand each others ways first," Mr Kalouniviti said.
He says every Christian knows this, that God's blessing will be showered when love is first bonded. Without that first step that we must take, we can never prosper as Christrians," he says. Christianity, he says, is a religion of love and understanding. Quoting from the Bible, he speaks of a prophet named Paul who said, "When I go to the Romans, I become a Roman. To the Jews, I am a Jew."
"We can never be true Fijian Christians and dictate things from our chair like making a country wide call for everyone to be a Christian and expect them to fit into that Christian culture," he says.

He was already working for the church before the founding of his first Indian community church in 1991 at his wife's village in Nabaikavu, Labasa when the coups took place in 1987 and then in 2000. As victims of the two upheavals, Indians questioned his leadership and the love he promised them in the name of religion.
Indians, he says, at that time felt insecure when they were chased and tormented by those who filled churches on Sundays. "It was the same religion I so fondly spoke about to them," he said. "It is the wisdom of understanding people and their culture that will play the most important role at a time when it is questioned. It is our deep understanding and knowledge of their culture and language that eased their feelings of insecurity even before we preached the word of God to them."

They were able to bridge every breaking point they came to during those years.

Sharing his dreams with his five children, he had them educated in school where they could learn other cultures and languages. His youngest, a son who is still two years old is being raised in an Indian family home and speaks fluent Hindi. His father hopes for the day when the son will continue the work his parents started. In the same way, the Reverend learnt to speak, read and write Hindi while he attended Boubale Indian School in Labasa from Class One to Eight in 1977. His wife attended Nabekavu Primary School which was closer to the airport at Waiqili settlement and just metres away from Bulileka Village where he is from. Their villages were both surrounded by Indian villages and farmers whom they socialised and interacted with throughout their young lives.

Like soul partners, they both knew how to write and speak Hindi by the time they met and founded their first Indian community church in 1991 and worked throughout the northern and the western division. They believe and yearn to see a time when there is unity among the different races in the country.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Labasa College and short pants

from w
They are not talking about the students wearing a sulu vakatoga which is the informal colourful one, that tends to fall down, but the neat formal sulu vakataga which usually has pockets!

Once upon a time Brij Lal was a student there and no doubt he wore short pants and not a sulu. It is interesting though that these days some of Fiji Indian students prefer to wear a sulu in the hot weather BUT the Principal says no to that - thus keeping up the stereotype that only Fijians wear sulus. Well, certainly everyone wears the casual sulu vakatoga, though not the sulu vakataga which is more formal. A sulu for boys looks fine and I think Fiji school uniforms should provide a few options. Now, what if the girls want to wear pants? Would that be allowed? In Australian high schools there are usually uniforms but there are several options to choose from and many girls wear long pants for comfort in cold weather.

Sulu uproar
Theresa Ralogaivau
Saturday, February 06, 2010
"School directs boys to wear shorts"
FRUSTRATIONS are brewing amongst ethnic Indian students at two major secondary schools in Labasa after they were not allowed to wear sulu vakataga. At Labasa College, the school policy is that ethnic Indian boys are not allowed to wear sulu because it is not their tradition. Principal Brij Mohan confirmed that Indian boys must wear shorts but are given Friday's to express their multi-cultural sense by donning a sulu vakataga.

Several parents and students whom the Fiji Times spoke to preferred anonymity for fear of repercussions. but said the rule was discriminatory and segregating, bordering on racism.

"We know that the State is advocating the uniting of races and this kind of rule just works against that policy," a parent said.

Filipe Bole, who heads the Education Ministry, said students had the right to choose what uniform to wear. He said schools should not force students to wear shorts only.
However Mr Mohan said the rule at Labasa College had existed for decades but was not enforced until recently. "At Labasa College we are encouraging students to keep their traditional wear," he said. "The rule hasn't really been challenged by any student when we enforced it again. We had a Muslim student who said he needed to cover his knee as part of his tradition but we know that is unfair on other Muslim students who have not requested the same thing."

Several students of Sangam College who also preferred anonymity said that they were forbidden from wearing sulu in school because of their culture.The photos show some school students, including one of Labasa Sangam students (not Labasa College which is different) a vavalagi wearing a sulu, police in uniform which includes an Indian policeman wearing a sulu.-----------Here is a response.
Letter to the Editor Fiji Times
Sulu rule
THANK you Theresa Ralogaivau for your report on the "sulu rule" at Labasa College and Sangam College. Principal Brij Mohan's excuse that the rule has "existed for decades" is questionable. Less than two decades ago most Indian boys would not have even dreamt of wearing a sulu. If the rule did exist before then it was most likely in place to accommodate the differences in culture rather than segregate them. It is my guess that the old rule would have stated that Fijian boys may wear sulu if they wish but not necessarily that Indian boys may not.

Furthermore, trousers are not traditional Indian attire, and the sulu is actually an adoption by Pacific Islanders at the behest of missionaries for reasons we will not bother go into here.

If traditional cultural attire is to be worn then surely the Indian boys would be required to come to school in a dhoti or similar garb.

Be that as it may, the argument here is that while a school may have a specific dress code that must be followed, it cannot and should not impose what is basically a restriction on cultural intergration amongst our next generation by incorporating within that dress code any other extra restrictions such as the sulu rule.

To Mr Mohan, I would suggest that the youth of today are representatives of a new and enlightened era that is emerging in this country we love and call "Fiji" (not India, or Great Britain or any other such name). Is it such a bad thing if our children are not necessarily like us?
DGM Robinson

Added on February 17
And Paul wears a sulu too!

Letter to the Editor Fiji Times
Traditional dress
ALIVERETI Jona's letter on traditional Fijian dress (FT 12/2) contains two questionable claims.

The first, that "traditional Fijian female dress is the same as the modern bikini" is way off the mark.

The main article of female dress in pre-Christian Fiji was a liku, a skirt with a woven waist-band usually made of vau (Hibiscus tiliaceus, Malvaceae).
The skirt worn by young women was quite short, and married women wore a longer version.

The second claim, that "what many now perceive as traditional Fijian dress was in fact introduced by British missionaries", has a bit more substance, but needs qualification.

The wraparound skirt we now call isulu vakatoga was indeed introduced by British and Tongan missionaries, and became a sign that a man had become Christian.
But no other item of what has become "traditional" Fijian clothing, such as isulu and jaba or isulu vakataga, was introduced by British missionaries -- they were developed by Fijians themselves.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

St Mary's Hostel Labasa

Father Api in front of St Mary's Hostel. from w
So it seems that St Mary's hostel, run by the Anglican Church in Labasa, is still going despite the trouble last year when floods did some damage and there was talk of closing it down. It does provide an important service to give accommodation for girls who are studying in Labasa. Once upon a time the land where St Mary's hostel stands, was owned by Peceli's father and he gave it to the Anglicans before he died in the 1940s. The land is low-lying and once there were little streams and plenty of crabs and fish to catch. Now it's part of Labasa township - which is still low-lying as we all know! I wonder if anywone has done some data collecting on the difference between students living at home and those living in hostels -such as Lelean, ACS, QVS, and others. Do the girls and boys do better at school if they are in a hostel environment during school terms?

Here is a piece from one of the Fiji newspapers a week or so ago.

‘Hostel life is challenging’
Hostel life is different from living at home. Students life in hostels or boarders do routine daily chores. They follow timetables. They have a time to wake up, have breakfast, lunch and dinner, bed time and even study time. Times are even programme when they are allowed to meet relatives. For a group of girls in the North who leave their homes in rural areas to study in urban schools, hostel life is challenging. They are taught to be independent because they live far from their parents. This includes 25 girls at an Anglican Church girls hostel in Labasa called the Saint Mary’s Hostel.

For new boarders, the start of the hostel life will take time to adapt. Some will be homesick because it is the first time they are far away from their parents. Sixteen-year-old Nunia Savu of Wainika, Cakaudrove said like most girls, the first weekend away from home was the toughest. But as days go by, they learn to adapt to the environment and hostel rules and easily make friends. Her second year at the hostel is a challenging one as she prepares for her Fiji School Leaving Certificate Examination. Savu said most of them opted to stay at the hostel because of time allocated for studies.

Labasa Arya Secondary School student, Maraya Bradburg said mingling with friends made her forget about how much she missed home. The Seaqaqa lass aims to pass with good marks this year to impress her parents. She is the eldest in her family.

Paulini Dilelekula of Naivaka Village, Bua said her parents struggled to put her in school for her own benefit. “I will not betray their trust and will work hard in school to make them happy,” she said.

Hostel matron, Mariana Fong Toy says the girls are given all the love and care away from the comforts of their homes. Mrs Fong Toy said accommodation provided at the hostel was for all races and religions and most girls form the best friendship during the duration of their stay.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Farewell to a friend of Koroipita

from w
A fine gentleman, Barry Bell from Geelong, Australia, was such a friend of Fiji, with his inspiring Donation in Kind work, especially for the development of Koroipita, the new village named after Peter Drysdale of Lautoka. Today Peceli and I attended Barry Bell's funeral at St Mary's Basilica with over 700 other people to pay tribute to an outstanding life of commitment to family, community, overseas projects in the South Pacific, and indigenous projects within Australia. It was a beautiful service, with singing of 'I have a dream' (there's a line that goes - something good in everything I see - what optimism!) 'What a wonderful world' and hymns. Afterwards we went to the Truffleduck Reception Centre for food and drink and to view an exhibition of Barry Bell's watercolours which are optimistic and showing our beautiful Corio Bay and nearby places. We knew Barry mainly through Rotary projects to Fiji and Donation in Kind. He was an intelligent but humble man with a vision that humanity can be served by helping others, sending practical gifts in containers, by working alongside strangers to put up houses, kindergartens, water projects. Emails were read this afternoon from Peter Drysdale and from people from the island of Yanuca off Deuba where a rest house had been built for the people coming and going on the outboard boats. Vinaka vakalevu Barry for a fine life of compassion and service for others.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Is talking better than silence?

from w
The official relationship between Fiji and Australia is troublesome when we remember how it used to be. At least talking is better than silence and mulling over disagreements from a distance.

From the ABC Radio
MARK COLVIN: Australia has waived its travel ban against a senior member of Fiji's military-led Government. Fiji's Foreign Minister will now be able to travel to Canberra for talks tonight aimed at restoring frayed diplomatic ties.

Tit-for-tat expulsions late last year marked a low point in relations with the regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama. Now, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is in Canberra for what are billed as private talks with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and their New Zealand counterpart, Murray McCully.

From Canberra, Radio Australia's Linda Mottram reports.

LINDA MOTTRAM: The downward spiral in relations between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand and Fiji on the other, hit a new low last November. That's when Fiji expelled the two countries' high commissioners, over allegations of interference in Fiji's appointment of judges, and Australia and New Zealand reciprocated, denying the claims.

It left particularly New Zealand with its strong ties to Fiji, but normally small diplomatic presence there, virtually unable to carry out vital consular tasks. Now, there's an attempt to get diplomatic ties back on track.

STEPHEN SMITH: Interim Fiji Foreign Minister Kubuabola will meet in Canberra with Minister McCully and I to discuss these diplomatic issues.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announcing the planned private meeting in Canberra, after he'd held a round of regular bilateral talks with New Zealand's Murray McCully. To make the private meeting happen, Mr Smith waived Australia's travel ban that applies to members of the Bainimarama regime as part of the sanctions imposed over the December 2006 coup, and continuing suspension of democracy in Fiji.

And both Murray McCully and Stephen Smith are emphatic the meeting in no way represents a change in their hardline views on Fijian coup politics.

STEPHEN SMITH: We are not proposing to discuss those matters which go to the Pacific Islands Forum's decisions in respect of Fiji, nor indeed the Commonwealth's decisions in respect of Fiji but to see if it is possible to put the formal diplomatic relationship between Australia and Fiji and New Zealand and Fiji onto a better footing.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Having had now a total of three heads of mission sent home by Fiji, New Zealand is particularly anxious. And just before Christmas Mr McCully flew to Nadi to meet Foreign Minister Kubuabola to try to make some headway.

They agreed to reinstate a consular position in their respective high commissions. But the nominee from Fiji was provocative some say, in key Bainimarama offsider Colonel Neumi Leweni, who's also on the Australian and New Zealand travel bans list. Murray McCully refers to him simply as an alleged nomination.

MURRAY MCCULLY: We don't discuss proposed diplomatic appointments.

LINDA MOTTRAM: As to what might be achieved by the meeting with Foreign minister Kubuabola in Canberra, Mr McCully spelled out a quite fundamental obstacle.

MURRAY MCCULLY: We need to get to a point with Fiji where we can maintain missions regardless of serious disagreements we have about matters of strongly held principle. And that is not something that is accepted yet. We are going to have to spend some time trying to get to that point.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Stephen Smith was also keeping expectations low. The significance of the meeting was that there was to be a meeting. A decision to have another meeting would be regarded as progress. So he saw no quick prospect of restoring full diplomatic ties.

STEPHEN SMITH: I think a lot of water will need to go under the bridge before those respective high commissioners can be reinstated.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Fergus Hanson from the Sydney think tank the Lowy Institute for International Policy met with Foreign Minister Kubuabola two weeks ago in Suva.

FERGUS HANSON: The sense that I got was that they were interested in restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries and that an approach of conflict wasn't in either side's interest. And I think also obviously they were very keen to get a softening in some of the sanctions that have been leveraged against the regime.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Other observers though say the Fiji Foreign Minister carries little weight in the Bainimarama regime and they caution Australia and New Zealand not to give anything to Fiji that could be used to legitimise the regime.

MARK COLVIN: Linda Mottram.