Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting out into the streets

from w
It is good to see that for Palm Sunday one congregation decided to go out into the streets rather than stay inside a building. Butt Street - Wesley - had their children waving palm branches as they walked through the streets of Suva.  Palm Sunday in many places these days is a day for the religious and secular world to have peace marches, protests, such as in Melbourne yesterday. The issue this year was to protest about the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in Manus Island and Nauru.

Members of the Wesley City Mission Church in Suva started their Palm Sunday celebration with a march through Suva City – from the Flea Market to Ratu Sukuna Park. Children – in their white dresses and boys in black pocket Sulu and white suits – marched through the streets singing hymns. Church members filled the seats at Ratu Sukuna Park, as children took the stage to conduct morning service. They (children) recited Bible verses, performed action songs, Bible reading, poetry, prayers, and choir singing.

The Methodist Church in Fiji’s divisional superintendent, Reverend Jeremaia Waqainabete said, “The programme was run with the idea that we would bring the children out of the church and as part of their awareness that church services are not confined within the church. “It is important that we hear the cries of our children and introduce them to the wider world so they can recognise and acknowledge that they do have a part to play towards the church,” Reverend Waqainabete said.

Pictures of the protest march in Melbourne on Palm Sunday 2015.

With their theme ‘Hail Jesus! King of Peace and Salvation, Rev Waqainabete said children needed to be well looked after and be treated with respect.

Father Barr's letter

from w
Here's a good letter from the Fiji Times March 30  - concerning taking a sentence from the Bible that implies that leaders are put there by God.  I agree with Father Barr that sometimes we do need to object, protest, think about the boundaries of leadership and that not always should we 'obey'. We need to make careful assessment using ethics as our criteria and speak up when there is injustice in society.


| Saturday, March 28, 2015
MANY years ago the late Reverend Paula Niukula in his little book The Three Pillars clarified that the Fijian translation of "authorities" in Romans 13:1 as turaga had been misleading because it was the same word used for traditional chiefs and this had led to a misrepresentation of the biblical text as referring specifically to chiefs.
Savenaca Vakaliwaliwa (Fiji Times, March 21) repeats this assessment. However, Savenaca then goes on to restrict the term "authorities" to the present government and claims that "all Bible-believing Christians" should accept that the currently democratically elected government is the authority ordained by God.
The translation from Today's English Version is even stronger than the one he provides: "Everyone must obey the state authorities; for no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.
"Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered ..." A similar text can be found in Titus 3:1.
However, every Christian should know that the biblical message must be read as a whole and no one text should be taken outside the total context of the Bible.
It is well known that the Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself stood up to the authorities of their day when justice and right demanded it.
As the US biblical scholar, Marcus Borg (2006) states: "Much of the Bible protests the injustice of political and economic systems. Indeed, perhaps half of the biblical message is political in this sense. Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Paul and the Book of Revelations protest against inhuman systems of domination and advocate a very different vision of life under God."
He goes on to describe the classical prophets of ancient Israel as "God-intoxicated voices of protest against human suffering imposed by the powerful and the wealthy."
Also it is interesting to read the Book of Wisdom ch. 6: 1-11 to get another biblical perspective on "authorities".
Over the years Christians from various churches as well as members of other religions have challenged the "authorities" over issues such as slavery, women's right to vote, apartheid, poverty, civil rights of black Americans, corruption, just wages, inequality, economic systems and various labour issues. They have helped to change the world to be a better place - more in accord with the way God wants it to be.
So, while our present Government is doing a lot of good things which we can rightly appreciate and be proud of, I believe we cannot give them unqualified support based solely on Romans 13:1.
I believe it would be naïve to think that Christians must support any government simply because it happens to be in power.
I believe it is incumbent on the church in its prophetic role to hold up to the scrutiny of the gospel and human rights any government or regime under which its children must live, and to evaluate and, if necessary, criticise the actions and policies of that government.
I believe the church must always be the conscience of the nation and fulfil its prophetic role in society.
As our own Prime Minister himself acknowledged in January 2014: "Fijians are a religious people and our Government must depend on the people of all faiths to be our moral compass - not to impose their religious practices through law but to ensure that government's actions respect the guiding principles of all faiths."
Even from a non-religious point of view I believe representative democracy (whereby we elect our government) must always be accompanied by participatory democracy (whereby the people hold their government to account).
Otherwise we do not really have true democracy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday and children

from w
In Fiji today on Palm Sunday the children usually dress in white and lead the worship in the Methodist Churches.  In Australia they don't have Children's Sunday but at Altona Meadows/Laverton some of the Islander children still dressed in white.

And this year:  March 29 2015 - at Vatuadova village near Labasa, and at Delana, Levuka. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Housing for the poor

from w
Housing for the poor in Fiji – Many people still live in shacks made of cast-offs but projects are going ahead to rehouse some people. One in the Koroipita project out of Lautoka, the initiative of Rotary and Peter Drysdale, and another by the Fiji Government and Father Kevin Barr is on the former Jittu estate and called Lagilagi.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Free milk and weetbix for Fiji kids

from w
This is an interesting initiative with some logistic problems I expect.  What is one serving for a Fiji kid?  Four weetbix?  And they will all want to go to the toilet 20 minutes after!  And later I read the story in other Fiji papers and it seems each child will be given ONE weetbix, not four as I expected!  A good photo op for the PM of course at Nakelo.

Year 1 students to get weet-bix with milk March 23, 2015 01:55:00 PMA+ A-||| 0 inShare   Follow @ Twitter 

The Fijian Government today announced that all Year 1 students in the country will get 1 serving of weet-bix with 250ml of milk on every school day. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made the announcement while launching the Free Milk Initiative at Nakelo District School in Tailevu this morning. “I’m especially delighted to announce that as well as a free glass of milk a day, each Class One child will also be given a serve of Weetbix a day, thanks to the CJ Patel Group and Fiji Dairy Limited.” “They are also very generously providing you with your very own bowl and spoon. I wish to thank the CJ Patel Group of Companies and Fiji Dairy Limited who have partnered with my Government for all the hard work it has put in to deliver this massive logistic undertaking and have gone the extra mile to ensure that all class one students receive a healthy meal every morning.”

Read more at:
Copyright 2015 ©

Friday, March 20, 2015

Uniform at Grand Pacific Hotel

from w
I still think the uniform of staff at the Grand Pacific Hotel is inappropriate for the climate and culture.  It might be okay in some 'old colonial Raffles style of hotel' in Asia but it has very little to do with our local culture. It is really overdone, the hat serves no purpose of keeping off the sun or rain, the heavy looking coat, tie and trousers are not suitable for Suva's humid weather. Okay, that's what I think.  I'm not criticising the man in the photo, only the GPH notion of what is suitable as uniform. Story from Fiji Times.

50 times in a day

Ernest Heatley
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Akuila Buka is one of the most photographed people in Suva these days.
The diminutive Grand Pacific Hotel doorman is a standout for those who frequent the iconic establishment.
Although Buka is vertically challenged, he makes up for his lack of height with his mild and well-behaved demeanour.
The 52-year-old native of Sote Village in the north of Tailevu has been an attraction unto himself at the GPH, particularly for visitors who are taken by his friendly ways, eager smile and obviously interesting physical characteristics.
He soaks it all in his own way and from the looks of it, is pretty content with being an attraction, although he doesn't allow it to get to his head.
"I have had so many photos taken of me with visitors. They always want to take a photo with me in front of the hotel. Sometimes I can be photographed about 50 times in one day.
"When I first started I was a bit apprehensive about getting my photo taken but now I'm used to it," he said.
When Buka got the call that GPH was interested in his services, he didn't wait.
"I had been working for a supermarket for 18 years as a packer. When they asked me to come down there for an interview I never waited," said the bachelor.
"I like doing the work that I do here. This is my first time working in the tourism industry and I love it," he said proudly.
Buka greets visitors to the hotel, opens car doors and even carries bags as a porter does.
"Working in a place like the GPH has taught me a lot," the second youngest of five siblings said. His parents were simple farmers in Sote Village who lived off the land but Buka decided to move away from the rural environment and chance his arm in Suva.
The Nausori resident said he has been through challenges for most of his life but perseveres, and credits whatever he has achieved so far to remaining positive and being god-fearing.

Now, this does look better!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Helping Vanuatu

from w
In the Methodist Church facebook page is an article about the children donating to the children of Vanuatu. What an excellent idea at this time.
Members of the Methodist Church in Fiji will collect a special donation on Sunday 29th March to go towards relief efforts for the people of Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Kiribati recovering from the onslaught of Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Being the Palm Sunday (Children’s Sunday), it is only proper that children and parents in Fiji dedicate their donation to the more than 30,000 children of Vanuatu as well as children of Tuvalu and Kiribati who are facing the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.

As children in Fiji participate in church services and enjoy good meals next Sunday, their friends in Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Kiribati are facing critical food and water shortage, no home to live and are faced daily by the threat of serious sickness. In Vanuatu, some children have died and many have lost their parents.
Divisional Superintendents, Ministers, Deaconesses and local pastors are requested to announce this collection this Sunday 22nd March and that they come prepared on the 29th.
Please share this message with your churches, ministers, deaconesses and vakatawas.... Vinaka!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fiji communalism and individualism

from w
Here's an interesting article that is an interview concerning the payment of lease money in Fiji as it used to be done communally but the new government sees fit to emphasise payment to each individual in the mataqali. Everyone has to have a bank account and does it include children? The article was in the Fiji Sun newspaper which is quite biased and almost wholeheartedly supports the Bainimarama government.

Communalism Versus Individualism

March 17

 by Nemani Delaibatiki, SUVA
Some iTaukei say the two concepts can work together. Others say they are incompatible and cannot mix like oil and water.
Communalism has a powerful impact on iTaukei. From time immemorial, it has defined the social dynamics of the iTaukei community. It was reinforced by the British colonialists with laws that virtually confined iTaukei to villages to protect and preserve indigenous interests, assets and culture from negative foreign influence. Social cohesion in villages was achieved through the cultural practice of communalism.
Individualism was perceived as a threat to this cohesion. It was viewed with cynicism and even contempt because it threatened the very heart of communalism.
The conservative wing says that Fijians cannot write off communalism. An advocate and a landowning unit (LOU) trustee, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the decision to pay lease money to the individual bank accounts of iTaukei landowners is a capitalist idea. He strongly feels that money should still be paid to landowning units via their trustees who should distribute it to members.
In an earlier analysis on the issue, I highlighted that that direct payment to landowners was in their best interests. Trustees, some of whom have been accused of abuse, have infuriated the landowners. The trustee, defended the trustees. Here are excerpts of his statement:
Fiji Sun: The direct deposit of lease money into individual iTaukei landowner’s bank account is a significant development.
Trustee: Surely it is a significant development from an individualistic, if not capitalist, standpoint, where one can have the freewill choice as to how or where the lease money is used. However, it must be noted that such lease money is being derived from communally-owned property (native land) and not private or freehold land. A good analysis need to take into account the socio-economic imperatives of communalism (social obligations with ‘money’ being the enabling factor to fulfill such obligations). In order to understand and appreciate the monetisation of communalism, especially in a village setting or the seat of the vanua (tokatoka, mataqali, yavusa), then one has to actually live it, taste it, and be part of it. That is, the trustees committee. Of course, just like any other organisation in the public or private sectors and even NGOs, trustees are not immune from the being subjected to risks of abuse or misuse etc. No trustee is perfect and that is why we have laws that exists as safety nets for all citizens or landowners whose monies are being abused by their trustees.
So, as a true iTaukei that places high value to solesolevaki (working together),veirogorogoci (consultation), (social ideal of a real kaiviti which are in direct contradictions with western culture of capitalism), the individual distribution of lease money to landowners can be perceived as an opposing force to our (iTaukei) social structure or system of political economy.
Fiji Sun: It will be welcomed by many landowners because it eliminates the landowners’ trustees’ committees, a level of bureaucracy that is fraught with high risks of abuse.
Trustee: As the saying goes, a little bit of knowledge is too dangerous! Many landowners are questioning the motive behind this ‘directive’. It is an open secret that the directive to TLTB was triggered by numerous complaints from landowners against their own trustees, especially from those with big lease monies. Against this backdrop, many landowners would be perfectly happy with this new distribution mode because it’s money direct into their pocket (personal bank account), especially those who are not directly or indirectly partake in the affairs of their vanua such as “soli-ni-yasana’ (provincial levy), tavi ni mataqali (clan contribution) to yavusa (tribe), vanua, etc. All these communal obligations which are inherently social in nature requires money per say.
There is ‘no one-size fits all’. Not all LOUs are same. They are distinctly different across Fiji. Some LOUs are rich in their upholding the spirit of solesolevaki (working together) orcakacakavata (unite), se duavata (unity) na kena dau vakayagataki na (use) lavo ni lisi (lease money). My own LOU is a classical case where we still want to maintain the status quo. My people work hard to earn a living and when it comes to lease money, we collectively decide on how to use it – especially on social obligations like funeral etc.
Fiji Sun: Some years ago the trustees committees were set up as an interim measure while work started to electronically connect the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) to the Vola ni KawaBula (VKB) or iTaukei Births and Death Registry.
Trustee: Interim measure may be true but it was better than the previous method of lump sum cash distribution to the various locations in Fiji.
Fiji Sun: When Government introduced the distribution of equal lease money to landowners, TLTB wanted to pay individuals through their personal bank accounts.
Arguably, this is a silent way to suppress or kill the economic strength of LOUs that thrives through co-operation, communalism, collaboration of their members. We are dealing here with monetary benefits derived from communally-owned land that are leased out by TLTB. It follows then that such benefits (lease money) should/must be collectively-received via a collectively-agreed bank account whose signatories must be collectively-agreed by the members of the LOUs. What is intrinsically wrong with that? Of course, basic rules are set out for the trustees as per the usual Deed of Trust (DOT). There are governing laws to fix trustees for any deviation from these rules. TLTB can be the enforcer for such rules spelt out on the DOT.
Fiji Sun: The integrity of some of the trustees have been called to question because of alleged abuse. The TLTB, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the iTaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission are aware of it.
Trustee: This is an undisputed fact. However, the solution (individual distribution) should not be imposed on the LOUs who have not inherited any problems from their DOT or trustees. It should be implemented to MOUs on a case-by-case basis.
Fiji Sun: Some landowners are not happy with some of the trustees because of the general lack of transparency and accountability. The issue of governance has been a major challenge to some of the committees. It has become an embarrassment to national iTaukeileaders who have worked tirelessly over the years to change the mentality and mindset of people. They have been trying to change the long-held perception and stereotype that cast doubt on the iTaukei credibility or integrity to manage projects that involve finance. The poor example of some of the trustees suggests that this malaise still exists in the iTaukeicommunity. The trustees are appointed by the landowners so they are accountable to them. If they were accountable to higher authority, would they have performed better?
Trustee: This is a rather reactive way of addressing the issues of lack of transparence and accountability on the part of trustees. These issues can be easily addressed through TLTB. TLTB should be empowered to have a financial oversight on the usage of lease monies by LOUs. A simple and effective method of empowerment is to require trustees to submit annual reports on the usage of their lease monies and must be ‘cleared’ by 60 per cent of its members before submitting such report to TLTB. Disbursement of future lease money to the LOU’s bank account is contingent on each LOU submitting its annual report to TLTB. This ensures the integrity of trustees…
Fiji Sun: That is why the quicker the Government rolls in those reforms, the better it would become all around.
Trustee: Reforms are good but not to the expense of LOUs that thrives in or valuessolesolevaki (working together) or communalism rather than individualism.
Fiji Sun: The trustees were informed and trained to operate under a set of rules designed to help them stay out of trouble. But they will become history now. And landowners will have cause to celebrate, because the first lease money payment for those in Ba, Kadavu, Bua and Cakaudrove, will go into their individual bank accounts by the end of next month.

Trustee: This is a precarious statement from a iTaukei entrepreneur perspective that understand and appreciate the significance of managing communally-owned resources atmataqali level or tokatoka level. One has to fully understand that the vanua (land or themataqali or tokatoka who actually owned the land) and its communal obligations are inextricably linked. I believe those advocating this view have not experienced the social and economic benefits of collectively-managed funds through the trustees who have financial and commercial disciplines. As stated earlier, not all LOUs are the same. They have their own unique features, characteristics, and weakness and strengths, depending on the quality of traditional leadership.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Happy birthday Rev Dr Sevati Tuwere

from w
Congratulations Sevati on reaching your 75th birthday which was celebrated in Auckland, New Zealand. Rev Dr Sevati Tuwere ia a highly respected theologian of the Pacific and a delightful man. Very best wishes. Notes and pictures from the Methodist Church in Fiji facebook page.  Happy 75th Birthday to former church president, Rev. Dr. Ilaitia Sevati Tuwere. Photos are from the celebration after he preached at the worship service at Meadowlands Auckland Fiji Community Church on Sunday. God's blessings be with you Qase Levu Vakacegu!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Flag Design competition

from w
Looks like 'Fly away Pita, fly away Paula'!

Fiji live have given details of the competition to design a new flag for Fiji - as follows.
Flag competition submission details released March 05, 2015 05:41:29 

The Fijian Government encourages participants of the national flag competition to send in a brief to explain the different elements on their design and the rationale behind it. A government statement said designs could be emailed, sent in via post or hand delivered. It further advises participants to submit the designs in colour. Submissions close at 4.30pm on Friday, May 1. "The competition is open to everyone. If you have an idea, do not be afraid to share it. Young people and schools are especially encouraged to take part," the statement said. "You do not need a computer design program and you do not need to be a professional designer to make a submission. Sketches and drawings will be considered the same as electronic designs. All you need is pen, pencil and paper to participate. "If you do not have the Internet at home, you can use any one of the 25 Government Telecentres located around the country to submit your idea. Each Telecentre has a scanner that you can use to scan your design and send in by email. If you have never used a scanner before, there will be someone who can help you." The national flag competition opened on Monday, this week. 

Designs can be submitted via: Mail: PO Box 2225, Government Buildings, Suva Applications should be in an envelope, clearly marked : “Design for New Flag Competition” Email: The subject of your email should read: “Design for New Flag Competition”

Read more at:
Copyright 2015 ©

AND from the Fiji Times:

Opposition Leader rejects PM's Fiji flag invite

Nasik Swami
Friday, March 06, 2015
FLY the Fijian flag, hoist it in your homes, display it in your compounds or wherever possible and tell the world, Fiji does not need a new national flag.
That is the message to the nation from Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa as she rejected Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama's invitation to have two Opposition members sit on the flag committee to oversee the design of the new national identity.
In an interview yesterday, Ro Teimumu said there was no need for Opposition nominees and no need for a separate flag committee chaired by assistant Youth and Sports Minister Iliesa Delana.
"Right now, we have a petition on the flag referred by the Parliament to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. The committee will soon go through the petition and call on for submissions from the people," she said.
Ro Teimumu questioned the use of establishing a new flag committee when a democratic parliamentary select committee would have gone through the flag petition and heard the views of the Fijian people.
"The change of a national flag is an important matter and everyone have their opinion and their voices need to be heard.
"The changes should be made according to the will of the people and not only by a few people."
She said having Opposition nominees and a committee was a waste of money as the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights would go through it.
"We do not recognise the need to have a flag committee looking into this when we have a Standing Committee which will be open to the public."
She said the flag committee would just be duplicating the work of the Standing Committee — wasting taxpayer's funds.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

World Day of Prayer at Butt St Suva

from w
The Methodist Church in Fiji will host the national ecumenical service for this year’s World Day of Prayer on Friday, 6th March. The service to be held at Wesley City Mission Church in Butt Street, Suva will have participants from the Salvation Army, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church Diocese of Polynesia, Methodist Church in Fiji and representatives of other Christian denominations.
The World Day of Prayer is held on the first Friday of March and is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, in more than 170 countries and regions, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service.
Although organised by women it is a service to which all people are welcome.
Methodist Church in Fiji Secretary for Women and WDOP Pacific President, Deaconess Salanieta Naucabalavu said that this year’s theme "Do you know what I have done to you?" invites people to focus on the radical love of Jesus.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cooling off at Vatuadova

from w
Here are some pictures from Vatuadova village near Labasa. It's been hot so they are cooling off in the Vatuadova river next to the village.