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