Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fijian artifacts in Cambridge

from w
The Fiji media have run brief articles about a project to sort and display Fijian artifacts that 'belong' to Cambridge University in England. But the articles are almost identical with a handout from the Fiji government. I have altered one article a little, and in ten minutes found out much more information. Why don't the journalists take the time and bother to write their own versions with just a little bit of research on the web?

MAIKA BOLATIKI in the Fiji Sun.
A  three-year Fijian Art Project in the United Kingdom  is a collaborative three-year project, starting from May 2012 to April 2014, which aims to unlock the potential of the outstanding collections of Fijian art, material culture and associated photographs and archives, held in museums in the United Kingdom.
The bulk of these Fijian collections have never been displayed, nor have they ever been thoroughly researched or documented.
The project involves cataloguing about 3000 Fijian artefacts from the 18th century collected by traders, missionaries, whalers and colonial officials during their visits to Fiji.  They aim to carry out a major exhibition of Fijian artefacts in the UK in the summer of 2013.
Fiji’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Solo Mara said.
“Fijian artworks catalogued so far are visually impressive and beautifully made. They include sculptures in wood and ivory, shell and ivory regalia, ritual equipment, weapons, pottery and large decorated textiles. Central to pre-Christian and post-conversion religious practices, and often heavily Tongan-influenced, many of these objects played an active role in British-Fijian relations because of their voyaging, missionary and colonial ties, resulting in significant collections being held in UK museums.”

He said the project’s most extensive collections-based research will be conducted at the MAA in Cambridge, which holds probably the most important collection of Fijian objects, outside of Fiji.

Welcome to the Fijian Art Research Project

Fijian Art: political power, sacred value, social transformation and collecting since the 18th century is anArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) sponsored research project that is being jointly hosted by the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU) at the University of East Anglia and theMuseum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge. The collaborative 3-year project, set to run from May 2011 to April 2014, aims to unlock the potential of the outstanding collections of Fijian art, material culture and associated photographs and archives held in museums in the United Kingdom and abroad. The bulk of these Fijian collections have never been displayed, nor have they ever been thoroughly researched or documented.
Fijian artworks are visually impressive and beautifully made; they include sculptures in wood and ivory, shell and ivory regalia, ritual equipment, weapons, pottery and large decorated textiles. Central to pre-Christian and post-conversion religious practices, and often heavily Tongan-influenced, many of these objects played an active role in British-Fijian relations because of their voyaging, missionary and colonial ties, resulting in significant collections being held in UK museums. The project’s most extensive collections-based research will be conducted at the MAA in Cambridge, which holds probably the most important collection of Fijian objects, outside of Fiji, in the world.
By collaborating with other museums, in particular the project’s nine official project partners, the dynamic diversity of Fijian art since the 18th century will be systematically researched, analysed, documented and identified. Other museums housing Fijian material will also participate in the project, as will the National Archives. These collaborative partnerships will allow Fijian collections to be made more accessible and also enhance existing museum records via expert identification and analysis.
Among the main objectives of the project is to contribute to significant knowledge-transfer by disseminating research results to the broadest range of academic and public audiences. This objective will be achieved through exhibitions, catalogues, publications, outreach programmes and conferences. The project's outputs will enable UK and overseas museums to display and interpret their Fijian material for the benefit of multiple stakeholders, including the British-Fijian communities in the United Kingdom as well as the global Fijian population.

Fijian Art Research Project team undertakes a major research visit to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand (24/9/2012)

Several members of the project team visited Fiji, Australia and New Zealand this September, conducting research into museum collections and archives. From mid-August, Lucie Carreau was conducting research in Fiji, tracing the subject locations of watercolour landscape paintings made by Constance Gordon Cumming during the 1870s. In New Zealand, Steven Hooper spent the early part of September examining Western Polynesian collections at the Auckland War Memorial Museum with curator of Pacific material Fuli Pereira, and discussing the project with staff at the University of Auckland's Department of Pacific Studies.
In Fiji, Steven and Lucie were joined by Anita Herle, Karen Jacobs and Fiji's own Fergus Clunie. While Steven, Fergus and Karen focused their attentions on the unparalleled collections of the Fiji Museum with the assistance of Sagale Buadromo and her staff, Anita was particularly keen to also review rare documents in the National Archives of Fiji. The highlight of the team's visit was an audience with His Excellency, the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, to update him on the project's progress. The team had the rare honour of paying a visit to the historic chiefly island of Bau, realising an ambition that some had held for many years. During their time in Fiji, the team also discussed issues of Fijian heritage with representatives of the iTaukei Trust Fund Board.
The second half of September saw the team move on to Australia, where they examined the fine Fijian collections of the Australian Museum in Sydney and the University of Sydney's Macleay Museum. Much valuable research work was also conducted on the unique archival collections of the Mitchell Library.

Double-figure ‘god-image’; whale ivory, beads; 12.2cm; early 19th century, probably made by Tongan craftsmen resident in Fiji. Acquired by Sir Arthur Gordon, first Governor of Fiji, 1875-80. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1955.247 (photo: University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fiji youth basketball players in Melbourne

from w
The Oceania basketball for Under 19 is currently running a tournament in the small town of Churchill, 2 hours drive east from Melbourne. Boys and girls from Fiji are here and having one week of games.  At the weekend some of them are coming down to Geelong for two days so we'll put on a barbecue or two and find beds for them amongst our Fijian community here. Here are a some photos from the web. The best website about the tournament is

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nurses from New Zealand in Melbourne

from w
This week there is a South Pacific Nurses Forum meeting in Melbourne with many Islander nurses from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand and other islands. Today we had a lovely surprise - four nurses from Waikato/Hamilton New Zealand, all women originally from Macuata came down to Geelong on the train to visit us.. Old and new friends and relatives. It has been a lovely sunny day so we had a barbecue at Eastern Beach in the afternoon.

And then Friday night Asena is ready to go to Tullamarine airport to fly to New Zealand. George, Bale, Jordan and Andrew took her up to the airport.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Out-sourcing is wrong

from w
There used to be a proviso for anyone from overseas working in Fiji to only do a task that a local cannot do, and if not, then they had to train a local to eventually take over.  A good idea.  But these days it has gone quite haywire. Too many jobs are being out-sourced and 'strangers' come in, take their cheques and barely contribute to the social life of the community in positive ways. It is quite wrong to give jobs to them when local men and women can do the jobs.
from Fiji Village today:
1,035 people to lose their jobs
Publish date/time: 14/11/2012 [17:05]
1,035 people will lose their jobs with the Fiji Roads Authority in the next few weeks.

717 permanent staff and 318 temporary staff of the Roads Authority will be made redundant as the Authority begins outsourcing road works to the overseas contractors.

In a statement this afternoon, it has been confirmed that of the 1,152 staff, 318 temporary staff will be made redundant and as they are only employed on a temporary basis, they do not qualify for redundancy.

90 permanent staff will be deployed to other Ministries and Departments, 27 contracted staff will continue under their current conditions, 717 permanent un-established staff will be made redundant and redundancy packages will be offered to them.

The Cabinet has approved one week of pay for each completed full year of service.

According to the Authority, a lot of these staff are expected to be re-employed as the overseas contractors begin their work next year.

If workers choose the redundancy package, they are free to get work with the private contractors but will not be able to re-enter Government service for two years.

In addition to this, 34 staff in Nadi, 20 staff in Suva and 12 staff in Lautoka will be made redundant as the Fiji Roads Authority will also be taking over management of all municipal roads.

Authority's Manager Change, Mike Rudge is expected to comment soon.

Story by: Dhanjay Deo

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Diwali

from w,
Today is a holiday in Fiji for Diwali, so greetings to our friends in Fiji, especially in Labasa area for a day when light is celebrated in a beautiful way and the Hindu stories enlighten many people on their journey in life.
From the Fiji Sun:

‘Share the love

Second year nursing student at the TISI Sangam Institute show off their best Diwali attire in Labasa yesterday. Photo: LITIA BUKALIDIBy LITIA BUKALIDI

And from the Fiji Times today:

Staff treat

Luke Rawalai
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Labasa Town Council staff members and guests give a cheer during their Diwali celebration yesterday. Picture: LUKE RAWALAITHE Labasa Town Council management yesterday treated staff members to lunch to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali.
Macuata provincial administrator Josefa Rokonai said all religious festivals had a message of love for all mankind in that they instilled in the society the message of wisdom, love and understanding.
"While Diwali is popularly known as the festival of lights, the most significant spiritual meaning is the awareness of the inner light and the removal of spiritual darkness.
"It reflects on the victory of good over evil giving every man a hope that good will always prevail over evil and light over darkness," he said.
Labasa and Savusavu town's special administrator Vijay Chand said everyone should focus on the great message of enlightenment and love that the celebration was associated with.
‘Share the love this Diwali’ was the message relayed to the people of Labasa yesterday. The staff and management of the Labasa Town Council hosted a Diwali lunch for business stakeholders and northern Government heads of department. Speaking at the event, provincial administrator Josefa Rokonai said Fiji was a multicultural society and it was important that people take part in religious festivals. Mr Rokonai said when people participate in such festivities, they could understand each other better. “This will help us develop a positive and caring attitude towards one another,” Mr Rokonai said. He also mentioned that the Festival of Lights signifies victory of good over evil, truth over falsehood, light over darkness, wisdom over ignorance and above all  love over hatred.
Labasa/Savusavu special administrator Vijay Chand also encouraged northerners to love each other and help one another in times of hardship during the festivities.

Farewell to Rev Naivalu in Melbourne

from w,

At the weekend there were two functions to farewell Rev Iliesa Naivalu who has been the parish minister to the Fijian congregation that meets at Chadstone St Marks Uniting Church.  He has been a faithful intelligent minister, much loved who has contributed to the life of the Fijian people who have migrated to Australia in recent years. He has a gentle demeanour but can be passionate in the pulpit! A choir came down in a bus from Sydney to join in the progrrams. Best wishes to the Rev Iliesa, his wife and family as they journey back to Suva to take up an appointment with the Methodist Church in Fiji.

Thanks Neitani for the photos - many more on his facebook posting.
Here is his story as recorded in the Fiji Times a few years ago:

The island boy who God called through Jeremiah

Sunday, September 16, 2007
PEOPLE who knew him from his homeland in the Yasawa group of islands would never have guessed in a million years that Iliesa Naivalu would one day be a man of god and dedicate his life to the church and the people.
Reverend Iliesa Naivalu, the assistant secretary for Christian citizenship and social services with the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, admits he did not dream he would end up in church.
The island boy was born 53 years ago at Lautoka Hospital and lived briefly with his parents at Viseisei Village in Vuda, outside Lautoka where his mother came from.
Then, he says, an unfortunate tragedy happened and he had to go to the island.
"Something happened in my family and we were sent to live with my grandparents on the island," he said.
"My mother died and my father was sent to prison."
Mr Naivalu and his sister went to live with their grandparents at Yalobi Village on the island of Waya.
"Looking back, I think the tragedy, when it happened, was good for me in a way because I was sent to live with my grandfather who was from the chiefly clan on the island.
"Living with my grandparents was good because I was brought up in a cultural upbringing and my grandparents were very religious people but I had no intention of joining the church."
He attended Ratu Naivalu Memorial School from Class One to Eight and later enrolled at the Lautoka Muslim High School.
"It was hard for me to live with my grandparents because when they got sick we had to move to other relatives and it was hard for us."
Naivalu's primary school days had some very interesting and funny stories.
One he remembers well is about the first time he went to Lautoka by boat.
"I sat for my Class Eight exam and because we did not have exams in our school on the island we had to go to Lautoka Muslim Primary School where we sat our Secondary Entrance," Mr Naivalu said.
"We had to travel nine hours from the island to the mainland by boat.
"We had to stop for the night at Vomo Island where, instead of studying, we fished the whole night and by the time we finished part of what we had learnt was forgotten.
"One of the big problems we faced when we reached the mainland and went to Lautoka was the sights we saw for the first time.
"Coming from an island to a big city like Lautoka for the first time was a huge thing for most of us and you should have seen our faces and eyes when we saw cars for the first time. There were so many cars and so many people of different races and colours and it was almost too much for us."
Such was the impact of the first impressions, Mr Naivalu and his class had a hard time concentrating on the mission at hand which was to pass their Secondary Entrance exam.
"It was the first time for us to see the sugar mill, so many people and cars, Chinese people, Indians and Europeans," he said.
"The Lautoka Muslim Primary School is located right next to the main street in Lautoka town and there are always cars and sugar trains going past the school.
"When we went for exams, we sat in the classroom and continued to look at the cars that went by and when the locomotive train hooted its horn we were the first ones to look outside.
"By the time we had our fill of the cars and the people and actually paid any attention to our exam paper, the supervisor had declared the exams closed and we all failed."
But the Ministry of Education changed its way of conducting the exams and the students from Yasawa were given another chance at the exams and they passed.
When he passed his exam, Naivalu wanted to go to Lelean Memorial School but by chance, he was given a place at Lautoka Muslim.
"I was always in the library reading politics and because my uncle was a member of the Alliance Party I became one of the young party members and whenever there was a rally for the party, I used to go with them.
"I studied all the political leaders around the world and knew all the ministers in all the countries."
Despite being a bookworm and having an interest in reading, Naivalu did not pass his Fiji Junior Certificate Examination but was given the chance to continue to Form Five.
"But I got lost in Form Five because I was never at school."I joined the wrong crowd and started missing school. "I became a frequent visitor at the local night clubs."
Since his fees was paid by the people back on the island, Naivalu said some villagers started asking questions when they saw his marks or lack of it.
Then the people back in the village were told the truth that the child they had high hopes for to take their name up the academic ladder, had not been going to school but to the dance halls and he was told to return to the island.
How he got the call from above
REVEREND Iliesa Naivalu says he was called to do the work of God when he was reading the Bible.
It was a Saturday morning and he was sitting and reading Jeremiah chapter one when he felt he was not reading the verse but someone was actually speaking the words to him.
"My call came that Saturday morning and I felt a presence like something heavy seemed to settle on me," he said.
"It was the call of Jeremiah who seemed to tell me "today, I call you to be my shepherd" and before I knew what was happening I was kneeling on the floor and crying."
Mr Naivalu said that was when he realised God had chosen a path for him and it was the time for him to heed the call.
His work with the Methodist Church started as a preacher and his family, which included his wife and two children, started living on an income of $40 a fortnight.
"When I was working for The Fiji Times and getting paid more than that, there was always a sense of loss or longing in our family and we were never happy with what we had," Mr Naivalu said.
"But since I joined the church, even that small amount of money seemed like so much for us and we were never hungry or complained about not having enough to eat."
Mr Naivalu's work with the church includes counselling people who are distraught and have tried to commit suicide and other issues and he says it is the best part of his life.
"I have the chance to listen to people and help them make their lives right," he said.
People line up in his office everyday for his counselling and he loves to listen to their problems and advise them how to improve their lives by being in the presence of God.
TEN things about Reverend Iliesa Naivalu that not many people know.
Favourite food is moca with fish in lolo (miti).
His favourite drink is water.
He likes to read all religious books and books on politics.
He had a pet turtle when he was working with The Fiji Times. The turtle's name was Waya, after his home island.
His favourite quote is "Do unto others what you want others to do to you".
His hobbies include reading and we can say that he is a bookworm.
He dislikes people who lie and cause problems for others.
His inspiration comes from the Bible.
The person he would like to meet the most is Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
His advice to other people: Make the world a better place to live in.
From High Court to the newsroom
BACK in the village, Iliesa Naivalu saw how hard boys his age had to work and realised he was not the type to handle manual labour because of his size.
"I was a very skinny boy and I could not do any hard work," he said.
"When I saw the boys cutting trees and planting cassava in the village, I decided that I had to do something or I would not be able to survive."
Mr Naivalu said during his days at secondary school in Lautoka he would "bluff getting sick" and go down to the Lautoka Hospital and sit around.
But one thing that caught his fascination were the court translators and he used to sit there and pray silently for God to give him a job like that.
"I remember this because I wrote a letter to the Chief Justice, who was Sir Clifford Grant at that time, for him to give me a job as a court translator," he said.
"Although the normal procedure for this was for a vacancy to come out in the daily newspapers and then we were supposed to apply but because I was getting restless I applied directly."
Mr Naivalu applied and was called for an interview but was told his grades were so poor and was asked to go back to the island.
To his surprise, a week later, another letter came for him, asking him to take up the position of court translator at the Supreme Court in Suva.
His joy knew no bounds as he made his way to the even bigger city of Suva with only one sulu and a white shirt.
"Suva was very new to me and I was very bad because I was attracted to the night clubs in the city and I would be there everyday and come back to work with a hangover the next morning," he said. "Sometimes when I did translation work in the Supreme Court, the accused would have a swollen eye and I would also have a swollen eye after a drinking party gone wrong.
"I was then told the court did not have a place for me and I was given my termination letter and fired from the government."I then applied to The Fiji Times and was hired as a reporter and photographer for the vernacular publication Nai Lalakai in 1982.
"Work at The Fiji Times was tough because the pay was low but I was very good at issues affecting the Fijian people and I enjoyed the work.
"Our editor was Master Vijendra Kumar and he was a nice man. When I was steady on my foot, I got married in 1986 and today I have four children and a happy family."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Now that is a sensible idea.

from w
One problem in Fiji is when you have to lodge papers, make stat decs, apply for this and that and have to line up in a queue at a dozen different departments and institutions. Putting a few together does sound a good idea, but of course there's the risk of people finding out too much about you!  And an office in Labasa to be opened inext month. Now that is a good idea. Previously babasiga people sometimes had to go all the way to Suva to do paper-work.
From Fiji Village today:
First Govt Service Centre opened
Publish date/time: 12/11/2012 [15:11]
The first Government Service Centre in the country has opened in Nausori this morning.

The Centre is a one stop shop for at least 20 separate Government agencies where the general public can lodge applications for government services like obtaining a police clearance, making statutory declarations or lodging passport applications.

Two more Centres will be opened by next month in Lautoka and Labasa.

The centre was opened by Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Story by: William Waqavakatoga

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The story of sugar is not so sweet

from w
I don't know the real source of this article but it was posted in a blog called Fiji Today. It's about the current state of Fiji's sugar industry and it certainly isn't very sweet.  Our relatives in Labasa still plant and harvest cane but I don't think it's really a worthwhile business at all these days. Also some farmers missed out completely because the mills closed early and there's a lot of cane still standing in the fields.

    Lowest ever cane production…

Cane crushed this season will be the lowest ever on record, says NFU General Secretary, Mahendra Chaudhry.

FSC’s latest estimate of 1.6m tonnes is in fact likely to fall short by 50,000 tonnes when the Lautoka and Rarawai mills close later this month.
So far a total of 1.265m tonnes cane have been crushed. Penang and Labasa mills closed last month with record low figures – Labasa at 414,000 tonnes Penang at 143,000 tonnes. Compare this with the 2006 crush figures for these mills – Labasa 871,028 tonnes and Penang 289,347 tonnes.
In January FSC had announced a crop of 2.2 million tonnes with a sugar make of 220,000 tonnes. After the floods of January and March, the figures were revised down to 1.9 million tonnes, producing 190,000 tonnes of sugar. Then in September, this was further reduced to 1.7 million tonnes but a forecast for sugar make was not released by FSC.
And now, just a week ago, another revision – this time it is down to 1.6 million tonnes of cane but quite astonishingly, a sugar make of 180,000 tonnes, according to FSC chairman Abdul Khan.
This is plain hoodwinking – a sugar make of 180,000 tonnes is just not possible from a crop of 1.6m tonnes under the present milling conditions. At best, a sugar make of 150,000 tonnes is likely.
Coups contribute to the decline
Since the military takeover almost 6 years ago, the sugar industry has taken a nose dive with both cane and sugar production drastically reduced. Cane crushed is down 50% – from 3.3m tonnes in 2006 to just 1.6m tonnes this season.
Sugar produced is down from 330,000 tonnes to an estimated 150,000 tonnes this season. THIS is BAD NEWS.
The table below, showing industry data over the last 18-years, does not paint an encouraging picture. In the five years since the 2006 military coup, some 3000 (2939) growers have exited. But the situation is even more disturbing when one considers that from 1994 onwards 10,473 growers have left the industry for various reasons, and that this declining trend has not been arrested. 
Industry data 1994-2012                                    (Source: FSC annual reports)
2012 (est)1.60150na
The rate at which growers are exiting is a cause for worry. There are a number of reasons for it and it would be difficult to reverse the trend, say NFU officials who have studied the situation.
“The writing is on the wall. It is only a matter of time,” say industry sources.
NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry made an extensive tour of the cane belt in Labasa last week. He met with growers from several sectors to ascertain the causes underlying the significant drop in the crop size.
It is to be noted that the Labasa Mill crushed 871,028 tonnes of cane in 2006. The crush this season, at the close of the mill last month, was less than half at 414,000 tonnes.
The growers Mr Chaudhry talked to identified a number of reasons for the sharp drop in cane production. These are:
• political instability and violence generated by the coups
• uncertainty over land leases, coupled with escalating land rents and premium demands from TLTB
• low cane price
• high cost of harvesting and transportation of cane to the mill, particularly from the three sectors in Seaqaqa
• high costs of fertiliser and weedicides
• milling inefficiency and breakdowns which disrupt orderly harvesting of cane thus forcing farmers to incur additional costs
• the arbitrary manner in which the industry is being run by the Sugar Ministry and FSC
• the disbanding of industry institutions in which farmers had a voice
• reluctance of the younger generation to engage in cane farming on account of its problem-ridden nature and low financial returns
“I was saddened to see the number of families who have abandoned their farms and left to settle in Viti Levu. In some cases, entire settlements have been reduced to less than half.
“Labasa is depopulating rapidly and all because of uncertainty over the future of the sugar industry,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Meanwhile, industry officials continue to ignore the declining situation on the ground. Sugar Permanent Secretary Manasa Vaniqi says “FSC’s mill efficiency improvement had significantly boosted the confidence of cane growers in the country and signaled a huge step forward for the industry as a whole”. (FT 8/11/12).
And FSC chief executive Abdul Khan gloats about the Rarawai and Lautoka mills crushing 1.021 million tonnes cane this season (2012) and producing 102,000 tonnes of sugar.

 These two mills used to individually crush as much. In 2006, for instance, Rarawai mill crushed 1.03 million tonnes cane and produced 105,000 tonnes sugar; Lautoka Mill crushed 1.03m tonnes cane and produced 93,392 tonnes sugar.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Lau Day in Melbourne

from w
Though we are really part of Vanua Levu and not Lau, Peceli and I joined in some of the Lau Day celebrations at Thornbury in Melbourne on Saturday, a fine time to catch up with friends, enjoy the fellowship and kava and story-telling. Here are some of my photos, and a couple from Mere and one from Neitani.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

About Ratu Joni

from w
Crosbie Walsh in New Zealand has a point of view that I don't always agree with, but here he writes very succinctly about Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi who has been appointed as a consultant to the Constitution Committee and apparently disturbed one of our current leaders when Ratu Joni was part of a delegation from Bau with a position that contradicted the 'secular' state proviso.

• Inappropriate and Appropriate Models for Fiji by Croz Walsh
Two lawyers: Ratu Joni and Prof Yash Ghai

Much has been made of the presence of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi at the presentation of the Bau submission to the Constitution Commission which urged making Fiji a Christian State. The suggestion is that Ratu Joni supported each and every part of the submission. I do not think so. I think he was present as Roko Tui Bau, the leader of his vanua who, having explained his position, abided by the majority decision of others, while keeping his musket dry for other opportunities to influence opinions.

Rishab Nair, writing in the Fiji Economic Forum on Facebook is of similar opinion but is disappointed Ratu Joni appeared to support all the Bau submission. He writes: “Somehow I think that's not his own personal feelings. He was after all the most liberal [of people] and someone I looked up to. Well, not anymore.”

I think Rishab judges too soon. Ratu Joni does not have knee-jerk reactions to situations. He is a learned, thoughtful man with a long and enviable record of good works seeking tolerance and understanding between Fiji's several communities. I have little doubt he has tortured himself on how best to react to the many divisive issues that have buffeted Fiji in recent years, and particularly on how to moderate the largely unwarranted fears and extreme opinions of some of his own people. My assessment is that his presence at the submission showed he was more concerned about the the outcome of the war than on the short term outcome of the battle.

Ratu Joni is a deeply committed Christian who, conceivably, has "gone along" with the Christian State proposal because he thinks it will not infringe on the religious rights of non-Christians. But I doubt this is his reason.

I believe I am supported in this view by  the main message of most of his recent speeches. Whatever the gathering or occasion, he has spoken of the need for respect and tolerance between ethnic groups and  religions, and on some occasions he has been outspoken in his opposition to the proposal to establish a Christian State. 

I cite three examples from Wikipedia. In March 2005, speaking to the Lautoka Rotary Club, he said the proposal would hinder a "correct relationship" between the overwhelmingly Christian ethnic Fijians and the mainly Hindu and Muslim Indo-Fijian community, and could lead to  division and conflict. 

Speaking  May 2005, he said the proposal had its roots in the initial conversion of chiefs to Christianity and in the Deed of Cession, in which the chiefs ceded sovereignty to the United Kingdom in 1874.  He considered that in a multi-faith country like Fiji, it would not be wise to establish any one faith. 

In an earlier address to a Hindu gathering on 28 March, he criticized government politicians for couching pronouncements in purely Christian terms. "When national leaders address the people of Fiji in specifically Christian terms, whatever the occasion, nearly half of our people are excluded," he said. "When prayer in mixed company is uttered in terms of a purely Christian God, we unintentionally omit and diminish others present of different faiths. When we use Christian symbolism to promote reconciliation, forgiveness and unity, we discount the contribution and equally rich traditions extant in other faiths and cultural traditions." 

I am confident that Ratu Joni's presence at Bau's submission to the Constitution Commission was out of respect for the views of many of his vanua. He has often said chiefs should listen to their people.  He was listening, and he was present, as protocol required, while others presented the Bau submission,  but I am quietly confident he was not in  agreement with this particular proposal.

 In my copy of A Personal Perspective: The Speeches of Joni Madraiwiwi he wrote:

 “Professor Walsh, Perspectives about life and about my country. The more I reflect about Fiji the less I seem to understand! But the love of homeland encompasses its bright and darker sides as well as in between. Warm regards, ni moce mada.
                                                                                           Joni and Lusi, XII.XII.MMVIII.”

Here is a short address he made to St Agnes Parish in Suva in September 2003. Read it, and then tell me this man wants a Christian State imposed on Fiji.

On Being a Good Neighbour: A Personal Perspective

Christ simplified the Ten Commandments into 'Thy shall love the Lord God will all thy strength and thy neighbour as thyself.'

While the Commandment to love the Lord with all they strength is absolute, our human weakness seeks to limit it — to restrict that love to our own kind or to those we are comfortable with. The Gospels make so such distinction: Indeed they place a particular emphasis on the poor, weak and disadvantaged. So, we have little choice if we are to be faithful to our Lord's Commandment. However, to do it on our own is impossible, we need divine assistance.

As a Fijian, I am secure about my rights in this country. I believe they are adequately protected by the Constitution. No one can take away our rights unless we allow them to. Our rights are an issue that can only be protected by a determination to incubate those values within ourselves and to hand them on to the next generation.

Too often we blame other communities for the plight of the indigenous Fijians. But we Fijians own 83% of the land in this country, and out leaders have led Fiji since independence except for the year when Mr Chaudhry was in government. We are largely responsible for our own situation and need to accept that fact. No one seeks to take anything from us. Indeed there is much goodwill from other communities. Yet we continue the debate as if no one else matters.

I was blessed with two wonderful parents. Our home in Levuka was open to everyone. But my parents were not unusual. When children are nurtured in such an atmosphere, they take it with them as they grow into adults—because what they learn is that, while people may have different ways of doing things, they are still human beings, with a need for love, friendship and social interaction.

When you are blessed with friendships in all communities, you realize how wonderful this country is. Our differences become a matter for celebration and not division. The glue that holds this country together is not our leaders but you, the ordinary, decent God-fearing folk of all ethnic communities and faiths. Your compacts with each other every day make the connections and ties that unite us. Please go on doing that. For I have very little hope that our politicians will do likewise.