Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'There is no such thing as a poor Fijian'

'There is no such thing as a poor Fijian'
By Alisi Daurewa - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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An indigenous farmer toils the land to feed her family
In my paternal grandfather's vocabulary, there was no such thing as a poor Fijian, only a lazy one. He died aged 89 in 1971.

One of the biggest challenges faced by agents of change today in their work to reduce poverty and hardship is the dependency syndrome that seems prevalent in the local culture.

Fiji is no different.

I wonder whether it is because we are more at fault for failing to listen carefully to those we target.

We fool ourselves with the notion that we are here to save the world and disregard their own knowledge accompanied by generations of customary practice that may seem different to what we were taught yet embrace also the common principles of human rights and democracy.

As a result, we either unthinkingly or connivingly influence a people into shifting from independent to dependent mode, only to suit our agenda.

Susan George's 'How the Other Half Dies' said "...the West had tried to apply its own conception of 'development' to the third world developing countries working through local elites and pretending that the benefits showered on these elites would trickle down to the less fortunate, especially through the whole application of Western inspired and Western-supplied technology. These methods have not produced a single independent and viable economy in the entire Third World and in fact, were not meant to. 'Development' has been password for imposing a new kind of dependency, for enriching the already rich world and for shaping other societies to meet its commercial and political needs...."

Fiji recently celebrated its 38th year of Independence on October 10.

Given our history of coup de' tat and current events, it is probably more correct to say that we celebrated our shift in dependence from one external power to the other.

Our chiefs confirmed our dependence on Britain in 1874 and we became subjects of Queen Victoria.

In 1970, our political leaders confirmed our dependence on the Western power houses including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Forum, and treaties that now hang us by the noose as we struggle with our National Charter for Building a Better Fiji.

The world's tune though, that Fiji is dancing to, is getting off-beat as the pyramid of economic power begins to fall starting with America. We face panic.

Whether we are in a position to counter what is to come is unknown but we can at least prepare ourselves by looking within, and, learn from our past.

What I will shortly share is about a people who lived in an era where peace was non-existent and some of the strategies they used to survive. It is about God's hand in a culture that became richer as life progressed from a time to another.

It is about a man born out of a past that gave him the skills to survive in unfamiliar territory, where there was no preferential treatment.

He coped because he did not dwell in self-pity.

He trusted his inner strength. He was not lazy.

My paternal grandfather came from a background of much diversity.

His ancestors left the colo (hinterland) of Viti Levu, a place called Nasaunokonoko, after a dispute that saw their heritage destroyed as kinsfolk fled to other parts of Fiji.

They settled for a while in coastal Vunibau, Serua and later sailed the seas where they saw land and named it Ono.

They finally made Natumua, (meaning our end, our way) in Tavuki, Kadavu their home.

Peace was a Godsend in those days because much of their effort was spent on building territories through warfare. And to maintain power, their people were placed strategically in new found places.

Such as establishing the chiefly household in Yale district and calling it Naivibati, after their people of Naivi.

And, leaving some of their own in Matasawalevu in the district of Nakasaleka whose mataqali is registered, Naivilailai.

Natumua became the centre stage for battle during those volatile days in Nacolase.

Sites that exist today in Natumua bear names like Gagabokola where the captured were soaked in the sea until their bodies became tasty meat to eat.

Nubunisona is where the weak and the sick were left soaking to die, if not from the cold southerly winds, from hunger and as food for bigger fish.

Uluimoala, previously called Uluimakawe, the highest mountain in Tavuki, is testimony to the Moala (of Lau) chiefs' gratitude to Natumua for having helped them in battle.

May I seek your indulgence for this digress.

Sir James Ah Koy's Chinese gene is often credited with his business acumen.

Yet if not for his ancestor of Waisomo's shrewdness, the chiefly house in Tavuki might instead have been elsewhere for Natumua had killed its chief and Tavuki had to seek help from Waisomo.

Waisomo, smart enough to accept Natumua's might knew its weakness for beautiful women. Waisomo mesmerised Natumua with a pretty maiden which cost Natumua's position of power.

So against this background of pain and death, God allowed the unexpected by using the same fearsome Natumua, through Naivibati in Yale, to receive Christianity for Kadavu, brought by the Methodists of Viwa, Bau.

Natumua later gave Nasalia to the Catholics. Much later, one of Natumua's own son, a recipient of the military medal for bravery during the Malayan campaign became the first local head of the Assemblies of God Church in Fiji.

God worked his miracle further.

Natumua built a church in 1979 to accommodate the seven Christian denominations which used the same building according to a roster that was prepared in unison by the people.

This practice remains today.

Natumua is only a very small example of how our forefathers lived with change. There are many others in Fiji, untold, more fascinating and intriguing. The man who said there was no poor Fijian, only a lazy one, left Natumua with his young family in the 1930s for medical treatment in Suva. He decided to remain when he saw what education in an urban school did to his children.

His daughter topped the country in the first qualifying examination for nurses.

She was also the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Plaque awarded to the best all around nurse of the year in the early 1950s.

His other children did equally well.

His only son made it to medical school but forced to join the civil service out of necessity to help feed the family which by then included many relatives.

My paternal grandfather was not at all disempowered by his lack of western education but instead showed his inherent skill of survival in many ways.

One day, on learning that his employer in Toorak refused to pay him the promised rate for some casual work, he took upon payment for himself by carrying off the white man's prized furniture down Amy street and along the way, threatening to throw it down the gulley. He was soon paid his just wage.

On another occasion, he and his kin from Naivibati decided the row of empty beer bottles decorating the graves in Lovonilase would be better used, if sold for cash to feed their families.

They had started uprooting the bottles when up came the Prisons' Officer.

The Naivibati relative on noticing the advancing officer took off with the few bottles already collected.

But grandfather trusted his sixth sense and pretended to restructure the whole grave.

The officer thinking this was very noble, allowed him to continue.

I wonder what these two men would have thought of the $20 million chiefs' building in Nasese, against a background of surrounding squatter settlements.

On another occasion during the second world war, the Fijians who stayed behind were mobilised as handymen for the army. Some of them were 'wharfees' including my grandfather.

They also underwent practice drills of fitness and were grouped according to their provinces.

During a practice march session, on leading Kadavu, my grandfather who could not speak English had to master his instructions in this foreign language.

He was okay with the pronunciation of lefte (left) and raiti (right) but struggled with 'about turn'.

He managed instead with his own Kadavu translation.

My grandfather had little tolerance for chiefs who did not know their role.

On arriving at his district meeting in a Suva house one evening, he found all the senior men sitting in a row at the top end of the room, with a handful of young men, serving them. He told the men sitting at the top that if they did not truly know their place, then he was not going to participate in a meeting with a bunch of idiots.

He walked out.

A painful issue close to my paternal grandfather's heart was being told his only son was not good enough for his daughter-in-law whose family begrudgingly accepted a marriage they believed was beneath her.

This must have rattled his pride. But he dealt with it in a subtle manner.

He made sure his 'susumadrai' grandchildren spoke the language of Natumua in his presence.

To this day, I am forever grateful for his wisdom.

It is said that the strength of a man is never without that of a strong woman.

Yes, my paternal grandfather was able to achieve what he did with the grace and quiet dignity of his prayerful wife.

She was from Wailevu in Ravitaki, nurtured by a Tongan mother from Pelehaki in Tongatapu.

This couple now lie in their graves side by side in the Nasinu cemetery.

Their descendents range from lawyers to architect, surveyor, doctor, engineer, pilot, nurses, missionary, accountants, teachers and soldiers to name a few.

During the 1998 tsunami disaster in Aitape, Papua New Guinea, the Fiji Government sent a senior military officer to assess the damage. The Australian Government through the Royal Australian Air Force recalled one of its senior officer from the Phillipines to travel to PNG to also assess the damage.

These two men are grandsons of the paternal grandfather who once claimed there was no poor Fijian, only a lazy one.

* These are the personal views of the author and not of Partners In Community Development Fiji, where she is the executive director.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The end of a 38-year career

The end of a 38-year career
Monday, October 27, 2008
After 38 years of teaching, Serupepeli Kuroyavaki Kunalagi is calling it a day and plans to spend the rest of his days with the family.
The proud educator has taught at 12 different schools in Fiji and believes the opportunity to help students learn the importance of a good education is rewarding.
Originally from Vunaqoru Village, Naqalimare in Nadroga, Seru wanted to be a policeman when he was younger.
He felt a responsibility to uphold the law as a citizen but when his parents were not keen on the idea, Serupepeli decided to join the teaching profession.
The 60-year old had a hard life growing up especially spending most of his school days away from home.
His father, Timoci Kunalagi, was the resident medical expert in their village while his mother Mere Rokoroko looked after the family.
"When I told my parents I wanted to be a policeman, they were against it because they thought I would put them in jail if they did something bad one day," he said.
"My father was a medicine man and whenever people in the village were sick or needed help, he was able to tell them what was wrong.
"He would even refer them to people in other villages who were experts in using herbal medicine to cure a particular illness.
"My mother spent most of her time looking after us and making sure we had everything we needed."
Third in the family of six, Serupepeli attended primary school at Saint Joan of Ark in Sigatoka.
Because his family lived far from the primary school, Serupepeli had to live with relatives in Yavulo Village which was close to the school.
He completed form six at Ratu Sukuna Memorial. He applied to what was then known as the Nasinu Teachers College, now Fiji College of Advanced Education.
"When I was at Nasinu Teachers College, I received an acceptance letter to attend the University of the South Pacific but it was too late because I was already enrolled at NTC," said Serupepeli.
"I trained for a year in 1970 and got my first posting in 1971 to Bua College. The experience taught me a lot and it was the beginning of a profession I've never regretted.
"In 1974, I was transferred to Navakasiga District for three years. I also spent time four years at Conua District then another three years at Noikoro District.
"In 1986, I taught at Koroinasau Primary and then spent a year at Vatulele District. Other schools I taught at include Naqalimare District, Viwa District, Nokonoko District, Nalagi Primary, Sigatoka Methodist and Yalavou Public."
He was transferred back to Naqalimare District this year until he retired on October 24.
And like any other school teacher, Serupepeli said the profession made him a happy man especially when students are happy.
The father of six children attributed his success as a school teacher to God. He said without the blessings and guidance from above, he would not have been able to carry out his passion efficiently.
"Those thinking of taking up this profession should be honest with themselves so they can teach their students honestly," he said. "I would like to thank God for guiding me especially at the different schools I taught because they were at remote places.
"I plan to spend the rest of my retirement with my family but I will miss teaching because it has helped me in more ways than one," said Serupepeli who lives in Sigatoka.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Taukei Vidilo Title Chiefly battle goes to court

Chiefly battle goes to court - Saturday, October 25, 2008

THE Supreme Court has granted Ratu Joni Satala special leave to appeal against a Fiji Court of Appeal decision which refused him a chiefly tile.
The Turaga Taukei Vidilo title is before the courts to determine a rightful successor.
The court heard the dispute arose between Ratu Joni and Ratu Viliame Bouwalu following the death of Ratu Malelili Naulivou in 1999.
The FCA ruled the Native Lands and Fisheries Commission decided that further time be given to Ratu Viliame and Ratu Nacanieli to prepare them for the position of leadership.
The commission confirmed the chiefly position properly belongs to them but it is also satisfied that neither of them received sufficient support from the members of the tokatoka Navitua, mataqali Vidilo in Namoli. The commission declared Ratu Malelili should assume the position of Taukei Vidilo but in an acting capacity.
Ratu Nacanieli and Ratu Viliame applied to the High Court for a judicial review on that decision but this was refused. The 1991 decision of the commission stood and Ratu Malelili held the title until his death.
Ratu Nacanieli died during the lifetime of Ratu Malelili and on the latter's death the only claimant from the elder branch was Ratu Viliame. However, Ratu Joni, the eldest son of Ratu Malelili, also claimed the title.
The commission confirmed that since Ratu Viliame is alive, it was correct for him to take leadership.
Granting the appeal, the Supreme Court ruled Ratu Joni is a privy in blood and interest of his father.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Relatives farewell Tui Nadi

Relatives farewell Tui Nadi - 10/15/2008

More than 500 people attended Tui Nadi, Ratu Napolioni Naulianano Ragigia Dawai’s funeral at Narewa village yesterday.

Ratu Napolioni Dawai was only 39 and died in Suva after a short illness.

His brother, Apolosi Ratu, 28, said close relatives, friends and the villagers were shocked when they received the news that Ratu Napolioni had died.

Ratu Apolosi said his brother was regarded as a great chief and leader.

Ratu Napolioni Dawai is survived by his wife, Laise Kacilala Dawai and four children, Ratu Luke, Ratu Navula, Ratu Napolioni and Adi Marica.

“Ratu Napolioni Dawai was loved by the villagers because he looked after them and listened to them,” said Ratu Apolosi.

“His passing away has shocked the village and left an emptiness which cannot be filled.

“He was a leader of the people and also served as a board member in Ba Provincial Council, and chairman of the Nadi tikina council.

“He will be missed very much as he was a great person and easy to talk to.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chiefly taboo lifted

Chiefly taboo lifted
By ANARE RAVULA - Sunday, October 12, 2008

THE traditional taboo following the death of the Tui Levuka Ratu Kolinio Rokotuinaceva has been lifted.

This is after the traditional ceremony of vakatarasulu at his village of Levuka Vakaviti.

Close to 1000 people from Ucinivanua in Verata, Saiweke in Gau, Bureonoco in Rewa, Lomanisau in Tokatoka, Tailevu, Mua in Batiki, Nabukebuke in Namosi and villagers within the Tikina Levuka, gathered at the village on Ovalau Island yesterday. The people hold close traditional ties to Levuka Vakaviti.

Also present at the ceremony was Namosi paramount chief Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, who led the delegation from Nabukebuke.

The people of the tikina Levuka could not fish in their traditional fishing grounds or qoliqoli during the 100-night mourning period.

Chiefly household elder Useia Delai said the event was a historical one for the people of Levuka.

People witnessed the gifts of mats, oil, masi and food presented to the tikina Levuka by those with close traditional ties. Ratu Kolinio died at the Levuka Hospital on Ovalau after a short illness in mid-June.

Lomaiviti Provincial Council chairman Ratu Jolame Lewanavua said Ratu Kolinio was a chief who helped all kinds of people irrespective of race, gender and religion.

Lomaiviti people remember high chief


Close to 400 people from all over Levuka and Lomaiviti gathered at Levuka
Village to commemorate the 100th night vigil of the late Tui Levuka Ratu Kolinio Rokotuinaceva.

Ratu Kolinio died at 72 years of age at Levuka hospital on June 14 following a short illness.

Yesterday, villagers and close relatives gathered at the village celebrating the occasion with traditional gifts presented to representatives of villages in the province.

Lisi Tinivakaca who spoke on behalf of the chiefly family said it was a significant day for the people. She said the death of Ratu Kolinio has brought the people of Levuka closer to the chiefly family.

“I think today is a great day for family ties to be rekindle,” she said.

“This is a day which the people meet and get to know each other and strengthen blood dies.”

Chiefs who were present include Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano and Ratu Tuikitau Cokanauto. Representatives of chiefly villages from Nukuloa, Gau, Solevu, Waido, Nabukebuke, Vunivesi and Qaranikula were also part of the event.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Happy birthday Fiji

Happy birthday Fiji
Reverend James Bhagwan - Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The long weekend is approaching. Well for you in Fiji anyway. Friday, October 10, being Fiji Day will be a public holiday and apart from the usual official events many will take the opportunity to enjoy an early start to the weekend.

Around the world, however, many Fijians will take the day off or get together at the weekend to renew their friendships and remember their homeland.

The United Kingdom is no exception. The Fiji High Commission will celebrate Fiji Day on Thursday the 9th with a reception complete, according to the coconut cellphone network, with a lovo.

Many Fijians living overseas use this day to get the underground oven, which some times ends up being an over ground or even kitchen oven (depending on relevant laws) fired up. Considering that the Saturday (4/10) Daily Telegraph newspaper announced the arrival of winter with cold and rainy days forecast, those who brave the weather for the sake of tradition will end up being the heroes of the day.

In the desert heat of the Sinai Peninsula, the men and women of 2FIR "Fiji Batt" of the Multinational Force and Observers at the MFO Headquarters at El Gora will have a delayed Fiji Day celebration which includes the different songs and meke performances for guests from among their colleagues at MFO.

This event, complete with lovo and special Fijian gifts for guests, is considered by the organisers to be a way of promoting Fiji and the 2FIR's contribution to tourism.

It will be a special week for me as the Fiji Day reception in London coincides with my older sister Lois's birthday (very convenient as it saves on a party, whichever way you look at it).

The actual Fiji Day of October 10 is marked by a special Evensong service at Westminster Abbey.

I fondly remember my last Fiji Day in London in 2000, when amidst the post May 19 crisis those of us gathered in Westminster Abbey to pray for our nation and our families.

This year again many, both home and away will pray for peace and harmony in Fiji.

Despite the accents and different patterns of speech, the different styles of dress and customs we adopt, we Fijians are a patriotic lot.

And not just when the Flying Fijians (7s or 15s) take the field or Vijay Singh hits a hole in one.

While the debate continues on a common name at home, those of us abroad find ourselves being called or calling ourselves Fijian.

Somehow Fiji Islander, even a brand I used to promote, does not have the gravitas that being a Fijian bestows.

In the days leading up to both my eldest sister's birthday (this year also coinciding with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement) and Fiji Day on the horizon and being away from home, I have been reflecting on what Fiji Day means to us, given the long and winding road we are trudging along.

As a local television and radio producer, I have covered many Fiji Day events around the country. I find it rather disappointing that of the many re-enactments of the Cession of 1874, I have yet to see a re-enactment of the 1970 Independence ceremony.

While we have countless young Fijian men happily donning cotton-wool beards to play the part of Ratu Seru Cakobau, or suit to portray Sir Hercules Robinson and others present; no one seems to be interested in taking up the role of Prince Charles or Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Even the Instruments of Independence, so formally presented by the Prince of Wales to then Prime Minister Mara have been waylaid.

It seems that we have as much chance of finding it as the US Forces have of finding Osama bin Laden.

So we celebrate our independence by remembering our cession.

The official documents of independence are missing. Is it any wonder why we are in the situation we are in today? We romanticise the past and look suspiciously at the future.

Many will pray and fast on Fiji Day and then ignore the voice of God in their hardened hearts.

Thirty-eight years since ostensibly being given control of its destiny Fiji continues to allow itself to be dictated to by countries whose foreign policy is and will always be the benefit of itself and its people, not ours.

Over the past twenty one years Fiji has given them every excuse and opportunity to do so.

Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher wrote that, "When the leader is morally weak and his discipline not strict, when his instructions and guidance are not enlightened, when there are no consistent rules, neighbouring rulers will take advantage of this." (Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 500BC)

How do we make our nation stronger? How do we as a people, as a country withstand the onslaught of globalisation through the homogenisation of culture, the promotion of individualism, materialism and the consumer mentality, which looks good from a capitalist point of view, results in economic and social disaster as the current financial crises of the United States and Europe plainly show us?

How do we protect our country from moral decay and corrupt leadership?

How do we as a people achieve the task received thirty eight years ago to be a nation that stands united, that honours and defends the cause of freedom ever? How do we march onward together?

I don't have the answers. I wish I did but I don't. Not all of them. But many of us have and continue to seek these answers, trusting in our intellect, the lessons that have been learnt throughout history, the mistakes of ourselves and others and trusting in the grace of God.

Let us share the answers we find. Let us listen to one another. Let us work together as a people, a nation. Let us celebrate our commonality and our desire for peace and brighter future.

That's the best birthday present we could give our country this year.

Happy birthday Fiji.

May the rest of your week and your Fiji Day weekend be blessed with love, light and peace.

* Reverend James Bhagwan is an award-winning radio and television producer and writer. He is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the Faculty. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organisation that Mr Bhagwan is affiliated with. Email:

Tui Nadi dies

Tui Nadi dies - Wednesday, October 08, 2008

TUI Nadi Ratu Napolioni Dawai passed away last weekend after suffering from a short illness.
Ratu Napolioni was the member of the Ba Provincial Council.
He was also the chairman of the Nadi Tikina Council.
Ratu Napolioni was installed in November 1994, a year after his father Tui Nadi passed away.
A family member who wished not to be named said they were still discussing about the funeral arrangement.
Ratu Napolioni is survived by his wife Laise Kacilala Dawai, his sons Ratu Luke, Ratu Navula, Ratu Napolioni and his daughter Adi Marica.

GCC nominees sent to ministry

GCC nominees sent to ministry - Wednesday, October 08, 2008

THE Great Council of Chiefs Taskforce team leader, Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo, has received the names of new nominees from the provinces and forwarded them to the Fijian Affairs Ministry.
"We have played our part but the details of who the new look GCC members will be and when they will convene will be made by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama," he said.
Ratu Josateki said most provinces rejected their submissions so they went to the bose vanua to get the numbers to convene the GCC.
He said Commodore Bainimarama was reluctant to take that path after the provinces rejected the move to submit new names.
"That path would create conflicts so now the GCC would be like this for a while," he said.
Commodore Bainimarama said on radio yesterday there would be no GCC if the provinces failed to cooperate because a number of them had not made any submissions.
He said this raised the issue of the relevance of the institution.
The Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, said the GCC should be reinstated because it was the only institution capable of dealing with crisis situations in Fiji.
Ratu Naiqama said the GCC had shown its colors after previous coups and that their decisions stood out.
"The institution has been there before the Deed of Cession and it is where the chiefs of this country rest issues of serious implications," he said.
Ratu Naiqama said reconciliation could start with the GCC.
The new-look GCC needs 35 names of installed chiefs before it could be convened.
The Rotuma Council of Chiefs also agreed to join the new look GCC after the seven districts gave it their support.