Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A bus driver from Labasa

from w
A good story in the Fiji Times of a bus driver from Wailevu village, Labasa.

1 safe driver

Luke Rawalai
Thursday, January 31, 2013
FOR 53-year-old Pita Ravilu the long bumpy ride from Labasa to Natuvu in Buca Bay, Cakaudrove is just part of his daily routine.
The Wailevu Village native in Labasa is the driver of the Taveuni Princess ferry bus that travels along the Labasa, Savusavu via Buca Bay highway every day except Wednesdays.
Every work day begins at 3am when he wakes up to prepare for the long arduous journey as the road from Savusavu is a bumpy road stretch that people who travel daily along the way like Mr Ravilu have become used to.
Mr Ravilu has three children who are doing well in school and he says he has been able to put them in school through driving for the various bus companies he has worked for in the last 32 years.
Speaking as someone who has had his share of travels along the Labasa-Buca Bay highway, the road is not an "easy" especially from Savusavu to Natuvu.
However for Mr Ravilu the passion to ensure the safety of his passengers and meeting new people along the route has made him oblivious to the bumpy roads.
"In my 32 years of driving I have never been booked for a serious traffic infringement and that evidence of my interest in seeing and ensuring that the safety of my passengers remain my top priority," said Mr Ravilu.
"I was booked once but it was for parking in a non-parking zone. It happened once on my return journey from Natuvu on a Wednesday and as the bus stand was full I was told by an officer to park in front of the Labasa Civic Centre as the bus station was full and affecting the flow of traffic."
Mr Ravilu said when he parked at the Civic Centre he was approached by another officer who issued him a traffic infringement notice for parking in a non-parking spot.
"However I did not want to make a fuss about it as I was tired from the long journey and just took the TIN since I wanted to hurry home and rest," said Mr Ravilu.
"I enjoy my work and never tire of the scenic views that greet me every day along the ride as I carry my passengers every day in and out of Labasa Town.
"I started driving when I was 22 and through this employment I have been able to put my eldest daughter through to the Fiji National University where she is into her third year studying environmental science with the second eldest in Form Six and the youngest in Form Five," he said.
Mr Ravilu always stresses to his children the importance of education.
"I do not want any of them to do the work that I am doing as it is a tiring work even though I enjoy it every day but I have always told them that there is nothing wrong with being a bus driver but the catch for such a work is to have patience," he said.
Mr Ravilu is married to Tokasa Biu who is from Nubu and he says their relationship has grown sweeter by the day since they married in 1992.
A smiling Mrs Ravilu says being married to a bus driver is not easy since it means waking up at 3am and it is sometimes hard being away from your husband knowing that anything can happen to him along the highway.
"Through the life and work of my husband we teach our children to do everything that they have to do from their heart as it will pay off someday," she added

Monday, January 28, 2013

Babasiga people at a restaurant in Geelong

from w
We were delighted this afternoon when visitors came - Rinieta, Miri and Nancy - so we had afternoon tea, then kava, then eight of us adjourned to the Waterfront Seafood Restaurant for dinner. A lovely afternoon with the gathering of friends from Vanua Levu.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Identity through song in Fiji

from w
The Lauan people of Eastern Fiji have a distinctive style of singing, influenced by Tongan singing and dancing. One type is called polotu with about six voice parts and the religious song is accompanied by a triangle. The singing is very loud and male and female voice parts are distinctive. Today a group of Lauan men and women and children were at Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church for a service and Peceli and I joined them (though Peceli is from babasiga land - Labasa) and we sang about ten songs in the polotu style. It was a lovely service and followed by afternoon tea and kava drinking of course. Here are some photos I took this afternoon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The old SDL, the new SDL

from w
One of the Fiji papers spelt it out today; the last meeting of the former SDL party, and the plan to reconstruct with an English name as requested by the current decrees.



Rewa chief: we must restore Fiji as a shining example of democracy

"We have huge plans but first we must meet the registration requirements and for this we must be prepared to work and restore Fiji as a shining example of a progressive democratic and peaceful country respected by Pacific nations and the international community." 
Fiji's SDL party, the last political party to be voted in democratically as government, has settled on a new name: Social Democratic Liberal party. It was mooted by the party's patron, Ro Teimumu Kepa, at Friday's special meeting of the National Assembly in Suva. We print here some of her speech to the party, which started with salutions to party president Solomoni Naivalu who was unwell and party leader, Laisenia Qarase, who is serving his year term in Korovou jail. 

Last Meeting of the SogosogoDuavataniLewenivanua  Party

Today's meeting is a very  important one for our party.It will be the last time that we will be meeting  under the banner of the SoqosoqoDuavataniLewenivanua as a Political Party.We have been issued with a decree by the Military Regime (Decree No.4 of 2013 titled ,Political Parties (Regisration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) which among others things, compels us to change our name into an English one. This means that no party including our own, can be registered under a Fijian name.

Language as Embodiment of Culture, Knowledge and Traditions

Let me make it very clear, this is not my wish nor it is that of the Executives, nor the members and supporters of the Party both here and abroad.It appears to me that the Fijian language that embodies the name of the Party, a language that is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, and recognized by all the Constitutions of Fiji including the Yash Ghai Draft, as one of the three national languages in Fiji, is supposedly, not good enough to provide a name to a political Party under this Decree.

As now Patron of the Party and one of its founders, you can imagine how I feel when the language of our ancestors with its rich tradition ,culture and history in Fiji, is treated as irrelevant and inadequate in terms of the requirements of the Political Parties Decree No.4, 2013.

Main Purpose of the Meeting

The main purpose of this Meeting therefore is to inform the General Assembly and thereby all the members and supporters of the Party that we are required to have a new name in English within a period of 28 days, which according to the Decree expires on the 14th of February,2013.

Naturally, the first option open to us was to pick a new name in English but this would require an amendment to the Constitution of the Party of 2008.This would not be possible given the time limit of 28 days as the Party Constitution requires a period of notice of 30 days for the General Assembly in order to be able to do this legally. There is also no provision for extension of time, in terms of the Decree. The Party would be taking a major risk if it were  to follow this option.

SoqosoqoDuavatanilewenivanua  {SOL), was considered a better option  as the period  provided  for that in the relevant decree, was longer and more open, under  the requirements of the Decree.

In the light of these considerations, we are here today to discuss the dissolution of the SoqosoqoDuavatanilewenivanua as well as the voluntary winding up of its assets in accordance with the provisions of the Party Constitution.

Dissolution of the Party and its Contributions to Politics cs in Fiji.

But for many of us, irrespective of what will happen in the future ,the passing of the SoqosoqoDuavatanilewenivanua     marks a major era in politics. It represents a time of national pride and a time of re-examining our relationship with our colonial partners. It marks a period in our history when indigenous peoples all over the world begin to assess and evaluate the contributions of their colonial heritage as against their own heritage and resources, as well as have come to live in our midst.

Many of these issues will continue to be addressed and we will no doubt be guided by the international conventions and declarations such as the ILO Convention169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples,1989; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007; Human Rights Conventions ,1948, among others. This awakening and renaissance is made possible in multi-ethnicsocieties through a greater acceptance of democracy, social justice, non-discrimination and the rule of law.

Remembering  the  Sogosoqo Duavatanilewenivanua

Let us spare a moment for the period of the Soqosoqo Duavatanilewenivanua.The name itself which many who do not speak Fijian may not appreciate fully because, it is an inclusive name that refers to all the people irrespective of who they are in society and who come together through living and working together .It was coined in stark contrast to the name Soqosoqoni Vakatulewani Taukei(SVT) which was aimed at those in the exclusive.

The Soqosoqo Duavatanilewenivanua, was formed in 2001 very quickly in response to the call for elections following  the labour-led Peoples Coalition Government's reluctance to form the Government after their successful challenge in the Court in what was known as the Chandrika Prasads Case.It won two successive elections despite being accused and criticized by a number of Parties of corruption,  and they went on and formed the Government  with the support of the Matanitu Vanua Party after the 2001 elections ,and the Fiji Labour Party, after the 2006 elections, both under the  leadership of Hon. Laisenia Qarase.

Challenges for the New Party
The end of a party will see the beginning of another. The new Party has so much to draw from out of the experience of the two SOL led Governments, one of which was untimely deposed in 2006.There is some noticeable shift to the centre in our focus and policies as reflected in the 2008 Party Constitution .This broadens our democratic base, and our commitment to multicultural policies and appeal.At the same time we need to maintain our commitment to improve the urban poor.

We have huge plans but first we must meet the registration requirements and for this we must be prepared
to work and restore Fiji as a shining example of a progressive democratic and peaceful country respected by Pacific nations and the international community.


Father Kevin Barr stays in Fiji

from w
This raises the situation of an expatriate missionary working in Fiji for many years. Where is home?  To Father Kevin Barr it is less Australia than Fiji where he has lived for 32 years. The strange but perhaps predictable situation of three days ago when he was told to pack up and 'go home'  must have come as a shock to him.
Anyway it has been reversed. I can't believe that Jo Cokanasiga who is a nice guy, would be so callous as to have made that decision alone, but anyway the big bosso has said, it's okay for Father Barr to stay on in Fiji - for now. Of course it could imply that he is effectively silenced in being an activist on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, and he will have to watch his 'p's and 'q's and not write funny letters to the Fiji papers!  That bit about putting a Chinese reference to a new flag was certainly meant as a joke.

from the Fiji Times today:

Barr stays

Tevita Vuibau
Sunday, January 27, 2013
FORMER head of the wages council, Father Kevin Barr says he hopes to see out the last of his days in Fiji.
"I have served the country for so long and most of the people I know and love are here. Fiji has been my home for 32 years and I hope to live and die here," he said.
His comments come as the government yesterday reversed a removal order issued to the 76-year-old social worker less than 24 hours after it was given.
When visited yesterday, Father Barr expressed relief and gratitude to the government for changing its stance on the issue.
According to the government statement, Father Barr will be allowed to see out the remainder of his work permit that expires at the end of 2013.
"I have yet to receive official documents from the Department of Immigration, but I have heard it being broadcast and I have seen the official government statement," Father Barr said.
"I am of course very grateful for the deferrment."
The government initially gave Father Barr until today to leave the country "due to a breach in his work permit."
However Father Barr said he remained unclear on what the breaches were and would need to discuss them with Immigration.
A Ministry of Information statement yesterday, said the Fiji government reversed the removal order after a meeting between the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and the Minister for Immigration, Joketani Cokanasiga.
"After representations were made to the Prime Minister's office, which were then followed by a discussion between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration, the Minister for Immigration has withdrawn the declaration of Father Kevin Barr as a prohibited immigrant under section 13(2)(g) of the Immigration Act 2003," the statement said.
"Consequentially, the removal order issued against Father Kevin Barr by the Permanent Secretary of Immigration has also been withdrawn."
"Father Kevin Barr is eligible to continue staying in Fiji under the conditions of his existing work permit," the statement concluded.

Old colonial photos

Hundreds of old photos from Fiji's colonial days have come to light and are now posted on flickr for everyone to view if they wish. Go to

25 January 2013

The National Archives has released online thousands of early photographs and drawings of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and other Pacific Islands.
Just in time for Australia Day on 26 January, you can now view images of Australian towns, buildings, landmarks and people dating back as far as the mid 19th century.
The photographs have been uploaded to the photo-sharing website Flickr so that you can tag and contribute comments and suggestions to help improve the descriptions.
The images are taken from the Colonial Office's photographic collection.

Friday, January 25, 2013

You can change your mind, okay? Re Father Kevin Barr

from w
We were astonished to read yesterday that a prominent Jesuit missonary in Fiji, of over 30 years experience there and aged 76, was to be deported because of a tiff with the regime. He'd written a joking letter to a Fiji newspaper that a new Fiji flag should have a Chinese reference instead of the Union Jack. And more of course because he had changed his mind. Earlier Father Kevin Barr had been pragmatic and gone along with the military regime doing his bit for the poor and underprivileged in Fiji, but recently he changed his mind about who to go along with. When he became critical, especially dropping a few bombs about emails and phone calls, he was looked upon with distaste and told to leave Fiji by Sunday. Some media said he had fled to the Australian Embassy rather than risk whatever.... Well, someone has changed their minds. He is now allowed to stay on, at least until the end of the year. Interesting times. Jesuits I find okay, they are usually intelligent and practical, not buried in esoteric books. Not quite liberation theology but on the right track.
So - to be or not to be, that is the question.  Will he stay on but become silent?

So far the first story has hit the media, but the follow-up needs to be told quickly, that the bosses have changed their minds about Father Kevin.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Containers to Fiji and taxes

from w
We have experienced this time and time again, the burden when a container is sent to Fiji for cyclone relief or similar.  This was in the Fiji Times.  

Unfair tax burden

Serafina Silaitoga
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
A MEMBER of the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe in Brisbane, Australia, has pleaded with the authorities not to charge taxes on any charitable assistance sent to Fiji.
An admirer of the Fijian way of life and culture, David Lee, has taken his passion further by helping Fijian people address their problems and needs including his family, friends and groups that he associates himself with in Australia.
The Rotary Club sent assistance to Naiyala and Saqani high schools in Cakaudrove following Tropical Cyclone Evan.
"The total items in the container were donated by the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe including the cost of $5040 for container freight charges from Australia to Fiji," said Mr Lee.
"In the dispatching of the gift, it was disappointing that both high schools had to pay a total amount of $3,198.74 to cover duty, VAT and other charges levied by the Fiji government for secondhand items donated to assist needy schools in Fiji.
"It is hoped that through communication and negotiations with Fiji government officials that their charges will be either minimised or eliminated on any future containers of educational items donated by Rotary Australia to Fiji to make it cost-free for the needy schools receiving the goods."
Mr Lee said Rotary Australia could send more assistance to rural schools in Fiji but such high taxes were unacceptable.
"The donated goods are second-hand and sent as gifts, and any cost to the recipients, the schools, seems to be unrealistic," he said.
When contacted for a comment, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority CEO Jitoko Tikolevu said freight charges were not imposed or determined by the authority.
"The authority is responsible for the administration of taxation and customs laws which only prescribe tax and duty rates. Our tax rates are the lowest in the region," said Mr Tikolevu.
"All relief supplies are to be addressed to the PM's office or the permanent secretary Provincial Development.
"The clearance of the cargo will be facilitated by the Fiji Procurement Office and supplies will be distributed by DISMAC officials."

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Australian beach

from Peceli

Yesterday we went for a drive down the Bellarine Peninsular and stopped at Portarlington and also Clifton Springs.  One time Clifton Springs had mineral baths and people bottled the spring water. Here is a photo taken from the lookout high above the beach and another of the beautiful view below.  Nearby is a golf course and bistro etc. It's not a good swimming beach but very good for a picnic. Most people drive down to the ocean beaches or Portarlington for holidays but it's good also to find the quieter and more hidden spots on the way. Fiji migrants in Australia enjoy picnics and trips to the beach so this is a good place to visit. When I was there yesterday it reminded me of Udu Point in Vanua Levu, from Vuruna settlement when you look towards Udu Point. I was there when I was a teenager and with Vakatawa Viliame.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

There's a mean spirit in the air

from w
I try not to put pen to paper in the blog about Fiji politics but sometimes things that are important need some airing. The latest decree is certainly going to stir up people as there's a mean spirit in the air.  It's okay to set out criteria for the political parties to be registered but in between the lines of this decree is a mean streak as the writers attempt to exclude so many decent people.  Maybe the only ones left are the church people and I don't think they are popular!  I'm surprised that they didn't put in 'talatalas' not allowed!  Here's how the story was written up in the Australian newspaper. Fiji Village wrote a very long post yesterday on it if you can find that again, it gives many details.

The second thing of note in the Australian piece is in reference to Senator Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister, who obviously knows little about Fiji's cultural story and present situation.

Fiji decree restricts political participation

  • by: Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor
  • From:The Australian
  • January 16, 201312:00AM
FIJI’S military government yesterday released details of a decree that will restrict trade union leaders and other “public officers” from founding political parties, and require parties to recruit at least 5000 registered members divided between the country’s four geographic divisions.
After the decree takes effect on Friday, parties will not be allowed to receive funds from businesses, from foreign sources or from NGOs, and no individual can donate more than $F10,000 ($5370) a year to a party.
As well, they must have their accounts audited and published.
Registration of a party will cost $2650. And the 16 parties now registered – which have needed to have only 180 members each – have been given just 28 days to re-register or they will be committing an offence.
If all 16 are to succeed in registering, in order to contest elections due next year they will have to enlist in total almost 10 per cent of the entire population as registered members.
A new party that was to be formed following a meeting in Nadi last weekend of more than 400 leading trade unionists and members of civil society groups may not fulfil the new criteria for registration.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is the Minister Responsible for Elections as well as the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Industry, Investment, Tourism and Communications, said in announcing the long-anticipated new rules: “When applying to either re-register or form a new political party you must set out the name of the proposed party in English language, and the symbol, abbreviations used and acronyms.”
One of the country’s biggest parties is the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, whose principal, well known, title means, in Fijian, United Fiji Party.
Its leader, Laisenia Qarase, the prime minister from whom military ruler Frank Bainimarama seized power in December 2006, has been jailed for a year on corruption charges dating back 20 years.
Separately, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr was yesterday prominently cited in Fiji’s media as backing the military government’s recent discarding of the draft constitution, drawn up by a commission led by the internationally renowned constitutional expert Yash Ghai, and which AusAID supported with about $1 million.
The Fiji Sun, the government’s most staunch media supporter, led with a story that Senator Carr “said he understood why the controversial Yash Ghai draft constitution has to be modified”.
The Fijilive website said that Senator Carr “has welcomed the decision” to rewrite the constitution. The site headlined its story: “Aust takes softer stance”.
Senator Carr told the ABC about the suggested introduction of a broadly based National People’s Assembly, including all cabinet members, other parliamentarians and local government and civil society representatives, sitting annually to discuss broad issues and on occasion to elect the president, “is something I can’t think of enjoying precedence anywhere else in the constitution of a democratic country”.
The draft also proposes the re-establishment of a Great Council of Chiefs, which had been abolished by the military regime, but this time as a civil society organisation rather than as a political body as previously – following a large number of community requests. Senator Carr said: “The re-creation of an unelected Great Council of Chiefs would seem to give rise to the suggestion that ethnic divisions in the country were going to be exaggerated by new constitutional arrangements . . . I can find it understandable that the interim government has objected to both these features of the draft constitution presented to it.”
ACTU president Ged Kearney said: “I’m very disappointed by the Foreign Minister’s response.
“What we’re seeing now is the regime making it very clear that it pretty much intends to do what it wants without any sanction by the people of Fiji.”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Funeral for Dilkusha Home 'mother'.

from w
Today Peceli and I drove up to Melbourne to Ringwood Uniting Church (light traffic all the way) to attend the funeral of Gwen Davies, one-time matron - mother- to hundreds of Indian girls at Dilkusha orphanage. Gwen was 94 and she had spent about 30 years in Fiji. It was a lovely service with some tearful tributes, old Methodist hymns in a nice church with a sensitive organist who played soft and loud instead of full-on all the time. I met some Dilkusha girls who I hadn't seen since they were small so it was delightful. Also half a dozen ex-missionaries to Fiji. Peceli and I joined in the bhajan song. There were sandwiches for lunch but we were too busy with much talking going on to eat. So on the way home we stopped at Footscray and had a delicious Indian rice and dhal meal with vegetable curries and puri. Pakistan people. Then we bought some gulab jamin and other delicacies in the shop next door. I didn't take any photos today as my camera said 'Write protect' so something is wrong with the card I think.  I hope to receive some photos taken at the funeral to edit this post later on. The only picture I have is from the funeral brochure.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What is a good title for this picture?

from w
In today's Fiji Times, and in other local media, pragmatism takes first place, politeness instead of criticism, so that when the two speeches on Fiji TV astounded many people last night, the stories have been written up with discretion. Some of the blogs have been very busy though.  In summary, apart from a lot of mother statements no doubt written by paid consultants, the gist of it is - No to Ghai's draft. Legal eagles will redo it!

Akuila Yabaki however says it clearly when he says that the Constituency Assembly - a hundred people to be appointed - have been tasked to look at Ghai's draft, and so they should let the process go ahead because the appointed men and women can work out where there needs to be adjustments. There's no need at this stage to say no to the draft
A name for the picture; perhaps 'We are not amused.'
'Head or tails? Heads, we do this. Tails we do that.'

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A farm and house and tractor for $70,000?

from w
A story in today's Fiji Sun is rather amazing with a promise of a plan for young school leavers to get into farming. A loan from where?  Buying (is is it leasing) 100 acres, building a house, shed, fertilizer, tractor, etc. etc. for only $70,000? That seems like dreaming to me.

Big interest in farm scheme

Fiji National University reports an accelerating interest in the Fijian Government’s new scheme to stake students to an agricultural career that includes land and a house. Secondary school graduates will be benefiting from the new scholarship scheme that was announced in the 2013 National Budget in November last year.
The new Government scheme will be funding students to do a one- year certificate course in Agriculture.
Students will be receiving a loan of $70,000 upon graduation which will allow them to buy 100 acres of farm land, a house, a shed, a tractor and basic farming implements, fertilisers and other necessary materials with $2000 start-up cash.
“This is a unique chance for students to get a Government grant, not only to study but to get launched in a solid career with cash in hand within a year, which is an amazing opportunity,” Fiji National University Vice-Chancellor Dr Ganesh Chand. “The Government is basically paying enterprising young people to become farmers and the University is going to make sure they can be successful.”
The students will learn a variety of farming skills during their one-year course. After they graduate, they will each be supervised by an agricultural extension officer as part of their scholarship so they can reach specific targets.

“Only 50 scholarships are available for 2013 and with the Form Six examination results due out, the competition is going to be strong,” the Vice-Chancellor said. “This is not a small time scheme to produce a few farmers – this is a genuine chance at getting into agro business in a big way in any of the dozens of options the broad area of agriculture offers.
Think export, think new crops, think stud stock, think of anything an energetic young person can do with this sort of committed Government support.  suggest those interested in such an amazing opportunity to get their applications in as quickly as possible,” he said.

FNU booths can be found at the Government Information Referral Centre opposite Suva Post Office and also applications can be made to any FNU campus academic office or online through the FNU website.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Morning routine in Geelong

from Peceli,
This morning after dropping our grandson Epa at work at 6 a.m. my routine was to work in the vegetable garden in our backyard in Geelong then do ten minutes on the exercise bike, then check the Fiji news on the internet.  Ready to start the day.  Even though Australia is suffering from a heat wave with over 40 degrees in some places in EVERY  state, so far in Geelong it's only a bit over 20.  Though our life seems easy, we are still praying for many people who are suffering today - after bushfires in Tasmania, after Cyclone Evan in Fiji.

Labasa students given O for Biology

from w
Here is a disturbing story about students from a Labasa secondary school who were given zero marks for their Year 12 Biology. The charge was cheating after an anonymous tip-off.  Seems very strange to me. If even one of them is innocent, then that might spoil his or her chance of higher education. If  I had a grandchild who was one of the students involved I would certainly want a clear and conclusive investigation. Has the story really been thoroughly investigated?  Here's how one media outlet put it.

Lal stands by zero mark, 11 to protest

Eight students and their families come together to collectively fight against what they claim to be victimisation by the Ministry of Education on the students of Labasa Sangam College who received zero marks in biology in the Fiji Seventh Form Examination last year. Photo: JOELENE TUIMOALA
The Ministry of Education stands by its decision to give zero marks to the eleven biology students of Labasa Sangam College for alleged cheating in their seventh form examinations.
But the group has responded that the ministry’s claims they copied work are baseless and based on an anonymous allegation. They have threatened to go on a hunger strike over the ministry’s action. They say the way they were seated during the exam made what is claimed impossible.
Permanent Secretary for Education Doctor Brij Lal said: “No decision is made without investigations. We have made our investigations based on the Ministry of Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts Policy on External Examinations and Assessments.
“This is not the first time this has happened to the school. They had a similar case in 2011 where a large number of students were awarded zero.”
Under 6.1.20 the policy titled “Malpractice” states that any reported case of malpractice during an examination can lead to disqualification and the award of zero mark in the subject concerned or the whole examination. Such a disqualification is made within reasonable time after careful consideration of the evidence provided to him or her in connection with the misconduct.
Doctor Brij Lal has advised students to learn to be honest with their school work  and people around the country should understand their stand on the issue.
The eleven biology students have threatened to go on a hunger strike from next Monday if the ministry does not reverse its decision.
They are also seeking the intervention of the Prime Minister in this matter.
The group that includes two school duxes, Kavneel Chand and Ram Singh Jnr,  claim allegations of copying made against them by the Ministry of Education during the examination last year were baseless.
The group, who claimed they were seated in such an arrangement that it was difficult to copy, were worried about their future.
Speaking on behalf of the parents, Rajesh Lal said 10 of the students who received zeroes in their biology paper came from cane farming backgrounds.
“My plea to relevant authorities is to please look into the matter with all eyes open, because they are also jeopardising the bright future of these 11 students and their families,” Mr Lal, a taxi driver, pleaded.
The eleven students seeking the Prime Minister’s intervention are:
1 Kavneel Pravinesh Chand, 2 Kirti Kavita Chand, 3 Ram Singh Junior, 4 Shayal Kumar, 5 Arvin Lal, 6 Nathaneal Caleb Lal, 7 Edleen Masbin Nisha, 8 Farasha Fazleen Nisha, 9 Prashika Anandita Raj, 10 Swastika Swamy, 11 Priyanka Bhavika Goundar

--------------- and also:

Dreams on hold

Tuesday, January 08, 2013
THE intervention of Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and the Education Ministry has warded off a possible hunger strike by a group of parents and students in Labasa yesterday.
The proposed strike came in the wake of the ministry’s decision to award the students zero for their Fiji Seventh Form Examination biology paper last year.
Yesterday the group said they would resort again to a strike if no action was taken by Friday.
The aggrieved party’s spokesman, Rajesh Lal, said they decided to suspend the hunger strike out of respect for the quick response by the ministry and the Prime Ministers Office, saying they would continue with their initial plans if no action is taken on their complaints by Friday.
Amid the group that converged on Labasa Sangam (SKM) College compound was school Form Seven dux, Kavneel Chand, who said his dream of becoming a doctor had gone down the drain by the ministry’s decision to award him a zero for his biology exam.
“I once dreamt of being a doctor to help my sickly parents since my mother is suffering from hypertension and my father is a patient of a heart attack, but that dream hangs on the line now,” said Kavneel.
His father, Rajesh Chand, said Kavneel’s unblemished school report spoke volumes of his abilities and a zero for biology was something they could not come to terms with.
“We plead with the ministry to please reconsider their decision and look into the matter seriously before deciding to crush the dream of our children,” Mr Chand said.
Another restless parent Umesh Kumar said his only daughter was a bright student and had performed exceptionally well during previous examinations scoring a total mark of 88 in her annual biology exam. “We still cannot accept the fact that she received a zero in her biology paper during the Fiji Seventh Form Examinations,” he said.
Group spokesman Mr Lal confirmed they would continue with the planned hunger strike if the situation remained unchanged by Friday.
“We have a few parents from as far as Bua and support has been flowing in from around the country and even overseas which is overwhelming” said Mr Lal.
“We thank the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Education’s quick response to our plea as this is our only hope and the hope of our children’s bright future.”
Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro also confirmed they would monitor the situation at the school

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Remembering Gwen Davey and Dilkusha

from w
Here is some informaton about Miss Gwen Davies for those who might like to attend the funeral or send tributes. One in the Age, the other in the Herald Sun.
DAVEY Gwenneth Kempster
1.6.18 - 6.1.13
Dearly loved sister of Vic (dec), Tasma (dec) and Winsome. Loved aunt of the many nieces, nephews and their families. Loving Mother to hundreds of Indian orphan girls at Dilkusha, Fiji over 30 years. Gwen lived a life of faith and of service to those in need.
Gwenneth Kempster DAVEY
DAVEY. - A Celebration for the Life of Gwenneth Davey will be held at the Ringwood Uniting Church, cnr Greenwood and Bedford Roads, Ringwood on FRIDAY (Jan. 11, 2013) at 11.00 a.m. A Private Cremation will follow.

Remember Gwen Davies and Dilkusha

Today I received a phone call from one of the ‘Dilkusha girls’ to tell me that Miss Gwen Davey had passed away in Melbourne this morning.  Gwen was a significant  and much loved missionary who worked for many years at Dilkusha.

When I first went to Fiji on a Methodist work camp we spend a few days helping paint fences etc at the Dilkusha home.  From that time onward I enjoyed a friendly relationship with Dilkusha and the ‘mother’ there, Miss Gwen Davey.  When I lived at Davuilevu I continued spending time with the children there. One camp I remember was at Colo-i-Suva and the girls taught me how to make square roti.

I remember with affection those happy times spent with the children at the Dilkusha Orphanage. It's a hundred years since a Methodist lay missionary started caring for small girls in the Nausori area, and then an orphanage and primary school were established a bit later. At this time in the year some people remember that kindness and gift-giving are part of the Christmas culture and give treats to the Dilkusha children.
As I think of Gwen Davey I think of the many women who foster or adopt children, or are carers in institutions such as Dilkusha Home.  I  remember the time we lived with our little family in Shantiniwas below - a building which is no longer there. Peceli was an assistant minister at Dilkusha and we had two children then, George and Robin and three teenage girls  - all relatives – stayed also with us. George went with the little Dilkusha children in a crocodile line along the road to the turnoff into Davuilevu to attend a kindergarten run by Lorini Tevi. This was in 1971.

The photo is of a Melbourne woman who was raised at Dilkusha holding a photo of Gwen Davey taken a week before her 94th birthday last year.  She was telling me of her visit to Gwen.  We were at a function at Dandenong Uniting Church where there is a Fijian congregation and a Hindi Fellowship.

Thank you Gwen for a life well-lived. Her contribution to the life of so many children at Dilkusha will not be forgotten. Today there are hundreds of middle-aged women in different parts of the world including Australia who were raised by her. Dilkusha Home is much loved by people in many parts of the world and has been significant in spreading God's love in Fiji in a practical way.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Does Fiji need a new flag

from w
Another sudden idea from the regime is to re-design the Fiji flag.  Why? Okay, it is old-fashioned with the Union Jack in the corner, but that is part of Fiji's history. Coconuts, sugar-cane, bananas, a peace dove - okay  - and a good design would make different points.  However it is really not up to an unelected government to make constant changes.  Wait and see.

A letter to the editor puts it quite well.

Letters to the Editor:
A symbol of national unity
WHY is it that there is a persistent notion that our varied peoples who make up our nation of Fiji can be united by superficial means such as an imposed common name or a new flag?
The divisions in our society can only be healed through patient peace-building.
Unfortunately the decree that makes us all "Fijians" has caused much heartache. Many of us who have always respected the Fijians as the people of the vanua, find it difficult to call ourselves Fijian and we know that many ethnic Fijians are unhappy about this.
Now the flag is to be changed in order 'to unite the whole nation'.
The present flag, while it may not be perfect, has over the last 42 years become an internationally known symbol of Fiji and is something that unites us people of Fiji, as can be seen especially when we display it at the time of our national day, and at rugby matches. Not only do we wave it, we wear it, as shirts, as sulu.
The design has its merits. Some may object to the union flag, but this is a symbol of our united history.
The century of colonial rule brought good as well as bad, and it is our history from which we can learn lessons, and to ignore it is folly.
The shield in the fly is from our national coat of arms which was designed over 100 years ago. It displays things that are basic to our life, our agricultural produce, the things we all share and consume.
And the pale blue, a symbol of our ocean that surrounds us, is a distinctive colour for a flag. A quick look at the flags of the world will show that there are few with a pale blue background.
At the time of the closing of the Olympic Games last year, among all the crowds and the many flags, it was easy to pick out the Fiji flag, and those of us watching on TV felt a great surge of pride for our beloved Fiji.
Please do not lightly discard a symbol that already unites us.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A good visit to Labasa

from w
The visit of Fiji's President to Labasa and also to the village of Nabavatu in Macuata must have been a surprise for residents of the gaol, old people's home, to a cyclone Evan evacuation centre,, and an ordinary village.  It is good publicity for the current leaders of Fiji to be seen to visit the poor, the sick, those in prison - words from the gospels. Story from Fiji Times today, 2nd January.

President surprises with visit

Serafina Silaitoga
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
PRESIDENT Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has urged inmates of the Labasa Corrections Centre to be determined and love one another.
Ratu Epeli said while inmates were spending the new year away from their loved ones, it was only proper that they looked after one another while serving their jail sentences.
The President's visit surprised patients at Labasa Hospital and Babasiga Ashram and also evacuees of Cyclone Evan in Bua.
"I am just here to pay you a visit since it's the first day of 2013," he said.
"I visited your colleagues in Korovou and Naboro and the patients of Wainibokasi Hospital during Christmas and it's your turn."
Ratu Epeli said he had represented those family members who had not visited their loved ones at the centre in a long time.
"Those of you who have not been visited by your family members, don't worry because I am here on their behalf.
"Love one another, work together and listen to the centre supervisors so you can be satisfied with your term," said Ratu Epeli.
-----------  And also....

Blessing for villagers

Serafina Silaitoga
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
VILLAGERS of Nabavatu in Macuata were surprised when President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau paid them a visit yesterday.
Ratu Epeli, who was accompanied by Commissioner Northern Lieutenant Colonel Ilai Moceica and a team of government officials, wished the villagers a blessed 2013.
Village headman Esala Tawake said it was indeed a blessing for them to be visited by a humble leader.
"This is the first time for us to be visited by the President and we are really appreciative of his presence," Mr Tawake said.
"We are really surprised because we never thought he would choose to come to our village. He is certainly a good and humble leader."
Ratu Epeli told the villagers such a visit was his own initiative in trying to meet and greet all Fijians.
"This is something that I try to fulfill for the people of this nation for an enhanced relationship."

Fiji a Christian or secular state

from w
In the version of the draft constitution I read (some say an illegally obtained version) the idea of Fiji being called a Christian state is not accepted despite a lot of lobbying by various people.  The regime made a stipulant that Fiji should be a secular state and Professor Ghai's group went along with that.  However  some people are still not happy about the word 'secular' as indicated in the following letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times today, and I think it is a good letter.  Then below I have posted the relevant part in the proposed constitution which is now in the public domain, whether officially sanctioned or not. The horse has bolted!

Christianity secularism
AS the debate on Fiji to be a secular State rather than a Christian State continues, I am of the belief that the latter is more appropriate and justifiable than the former on the following basis.
We must admit that the good life we have in Fiji today compared with many nations and countries of the world is undoubtedly the making and influence of our former leaders, most of whom were Christians who led our nation during the colonial era and later grazed our politically landscape during and after independence.
That the majority of our present population are Christians and should justifiably uphold the proposition for the Christian State as majority in decision-making is one of the pillars of the principles of democratic system.
However, in the process, making provision in the constitution to safeguard the freedom of religion without imposing the Christian faith or any other faith for that matter to anyone should always be part of the constitution.
For a secular State, the word secular, which means not religious or not spiritual, certainly makes it wrong and unacceptable to call Fiji as such.
In fact what it would mean is that Fiji or the Fijians would not recognise or acknowledge the religious or spiritual aspects of man's life in the highest governing law of our nation and that is disastrous.
Man, as we should know, is a tripartite being composed of the spiritual soul and body. When we want to employ the word secular, in essence what we will be saying or doing is denying God, the religious or spiritual part of our being and will not augur well with our present and future existence. We will just need to seriously consider nations — that only in the past decades adopted the philosophy of non-existence of God in their lives — and the disastrous consequences upon them.
May I conclude quoting the words of one of a renowned German theologian as food for thought who said "for every human problem, there is a spiritual element in it." I pray that the leadership of our nation reconsider and refrain from using the word secular for our State and perhaps coin another appropriate term to include the religious and spiritual aspects and truths of our being.


6. Religion

(1) The People of Fiji acknowledge the significant role of religion in the modern history   and development of Fiji and the importance of personal faith in building meaningful lives.

(2) Religious liberty, as recognised in the Bill of Rights, is a founding principle of the  State.

(3) Religious belief is personal. Therefore, religion and the State are separate, which means  the State must treat all religions equally; 

(b) the State must not dictate any religious belief;

(c) no State organ may prefer or advance, by any means, any particular religion, religious denomination, religious belief, or religious practice over another, or over any non-religious belief; and

(d) no person may assert any religious belief as a legal reason to disregard this Constitution or any other law.