Sunday, November 29, 2015

Queen kept waiting for Commonwealth leaders

from w
Not amused, I reckon, by the look on the face of Queen Elizabeth in Malta. She has been kept waiting as some of the delegates were caught in traffic. I am wondering if she remembers the time she met up with Charlie in Labasa and he told her about his patipati. The Queen enquires - Charlie, what happened to your patipati.'  Oh, Kuini, my patipati geer jau!:   (My outboard drowned!)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Canoe plants

from w
Lance Seeto speculates about which plants were brought to Fiji with the early Fijian migrations from the western Pacific.  He suggests that they included sugar cane, breadfruit, dalo, coconut and the health fruit kura.
He writes:
Canoe plants
Polynesian explorers and settlers recognised the importance of plants as long-lasting, self-renewing resources. They carefully cultivated and utilised many specific plants for food, clothing, handicrafts, medicine, and religious ceremonies. They recognised their interdependency with these plants, and acted as dedicated stewards of them. For this reason, they brought certain key plants with them to every new island they colonised. These plants are called the canoe plants. In all, there were about 20-35 canoe plants, including kura, kava, root crops and coconut. They spread across the Pacific Islands as the seafarers reached each new land. Canoe plants travelled in the forms of seeds, stalks, tubers, roots, and cuttings, brought along with the explorers in their canoes. When the settlers arrived in their new destination, the plants were cultivated. They spread quickly, forever changing the ecosystems of these islands in order to make them more habitable, according to the Polynesian standard of living.
Fiji colonisation
Usually, when people talk about canoe plants today, they refer specifically to the species brought by the first settlers of Fiji about 3500 years ago, and of Hawaii 2000 years later. Upon their arrival to the islands, early colonists began to establish settlements along coasts and larger valleys. They cultivated the vital canoe plants they had brought with them, raised pigs and chickens, and fished for seafood. The species they brought with them had a huge, permanent impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Many native species of birds, plants, and land animals were wiped out by over competition, and the new species flourished and spread.
Crucial canoe plants
More than 20 trees and plants that are prolific throughout Fiji are thought to have originated and spread to the region by Fijian ancestors and form a vital part of the traditional Fijian diet. On a recent visit to Tonga with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), I filmed a special video for the upcoming climate change conference, known as COP21, in Paris this week. The short film documents the devastating effect of global warming on the remote Hunga Island community where it hasn't rained for an entire season and one of their vital root crop vegetables, taro, has nearly disappeared. Despite being able to grow cassava and sweet potato, the inability to grow one of their cultural root crop vegetables has begun to affect the mental health of the farmers, a crucial factor that many industrialised nations choose to ignore or have absolutely no idea about. I don't expect the "Recipes for Change" video to have an enormous impact at COP21, but anyone that cares about the planet has responsibility to stand up and speak out. This is my contribution.
Polynesian canoe plants
Noni (Morinda citrifolia)
The Polynesian "miracle fruit" is a medicinal plant that can be found in most Fijian villages. The pulp of this fruit is believed to have incredible healing and pain relieving properties, whether eaten or applied to the skin. Kura or noni was eaten every day as a natural preventative to keep themselves healthy and prevent illnesses. The fruit was traditionally used fresh, raw and unfermented. By dehydrating the pulp at a low heat that prevents fermentation, all the beneficial compounds and enzymes intact. Kura can also be used like cucumber to be stir fried or added to stews.
Breadfruit     (Artocarpus altilis)
Breadfruit, when cooked, has a potato-like flavour reminiscent of fresh bread, and continues to be a dietary staple in many parts of Fiji. In addition, the milky sap was once used for medicinal purposes and the wood was used as timber for structures and canoes.

Dalo  (Colocasia esculenta)
This may have been the most important of all the canoe plants. It use in high ranking Fijian ceremonies is well known, and in many Polynesian cultures is linked to the time of creation and hence is culturally vital to maintaining the Polynesian culture. All parts of the plant can be eaten, but especially the root, which was boiled, roasted and even mashed to make poi — a staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet. Dalo leaves are also rich in vitamins and minerals and is essential to the Fijian diet for use in palusami and soups.
Sugar cane  (Saccharum officinarum)
Fiji has a rich, albeit controversial history, connection to sugar cane. It is what brought the Indian indentured labourers to Fiji and for many decades was critical to colonial Fiji's economy. This is among the more famous canoe plants, used for food, juice, and to sweeten other foods. But sugar cane had many medicinal uses as well. In addition, flower stalks were made into game darts. Sugar quickly turned into a big business, with European influence, which had a major economic impact on Fijian history and culture.
Coconut  (Cocos nucifera)
The most well known canoe plant is coconut palm, the tree of life. All parts of the tree could be used for food, shelter, musical instruments, and containers. All of these plants were cared for, protected, and spread by the first Fijian settlers, because they recognised how vital they were to life in their new homes, especially its use in cooking as an oil, milk, cream and meat.

* Lance Seeto is the award winning chef based on Mana Island, and is Fiji Airways' culinary ambassador and host of Fiji TV's Taste of Paradise. Sunday 7.30pm only on Fiji One and online at

Fiji rugby team help sick passenger

from w
Here's a good story showing good manners on a plane when the Fijian team members helped out in a crisis during a flight to Brisbane.

Ultimate Show Of Selflessness

Ultimate Show Of Selflessness
November 28
  • Fijian team officials helped Virgin Australia cabin crew  tend to seriously ill passenger
  •  Half the Fijian team then finished handing the lunch out to passengers
  •  They then removed the food trays and filled rubbish bags on VA176
  • The woman, estimated to be 65, was falling in and out of consciousness
  • One of the Vodafone Fijian 7s players held an oxygen mask over her face for an hour
  •  The Virgin flight was travelling from Nadi to Brisbane on Thursday
  • Virgin Australia thanked the Vodafone Fijian 7s yesterday for their efforts

Here is the story by Dan Elson that went viral on social media yesterday.
One of the world’s top Rugby Sevens sides, Fiji, is renowned for its blinding pace, dazzling attack and ferocious defence.
Its players command respect through their unique playing style and dominance.
Off the field, their humility is to be marvelled.
On Thursday, the players were on board Virgin Australia’s flight from Nadi to Brisbane when there was a mid-flight emergency.
According to passenger Ryan Fee, one traveller fell into a serious condition early in the flight, and remained so for the majority of the trip as the plane flew back to Australia.
As soon as the severity of the situation became apparent, Virgin staff rushed to tend to the woman, working quickly to provide the highest level of care available.
Almost immediately, the Vodafone Fijian team coach and physiotherapist went to the distressed woman to offer their assistance.
Two other passengers with medical training helped the woman, who was falling in and out of consciousness, according to Fee.
However while the woman’s condition was monitored, the rest of the Fijian playing group did something quite remarkable.
While dealing with the prospect of a serious medical emergency, air hostesses found themselves forced to juggle the demands of the untimely lunch service that had started just prior to the woman falling ill.
In an attempt to take the pressure off, Fee said the players offered to serve food to the rest of the plane.
“When the air hostesses were all flustered the team got up to finish serving food and then assisted with the clean-up of trays for the entire plane,” Fee told
The team carried out the clean-up of the lunch service, collecting the trays and rubbish after everyone on the plane had eaten.
One player even assisted with the treatment of the elderly woman, holding her oxygen mask over her face for over an hour.
Fee described the incident as a “fantastic bit of team work”.
Fee also commended the work of Virgin Australia staff, medical workers that tended to the woman, and that of paramedics on the ground, who worked magnificently to keep the woman stable and prevent the incident from worsening.
The Fijian side was en route to Dubai where they kick off their HSBC Sevens World Series on December 4.
Having finished the 2014/15 season ranked No. 1 in the world, they will be looking to defend their title as they head towards their debut in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bridges to last a hundred years. I wish!

from w
In this article in the Fiji Times someone reckons the bridges on the Nabouwalu-Dreketi road will last for a hundred years. I wish!  A bridge built only a few years ago in Macuata near Labasa only lasted two years before there was trouble and it became one-way only!

Potholes spoil $1.2m bridge

Serafina Silaitoga
Thursday, February 05, 2015
A $1.2MILLION bridge built outside Labasa Town in 2009 has come under the spotlight for its deteriorating condition only five years after its construction.
And yesterday, the Fiji Roads Authority reiterated the importance of setting a high standard in construction so that structures could last for 100 years.
The bridge at Vatudova has been partially closed for about five months after potholes were spotted last year on one side of the bridge.
FRA will now have to use an extra $300,000 to replace the bridge deck.
The partial closure has raised questions on when the bridge would be repaired to allow for free flow of traffic.
The bridge sits between Tabia and Labasa and is a busy route for daily commuters.
Davendra Naidu, a Seaqaqa resident who frequents Labasa said during peak hours, vehicles would queue up on either side of the bridge.
"We only use one side of the bridge now so we have to be patient and considerate when approaching the bridge," Mr Naidu said.
"We can't understand how it got damaged so fast when it was totally new in 2009. We hope that FRA can build a better one for us all."
In statement, the FRA said repair works would be done between this year and next year.

Bridges to run a century

Luke Rawalai
Saturday, November 28, 2015
THE 14 bridges along the Dreketi Nabouwalu highway has a durability of 100 years while the roads are expected to last 25 years.
MWH Global engineer Craig Mocke said it was quite a challenge building all 14 bridges.
Mr Mocke said some were quite long while they completed the bridges over a two-and-a half-year period when they had expected a longer period.
"I think we have been very happy about how we dealt with it and the quality of the finishing was great," he said.
"The bridge was designed for 50 years but we extended it to 100 years and you can expect a longer life than that.
"The road in terms of maintenance has an expectancy of 25 years and for low traffic roads they tend to last more than that."
Mr Mocke said overloading affected the roads and bridges a lot.
"The road's 25 years life expectancy does not mean the roads would disappear after 25 years like a bridge needs repairs after 100 years," he said.
"After 25 years the roads need rehabilitation but not extreme road repairs."
While responding to concerns about overloading Mr Mocke said they had meetings with Land Transport Authority for the implementation of weighbridges along the highway.
"They (LTA) have the proper funding to implement these weighbridges," he said.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Two different land leases

from w
It's rather important for the Fijian landowners to really know the difference between the Land Bank and the TLTB (formerly called NLTB Native Land Trust Board) and which one is the safest option to secure long-term ownership and control over the use of their own land.  Signing away land for 99 year leases also needs to be thought out very carefully - that's three generations where the landowner can't touch their own land. A meeting held in Labasa tired to tease out the information for the landowners who rightfully so are concerned about the Land Bank.

Confusion over roles

Serafina Silaitoga
Friday, November 27, 2015
CONFUSION of roles and differences between the Land Bank Unit and the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) is rife among landowners and in iTaukei communities.
This issue was discussed at great length at the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs workshop for provincial council heads held in Labasa yesterday.
The different provincial council heads shared how the landowners have raised concerns in not fully understanding the roles of the Land Bank.
Some provincial council heads told the meeting that landowners in their various provinces failed to understand the difference between the Land Bank and the TLTB.
Roko Tui Ra Mosese Rakoroi told the meeting that landowners should decide which land institutions to sign up with.
He said landowners should be assisted firstly, with increased awareness of the roles of the two land institutions.
Mr Rakoroi also said landowners had become more confused with the different messages made known to them through various social sites or from friends.
Roko Tui Bua Rupeni Kunaturaga said the officers of Land Bank Unit should be invited to villages to educate landowners about their roles.
He said with the bauxite mining in Bua, landowners had been informed of the details of leasing with the Land Bank Unit.
A blogger argues that landowners should not use the Land Bank as it does not give them control.

Native Lands Trust Act versus Land Use Decree

The Native Land Trust Act was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna to assist Fijian landowners to lease their land. His aim was to ensure that landowners benefited from leasing and retained land for their future needs. The NLTB was to have the professional expertise in accounting, surveying, valuation and land management to ensure that landowners were not cheated.
The NLTA said clearly: “all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners.” There is no qualification to this. Landowners interests are all that matter under the NLTA.
In Bainimarama’s Land Use Decree the PM has to consider the landowners interests AND the economy. If the PM thinks it would be better for the economy to offer land at low rent to a Chinese company who want to build a factory to process cassava, he can do it. The landowners cannot stop him and they cannot go to a court and ask the court to over-rule the lease on the grounds that it’s against their interests.
It goes without saying that chiefs have been cut right out of the process by Bainimarama and ASK. Five landowners have to be appointed as Trustees for landowning group. They are elected by 60% of the landowners but the PM can refuse any elected landowner he doesn’t like (say because he’s a Methodist or a member of the FLP or SODELPA). If at any time the PM doesn’t like one of the trustees, he can also remove him.
None of the key rules governing rent paid, terms of leases, are in the Decree. They are hidden in Regulations which means the Minister can change them without approval by Parliament. Land has been taken out of the hands of the Parliament and courts and handed straight to Bainimarama.
At the moment Bainimarama is letting landowners choose between his Land Bank and the TLTB, but he doesn’t have to do this and once elected he will no longer let landowners have this choice. The Land Use Decree gives him unlimited power.
The Native Lands Trust Act, which was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, was one of the main targets of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the mission of cultural genocide he mapped out in 2002 in Hong Kong. By delivering personal power into the office of PM he was able to persuade Bainimarama to support his war on Fijian cultural institutions.
The Land Use Decree creates a dangerous concentration of power, regardless of who the PM is. Its aim is to rob iTaukei of any say over their land and make everyone who wants land dependent on the whims of an all powerful PM. That’s bad for everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PM in Brussels

from w
Where in Europe is the last place you would like to be this week?  Well, I reckon Brussels, yet Fiji's PM is there for a meeting/conference. Of course the city is in lockdown so how do delegates get to their meeting? In the photo Bainimarama is shaking hands with Mr Mimica. Now the cartoonists could have fun with that name.
PM speaks on high alert situation in Brussels
By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 24/11/2015

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama in Brussels.
Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama arrived in Brussels over the weekend in the middle of the Belgian capital being put on high alert.
Speaking from Brussels as he gets ready for ACP/EU talks, Bainimarama said the whole place is closed down including the metro.
Bainimarama told Fijivillage last night that they were advised by the police to fly in by air on Saturday when they travelled from London but the High Commission had already booked them on the Eurostar fast train that took two and a half hours from London to Brussels.
Bainimarama says they have been advised to stay indoors.

He says it is a pity because his visit to the gravesite of Lekima Mua, son of Ratu Sakiusa Vakalolo of Somosomo, Taveuni who was killed during World War 1 had to be cancelled yesterday including a visit to Flanders Field Museum.

Ferry sinks near Suva

from w
Isn't that the one we used to go on to Savusavu from Suva?  A passenger ferry then, now a cargo boat?  The Suilven sank in Suva Harbour a day or two ago.
The sinking of the MV Suilven is expected to cost Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) more than $5 million.
Fijivillage has received information that the Suilven was transporting more than $5 million worth of tuna loins, canned tuna, fish oil and other products.
The canned tuna was for the local market while the tuna loins were prepared for exports.
The PAFCO board met in Suva earlier today.

MV Suilven sinks

Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji's (MSAF) oil spill equipment is on standby at the Government Shipping Services (GSS) ready for deployment after the MV Suilven, owned by Venu Shipping, sunk in the Suva Harbour yesterday afternoon.
This ship went down with 25 twenty feet reefer containers with a few trucks.
Infrastructure and Transport Ministry permanent secretary Francis Kean confirmed that MSAF had also liaised with oil companies for their oil spill equipment to be on standby for deployment should the need arise.
Mariners have been advised to proceed with caution when navigating within the vicinity of the entrance to Suva Harbour and to be on the lookout for any floating containers.
In a notice sent from Mr Kean, he stated the RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ship sunk at the entrance of Suva Harbour at the co-ordinates of 18 degrees 08.433'S and 178 degrees 23.69'E.
Mr Kean confirmed that at the time of the accident, the ship was carrying 30 crew members and four passengers who were truck drivers.
"Initial reports from the owners, Venu Shipping, indicated that the container cargo lashing failure contributed to the listing of this RORO ship. All crew and passengers were safely evacuated on board the Tug Tanunda," Mr Kean said.
Mr Kean confirmed that the Tug Tanunda, under the charter Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd (FPCL), was first to respond to the scene with their pilot boat Murimai.
He said Kiro was also deployed to render assistance after they were informed of the incident.
Fiji Navy Commander John Fox said they co-ordinated with FPCL and had given them the operation to take charge of.
The only woman crew Fuga Luse, who was a cook with the ship, said they could not divulge what was wrong with the ship but they were thankful to be alive.
"The only thing that I have saved is my mobile phone so I could call home and the clothes I'm wearing," Ms Luse said.
Another crew member claimed there were about five engineering students on the ship with others studying at the Maritime School of the Fiji National University, and they were told not to divulge any information about the accident before they were evacuated off the ship.
Venu Shipping's boss Bob Naidu confirmed that the ship did not carry passengers and was only a cargo ship but he would not comment any further as the case was being investigated by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji.
Mr Kean said, FPCL would continue to monitor the sunken ship overnight and an emergency operation centre had been activated at the Fiji Navy to support the efforts of FPCL that played the lead role.
GSS's Rogovoka is also on standby to assist in the removal of any floating cargo from the sunken ship. The ship is understood to have been built around the early 1970s and has been around for about 40 years.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

An Aussie volunteer in Fiji

from w
I read this today in the Fiji Times and it's rather typical I guess.  Aussies out for adventure, go to Fiji, love the experience and of course find a Fijian partner.  It's common these days but when I was young there weren't so many cross-cultural marriages - I'm thinking of the 60s.

It's soul food

Dorine Narayan
Monday, November 02, 2015

Michelle Talemaitoga in Nayavu, Wainibuka, Tailevu. Picture: SUPPLIED
Helping yourself is food for your stomach, helping others is food for your soul. This mind-set brought Michelle Unwin to Fiji — a country she eventually fell in love with.
Michelle came to Fiji a year ago under the Australian Volunteers for International Development Program, working as a communications and public relations mentor for Habitat for Humanity Fiji. Doing volunteer work challenges Michelle to go the extra mile.
"I did a volunteer assignment in Indonesia in 2013 and really loved the challenges that came with living in a different culture. After returning to Australian public service working life, I couldn't settle and was longing to experience the same thing so I applied for a couple of assignments — one in Laos and one in Fiji. The application process for both were running parallel but Fiji made the first offer and I was already packing my suitcase," she said.
She has a versatile personality and enjoys learning new skills and the experience that comes with it. "My attempts at learning the Fijian language mean this will be a hard-won skill," says Michelle.
The Australian-born and bred lady has always been involved in volunteer work in some form or another whether it has been editing website content for a Nepalese trekking social enterprise or being team manager of a children's soccer team.
Being in Fiji, she says, has been a great experience.
"It's like a family, comfortable and relaxed. Everyone was welcoming when I arrived and I'm sad it has come to an end. I know I'll be welcomed back whenever I visit and I'll probably run into them on the street," said Michelle.
One of her most touching experiences was visiting a water project in Cavucavu, a settlement in Ra.
"I went first for a training session and we stayed overnight. I returned at the end of the project for the handover. The turaga ni koro (village headman) cried because they had spent 51 years carting water from shallow wells up and down hills to their homes. At the end of the project, they had water at the front door. The grandma we stayed with insists on kissing me on the lips each time we meet. That is special," she said.
And her nightmare memory here is what she describes as "Fiji tried to kill me".
"During the year I got sick, so sick I was hospitalised while they tried to work out what was wrong with me. I couldn't walk and was out of action for about six weeks. For days I was drugged to the eyeballs until they found an abscess very deep, close to the bone in my thigh — some big long medical name that might as well be a Fijian word because I have trouble pronouncing it."
Being a volunteer in a different country and culture takes resilience and patience, says Michelle.
"You have to take your time to observe the culture. That is the challenging part initially. It is all too easy to measure up everything by where you come from. Sometimes things just don't make sense. It doesn't work that way where you come from and it may seem ridiculous. But if you are patient and observe you will understand why things are the way they are."
Volunteering, for Michelle, is also about what you can leave behind.
"It's about building the capacity of those you work with, about making a difference even if it is a small one. It is the act of kindness that creates its value. Using your skills to teach and mentor with an aim to improve their knowledge and understanding of the area of expertise or skills you bring. It doesn't matter if it is frying sausages at a fundraiser or taking out a grandma's garbage. Every kind act makes a difference. I read a quote by Lailah Gifty Akita who said, 'The more you give of yourself, the more you find yourself.' I identify with her words," she said.
2015 has been a year of unexpected happenings for Michelle. She now plans to stay and work in Fiji.
"This year has been full of the unexpected and part of that package is a brand new husband, a locally-grown Fijian one. So the time feels right to put down some roots and Fiji provides the fertile soil for that," said Mrs Talemaitoga.
She treasures having some quiet time the most as this allows her to reflect and write and think.

Her advice for youths is to volunteer as early as possible in life. "You create great relationships along the way and you do good deeds. It's a win-win," says Michelle.