Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Aporosa was teaching in a classroom in Kadavu when he started to feel doped from a late night of too much grog. He became acutely aware that he was still intoxicated, and that this affected his concentration, motivation, and that he wanted to sleep more than do his job, which was to impart education to the students.

This prompted him to question the effectiveness of other teachers following yaqona consumption, and to consider whether a link existed between the high under-achievement rate of students in Fiji and heavy yaqona drinking.
Aporosa is the Fijian name this part European traveller Shane was given by his part Fijian mother, a Robinson with links to the chiefly village of Naduri in Macuata.

Abo, as he is affectionately known has been doing his own experiments on the effects of yaqona on education. He has gone to the extreme with a plantation in Rauni, a piece of land in the scenic backdrop behind Richmond Methodist School in Kadavu.

So he conducted his experiment on whether there was a link between poor education delivery by teachers and their consumption of yaqona. Abo found that academic comment concerning yaqona's influence on education delivery was limited, although informal debate and discussion was widespread.

He found that some have even blamed traditional practices associated with the use and consumption of the beverage as a major reason for under-achievement in Fijian education. Shane took a sample of 38 teachers, Ministry of Education staff, academics and education stakeholders were surveyed and interviewed using a structured questionnaire and semi-formal interviews.

He found yaqona, a soporific intoxicating beverage, played a vital cultural and economic role in the rural educational arena and research participants confirmed that the over-consumption of yaqona by some teachers, both during and after school hours, was having a negative impact upon their ability to adequately deliver education to their students.

"Additionally, a number of factors were identified that I argue contribute to the over-consumption of yaqona by teachers in the rural teaching environment. "These include the cultural significance of yaqona, ceremony and presentation, the State/ community education delivery partnership, limited extra-curricula activity, the ethos of vakaturaga, obligation, bole (a non-aggressive form of competitive consumption), kinship, and masculinity.

"Despite these factors, I argue that the complete removal of yaqona from the school campus would be both impossible and detrimental, threatening limited financial resources and the State/community partnership, which is vital to the systems of rural education delivery; together with diluting culture, identity, and notions of self-worth, and therefore perpetuating under-achievement," he said.

It must be noted that while this study has concentrated on one particular research site, Richmond Methodist High School (RMHS), Kadavu, this does not single out any particular educational environment, religious association, or governance structure as being more liberal or restrictive in its approach to yaqona within its education delivery systems.

Aporosa said cultural practices surrounding yaqona at the research site are comparative with most rural Fijian school contexts. "Moreover, as with most semi-autonomous structures, certain practices tend to manifest to greater or lesser degrees.

"For example, two yaqona related experiences, occurrences that could potentially be deemed as amounting to serious professional misconduct, were observed at other secondary schools elsewhere in Fiji, and such behaviours have not been observed during the 400 plus days I have lived at RMHS over the past seven years."

Aporosa said he had been a regular consumer of yaqona for seven years, has a small yaqona farm at Natokalau, Kadavu, and an interest in the etiquette and culture surrounding its use. However, equally alarming in his findings was that only two brief comments linked yaqona consumption and education delivery. One from the Ministry of Education (MoE) which stated in its 515 page 2000 Fiji Islands Education Commission report entitled Learning Together: Directions for Education in the Fiji Islands, "Many teachers in rural areas also become involved in excessive yaqona consumption, with the result that they are less effective in their professional work. Instances have been cited where teachers leave classes unattended while they drank yaqona".

The other comment from a group of researchers from the Department of Education and Psychology at the University of the South Pacific, and the Ministry of Education, which visited Koro schools in 1994-5. Their report stated that yaqona has the "ability to sap energy and support listlessness and there can be little doubt that it substantially inhibits performance of duties in non-traditional professional environments, including the civil service and teaching."

The researchers asked that "individuals in the education service appraise the degree of moderation they bring to the habit, given the other demands on their intellectual powers, and perhaps to take a more parsimonious view of the amount of kava that might appropriately be imbibed at social gatherings"

Abo has found that while Mediherb 9, a professional newsletter produced for companies licensed to distribute herbal medicines, recommends a maximum daily dose of 200mgs of kavalactones, one standard cup can contain 247 mgs of this.

"Following the consumption of one bilo of yaqona, it can take up to nine hours for the kavalactones to reach maximum effect in the body," his research states. "This is because of the time it takes for the kavalactones to pass from the stomach into the bloodstream.

"Food eaten during, or after consumption, can disrupt this time period. It has been determined that the intoxicating effects of yaqona continue to work well after consumption ceases." The study goes in hand with a directive issued by Permanent Secretary for the Public Service Commission Taina Tagicakibau but still yet to be followed by a number of odd government schools and other schools in the country.

The findings of Shane's study are his own but they do confirm what many people already know about yaqona yet fail to address. But you should also understand that Shane does drink yaqona and he has even been to the nakamals in Vanuatu where it is drunk in stiff concentrations but in small amounts - three baby bowls can be the equivalent of any Fijian baby mix - so to speak.

Yaqona does affect productivity in some way or even directly - if you are sleeping during work.
Fijian Teachers Association secretary Maika Namudu said teachers should reduce grog consumption and stop drinking yaqona in schools. "This will keep their mentality sharp so they can teach properly," he said.

"When a person consumes too much yaqona their nervous system gets numb and this affects their alertness. "Hence we ask our teachers to review the way they consume yaqona." Mr Namudu said when a teacher is badly affected by grog consumption their productivity will drop and this will affect students under their charge
"It is not very professional when you see it from a practising teacher's point of view," he said.
"Yaqona should be taken at moderate levels - the best way is to do it during the weekend and stay alert throughout the week. People in rural areas should be aware that parents are watching that lowers the esteem of civil service in general."

Yet kava continues to be consumed in many hidden kitchens and classrooms of our government offices. It may be the reason for the low productivity that some officers are capable of. It may hold the key behind why Fijian students are lagging behind in their studies compared to their Indian counterparts.
Adapted from Fiitimes Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


He loves village life. Staying among the villagers in Nadrau up in Nadarivatu is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Ronil Singh, a primary school teacher at Nadrau Fijian School never regretted being posted to the interior of Viti Levu.

In fact he wished it had come earlier on in life ahead of all the difficulties he faced. But he believes that it was the reward of all his hard work and sacrifice which he made earlier on. Life had not been fair for this 21-year-old who had dreamt of becoming a lawyer.

After graduating from high school with a gold medal he won for scoring the highest chemistry marks in FSLC in the Ba zone, he enrolled for the University of the South Pacific's Bachelor of Law degree.

While he was accepted to do that program, it was finance that mattered. Since his parents were ordinary sugar cane farmers in Naba Tolu, Ba, there was no chance of him being a private student

He banked on a scholarship, but that too evaded him. Ronil's only other option was to become a teacher. During his two years at the teacher's college, Ronil also worked part time at a freight company in Nadi at the weekend to sustain his wants.

"Whatever I earn from working at the weekend, was used for my LTC affairs," he said. After two years of teacher training, he finally became a primary school teacher. But he waited for 10 months to get his first posting. "When I was posted to Nadrau, I received that opportunity with both hands," he said.

"At first I didn't know where I was going, but I knew that was my calling so I had to go. Being away from home in an unknown environment, Ronil said was one of the biggest challenges in his life.

"I was there alone, I have to cook my own food and wash my own clothes. I felt so lonely I wanted to run away." But he realised that running away from reality was not what life was about. He stayed on and had to counter it. He said that what made life easy there was that he had basic necessities in his two bedroom house like water and electricity.

"The villagers are the owners of Monasavu so we have electricity up there," he said. "And we have television and mobile network there too." To reduce being homesick, he had approached a student to stay with him in quarters.

"So it's me and Voniani at home," he said. Ronil said that Voniani's parents had allowed their son to stay with him. "He helps me and I help with his school fees and other needs." "I thank his parents for realising my request and allowing us to stay together."
"He is a bright student and I feel that there is a need for me to nurture him so that he can be someone in life." Ronil loves his village life so much, he sometimes wishes that he remains there forever.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 18, 2008


Her name will probably never cease in the history books of the Hibiscus Festival but if there is one thing Liebling Marlow has gained from it, it is a gut full of confidence.

The 70-year old has commented on the festival for the past 52 years and was still in a jovial mood to share a bit more about how the festival changed her life.

A resident of Pearce Home in Suva now, Liebling said the title of Miss Hibiscus or Fiji's first Miss Hibiscus never really mattered to her. She said after the festival, she joined her husband Herbert Marlow at the Fiji Visitors Bureau, meeting and greeting tourists who visited Fiji.

From that day she was actively involved in tourism and other Hibiscus festivals with her husband. "I don't know if it changed my life but I know that it gave me confidence. After the festival, I achieved so much and I became involved not only in tourism but in women's affairs.

"Back then the Hibiscus Festival was for two nights and there were 23 of us. The experience will always be a memorable one," she said.

Liebling was crowned the first Miss Hibiscus in 1956 and since then 45 other queens with the same stamina, poise and grace have followed suit to claim the same title at the annual event.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


BETANI Salusalu is somewhat of a celebrity in the stunning Mamanuca group of tropical islands. Every island he lands on sees staff provide him a homecoming welcome, not to mention a ready bed and breakfast.

It's a relationship that has taken several years in the making, but one which has become crucial to the future that resort and resource owners in these islands envision for themselves.

Salusalu is the coordinator of the Mamanuca Environment Society, a non-profit organisation formed in 2002 "to address environmental issues in the region and specifically work towards the betterment of the region's marine and terrestrial environment".

His work takes him across the spectacular chain of tropical islands scattered to the west of Fiji, visiting resorts, landowners and staff villages, with the chief goal being education and dialogue, along with environmental monitoring.

It's a role that was created by the resorts he visits, all of whom are members of the Mamanuca Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association (MFIHTA) which founded MES. On any given day Salusalu and his team could be either monitoring water quality, surveying a reef system, advising resorts how to manage liquid waste, teaching villagers about composting or talking to land owners about a fishing "tabu" or ban.

It all depends on the needs of a particular site or community. The waters and reef systems around the Mamanucas, Salusalu says, are like the lungs of the west. "We sit around a bay that receives a lot of the runoff from activities in the west of Viti Levu. So we are vulnerable to sedimentation and a lot of waste from human activity is flushed into the area".

With the tourism industry in the area heavily reliant on the spectacular natural beauty of the Mamanucas, it makes sense that owners, workers and visitors take a wholistic approach to environmental protection there. What's been even more fulfilling, Salusalu says, is the support that MES has received financially through sponsorships.

Over the weekend, ANZ Bank's Fiji head Robert Bell handed the group a $25,000 cheque to help continue the environmental work in the area. It's the third time the bank, which is the Gold Sponsor of the program, has provided financial support to the body.

Bell says a big part of the reason for their support is that MES is concerned with creating a better future for Fiji and that it has a lot to do with education - which over the long term should have a wider impact than just policing of environment issues.

"Businesses need to have a broader reach and this program is particularly important because it's about Fiji's future. I've been on Castaway Island for 35 minutes and 35 days of stress just washed away. It's an indication of what tourists to the area can expect, and the environment is a major part of that success formula," Bell says.

MES treasurer Ronnie Chang - who represents Pacific Island Air on the executive committee - says the support of corporates such as ANZ, and silver sponsors AON Risk Services, as well as members spread throughout the Mamanucas, keep the environment in focus.

Salusalu and his team - which includes project assistant Fesi Isimeli, project officer Diana Nagatalevu and volunteer Kenneth Cokanasiga - are kept busy all year round focusing on bettering the environment in the islands. They travel to four schools in the area providing children with the basics on coral reefs, coral biology and ecology, and teaching kids how to conduct basic reef surveys.

They carry out best practice training for watersports activities staff in resorts - providing theory and practical education designed to make staff more environmentally savvy. One ongoing initiative is the bid to eradicate the crown of thorns starfish from the area because it is a coral predator. These are removed from the waters in the area

Twice a year they also conduct water quality analysis from the Nadi Bay area through to Lautoka Wharf, testing for nitrates and phosphates that might encourage the deadly algal blooms that could devastate the Mamanuca ecology.

Their busy program includes turtle conservation, including educating villagers in the area about how to protect turtles and turtle nesting sites. The region has also had one turtle released into the wild which has been satellite tagged, allowing resorts to receive updates of her travels around Fiji and the region. One area of major importance considering the tourism focus of the region is maintaining the health of coral reefs, which are a magnet for spectacular diving and snorkelling.
Part of this process is a drive to restore giant clam populations in the area, because clams are helpful for the development of reef.

Salusalu says mini clam nurseries sites are present at Castaway Island, Tokoriki Reef, Elevuka Reef, Qalito House Reef, and Solevu village house reef. The group also facilitates a Reef Check program which sees 18 separate sites undergo regular checks through trained volunteers. Castaway Island Resort operations manager Steven Andrews says guests are increasingly keen to help preserve the "paradise" they have come to love.

One of the more successful initiatives has been Castaway's Kids Sea Camp where children are educated on the marine environment - and parents more often than not join in.

Environmental issues in the Mamanucas are increasingly recognised as being not just crucial for everyday business, but for the very survival of the way of life of people who live and visit there.
Integrating the two now with the support of industry-led initiatives such as MES means paradise can remain uninterrupted for generations to come.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


A NINE-year-old boy who partially lost his sight because of his fight with cancer is pleading with donors to assist him so that he can go overseas for treatment.

When most boys his age go to school and play with their friends, Josaia Temo, from Lakeba in Lau, has to stay indoors because of his condition.

Josaia suffers from genetic skin cancer and the disease has infected his left eye and caused partial blindness. He has lived with his grandmother ever since he was born and now 70 years of age, she continues to look after him.

When The Fiji Times visited Josaia and his grandmother Litiana Moce at their host's Raiwaqa home in Suva yesterday, he was lying on a mattress with his forehead and eyes heavily bandaged. Mereoni Taginadavui, a volunteer with the Fiji Cancer Society, said she was taking care of Josaia and helping with his condition.

Ms Taginadavui, a cancer survivor, said despite his serious condition, Josaia is full of life and loves to sing and pray. "We first found out about his case when we went to visit some of the rural islands to meet cancer patients and we found Josaia with his grandmother," she said.

Ms Taginadavui said Josaia was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 but they had lost contact when his grandmother had moved to the village.

"We are thankful to Project Heaven who were able to relocate Josaia during their trips to the island. His grandmother had brought him to the project for his eye infection," she said. She said Josaia has two big sores on his head and his eye infection but they were glad that his condition was improving.

"He was released from hospital one week ago and since we do not have any hospice, we were very glad when Alumita Cokanavula agreed to provide one bedroom in her house for Josaia and his grandmother to stay in,' she said. Speaking in Fijian and with tears in her eyes, his grandmother Ms Moce said she was the only family Josaia had and she had been taking care of him all these years. But she said with her advanced age it had become hard for her and she said she was thankful to all those who were helping them.

Ms Taginadavui said Save the Children Fiji, Fiji Cancer Society and Project Heaven were working to get people to donate money and medicial items to help Josaia. She said the money collected by Save the Children and Fiji Cancer Society would be used for Josaia's travel cost and treatment in New Zealand.

"Josaia is like any other nine-year-old boy and when he is not in pain, he will sing and talk to us. The only time he is in pain is when his bandages are changed and his sores are cleaned and it is very heart-wrenching to see him that way,' she said.

Those who wish to make a donation to help with Josaia's overseas treatment can do so by depositing into the Fiji Cancer Society Sashi Goundan Account.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


WHEN Flying Fijians skipper Mosese Rauluni runs onto Ballymore Oval for the Pacific Nations Cup match against Australia A on Sunday, it will be a defining moment in his rugby career which is four years into a new decade.
For the Qarani patriot from Gau island whose family resides in Brisbane, Queensland but plays his trade for Saracens Rugby Club in England, the priorities in life will have to change.
His reaction after spending time off rugby to be with his family has revealed he has found new love in daughter Isabella and the passion for the oval ball will be second.
So the PNC match against Australia A will be his last for the year in the Fiji number nine jersey.
To go by his words (not the first time) it could turn out to be his last competitive international match for the country.
He will not feature against Tonga in the last PNC game next week but he is determined to create history by becoming the first skipper to lead Fiji to victory over Australia A.
It will be special for Rauluni, who was brought up and learned his footy in Brisbane. The city is home for the Raulunis and he has a special bond with Ballymore Oval.
Then there is an inevitable tide of change when he turns 33 on Friday.
A win against the hosts would be a perfect belated gift for the 42-Test veteran. Last year he led Fiji to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup -the first time since the inaugural event in 1987.
Rauluni played for the Australia under-19 in 1993 and 1994.
He debuted for Fiji against New Zealand Maori in 1996 and has been a regular since then.
At the 1999 RWC he was reserve to elder brother Jacob the number one Fiji halfback.
In the 2003 RWC, he played in all four of Fiji's pool matches.
Rauluni went on both Pacific Islanders tours in 2004 and 2006.
After an outstanding performance at last year's RWC, Rauluni was named the Player of the Year' at the 2007 Fiji Rugby Awards.
With nothing decided yet for 2009, Rauluni said he wasn't getting any younger and had to give it another 100 per cent in his last match of the year in the White jumper with the coconut emblem.
"We need to start building depth in the halfback position," Rauluni said. "It is time to give the other guys a break, especially those who will carry the flag in the future."
He said while there was no concrete decision on which direction his career would follow, it was imperative he wasn't selfish.
"It's important I try to get a bit of rest because I have played a lot of rugby not getting any younger," he said.
Fiji coach Ilivasi Tabua said Rauluni was a key mover who led and played with a real warrior attitude every time he was on the pitch.
The two played together in the 1999 RWC.
"He is a great asset and motivates his players and they feel a different vibe and energy with him around," Tabua said.
"But we have to understand he needs his break as well and there are younger guys coming through."
Rauluni has never played against Australia A and would want to make the match a memorable one.
"It will be tough and we will have to be prepared," Rauluni said.
"But the players know that they can do it."


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Levuka will always have a special place in the history of Fiji. Not only was Levuka the country's first capital, it was the starting point for commercial trading and life in general. In fact, most people would agree if it was not for the existence of the Old Capital, Fiji would not be where it is today.
Before the seat of Government was transferred to Suva in 1881, Levuka was under the de facto reign of Ratu Seru Cakobau, self proclaimed King of Fiji. From early days of settlement to the first colonial administration, Levuka possessed evidence of early civilisation and modernisation.
Located on the island of Ovalau, Levuka is renowned as the historical site where Fiji was ceded to Britain on October 10, 1874. An initial proposal to cede Fiji was denied some 20 years before that. From the date of cession onwards, the year 1874 has been held in high regard.
However, 134 years later Levuka is once again rewriting the history books on Fiji's official Deed of Cession documents. On June 6, 2008, original Fijian translations of the Deed of Cession were discovered and given to the National Archives for safekeeping and sustainability.
The re-enactment of another Deed of Cession handover at Nasova was a significant event for Fiji despite the occasion seemingly kept low profile. The official document was handed over to Government archivist Setareki Tale by the Tui Levuka. The auspicious ceremony was attended by Government officials from the Ministry of Information, Department of Culture and Heritage as well as members of the Lomaiviti Provincial Administration.
While many would be familiar with the existence of the English Deed of Cession document at the National Archives, the recent discovery of the Fijian translation has opened up airways to more historical findings in the town.
For the late Tui Levuka Ratu Kolinio Rokotuinaceva, the handover ceremony was an important event. He said although this was a document Levuka was proud to maintain, it would be in safe hands in terms of its preservation. The handover was probably the last public appearance by the Tui Levuka before his untimely death on Monday.
After the framed documents were given to government chief archivist Setareki Tale, provincial administrator Jese Veibuli spoke on the need to sustain important documents that entail the history of our country.
However, details of how the document went unnoticed for more than a century is anyone's guess.
Mr Veibuli has been in office for the past four months. He said the document had been hanging in the PA's office and no one realised it was the original.
"Nobody knows how it ended up there and how it went unnoticed for 134 years. It has been hanging in the district office for a very long time. When I was an internal auditor, I had seen and read parts of the document. Some of the translations were a bit vague and I was trying to find out what the interpreter, David Wilkinson was trying to say.
"We asked a typist to type out as best she can what was written. However, when one reads the document then one can fully understand what it was about. This is a very important document. In fact, back then it was not easy to get the consent of all the chiefs in Fiji to sign the Deed of Cession."
Mr Veibuli said there were a lot of disagreements between the chiefs but as a result of the Fijian translation of the Deed of Cession, they reached an agreement. He said the consensus was also reached as a result of the continuous prayers of the talatala and reverends. Mr Veibuli said this was a fact that was unknown.
"The Deed of Cession was made possible through the intervention and prayers of the people of God. At the time there was a lot of friction and differences amongst the people and these talatala were interceding for a peaceful nation through their prayers.
"Apart from that, the Fijian translations were not fluent or grammatically correct but Mr Wilkinson was able to get the message across. His translations were almost word for word but the chiefs understood the meaning of the translation. This is a very significant document that must be safeguarded for the next generation."
Although he was proud to be part of the event, Mr Veibuli said the documents were in good hands. He said the documents were a part of Levuka and to see it leave the island was a sad moment. Nevertheless, Mr Veibuli said, this was not the last historical find on the island as the possibility of another imperative find in Levuka was endless.
"The handover ceremony is a historical occasion for Levuka. One century and 34 years ago on this site, the 13 chiefs of Fiji agreed to cede the country to Britain because of this translation that was read to them. It is a part of Levuka. There was a petition sent to the office where people disagreed with the transfer of the document.
"Unfortunately, it is a requirement by law that such documents of national benefit and importance be kept at the national archives or the museum. Although we would like it to stay in Levuka, we know we are leaving it in good hands," he said.
The exact date when the document was placed in the provincial administrator's office is still an unknown fact. The people who would have had answers to the many questions about the Fijian translation of the Deed of Cession have carried that vital information to their graves. These notable people are former district officers and commissioners.
However, without dwelling too much on the past, the important aspect now is to note the events that led to the discovery of the transcripts.
Government chief archivist Setareki Tale said the first mention of the document came from an Australian volunteer Derek Cleyland who noticed the document hanging on the wall in the provincial administrator's office while in Levuka.
Mr Tale was on the next available boat to Levuka to find out whether or not this was the original Fijian translation of the Deed of Cession. He was able to cross check his findings with a copy of the same translation kept at the National Archives in the United Kingdom.
"There was this atmosphere of excitement at this perceived lost historical document. On the English document of the Deed of Cession, there is an attestation or a note by Wilkinson stating an attachment to the document. So at the moment, the English version is only half of the Deed of Cession. This may as well be the other half or the other attachment as indicated by the attestation to the English version.
"There were two English documents for the signing of cession so there is a possibility there are two attachments or two Fijian translations. One English document went back to Britain, the other was kept in Fiji. However, the English version in Fiji was sent to London in 1937 for restoration. It is still kept there. In 1946, a correspondence was received from Britain stating a copy of the Fijian translation. I am not sure if this copy is legalised or promulgated, a regulation to determine when it was sealed."
Mr Tale said the next step would be to determine the accuracy in translation between the English and Fijian version. He said the original transcripts were very old and had to be restored and repaired for sustainability. Mr Tale said under the Public Records legislations, it was a legal requirement that historical documents or findings be kept at the national archives or museum. In the meantime, Mr Tale said investigations into another possible historical document would take place.
"These documents are of national importance and information on it should be made available for the public. We might investigate whether or not another document which is the supposedly first written proposal for cession is original. As far as we know, the first proposal or request to cede Fiji was turned down and this was in 1854.
"This new development is significant especially highlighting a time when Fiji was going through rough times especially with the collapse of the cotton industry and resistance to tax payments," he said.
Mr Tale added preliminary discussions have been held with the UNESCO to formulate a committee that promotes culture and heritage as well as facilitate accessibility to information of important documents.
Culture and heritage
With Levuka Town still functioning with its commercial centres, the call for more public awareness on maintaining one's culture and heritage is pivotal. Department of culture and heritage director Peni Cavuilagi said the town will always be an important chapter of the country's history.
He said while the Fijian translation of the Deed of Cession is something Levuka is proud of, the message behind its unnoticed existence for 134 years is for more preservation of historical artifacts, culture and heritage.
"It was through Derek Cleyland and a local staff from our department that the document was highlighted. It has been there for many years and even then people did not realise its value and importance. This is very important for Levuka. However, there is a need to change local perception on the issue of culture and heritage.
"We need to convince people to preserve and conserve this part of their lives. This is what defines their identity. We have also been trying to convince members at the provincial council meeting to establish a sub committee on culture and heritage. There are far more significant documents and sights that are not yet seen."
He said the department has a program called Heritage on Young Hands and while the idea of stressing the need for cultural and heritage preservation, Government endorsement is needed.
"Most people have expressed concern about the loss of culture and heritage. We are planning to list Levuka as a World Heritage site. We are grateful to Government for the funding we have received so far which is an allocated budget of $300, 000 for this year," he said.


Friday, April 25, 2008


FORMER stars of the Coca-Cola Light Games believe the games shape the character of athletes and prepares them for their future careers.
Commissioner Northern Colonel Inia Seruiratu, a senior boys 200m national sprints champ for Ratu Kadavulevu School in 1983, said confidence "is what you get when you prepare well physically and spiritually for these games".
Seruiratu's 4X100m senior boys relay team won the event that year and RKS won the games.
Former national school girls sprint champion and Islands Business International editor Laisa Taga said the games taught her how to be competitive and work hard for her goals.
"You can't rely on others, you've got to be the best in what you do, and be disciplined."
Former Marist sprinter and shot put thrower Samuela Loiti said the games strengthen the character in a person's life.
About 3000 athletes from 142 schools around the country have converged on Suva for the start of the two-day games at the National Stadium today.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, April 20, 2008


TWO former government chief executives tied the knot at the Centenary Church in Suva yesterday in front of about 300 relatives and guests.
Former Public Service Commission chief executive officer, Anare Jale married former Social Welfare CEO, Emele Duituturaga.
Ms Duituturaga
wore a two-piece white satin and lace bridal wear and her.
She could not contain her happiness when she entered the church with her father, Pita Duituturaga who gave her away. They arrived in a white Mercedes Benz.
About 12 young girls in pink silk dresses led the bridal procession, before Ms Duituturaga and her father entered the church.
Not even the wet Suva weather dampened spritis with guests coming in their best suits and colourful dresses.
Mr Jale was wearing a two-piece black suit while his four best men wore a blue silk shirts embroided with magimagi (sinnet).
Former President of the Methodist Church, Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi presided over the wedding ceremony.
Guests present at the church included former Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Naitasiri paramount chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata and his wife Adi Lagamu.
Also among the guests were former Finance Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and his wife; Health Minister Permanent Secretary Doctor Lepani Waqatakirewa, former Transport and Civil Aviation chief executive Vuetasau Buatoka and businesswoman Mere Samisoni.
Mr Jale hails from Ono in Lau, while Ms Duituturaga is from Moala.
The reception was held at Tradewinds last night.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Sunday, April 13, 2008


HEAVY rain experienced around the country over the past few days have been blamed for a death, a helicopter crash and landslides.
Dead is 61-year-old Alekesio Nawaqavou, a dalo farmer of Kicukicu settlement in Cakaudrove who was swept away in currents caused by heavy rain.
Tim Gibson escaped with minor injuries after the helicopter he was piloting crashed into the sea off Uduya Point in Lami yesterday and a family was forced to leave their home following a landslide.
The helicopter that crashed about 7.10am is owned by Island Choppers.
Acting police spokesman Corporal Joe Weicavu blamed bad weather conditions for the crash. He said Mr Gibson received cuts and bruises and after medical examination was sent home to rest.
Cpl Weicavu said Mr Gibson would be interviewed later.
Island Choppers managing director, Stephen Green said two helicopters were travelling from Nadi to Nausori, on their way to Fulaga in the Lau Group.
He said Mr Gibson, 45, was flying the first helicopter alone while his colleague Robbie McKenzie was on another with five other passengers travelling to Fulaga.
Mr Green said after leaving Nadi the pilots spoke with the Nausori control centre which informed them of the sudden change in weather conditions. He said they were hoping to make a safe landing when Mr Gibson's helicopter crashed into the sea.
Mr Green said the $2 million helicopter was a write off.
He said Mr McKenzie picked up his colleague and they all returned to Nadi.
Mr Green said Namaka police interviewed Mr McKenzie while Mr Gibson had not been interviewed.
He said Mr Gibson was checked by a doctor and sent home. Mr Green said Mr Gibson who hails from New Zealand has twenty years experience as a pilot.
Attempts to contact Mr Gibson were unsuccessful yesterday. Mr Green said his company had three helicopters prior to the accident, which was used for the purpose of passenger transfers to the Mamanucas.
Meanwhile, the Director of Meteorology Rajendra Prasad yesterday said people must expect flash floods as a result of the current weather situations.
He said there was a trough of low pressure with associated cloud and rain bands that remained slow moving over the group.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, December 17, 2007


IT is a small fruit signified on the top end of our national flag and this fruit is customarily used as an essential ingredient that brought chocolates all around the world to life.

For decades this unique fruit has been in Fiji and the people of Namau Village in Naloto, Tailevu are trying to make the best use of it. Better known to them as Fiji's chocolate, cocoa farmers at Namau are on the verge of producing their own organic and pure cocoa products in the country.

Ultimately, they want to build Fiji's first chocolate factory, and thus be the first to make an truly original chocolate that Fiji can call it sown. The village is situated at about 60 feet above sea level, off Lodoni Road on a hill. It is part of the mataqali Navukuta with a population of about 158 people.

The twenty-three families that live in Namau depend essentially on the somewhat 18,000 cocoa trees that surround the village. These families work under the careful guidance of farm manager, Tevita Niumou_ a family man who has spent half of his life babysitting these green treasures.

Tevita says elders of the villager started cocoa farming in the 1960s and taught young youths the importance of the cocoa fruit. "I left high school in 1978 and began working with my father who showed me everything there is to know about the cocoa fruit," he said. Tevita's big dreams for his family and the whole village rests on the cocoa trees.

"Every household in the village has land breeding thousands of cocoa trees; it's our main source of income," said the 46-year-old. He said the village was recently visited by a couple from Sweden who recognised a cocoa fruit pictured on the national flag. He said the couple had inquired with the Ministry of Agriculture looking for the location of a cocoa farm and later found themselves at Tevita's front door.

"It was unbelievable when I later found out the tourists owned a chocolate factory in Sweden and were interested in our cocoa produce," said Tevita. "I gave them a tour around the farm and demonstrated our way of processing cocoa beans," he said.

He said the couple were amazed with the old system used by farmers and offered to donate machines that could extract cocoa liquid for the production of chocolates. Tevita says bumping into the couple from Sweden was sheer luck and it was even more interesting that the Fiji flag was the root cause of it.

He said the project to build a factory in Korovou has the full support of the Tailevu Provincial Council. At a recent meeting, council chairman Josefa Serulagilagi who is also the chairman for the Tailevu Cocoa Growers and Producers Association, said the couple were from the Cocoa Bello of Sweden organisation and had advised villagers not to sell cocoa seeds but to make chocolates here in Fiji.

Mr Serulagilagi said Tailevu cocoa businesses have been running for the past 20 years and the couple's guidance was of great assistance to the Tailevu framers. He said the couple sent experts after returning to Sweden to conduct a two-week training workshop at Namau and also invited eight participants including himself to Sweden for a two-week educational tour.

The objective, he said, was to see and learn how the finest chocolates in the world were produced and to expand their knowledge about manufacturing chocolates. Mr Serulagilagi said the trip was sponsored by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

He said there was even an organisation in Sweden that was willing to fund the establishment of the fist ever chocolate factory at Korovou town.
Adapted from the

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Times: What inspired you to write about issues regarding Fiji Indians?
Professor Lal: I wish I knew; for the creative process is mad, full of inexplicable twists and turns. Mysterious even. I suppose it is a desire to make sense of things. I don't quite know what I think, what I have experienced unless I imagine it in words. I feel unfulfilled if I don't write. I feel something vital is missing from my life if I don't read and write. It is an addiction. But there is another reason. The world which formed me, the self-contained, self-sufficient rural lifestyle, is slowly disappearing as people leave the village and as modernity laps its outer-edges. I want to be a witness to that world which was once so important for me but of which I am no longer a part. There is very little written about the village world; the fears and hopes of the rural folks, so you have to recreate that vanishing world through imaginative reconstruction. We hear a lot about the movers and shakers of the world, the politicians and the bureaucrats, but little about 'little people' who lie beyond the range of official statistics, beyond official recognition: the housewives, the lovers, the workers and primary school teachers; those who have lost out on life. I want to capture some of the inner lived experience of their lives.

Times: What are some of the difficulties faced by Fiji Indians in terms of identity here, in their motherland (India) or when they migrate to other parts of the world?
Prof. Lal: I think you become conscious of your unique identity when you step outside your own cultural world. You realise how Fijian you really are when you live in another culture, among other people. Your language, your sense of humour, your food, as well as habits are different, unique. As the years advance, you suddenly realise how important your place is in your life, how deep childhood memories are. I cannot make sense of my life without my Fijian
Times: How is that a problem?
Prof. Lal: In this country, we are called Indians, but when you meet the real Indians, you suddenly realise how un-Indian you really are in your habits of thought and behaviour. The Indian world of horoscope and hierarchy, the obsession with protocol and ritual, of one's proper place in the order of things, means very little to you. Self-made that we are, we are impatient with things set in concrete, with restrictive tradition. I have met Indians from the Caribbean, Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Singapore and Malaysia. One thing we all have in common is our unique identity. We have an affinity for the 'cultural India', not the 'political India'. We have more in common with each other than with Indians from India. In fact, there is a kind of tension which animates our relationship. I don't have any of that with people from the Pacific Islands.

Times: Have attachments to Fiji changed?
Prof. Lal: Our attachment to Fiji is a function of generational change. I was born and educated here. I am a part of its history and culture. Its landscape moves me: the feel of warm rain on freshly mowed lawn, the smell of burning cane, and the swollen brown rivers. Fiji will always remain my spiritual and emotional home. I am not sure that it will be so for my children who have been formed by other influences and who have spent virtually all their lives in other cultures. They don't necessarily share my passion or obsession with Fiji though they honour it. They are, in a sense, citizens of the world.

Times: What feelings do Indians have when they are forced to leave because of political upheavals and land lease expiry?
Prof. Lal: People leave Fiji for a variety of reasons. Many feel uprooted and unwanted, trapped and terrorised. Many leave because they are fed up with uncertainty and diminishing opportunities for themselves and their children. But the emotional bonds linger, especially for the first generation; the umbilical chord is impossible to break. They keep in touch with developments in Fiji through a variety of ways. Travel and technology have revolutionised notions of attachment and citizenship. It is no longer a case of either/or; attachment to a country cannot be measured by a piece of paper. It is a commitment of the heart and the mind that matters.

Times: You grew up in the village but people like you managed to be immensely knowledgeable about the wider world probably more than most children today. Tell me a little about that life that you exposed in the book Turnings Fiji Factions.
Prof. Lal: The world which formed me has vanished. I grew up without paved roads, and running water, without electricity. Both my parents were illiterate. I was the first one in my family ever to complete high school and go on to university. There was no counselling about careers. There was no television, radio was new, there was no Internet, no iPods, and no mobile phones. It was, in some ways, the dark ages. Yet, people of my generation from that kind of background have travelled places, made something of themselves. We were from the village but were immensely knowledgeable about the world. There was a hunger to know more. I really am not sure if that is the case today. We had teachers who took their profession seriously, not as a stepping stone to another career. Our pursuit for excellence was driven by desperation. There was nothing to return to if we failed. There was no safety net, no one to lean on for assistance. So we strove hard and burned the midnight lamp to be successful today.

Adapted from the

Friday, December 7, 2007


AFTER nine years of darkness, 68-year-old Dionisia Yagose can see thanks to a team of specialists who removed her eye cataract for free.
Mrs Yagose of Tokou Village on Ovalau could not stop crying as she was overwhelmed at seeing her grandson for the first time.
It was wonderful to see my one-year-old grandson, she said.
I was blind for nine years and I see this as a new lease of life.
Mrs Yagoses blindness was caused by a cataract.
I never thought Id see again. Im very happy and thank God for working through the doctors to make me see.
I was so happy after the surgery I cried and cried.
Her nephew Inoke Vuivuwa, 44, thanked the doctors and nurses for giving his aunt her sight back.
We were so happy and could not believe it when she returned last Friday, he said.
We called all the family and had a feast to celebrate. Mr Vuivuwa said Christmas would be wonderful for them.
This is an early Christmas for everyone. We spent nine years guiding her and now shes walking around on her own.
She knew people by their names and voice only. The day she came out of the hospital she kept asking whos this, whos that, when she met someone.
Pacific Eye Institute director Doctor John Seeto said Mrs Yagoses condition was related to age.
Everyone who reaches that age will suffer from cataract, he said.
She was totally blind, incapacitated. Cataract is one of the main causes of blindness.
Mrs Yagose was among 400 people on Ovalau who benefited from the Fred Hollows Foundation team of ophthalmologists led by Dr John Szetu.
The team was able to restore the eyesight of 40 people.
Foundations executive director Carmel Williams says there is a severe shortage of eyecare professionals in the Pacific which must be remedied in order to reduce blindness. More than 80,000 people are blind in the Pacific Islands.
In Fiji there is a backlog of about 6000 cases needing surgery.
This will continue to grow by about 800 new cases each year, unless we have more eye doctors and nurses available in the country.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, November 30, 2007

Family seeks compensation

A man who lost eight fingers while working on a fishing vessel 10 years ago is still waiting for the compensation which was awarded him last year.
Josaia Cama was 20 years old when he found employment on a fishing vessel belonging to Kim Sung Soo and went on a year-long fishing trip to Japan in 1998.
His wife Virisila Wati said Mr Cama was working throughout the night in the freezer in the ship's hold in 1998 when his fingers went numb from the cold.
She said her husband's supervisors soaked his fingers in warm water and wrapped them in woolen gloves to keep them warm.
When the ship returned to Fiji, Mr Cama was admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. The hospital amputated his eight fingers in December that year.
Ms Wati said after that, he would collect $55 as wages from the ship's office every fortnight but it stopped after the 2000 coup.
She said he then started court proceedings against the shipping company after they refused to compensate him.
Ms Wati said last year, Mr Cama was awarded $24,000 in compensation but has not received anything so far.
She said he had gone to the Ministry of Labour and other places without success.
Attempts to get comments from Mr Soo, the Labour Ministry's director for Occupational Health and Safety Standards, Osea Cawaru and Mr Cama's lawyer Suresh Chandra, were all unsuccessful.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saga nurtures his 36 sons

Saga Dewan is a man who knows how hard the lives of some young people can be. But that has only strengthened his belief that the youth of today are leaders of tomorrow.

It is why he believes in the importance of developing our children right, of ensuring that they grow holistically to become good citizens and leaders.

It is easier said than done given the increasing distractions and issues, like unemployment, HIV/AIDS, crime and drugs that mark today's civilisation.

Many of our young people have become victims of these ills. Many have found themselves on the streets through no fault of theirs. While some have found the strength to find a way out of their entrapment, there are many who continue to live on our streets.

Saga knows only too well. That's because he is in daily contact with them, trying to give them hope and inspire them to believe that there is still a chance to better their lives. As the principal of the Chevalier Training Centre, at Wainadoi, located only a few kilometres from the capital city, Mr Dewan has worked successfully with many youths who had gone astray.

The 37-year-old man of slender built calls himself a kai Wainikoro because he was born and bred on Vanua Levu. He lives with his wife and a child in the school compound. While he may be the biological father of his little one, he is father to the 36 young boys who call the centre home.

"Most of these young boys have either been left in the dark by their families, pushed out by society or have deliberately left home because of unbearable circumstances," he said. "Most have at one time in their lives been on the streets or have lived with friends in their respective societies.

"One thing is common in all these boys and that is that they have been victims of the great challenges that youths face today," he said. The youngest ward at the centre is 15 years old and the oldest is almost 19. "These boys are from all the 14 provinces in Fiji and we have quite a multi-racial lot in training," he said.

Mr Dewan said most of the boys were brought in because they felt that they could not make any positive change and contribution to their respective communities. "When they are brought in they are taught life skills. Some of them do not even know they have talents in those particular fields," he said.

"They are taught metal work, wood work, mechanical training, building, agriculture, English and maths." There's a class that teaches values, principles and the benefits of having a positive mental attitude. He said the biggest challenge was trying to convince every student that every cloud had a silver lining.

"I always tell them that no matter how low people think of you or how low your self-esteem there is always a place where each individual will be good at," he said.

"Not only do I have to talk to them constantly I have to help them and guide them in every little thing they do so that they know that even without their immediate family members we are there for them.

"In fact, we are a family and families look after each other through thick and thin," he said. Despite all the challenges Mr Dewan said he was always beside his sons to see them through as they transited from being a boy to a young man who could stand on his own feet in society.

"It always warms my heart and bring tears to me and the seven other staff members here to see one of our students being able to find a secure job and get a steady income," he said. Mr Dewan said students who graduated from the centre always returned there on special occasions not only to visit but to motivate their younger brothers.

"While working for such institutions is a great challenge I do enjoy it because I know that I am playing a part in trying to better someone's life to leave the world better than they have found it," he said
Adapated from the November 27th, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NATIONAL Arts Exhibition in Suva, Fiji

More than 100 artists are showcasing their favoured creations at the annual Fosters Group Pacific Limited-sponsored National Art Exhibition which opened yesterday.
The week-long exhibition at the Ratu Iloilovatu Gallery housed at the Fiji Institute of Technology's School of Arts, Culture and Design in Raiwai is a Fiji Arts Council initiative to promote the work of local artists.
Council Director Letila Mitchell said the response from artists this year was overwhelming.
"Our youngest exhibitor is about 17 while the oldest is in his 70s," she said.
"So there should be real wide variety of art work to view and enjoy during the exhibition."
Pieces of FIT's art students are also part of the exhibition, which is open from 9am to 6pm until Saturday.
Apolosi Bolatu, a local artist, said he was excited and proud to have his work showcased alongside reputed artists.
The first-year art student said he also relished the opportunity to talk to those who appreciate art and wish to purchase their work.
Renowned artist Craig Marlow said it was great to note that more young people were entering the field with great ambitions.
"I hope that this trend would continue as it brings out the hidden talents within our youths," he said.
Ms Mitchell commended the Foster's Group Pacific Limited for being the major sponsor of the exhibition since it began in 1975.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Spurred by a new Pacific Island exchange program, a team of Gold Coast cardiac surgeons is saving Fijian lives. Peter Gleeson reports. HEART surgeon Doctor Shailesh Khatri has just performed his eighth angioplasty procedure for the day and is about to sit and relax with a cup of tea for the first time in nine hours.

Then the sound of wailing sirens and the unmistakable blaring of an ambulance tells him that his long day may not yet be over. It is Monday this week and sure enough, the patient being wheeled into John Flynn's coronary care unit is having a cardiac arrest.

The 41-year-old has collapsed at the wheel while driving, luckily just a few kilometres from the hospital. As paramedics defibrillate the victim, Dr Khatri gets to work, pumping a special dye into the man's heart in preparation for an angiogram, which immediately reveals a blockage in the patient's major cardiac artery.

Within 15 minutes, Dr Khatri has performed angioplasty surgery, a procedure where a balloon is inserted into the artery, effectively blowing out the plaque which caused the blockage. A stent was then placed into the damaged arterial canal to keep it open.

This was life-saving stuff but all in a day's work for the Fijian-born and Australian-educated Dr Khatri. "I guess you could say I get a lot of job satisfaction,'' said Dr Khatri, who had literally saved this young man's life.

"He will be okay. "He is a heavy smoker. "I don't think he will smoke any more. "I hope not anyway.''

John Flynn Hospital has one of Queensland's best and busiest cardiac units, led by eminent cardiologists Dr Ian Linton and Dr David Cody, supported by Dr Khatri, and they have just embarked upon a project aimed at helping cut the Fijian cardiac mortality rate.

"The mortality rate in Fiji from heart disease is among the highest in the world,'' said Dr Linton, the program's brainchild. "I think there's some genetics there and maybe the more modern lifestyle and foodstuffs, not as much fish in their diet, those sort of things.

"We've been working for more than two years on the project and it is a labour of love for myself and Dr Khatri.'' Dr Linton said he had visited Fiji many times and had 'fallen in love with the people'.

"I got to thinking that in Australia we have these great facilities, we can deal with coronary disease issues and give people longevity, but in Fiji they just don't have that luxury and a lot of people die prematurely,'' he said. Dr Khatri was raised in Fiji before moving to Australia to do his medical degree in Queensland, specialising in cardiac surgery.

He has an affinity with his homeland and when Dr Linton told him of his plans, Dr Khatri was enthusiastic and keen to be involved.

The project, which started last month and was announced by the Fiji Government, delivers the equipment and training for diagnostic services in Suva. The services include coronary angiography, which is the X-ray imaging of the arteries in the heart.

These tests are readily available in Australia, and John Flynn does 2500 a year, but until now they have been beyond the reach of people on Pacific Islands. Fiji's interim Health Minister, Dr Jona Senilagakali, described the establishment of the unit as a major step forward for health care in the country.

John Flynn Hospital has supported the project by helping to provide treatment for Fijians suffering serious heart disease. One of the first patients to undergo an angiogram in Fiji had life-threatening blockages in major coronary arteries.

He was rushed to John Flynn Hospital last week and underwent successful bypass surgery. This week, two other Fijian patients underwent angioplasty, where the narrowed arteries are opened with stents. Much of Fiji's heart-disease problem relates to the increase in animal fats in their diet and the availability of tobacco since World War II.

Associate Professor Rod Jackson, of the University of Auckland, said while western countries were becoming more conscious about eating and smoking habits, the South Pacific Islands were going the other way.

"The result is that while we're conquering heart attacks and strokes, the Pacific Islanders are suffering more,'' said Prof Jackson. In Australia and New Zealand, diets and smoking habits had changed dramatically, said Prof Jackson.

"The major cause of coronary heart disease is eating too much animal fat and smoking. "We are dumping the cheaper cuts of meat, with more fat, on the South Pacific nations. We are doing it with butter as well. "What they need to do is rediscover their local foods and realise that foods being imported from Australia and New Zealand are not good for them.''

For the John Flynn team, education is all part of the process and it will tutor more Fijian doctors on how to perform angiograms, and ultimately, angioplasty. Dr Linton said the ultimate goal was to have a well-established clinic in Suva with trained medics, skilled enough to perform life-saving coronary procedures.

"That is the goal, the aim, and we believe we can school the local doctors into being able to treat people with life-threatening cardiac diseases," he said.

"Right now, they have nothing. It costs $45,000 to send a patient to Australia for bypass operation and that is simply not an option for a poor country such as Fiji.'' There are other charitable organisations in Suva to tackle the problem of coronary heart disease in Fiji, including the establishment of a special foundation, comprising local and New Zealand business professionals.

The Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation aims to send to Fiji medical teams comprising cardiac surgeons, technicians and complex and expensive equipment required to perform bypass surgeries on patients suffering particularly from valvular heart disease.

Valvular heart disease includes the condition commonly known as 'hole in the heart'. This month the foundation sent its first 25-person medical team with equipment and supplies to Fiji, led by Dr Vinod Singh, a consulting physician and trustee.

The team included two cardiac surgeons, three cardiac anaesthetists/intensivists, a cardiologist, technicians and 11 intensive care and clinical care nurses.

Adapted from November 15th, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


YOUNG people in Fiji have great talent in the musical world but because many take for granted such talents, success in their music careers only reaches a certain stage, and most fail to pursue this.

It has also been suggested that lack of support from society has contributed to the non-development of young talents and community members need to form groups, including church groups, to help the youths of Fiji develop their singing skills and show the world the unique talents, particularly traditional music that still exist in our society.
Samoan musician and coordinator of the Malaga Group, a well known University of the South Pacific musical group, Igelese Ete spoke to Serafina Silaitoga at the Savusavu Music Festival about the talents that exist in Fiji and what the community can do to make the world recognise the potential among young people.

Times: When did you come to Fiji?
Ete: I came last year in January to teach at the University of the South Pacific, becoming a senior lecturer in music.

Times: What do you think about the talent among young people in the musical world?
Ete: I think it's like the talent in rugby that we see here in Fiji. The natural talents are here and once exposed to development will enable the young people and upcoming singers to become better with their skills and as a result they can sing anywhere in the world. Not only with music but with dance as well. We Pacific islanders are known for these talents and I see a lot of it here in Fiji.

Times: Have you visited members of the community including those in villages to hold consultations on what they can do to develop such talent?
Ete: I have visited villages and seen great talents. I also notice that most of them are in church group choirs and that's where they sing and that is also where their talents in music is developed. Some even join other groups outside the church boundary, singing in bands in nightclubs or hotels and this is also good because it helps develop talent.

Times: What are some obstacles you see that have hindered such talents from being recognised in Fiji?
Ete: The main hindrance would be the non-existence of groups in society that youths can join to help develop their music talents. What I have seen is the lack of support for the young people who want to develop their music talents with the unavailability of groups that will attract the young people or have the type of music that young people enjoy because that will help develop their talents and skills of singing. There are hardly any organisations around that are relevant to young people. There may be some groups in society but the music involved is not relevant to young people and that's why young people don't want to join them. I don't blame them. There are some songs that are popular with our parents or the older generation but are not popular with the young people. It's a different style now and they have to be attracted to what they do and being passionate about the songs they sing. It's a situation that's got to be relevant especially when the locals sing and dance very well. Like the members of this Malaga group, I teach them songs that will inspire them.

Times: So it's important that the young people enjoy the songs and be attracted to it as that helps develop their talents.
Ete: Absolutely. You got to give them songs they enjoy singing because if they are given songs they don't like, they will not give their best. As for me the songs I teach my group has to inspire them and we have seen that those that watch or have heard us sing, tell us that they were also inspired by the songs sung by the group. And it's simply because these young people are inspired by what they do.

Times: Like in athletics, the young people are known or recognised for their talents on the tracks and in this case, for their singing talents, but after that season of fame, there is nothing more. They don't produce their own albums or continue singing in bands or in nightclubs.
Ete: That's true and it is something we need to develop here with big companies in the music industry that will support these young people throughout their singing career from being identified in the initial stages to days of becoming successful. This should also include sending them overseas for exposure as it will develop their skills and talents in singing. Or have music festivals in communities like this Savusavu Music Festival, and bring over the music industry producers from overseas to see the talents we have. And then they get to see the talents available locally and what they can offer our young singers especially when we have our own style of singing here in the Pacific. There is no where else in the world you can hear our type of music and that's the best way to further develop the singing talents of the young people.

Times: What are your views about traditional music?
Ete: I think it's a great art of music and the music of the Fijian culture blending with modern music is just a unique sound and attracts people, like other Pacific island cultural music. In Fiji, Black Rose does, and George Fiji Veikoso in Hawaii and if we continue to develop our own style we will inspire other countries. But we should stick to traditional music and have our own style because there will definitely be something in music that Fiji can offer to the world. Traditional music needs to be grasped by people around.

Times: What's the role of the community in helping young people develop their talents in singing?
Ete: It will be good if members of the community get together and form groups that are relevant to the young people and have the kind of music young people enjoy because when this happens, the youths will take it on from there. They just feed off each other with ideas and encourage each other, becoming role models for each other. Forming such groups also is a positive move for the young people because they will be occupied with the music world instead of turning to drugs or alcohol. It will also instill in these young people a purpose of living, they will think positive and know a purpose in life because they will realise they have talents to become successful, they realise they can do different types of meke and modern day dancing and basically know they can make a difference in society. We also need to encourage them. So it's important that we help our young people in this area. There is so much talent here but there needs to be a lot of support and good organisation. So forming groups is important because that is when we can put together our talents and show the world that we have something to offer because we live in a small country compared to the United States, Australia and other bigger countries that have developed world known singers.

Times: Does piracy affect the potential of developing the talents and skills of musicians?
Ete: Yes and it is something that authorities are trying to crack down on. It affects musicians because there are pirate copies being made and the musician does not gain anything. Musicians need to make a living and piracy does not help at all. Some are put off by this and even lose hope pursing their musical career so it is very important that the crime of piracy is tracked down by authorities.

Adapted from November 13th, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007


TOURISM can be Fiji's answer to many problems.

I have been fortunate to be invited to some tourism workshops where development plans have been highlighted to stakeholders. Fiji has a diversity of tourism products to sell its visitors. Apart from the people, sun and sand, Fiji has so much to offer in terms of art and craft and culture to name a few.

I am proud to be part of some of these workshops highlighting the importance of our culture and everything associated with it. Women have been encouraged to get active by making more products with traditional touch.

The women in Fiji will be able to supply handicraft in various forms creating employment as well as helping keep our culture alive. After several years in fashion designing and my new found interest in art, I am pleased to say that I have contributed to tourism through my Masi bridal designer wear which is loved by all races.

Today I feature one such artwork in masi for Dipti, pictured, who was awarded the "Miss Personality" at the Hibiscus Festival. Dipti's masi outfit for the Fijian/Pacific night was enhanced with rows of feather as well as magimagi and shells.

The bottom skirt had several miniature "iri" or fans with matching feathers and front of the skirt had a curved overlap. The outfit was lined with cotton backing under the masi for continuous strength. I wholeheartedly support Dipti's achievement and she fully deserved the title because her creativity and cheerful personality made my work so easy.

With so many such pageants in Fiji as well as the Pacific and Asia, the demand for the best gowns and ethnic wear would be greater. This can be our chance to cash in.

Fiji has been rated as one of top five inspirational honeymoon and wedding destinations in the world and this would be another chance to show our visitors what we have. There is a whole market of traditional designer wear waiting to be tapped in.

Many that come here end up buying only summer dresses. Shopping in Fiji is a significant tourist activity but you will find that there are lots of imported goods that can be designed and produced.

We can work together to really sell Fiji for its true value. For those of you who have faithfully followed these Sunday features and would like to get involved in a project to sell Fiji, e-mail me on:
Adpted from November 11th, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

MUSIC - A Viable Career Path

Since its establishment in 1992, the Fiji Performing Rights Association has been battling for the rights of musicians. It has been an up-hill battle in light of the rampant piracy here.

The emergence of programmed music is of concern to the association, which feels it is stifling the creativity of artists and discouraging live sound. Among efforts to promote live music are competitions like the Young Mussos Acclaim and the Fiji Secondary Schools Original Song Competition scheduled for this month.

This week FIPRA chairman Eremasi Tamanisau spoke to ERNEST HEATLEY about the problems composers face and how they hoped to address them.

TIMES: Tell us about the primary work of FIPRA?
Tamanisau: Our core role is to license all users of copyright music, local and international, and to distribute the fees collected as royalty. It has taken quite a lot of awareness work by FIPRA because all businesses were initially reluctant to pay fees but our legal basis is the Copyright Act of 1999.

Times: How many businesses are paying fees to FIPRA?
Tamanisau: There are a number of them, including the Fiji Broadcasting Commission Ltd, Communications Fiji Ltd, World Harvest Centre along with television stations like Fiji Television and PBS. There are other revenue sources like Webmasters who distribute our music on the internet and companies like ANZ, FNPF and Colonial Bank who pay for using music on hold.
Fees are paid for downloads or mobile ring-tones We've signed a reciprocal agreement with the Australian Performing Rights Association to administer all international and local repertoire performed in Fiji. For example, the FBC pays us a certain percentage of its gross advertising revenue as a blanket fee every year.

Times: How concerned is your association about increasing piracy in the country?
Tamanisau: Unfortunately the breaching of copyright is rampant piracy. People are so confident in doing this because the enforcement by police is virtually non-existent. You can be fined $5000 per infringing copy and up to $50,000. A person can face 18 months imprisonment. It is a constitutional requirement for the police to enforce all laws and if they are failing in this, then they are failing in their constitutional duty. The question that comes to mind is whether to take the Commissioner of Police to task on this. It is depriving musicians and composers of a livelihood for their families.

Times: Why is FIPRA concerned about the effect of programmed music?
Tamanisau: There is one use for programmed music in that it reduces labour costs but when you go overboard and have everything done on a computer then that is worrying. A computer does not express emotions. It does not have any feelings. The one thing about it is that it is killing the restive talent of our young musicians. It's not really about going back to the good old days but more about marrying the two together. You can not ignore the progress in technology but at the same time, we do not want to take away the harmony in our music.

Times: Comparing the local music now to decades ago, how much of a difference has there been in terms of the availability of real live music?
Tamanisau: We used to have great live bands in the past at places like The Dragon and Lucky Eddies. There were acts like Ulysees, Sangfroid Ride, Mary Jane, Spinning Wheel. later on you had bands like Rootstrata and Exodus. These were great groups and live musicians. The great thing about live music is their feeling and emotion. There is a feeling of harmony in the music.

Times: Tell us more about the upcoming Fiji secondary Schools Original Song Competition through which you hope to encourage more live music?
Tamanisau: The inaugural event, won by Gospel High School, was held last year on December 1, but it had unfortunately coincided with the military takeover. This year the event is on November 16 at the Suva Civic Auditorium and so far we have had a lot of interest shown by schools from diverse locations like QVS, Sigatoka Methodist, Rishikul and Saint Joseph's Secondary. However, we will be choosing the best 10 schools to compete on that day and we are yet to go through the vetting process.

Times: What will be the criteria for selection?
Tamanisau: Each school will be allowed a maxim of two original songs.
It has to be an original song that has been composed by a student or a group of students and it has to be performed live by students. Only one group is allowed from each school. As a rule we are discouraging the use of cover tunes because this will work against our aim of encouraging originality among the participating students.

Times: What do you generally hope to achieve with this event?
Tamanisau: This is to encourage creativity and originality and to foster the development of live performances of singing and mastery of musical instruments. This even is to encourage students to know that music is a viable career path.
Adapted from November 8, 2007