Sunday, November 28, 2010

Boys Scouts today

three scouts - a few years ago.
from w
I read about the boy scouts camp in Labasa and wondered where the 'old' kind of scouting has gone. When Peceli was a scout in Labasa in the 40s the boys went out into the bush with a cane knife and camped there, finding food, making a shelter. No matches, no blanket, just a cane knife. Camping then was not in the town area at all. In earlier years our family was associated with the scouting movement - Peceli was a chaplain to scouts at one time, our three boys were all scouts and two attended jamborees such as in Lautoka and at QVS. It's a really great movement and the Girl Guides also of course. It would be good in Fiji if scouts and guides had groups established through the schools - much better than cadets with all those fake guns and marching around!
First for Labasa

Serafina Qalo
Sunday, November 28, 2010

KAILA - A camp with a difference as scout boys of Labasa primary schools took to camp their different knowledge and skills of survival. About 50 boys from five different primary schools spent the weekend long camp at the Naseakula district school ground where they build their own tents with tree branches as support body.

Scouts leader and district officer Dharmendra Datt said the camp was to teach boys basic life's survival skills. "They also come in to share their ideas of basic survival skills and we as teachers share with them our ideas.

"The weekend camp is the first for the primary schools in Labasa and will get bigger next year," Mr Datt said.

He said the camp was basically to teach the boys to be independent.

"A lot of children nowadays don't know anything about basic survival in using the environment around you to supply your basic needs.

"This includes lighting up a fire, building a camp using tree branches and other important things that one will need to do to survive especially alone," Mr Datt said.

"This is the first time for the primary schools to have a scouts camp together and the boys learnt a lot from building chairs with the available wood, cutting and standing a flag pole, cooking, washing dishes and building tents.

"The students learnt quickly in the three days camp and that's what's scouts all about to produce independent people who can survive in any kind of surrounding," Mr Datt said.

As part of the weekend camp, the students also learnt to put together a bon fire.

"The boys cooked their own food with the supervision of the teachers and they also had to build tables to put their dishes on.

"Some used branches to hang their cups from so these boys have brilliant ideas about survival," Mr Datt said.

He said the event would now become an annual one for the district of Macuata.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Light a candle for the families

from w
A friend suggested that we light candles to remember the families in the tragedy in Nw Zealand when twenty-nine men and boys lost their lives in the terror of the coal-mine explosions. A dangerous job, they knew, but no family prepares for such a loss. We lit candles in the loungeroom and said prayers for the mothers, fathers, children,and friends of these men. My camera had a flash but Luse's photo is more realistic.

Tonga at the polls

from w
Barely a mention in the Fiji media (if at all) but Tonga has shown a new face in the transition from nobility ruling to a partial democratic face. Malo lelei.
from a NZ source: (with sections deleted)
Power to the people
By Audrey Young
5:30 AM Saturday Nov 27, 2010
Tonga democracy leader Akilisi Pohiva in Nuku'alofa yesterday after an election delivered democracy-aligned candidates a landslide victory. Photo / Audrey Young
A home-grown form of democracy - with some unorthodox elements - sprang into life in the kingdom this week.

Enthusiasm for the kingdom's first democratic elections was everywhere on Thursday, not least at the Lapaha polling station, the site of the old capital of Tonga, where National MP John Hayes was an official observer.

Isapela Hufanga, who works at the Reserve Bank, was happy to talk outside the polling station in the local community hall. But it was hard to pin her down.

She continually interrupted herself, waving and greeting others streaming in to pick a representative for her area, Tongatapu No 10, as soon as the polls opened. To some it was a sombre day; to Isapela it was thrilling, to everyone it was history.

Asked whether a commoner should lead the Government rather than a noble, she replied yes: "I'm sure it is what the King expects."

She was dead right. It is now emerging that it was the King who ordered his brother, Crown Prince Lavaka Ata 'Ulukalala, to drop out of the contest to become one of the nobles' representatives. And it was almost certainly on his instruction that none of the nobles should try to be Prime Minister.

Had the Crown Prince been elected, according to many Tongans, the Parliament could have felt obliged to elect him Prime Minister, a result which could have undermined the integrity of the democratic reforms.

The reforms happened because of three remarkable men. The first is politician Akilisi Pohiva, a former trainer of teachers, whose name is synonymous with the democracy movement in Tonga. Vilified as a traitor when he faced and defeated sedition charges in 2007, Pohiva is now triumphant after 30 years of campaigning, 23 of them from a lonely seat in Parliament. Yesterday his people were literally dancing in the streets when he arrived at party HQ to begin the process of Government formation.

The figure probably given least credit for the new Tonga is King George Tupou V whose progressive views are overshadowed by his eccentricities. Nonetheless his long held ambition to surrender his executive power to the people is highly unusual.

And in his old boyhood friend Prime Minister Feleti Sevele he had an accomplice and commoner in the legislature who ran a thorough consultation process and turned the dream into law. Each man played a vital part in the biggest overhaul of the constitution in 135 years.

What do the reforms do? They allow voters to elect people's representative. For the first time people's representatives will outnumber the hereditary nobles' representatives. Together they will elect their own Prime Minister, who was previously chosen by the monarch.

The King has relinquished the right to appoint the cabinet, a job given now to the Prime Minister.

Any political decisions in his name, including the royal assent on legislation, will be on the basis of the advice from the Prime minister.

Interviewed on ABC Australia, King George said he had always wanted to implement reforms for the country."It's a very practical idea in that our political life has to travel at the same speed, the same level of development as our economic life." The democratic reforms have been delivered at a pace which was clearly unimaginable 10 years ago to the outgoing New Zealand envoy. They were hatched by the King while he was Crown Prince.

Soon after taking over the affairs of his ailing father, in 2006 the prospective King sacked Prince Lavaka who was Prime Minister, and installed his friend Sevele, the first commoner to hold the rank.

King George, who went to Kings School and Kings College in New Zealand, said he would not have wanted reform if he had been educated only in Tonga.

"Like others of my generation, my education has generally been a liberal European education and I feel sure that without a European education, with a solely Tonga education, I don't believe I would have been able to make the changes," he told Bruce Hill.

It is a fascinating interview: it shows someone who has thought carefully and deeply about the handover for a long time. He also acknowledged he had come under pressure over the reforms - but not from "below." "The pressure I felt was the pressure not to change which was exerted on me from my own class in society."

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has watched the reform process closely, first as foreign affairs spokesman in Opposition and now as minister.

McCully is reasonably close to Tongan PM Sevele, hosting him at his own Northland bach a couple of months ago. He says people under-estimate how difficult it was getting the reforms through.

"The scale of the transformation they have been going through is huge, moving from being a monarchy to a modern democracy in a very short space of time and it has only been because of an alignment of a unique series of events particularly the fact that the King had decided to support the reform process and had a commoner Prime Minister who was a friend of his who was able to carry it through the political process."

Nuku'alofa lawyer Dana Stevenson said she was taking a "wait and see" attitude to the reforms and had concerns people's expectations might be too high.

"I'm concerned that things might not move as quickly as people might expect them to and that might be a source of frustration for people.

"There is a lot of excitement and optimism about this new process we are embarking on but I'm not sure whether people realise it is not going to change things overnight, that this is only the first step in the process of the move towards democracy.

"It's going to be a much longer evolving process. It's going to take a number of years, if not decades, for it to evolve and this is only the first step."

When and how a government is actually formed may take some time. How the nobles exercise their power is unknown as yet. They conducted their own election in the privacy of the Palace Office, a red-roofed house in the grounds by the King's town palace, each noble seated on a red velvet chair with royal insignia.

In a closed door ritual, votes were cast at 12pm, counted at 4pm and announced to the world by the emergence of the successful one for a group photo. They were joined by the whole crew for a bigger group portrait.

Among their number was Lord Ramsay Dalgety, a controversial Scottish QC appointed by the King to a new post, Lord Chancellor. He heads an advisory group which recommends judicial appointments.

Perjury charges against him relating to evidence he gave on the sinking of the Princes Ashika were dropped this month because no one had signed the paperwork.

The King has granted him rights to vote with the nobles but not to stand.

The changes to judicial appointments is seen as the most worrying feature of the reform package because it is a step back from modern practice and potentially threatens the independence of the judiciary.

A recent law setting up a Judicial Service Commission for the appointment of the judiciary, involving the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and the president of the Law Society has been overturned.

The King's view is that the new appointments procedure will preserve the independence of the judiciary by keeping it away from the Attorney-General and other members of the executive. The jury is definitely out on that one.

That feature, together with a structure that could allow a noble to emerge as PM - as looked possible earlier in the week - makes Tonga's system unique.

New Zealand's present High Commissioner, Jonathan Austin, is adamant that the outcomes of the new system are not for others to criticise.

"I don't think it's up to us to judge," he said, when the speculation that the Crown Prince was standing was at its height. "It's their system, this is the system they arrived at, that's the result that they've got. If they want to change it, they're at liberty to do so."

(section deleted).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Samoan teenagers - a story of endurance

from w
Among the trivia and under-reported stories in the Fiji media, - there was one story that caught my attention - three Samoan teenagers survived fifty days drifting at sea until they were rescued. Now that is epic and a very good story should be written about it.

Three Samoan teenagers rescued after 50 days adrift at sea in tiny boat

Three Samoan teenagers have survived 50 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean, being found alive by a tuna fishing vessel long after their families had given them up for dead.
Boys alive after 50 days adrift in Pacific
Filo Filo and Samuel Perez, both 15, and 14-year-old Edward Nasau resting on a tuna fishing boat after their rescue,
Bonnie Malkin
By Bonnie Malkin, Christchurch 9:45AM GMT 25 Nov 2010

The youths, two aged 15 and one aged 14, had disappeared on Oct 5 in a tiny aluminium boat from the remote Atafu Atoll. The trio were presumed to have drowned after unsuccessful searches by the New Zealand Air Force and Samoa had held a memorial service in their honour. But, in a remarkable stroke of luck, the teenagers were spotted on Wednesday by a New Zealand tuna fishing boat which was far off its usual course. Samuel Perez and Filo Filo, both 15 and Edward Nasau, 14, had drifted 800 miles and were in waters northeast of Fiji when they were rescued.

The first mate of the fishing boat the San Nikunau said that the boys had only eaten one seabird and a couple of coconuts during their time at sea.

In the days before their miraculous rescue, they had started drinking seawater, because it had not rained for some time, and would not have survived much longer, he said. However, the teens had sustained surprisingly few injuries during their ordeal. They were thin and sunburnt, but otherwise fairly healthy and in good spirits.

"We got to them in a miracle," Tai Fredricsen, first mate of the San Nikunau, said. "Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," he told the Fairfax website Mr Fredricsen said the boat was initially spotted when it was about a mile off the bow. We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there. I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help ... they said 'very much so'. They were ecstatic to see us."

Luckily, the San Nikunau had a medical officer on-board, who knew not to feed the trio too quickly. Instead they were put on a drip before slowly being given sips of water and small pieces of fruit that their bodies could absorb. Soon they were strong enough to eat a full "kiwi breakfast", Mr Fredricsen said.

The boys are expected to be put ashore at Suva, the Fijian capital, in the next 24 hours where they will be checked at a hospital.

And from the Fiji papers:
61 days adrift
Samantha Rina
Saturday, November 27, 2010

One of the three Tokelau teenagers rescued after drifting for 61 days, Etueti Nasau, 14, is escorted by Fiji Navy officers and military doctor at the Naval Base in Suva yesterday. Picture: IVAMERE RASABASABA
AFTER 61 days of drifting at sea and numerous search and rescue missions, three Tokelau teens were finally rescued when a New Zealand fishing vessel spotted them early this week. In a media briefing yesterday afternoon, Fiji's navy commander Francis Kean said they successfully transferred Etueni Nasau, 14, Samu Pelesa and Filo Pelesa, both 15, from the San Nikunau, on to the naval vessel, Kula, at 4am yesterday in Fiji's exclusive economic zone."The boys had left their homes in Atafu Village on September 24 in an aluminium boat to visit relatives at Nukunonu, a neighbouring island in Tokelau. Along the way they ran out of fuel and the boat started to drift," he said.

"With the rainfall we have experienced, one can only imagine the state of the seas they endured during the journey. Even the commanding officer of the Kula is in awe of how they survived the 61-day ordeal," said Mr Kean. He said the teens lived on flying fish, a seagull and sea and rain water. "A doctor who accompanied them to shore has been injecting fluids into their bodies to rehydrate them. The doctor has said it is still not the right time for them to eat solid foods so they will continue to take in fluids until their bodies are ready. "I thank God for the second chance given to the three teenagers," Commander Kean said.

He said the boys' families had been informed and that immigration issues would need to be sorted between the New Zealand High Commission and the Immigration Department before they could return home to Tokelau.

Also present at the Stanley Brown naval base in Walu Bay yesterday to receive the boys were officials of the New Zealand High Commission, including Phillip Taula, the acting head of mission. The boys are undergoing medical treatment at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Behind the smile of Seona

from w
Here's another article I pinched from the Fiji Times, this time by Seona Smiles, the very funny journalist who writes from the point of view of a family in Flagstaff, Suva. Beyond or behind the jokiness though there's something to ponder in this article - the Magna Carta, personal freedom and so on. Good on you, Seona.
Charter of liberty
Seona Smiles
Sunday, November 21, 2010

I set house rules, but they might just as well have been the Fiji Constitution. When the daughters were infants, I made it simple, like the doctors'oath: first do no harm. This meant "don't damage stuff or irritate anyone else, especially the cat and more especially, me."

Yet no sooner would I be steaming away over a hot keyboard or talking about important things to a friend on the phone when a childish voice would pipe persistently in my ear, like a basketball bouncing off the side of my skull: "mum, mum, mum, mum, hey mum, mum.." Eventually the child would get the attention it deserved, trust me. Then she would go off and complain to her Aaji, which at least kept her out of my hair for a while.

Later the rules became more sophisticated: no drinking under 18, no sex before 35, no drugs ever.They laughed, poured another glass of wine and went out with their boyfriends while I stayed home and got stuck into the Panadol. But as far as I know, neither of them is a triple axe murderer, has a lifestyle disease or has joined Hillsong, so maybe something worked.

Which brings me eventually to a reluctant respect for the rule of law, even if the quality of mercy is somewhat strained, not to mention the quality of justice. The big deal in law is the Magna Carta, now rocking up to its 800th anniversary. You may say, like British comedian Tony Hancock: "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?" Or "bless her and all who sail in her" because a luxury barge plying the Thames is indeed named Magna Carta. It probably docks at Runnymead, a boggy place in England where in 1215 Bad King John was bullied by a gang of barons to sign up to certain rights and freedoms on something that looks like a dirty vest or old sheepskin.

Loosely translated, MC probably means 'Piece of Paper'. It was supposed to stave off a civil war, which it didn't.

But it did become what some see as the starting point for democracy (never mind the Greeks) and embodied an important principle that remains to this day: that all people, including the king (or equivalent, say, Rajah or Ratu) are subject to law.

This has been controversial in Fiji from time to time, but by and large, works.

There is another bit in the MC that stuck around long enough to become the legal remedy of habeus corpus, with which we are familiar in Fiji during politically difficult periods.

According to last month's London Review of Books, habeus corpus has in recent years lost much of its practical importance.

Not because judges are less protective of personal liberty, but because the function of hc has to a large extent been subsumed within versatile and extensive judicial review.

However a striking feature of hc, according to the Review, is that "in times of perceived emergency, when the security of the people is trumpeted as the highest political imperative, personal freedom, and with it the remedy of habeas corpus, are its first casualties."

Despite the fact that by the second half of the 19th century nearly all the Magna Carta clauses had been repealed in their original form, it is generally considered part of the uncodified constitution (of Britian, which famously doesn't have a constitution).

Lord Denning, of Fiji"s Denning Report fame, described it as "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot."

And good luck with that.

Some of its clauses are better off being repealed, for instance those that dealt with Jews who were able to lend money because they were unconstrained by Christian teachings on usury.

I don't know what happened to that, maybe bank bosses don't go to church or maybe it is perfectly Christian to charge "fees".

Anyway, Jews were not allowed to charge children interest on an inherited debt and widows and children had to be provided for before paying off an inherited debt, which actually sounds good to me and would serve right all those banks who wouldn't lend to women.

You could leave the kingdom without prejudicing allegiance except for outlaws; the king's hostages had to be returned (good one for Sudanese pirates and Middle East kidnappers); unjust fines had to be remitted (take heed, LTA); and there was something about the restoration of disseised Welshmen, but I don't know either what it means or any Welsh persons.

I think it is something to do with land and probably not useful in Fiji.

The clause I liked best was the abolition of all evil customs connected with forests.

What were they doing behind the bushes in 1215?

Or maybe, like today's environmental protection laws, the clause was intended to prevent destruction of the planet.

The Magna Carta is such a big deal that the anniversary celebrations are starting now and running through the next five years, to 2015.

It would be excellent for Fiji to spend the time discussing and sorting the basic concepts and freedoms of the MC as applying to a modern developing country.

This time let's try to have something that we don't throw out in the first five minutes, but that will last at least as long as the magna carta.

Christmas is coming

from w
Here’s an initiative from young people to make some cash from designing Christmas card. I wonder though about Santa Claus and kava, and a Fijian warrior in a Christmas hat!

What is Christmas really about? Here’s a story from a primary school boy who attended Christian Education classes. He was talking with his Mum and Dad and they were talking about Santa. The little boy said, ‘No, that’s not what I mean. Tell me about Jesus. The teacher said Christmas is about him.’ The parents were really in spot of bother. They’d forgotten the real intent of Christmas – the coming of the Light of the World. Santa is just a distraction, an evasion of the truth. What do you think?

Youths craft cards of local flavour to help out
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Labasa trio show off their hand-crafted cards. Picture SERAFINA SILAITOGA.
WITH the Christmas season around the corner, a group of youths in the town of the Friendly North is using the occasion to raise funds for next year's school fees. The four Labasa girls are also helping a newly established group fund youths' needs. The secondary school students of Gurunanak Khalsa College, create their own cards. The cards, with mostly local designs of a Fijian warrior wearing a Christmas hat or with Santa Clause holding a yaqona bowl showcases the local language such as 'Bula vinaka, taki mada'.

Laisani Gain said they thought of helping their parents pay their school fees next year and decided to sell the cards for $1. "The idea of making and selling Christmas cards was given to us by our aunty who is a businesswoman," Laisani said. "And she helped start the business. This money will be used for our school fees and part of it will also go towards the Rescue Mission which is to help meet youth needs."

The businesswoman, Helen Chang, said the girls needed help, so she thought of a self-help project that would benefit them. "That 's how the idea of selling Christmas cards came up and I helped them start it off because the money earned will benefit them and a group of youths who are members of the Rescue Mission," Ms Chang said. "We have also received orders from some business houses and the support from the community has been awesome."

Monday, November 22, 2010

A different drum beat

from w
One of our boys often says that teenagers and adults need to find their passion and do their best at it - whether it's music, sport, writing, being a pastor, cooking. Find something you really like. So here's a girl that loves drumming.
from Fiji Sun
Direca dreams of becoming a drummer
Seaqaqa lass Maria Salome Direca is the only female in the school's all-boys band of drummers who usually perform for public functions in Labasa. She marched elegantly beating her drums artistically to the rhythm of the rest of the drummers.

The eight-member band from Nabala Junior Secondary School performed a special last Friday to mark the launch of the Blue Ribbon campaign in Labasa.

Originally of Nakavika village, Miss Direca who is proud of her talent said she joined the band to test her abilities as a girl in drumming. And so far she has enjoyed all her performances because she outshines the rest of her band members. Miss Direca who is the head girl of the school said the band is meant for those students who participate in cadet training.

However, they now perform for functions that are related to the educational curriculum.

Miss Direca who is now passionate about drumming dreams to be a band member for either the Police or Military band. "I don't mind being the only girl at the school band because it builds my confidence in performing before people. I used to be a timid person before I joined the band but that has changed now," said a smiling Miss Direca.

When she is free at school, she takes time out to practice her drumbeats and competes with other band members. "Just playing the drums makes me feel alive and happy. I tend to be in my own world filled with peace when I play the drums."

Miss Direca said girls can do anything if they put their heart and mind to it. "Playing drums is not only a boy's hobby as it can also be girls. It is only a matter of enjoying what you do in order to be happy."

SUN North caught up with her after a performance at the Blue Ribbon campaign launch where she made a plea on behalf of the child abuse.

Miss Direca pleaded with the community and leaders to highlight the plight of children who have been abused physically, emotionally and psychologically.
And here's another young person from Labasa with a different passion.
Again from Fiji Sun.
Labasa lad for NZ meet
A 23-year-old resident of Tuatua, Labasa, is happy to be one of the Labasa Okinawa Goju-Rya Karatedo Federation reps selected to represent Fiji in the second Oceania tournament in New Zealand next month. Ashrit Lal said he worked hard to win a spot in the tournament. He said he had been practicing karate for 12 years. He said karate was part of his hobbies and interest and it had allowed him to visit a new country.“I am happy to be one of the students chosen to represent my country (Fiji) in the second Oceania this year,” Mr Lal said.

From the 15 students, Mr Lal is the only one rep from Labasa. But he needs help.“I am looking for a sponsor. If I get it one I will do my best for me and my country,” Mr Lal said.

And, another passionate person from Labasa, a musician this time.Kumar breathes music
There is more to life than eating, working and sleeping, says musician Amit Kumar of Batinikama, Labasa.Mr Kumar, 29 is a well-known musician in Labasa, who started his singing career at the age of 10."I began singing ghazals and popular Bollywood Hindi songs and later, my interest in singing bhakti bhajans grew,” Mr Kumar said.“I was inspired by my late grandfather, Sant Kumar, who was also a musician. My life is deeply rooted into music and without it, I feel my life is without happiness.”

He believes that God has blessed him with the gift of singing and playing Indian musical instruments. “With this talent I have performed a number of shows for various charities and religious organisations throughout Fiji,” he said.“I have released four albums and I am on the verge of recording my fifth volume.” Since Mr Kumar took his singing career seriously he has won three awards.

In 2009 he received the best critics award during the Procera Music Awards. In 2008, he was second runner-up at the Vodafone live talent quest run by Radio Fiji 2 and Radio Mirchi. In 2007 he scooped the best kirtan singer award.

“My aim in life is to upgrade my skills in classical singing,” he said.“If I am given the opportunity to study music overseas I will gladly do so. I have seen many youths listening to music but there is no sign of creating music.” He is urging young music enthusiasts who have an interest and talent in music to make use of it.“Take your life to a new direction. Do not engage yourselves with the same daily schedules and make use of your interest in music,” he said.

Mr Kumar is an employee at the Fiji Islands Revenue Customs Authority branch in Labasa.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Big brother watching and little brother too

from w
Communications technology today is truly amazing. Here's a photo of a $25 webcam on our main computer, an eye staring at us for visually communicating with Skype. The posterboy behind is of a baby tawny frogmouth, a favourite bird as there are some to handfeed at Serendip Sanctuary not far away. Eyes staring at us everytime we log on. Even in babasiga land, technology means that facebook is almost replacing email these days for sending messages. Someone recently resigned in Fiji by sending an email. Perhaps others just Twitter. Hand-held devices these days are so small but can do amazing things. Our Fijian grandchildren are teaching us about these 'everyday' items. When I was their age we only had one radio in the house, music was on discs, and the telephone was used sparingly. when Peceli was there age perhaps there was only the radio. There still is a place though for personalising messages when there is something of great drama or importance using the known networks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mining in Fiji and the ecology

from w
The Fiji Sun has mostly trivia or biased tit-bits, but occasionally there is a serious article and here is one. Anecdotes from both Bua and Namosi people have indicated the problems with mining and the possibility of future mining in these areas. My view is that feasability studies always must look at possible damage to the environment. Is the trade-off of some money coming in worth it? I don't think so. Exploitation is the word that comes to mind. I have put into bold parts that I think are most important.

What do mining companies bring?


“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

In 1995, the inter-governmental panel on Climate Change [IPCC], a UN sponsored group of 2400 scientists from around the world, issued its report that Global Climate Change [GCC] is anthropogenic, which means human-caused.

They reported that industries, like mining has greatly contributed to GCC, as the result of the devastation of pristine forests and natural ecosystem which had severe effects on human societies.

All types of mining activities have far more negative impacts on the environment and our livelihood than we ever imagine.

This had been proven in many host countries where mining projects were pushed by multinational companies of Chinese origins and World Financial Institutions like World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

(story about the devastation caused by mining in Ghana deleted here.)

EIA focus mainly on the physical impact on the environment and does not reflect a process of effective community participation in decision making on the pros and cons or the negative social impacts of mining.

Traditional title holders or chiefs sometimes make decision themselves, but when there are negative environmental fallouts, the whole livelihood of the community is drastically, unfairly affected especially women and children. The weaknesses in the process have provided the leeway for mining operations and severely impacted the environment, crippling the grassroots attachment with their natural world and deepening their plight.

In the village of Waivaka, of Namosi Province (Copper mining) and Kilaka, Kubulau in the Province of Bua(proposed Bauxite site) the first worrying thing that comes to mind are the livelihood of the future generation of this country.

The Namosi copper exploration in Waisoi has been in existence in the last 40 years and ever since the Central Mining Finance started exploration it has seen different companies taking over its running. After CMF, Anglo, AMAX and Placerdoom Exploration took turns. Currently Nitetshu, Mitshubishi and Nucrest are in partnership with landowners, called the Namosi Joint Venture [NJV] of which the Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matantobua is the chairman.

The exploration site is owned by the mataqali Dakunibure, Vanuaca and Nabukebuke.

There was a committee set up in 1985 to hear grievances. They were called Namosi Landowners Committee. Their role was to hear the mataqali’s grievances and to address any complaints from the people.

According to Mr Petero Leveni - the spokesman for the landowners committee and the Catechist - Mr Timoci Belena, both of Waivaka village, there had been lots of negative effects in their environment and the lives of the people such as:

r Effects on food security and source contamination which resulted in the devastation of food source like-freshwater prawns, fish, eels, and shells which inland rural communities depend so much on.

r Loss of traditional herbs like “Vobo”- (used for cold and fever) and other medicinal plants that locals depend on.

r The continuation of work on Sunday which affects the people’s relationships and deepens existing fragmentation.

r The physical changes of the Waivaka River, Delailasakau and Naseuvou.

r The loss of wild pigs and birds due to the devastation of their habitat.

r Deforestation, soil erosion, air & noise pollution.

When the company drills a hole, a chemical is used for drilling.

When the holes over flows during a heavy down pour it flows downstream and ends up in the nearby streams, creeks and Waivaka River.

Mr Leveni said that, whenever they wanted to raise these issues with authorities they were often told “to be mindful of their protocol by following the right channels of communication”.

In other words he is not obliged to speak directly to the management or his traditional leader himself.

The communities were also told to increase agricultural production of rourou, dalo, tavioka and other root crops and supply it to the mine for employee’s consumption. But later on found out that these are bought from a local Chinese company instead of the people of Namosi.

Mr Leveni said there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the mining operation in Waisoi. All agreements made are written in English and elders in Waivaka or any other land owning unit will not be able to understand.

On the positive side it has provided employment for community members. Two women who worked in the mine (names withheld) said that the Waivaka River had really been affected but they do not want the mine to close because it has given them employment.

For exploration of bauxite in Nawailevu and the proposed site in Kilaka in Bua the Chinese company called [Xinfa] Aurum Exploration (FIJI) Limited is involved and has an office in Savusavu town. The licence for exploration was granted to Chinese based company Aurum. Exploration began in 2001 in Nawailevu, Bua.

Bauxites are a sedimentary rock formed by weathered volcanic rocks. The material is mainly extracted by open-cast mining, which has a variable and highly site-specific effect on the local environment. The primary ecological concerns connected to this operation are related to the clearing of vegetation, destruction of species and their habitat and soil erosion.

In Vietnam, India and some African countries it has resulted in massive devastation to the eco systems.

It is obvious that the water is always brown in colour - rain or sunshine. The communities said that it is the effect of Mount Kasi exploration over the years. This needs further assessment and verification.

All mining projects produce negative impacts on all who live in mining communities especially women and children. It is important to understand that companies usually enter into negotiations with mostly men and women are excluded from payments of compensation or royalties and employment opportunities. They are often deprived of the means of traditional occupation and become increasingly dependent on men. Mining involves the replacement of subsistence economies that have fed generations of families and landowners.
It also brought with it disputes, deeper fragmentation and destruction of traditional values and customs which is needed in sustaining solidarity and unity of families, mataqali, yavusa and the vanua. The workload and responsibilities of women increases tremendously, causing more stress and tensions.

In addition, the environmental destruction caused by large-scale mining also reduces the productivity of the fields and poisoned wild foods, marine life and animals.

The Social Empowerment and Education Programme tries its best to raise awareness with landowners so that proper consultation with all members of their communities and experts to enable them to make wise decisions in resource utilisation.
The Government, through its department of environment should be watching the activities of these multi-national corporations closely and ensure that they act responsibly and in accordance with International Environmental Laws and Corporate Social Responsibility.

It is prudent that mining be conducted in a manner that reduces the potential for drastic imbalances by minimising its impacts on the local environment. It is also important that every effort must be made to limit the environmental cost of mining and minimise the impact on the natural surroundings to protect the livelihood of future generations.

(Mr Leo Nainoka is the advocacy coordinator of Social Empowerment Education Programme (SEEP))

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fire dancing is dangerous

Fijian fire dancing (not at the museum).
from w
Here is a strange story from the Fiji Times today. What do they mean 'intoxicated guests'? Should fire dancers and intoxicated guests be allowed to roam free in the very important cultural archive the Fiji Museum? I think the event was the 25th anniversary of some computer company and my son said he should have been there. No, he's not a fire dancer.
From Fiji Times
Chemical fire
A 25th anniversary celebration almost wiped out our 200-year history at the Fiji Museum on Friday night. A fiery dance group of teenaged girls and boys were performing a fire-dance when kerosene they were using spilt on to the floor and burst into flames in front of guests as well as the Ra Marama replica that stood not more than 15 metres away. The dancers attempted putting the fire out with water but induced the "chemical fire". Intoxicated guests rushed in and helped put the fire out.

To watch a video of this 'event' go to youtube A Night at the Fiji Museum

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Forbearance, patience, endurance and Burma

from w
The Bible reading today was about the trashing of the temple and the endurance of a cultural group and it was rather pessimistic. Then this afternoon I heard on the news something very good indeed. It certainly was about the theme of endurance, patience and forbearance. Excellent news about a very courageous lady, Aung San suu Kyi.
from Daily Telegraph
Huge crowds greet Suu Kyi at party headquarters

* By Hla Hla Htay in Rangoon
* From: AFP
* November 14, 2010 4:31PM

BURMA's newly released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted by thousands of exuberant supporters at her party headquarters as she arrived to deliver a rare political address.

The daughter of Burma's independence hero carries a weight of expectation among her followers for a better future for the nation after almost half a century of military dictatorship.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was freed yesterday after spending most of the last two decades locked up, in a move greeted with jubilation by her supporters and welcomed by rights groups and governments around the world.

The 65-year-old dissident briefly struggled to get out of her car amid a huge crowd before entering the offices of her National League for Democracy as the gates closed behind her.

She was due to meet with diplomats and then give a rare political address that is being eagerly awaited for clues on what she plans to do with her freedom following an election widely criticised by the West as a sham. Thousands of her supporters roared with approval yesterday as Suu Kyi appeared outside her home after the end of her latest seven-year stretch of detention.

"We must work together in unison," she told the crowd waiting outside the crumbling lakeside mansion where she had been held, suggesting she plans to keep up her long struggle against the military regime.

"I'm glad that you are welcoming me and supporting me. I want to say that there will be a time to come out. Do not stay quiet when that time comes," she added.

Many in the impoverished nation see the democracy icon as their best chance for freedom. But it remains to be seen whether the most famous dissident in Burma, can live up to her long-suffering compatriots' high expectations.

She has said little about her plans and attention is focused on whether she can reunite the divided opposition after an election widely criticised by the West as a sham to prolong military rule behind a facade of democracy.

"Our country must become democratic. Our future depends on Aung San Suu Kyi," said NLD youth leader Nyi Min. "She gives us hope and courage. Only she can free us from this anarchist regime."

World leaders, too, will be poring over the softly spoken Suu Kyi's words to get an indication of her political intentions. Many countries were quick to welcome her release, with US President Barack Obama hailing her as "a hero of mine".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Suu Kyi as "an inspiration" to the world, but said the junta must release all political prisoners.

Setting her free is a huge gamble for Burma's generals, and observers see it as an attempt to tame criticism of a controversial election last Sunday, the country's first in 20 years. Some had feared that the junta, whose proxies claimed overwhelming victory in the vote, would continue to put restrictions on the freedom of its number one enemy.

But the junta did not impose any restrictions on her release, according to a senior government official as well as her lawyer Nyan Win.

"There was no condition on her release. She is completely free," Nyan Win told AFP.

"She is very glad and happy."

Western nations and pro-democracy activists have blasted the November 7 poll as anything but free and fair following widespread reports of intimidation and fraud. The NLD boycotted the vote, a decision that deeply split the opposition.

Suu Kyi had been under house arrest since 2003 - just one of several stretches of detention at the hands of the ruling generals. Her sentence was extended last year over a bizarre incident in which an American swam uninvited to her lakeside home, sparking international condemnation and keeping her off the scene for last Sunday's vote.

The pro-democracy leader swept her party to victory in a 1990 election, but it was never allowed to take power.

Suu Kyi's struggle for her country has come at a high personal cost: her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the junta refused him a visa to see his wife. She has not seen her two sons for about a decade and has never met her grandchildren.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering Ba

from w
It's th 11th of the 11th and I remember about 11 p.m. after reading one chapter of a James Bond novel, I gave birth to our second son at the Ba Methodist Mission hospital. So though today is Remembrance Day and to do with the world wars, I only think of that day at Ba. Sister Satya Bali was the Matron at the time and what a fine woman she was in her lifetime, dedicated to the care of sick people and women giving birth. Even in retirement Satya thought of others and was involved in the foundation of a Senior Citizens Centre in Ba. This town of course is focussed on a sugar mill that may or may not be closing down. The Methodist Indian Division have had a significant mission there with a hospital, school, and a training institute for young men. When I first went to Fiji on a work camp in December 1961 our first stopover was at Namosau and I remember the gorgeous flowering trees there. Peceli lived in Ba earlier on as a young minister, to establish a Bible School at Nailaga.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Fiji Australia relationships

from w
It was surprising that a former Pacific Desk man is given the time of day to talk about the relationship between Fiji and Australia. It's a bit late Mr Kerr as the Pacific Desk is now taken by another person! The Member for Corio is the new Pacific Affairs Desk man and maybe it's too soon to ask him what he thinks about Fiji. Anyway, this is what Mr Kerr had to say to the ABC Pacific Beat.
Kerr calls for rethink of Australia's policy on Fiji
Updated November 8, 2010 17:58:39

At the beginning of her trip to Asia and the Pacific, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, announced the opening of a new US Agency for International Development office in Suva.

The announcement comes as experts and community leaders in Australia debate the way forward for Australia's policy of so-called smart sanctions on Fiji.

While pro-democracy campaigners want tougher action from Canberra the smart sanctions have been criticised by others for preventing travel to Australia by relatives of members of the Fiji regime, and for keeping Fiji out of talks for the proposed PACER plus trade deal.

Australia's former Parliamentary Secretary for the Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr told a Lowy Institute seminar today that Australia should move towards a strategic re-engagement with Fiji.

Mr Kerr says the sanctions have not achieved the return of democracy and there are now other forces which mean those sanctions are no longer sustainable.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Australia's former Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr

KERR: Increasingly after a significant period of time, the regime has remained robust in place, the country is suffering economically and other countries are starting to look at how they can move to re-establish at least some kind of linkages to engage with the promises that Commander Bainimarama and the government has made towards moving to a 2014 election. And Japan, for example, has committed to providing assistance with voter registration and the United States has made it plain that it's going to engage in relation to trying to work with the government to enhance the prospects of a successful transition to democracy in 2014, and the EU is deeply uncomfortable I know with the outcome of the sugar crisis, where because of the coup in Fiji, they did not supply 300 million euros that were designed to restructure a floundering sugar industry and the consequence of that, of course, has been that that sugar industry has been declining. It's 200-thousand people in Fiji dependent on that industry and it is nearly on a point of no return. So that is contributing to rural poverty.

GARRETT: So what sort of first steps would you see from Australia as part of this re-engagement?

KERR: Well, what I want to do is distinguish between Australia maintaining its opposition to the form of governance in Fiji, that is expressing diplomatically that we must continue to press for a democratically-elected regime, but on the other hand, getting involved in the practical things that will prevent whoever gains governance in Fiji inheriting a wasteland. The economic situation is very dire and so I think there are things that we can do that don't signal in a sense a normalisation of relationship or any tolerance towards military rule in Fiji, but which go to supporting the prospects that Fiji "A", can move effectively towards democratic elections in 2014, so get involved in those processes, take the statements of the commander on its face and engage with things like the mechanisms of the electoral system and the like. But secondly also, get back involved in areas where diplomatic recognition is not directly involved. For example, in the PACER Plus negotiations and for example, in land reform in Fiji and areas where we can act without giving sanction to the legitimacy of the regime, but on the other hand, recognise that the present policies are leading everyone into a place where no-one wins.

GARRETT: Would this strategic re-engagement need some sort of sign or trigger from Commodore Bainimarama or would it be unilateral action by Australia and how would the process unfold?

KERR: Well ideally, of course, the government of Fiji might, for example, withdraw the state of emergency and the like. There are steps they could take that would show stronger goodwill towards the outcome of moving back to normalcy and the commitment to democratic elections in 2014. But we could also take steps forward which give a sense of our goodwill and our commitment to working to in a sense take the commitments that are made by the Fijian Government and make flesh of them and we need not to everything at one time, as we could perhaps make some initiatives, for example, saying that there is no reason, for example, for Fiji not to now to participate in the PACER Plus negotiations. We want to perhaps get involved in some of the discussions of the future of the sugar industry and land reform. But we may want to also flag some things that would be conditional on steps forward, concrete achieved steps by the government of Fiji that would then in a sense be benchmarks for further re-engagement. So you don't need to do everything at once and the idea of constructive re-engagement is not inconsistent with us continuing to work with the international community to do all we can to encourage both the government and the people of Fiji to move towards democratic elections in 2014.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Fiji and Lease money allocation

from w
Jalesi from New Zealand has written a thoughtful letter to the Editor of Fiji Times concerning the allocation of lease money in Fiji. There has been talk recently about changing the distribution and giving each member of a group receiving lease money the same amount.That would be quite a change from the current allocation of much larger portions to the chiefs and heads of groups. At a recent Provincial meeting - Ba I think it was - the chiefs strongly objected to any change. Well, that figures. When you are on a good thing - stick to it! But a fairer kind of distribution needs to be addressed. Giving each member an equal amount also would not be fair as some people contribute much more to the mataqali development than others who might live far away.

Jalesi's letter:

Lease money

THE stand taken by Ba chiefs in regards to the distribution of lease money is not surprising but there is more to this than meets the eye.

The subject is one that needs to be addressed objectively and the best interests of landowning units (mataqali or tokatoka) should be the intent of any review.

A realistic and dispassionate evaluation of the current system not only reveals its exploitative nature but the mechanism is a means of perpetuating a life of servitude to chiefs.

The genesis of the current lease distribution system can be traced back to the Great Council of Chiefs who played an advisory role to the colonial government. Upon their advice, the Native Labour Ordinance 1876 restricted the recruitment and commercial employment of indigenous labour and a native taxation scheme to meet tax obligation in kind, which confined them to communal existence without recourse to employment for wages.

An extension of the "taxation in kind" scheme was the codification of customs into law, including large exactions by the chiefs as traditional due. This practice was adopted as the method of disbursement of lease money by the NLTB, and has remained unchanged since.

Let's face it, these chiefs do not own the land. They may have overall guardianship or supervision of their chiefly domain but they have no say whatsoever in how a tokatoka or mataqali use their land.

The distribution system as it stands is unacceptable, in that after the 25 per cent and 5 per cent by the chiefs, the NLTB takes its administrative cost at say 10 per cent.

The landowning unit distributes what's left among all its members. As such, the only person who benefits is the chief as he takes his percentage from all mataqali land leased out in his or her domain.

Therein lies the trigger that sets off disputes over chiefly titles and the incessant chorus of discontent over the lease regime by landowners.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

May God's light shine upon you for Diwali

from w
Tomorrow there's a holiday in Fiji for one of the year's loveliest festivals, Diwali, celebrating light in darkness and it surely can be seen by people of all faiths as a positive inspiring time to reflect upon life. Pundit Bhuwan Dutt says Fiji is a multicultural society and people should respect each others culture.

“Just like one lit lamp can ignite and give light to thousands of unlit one’s, in the same way we should try to spread message of goodness so that one can appreciate one another and live in a multicultural Fiji happily.”

It made me think that one person's story can inspire a community also. Last night in Geelong at the Annual Meeting of Diversitat (formerly Geelong Migrant Resource Centre) the guest speaker, a refugee from Afghanistan, told his story of fear, death of family by the Taliban, many years in Pakistan in a refugee camp, eventual trip to Indonesia and four leaky boats - one after another after another, to get to a safe place, but of course it was a Detention Centre, then another. Until at last he was allowed to live in the community with friends near Geelong, get his Permanent Residence and after four more years was reunited with his three children. It was such a moving story and affirms my belief that we must treat asylum seekers with compassion, not just as numbers in political games. It's always good to hear 'real' stories instead of theories and generalisations. Light after darkness in these stories.

added on Friday:
There was a time when Fiji Christian Indians did not celebrate Diwali because of its Hindu association, though many did visit friends and enjoy the lights and good food. There was a view that they needed to show their 'difference'. However these days there is a different attitude by some, such as the Dudley Methodist Church members, as they re-define the Festival of Lights.from Fiji Sun.
Indo-Fijian Methodist sector honours Diwali
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, will be commemorated by Indo-Fijian members of the Methodists Church of Fiji.

The celebration will be in Suva tonight.

This evening, members of the Dudley Methodist Circuit of the Methodist Church’s Indo-Fijian division, will gather at the small wooden building in the Nanuku Squatter Settlement in Vatuwaqa, Suva for a candlelight service.

The service, led by Reverend James Bhagwan, will focus around the theme, “Jesus the light of the world”.

“The majority of our members at Nanuku are converts from Hinduism and while they have had a spiritual conversion, we understand that Diwali is more than a religious festival,” Rev Bhagwan said. “It is a cultural festival, not only for Indians in Fiji but all Fijians.

“We are having this service to share in this special time with our community and at the same time remind ourselves of the command of Christ for us to shine our light into the world.”

Diwali is a public holiday in Fiji and will be celebrated today. Meanwhile, today members of the Dudley Methodist Youth Fellowship will hold a clean-up Toorak programme. “On Diwali, many people clean their homes and their compounds. We thought that as Dudley Memorial Methodist Church members, we would clean our community and engage our youths in some practical community work,” Division Superintendent, Reverend William Lucas said.Superintendent Reverend Lucas said in a statement that Diwali was not only part of the Indian culture but a national culture for Fiji.

“In St Johns Gospel, Christ says, ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12),” the Reverend Lucas said.He said Christians understood the message of the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil and are themselves called to shine the “Christ-light” from within to illuminate a dark world.

The Indo-Fijian Division of the Methodist Church in Fiji sends their best Diwali wishes to their Hindu brothers and sisters.