Friday, October 30, 2009

Retiree banks on pearl farm -Saturday, October 31, 2009

BANKING on the sea, the country's first indigenous pearl exporter has called on more indigenous farmers to join him in farming the highly sought after jewellery.

Ratu Jone Maivalili, who exported pearls to Japan for the first time last year, said landowners -- especially those living along the coast -- should start thinking outside the box of traditional crops.

"We are so used to dalo and yaqona that we feel safe in farming them," he said.

"That's why we are reluctant to try something new and challenging.

"There should be a movement now on exploring alternatives like pearl farming which can rival any other crop in terms of the return income."

Ratu Jone, a former pilot, took the leap into the unknown when he started farming oysters in 2001.

"I used to get my oysters from diving on the reefs and when I started I knew little about pearl farming," he said.

"But that was the best thing about it because I'm learning new things every day like building my own base at sea, implanting nuclei, identifying the quality of pearl and so forth.

"There was a lot of trial and error before the finished product eight years on."

Ratu Jone -- who farms within three bays Matuku, Urata and Mua Bay in Savusavu -- has almost 70,000 oysters and exported 3000 pearls to Japan last year.

"This is my bank in the sea," he said.

The 55-year-old farmer said financial assistance should be available if indigenous farmers are to be encouraged into pearl farming.

"I wouldn't have been able to make it this far without the financial assistance I received from the Northern Development Program this year," he said.

"The initial investment is high in terms of capital and technical support but the return is high so it is a good type of farming for coastal villagers because it would create employment."

Senior Fisheries Officer Cakaudrove Joji Vuakaca asked the provincial council to consider encouraging landowners into this type of farming as well as just fishing

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ba Chief Promotes Education Support

More Ba students need financial support: Chief - Friday, October 30, 2009

EVERY year, more children from the Ba province are in need of financial support to help them complete their education.

Ba Provincial Council chairman, Ratu Meli Saukuru said this was the main reason for the annual Adi Salusalu Carnival.

"This year, in the tertiary level alone, there were more than 300 children who were supported through the previous year's fundraising. This costs about $56,000," Ratu Meli said.

In 2008, about $72,000 was allocated for tertiary students alone.

The province has a total of 32 kindergartens, 36 primary schools, six secondary schools and three Bible schools.

Ratu Meli said they used to included sporting activities during the three and a half day carnival, however this year, they decided to focus on choir competitions.

"About 150 choirs are participating in the competition. Our decision to focus on singing is to praise God regardless of what church denomination villagers are from."

As of yesterday afternoon, more than $42,000 had been collected from the 22 stalls at Churchill Park.

Ratu Meli said the carnival was an opportune time for people to get together and enjoy the fun.

"The provincial council meeting is held every year but that is only for chiefs. So this carnival allows the people from the various tikina to get together and to be aware of what is happening in the province," he said.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A testament to times gone by - 26 October 2009

Prominent feature ... the Vatanitawake on Bau Island.

When you travel to Bau Island two distinguishing features grab your attention as you leave Bau Landing on Viti Levu.

One is the mausoleum that holds the remains of all paramount chiefs of the island, including Ratu Seru Cakobau – who ceded Fiji to Great Britain in 1874.

The other is the Vatanitawake – or traditional priest’s house.

Way before Christianity took a firm grip on these islands, traditional priests or bete were the so-called go-to guys in all aspects of life.

The bete held sway in villages and were second only in stature to chiefs.

Such was their influence that bure kalou (god houses) were built in every village to appease deities like Cagawalu of Bau, Batimona (who had an appetite for human brains) and Mainatavasara, whose name means fresh from the slaughter.

The bete were consulted before a tribe went to war, when people were sick, when the chiefs needed to make serious decisions – which is probably why they lived better off than ordinary villagers.

The Vatanitawake has existed in some form even from the Middle Ages. Early pictures and drawings of Bau show the Vatanitawake as a prominent feature.

Earlier accounts of life on the 20-acre island show that its occupants have changed now and again but the Vatanitawake has been a prominent feature.

Until the early 1800s it was home to the Delaikorolevu people, the Butoni who lived in the lower areas and the Levuka people – who were known as the Dwellers on the Hill.

Sometime in the mid 1700s Nailatikau, who later became Vunivalu, attacked and conquered the island and banished the occupants.

Records show Nailatikau was succeeded by his son Banuve, who died from the wasting sickness, and the title passed on to the warrior chief Naulivou.

But back to the Vatanitawake – its design and features have changed from the thatched bure type house to the one that stands on the island today – which features a corrugated iron roof, wooden doors and a raised foundation.

Records also show that 12 Tongan warriors were buried there after the Battle of Kaba in 1855. This is after Tonga’s King George Tupou I bolstered Ratu Seru Cakobau’s meager forces while the Vunivalu was taking on traditional foe Rewa.

The burial was Ratu Seru’s way of saying thank you to the Tongans.

These days it used for mainly ceremonial purposes like the installation of the Roko Tui Bau, the principal chief on the island – a sign of the changing times.

When former Vice President and lawyer Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi was installed as Roko Tui Bau he spent four days in isolation inside the Vatanitawake.

It could also be in use soon when Bau chooses another Vunivalu to succeed the late Ratu Sir George Cakobau.

It just goes to show that this building has transcended changing times from being a centrepoint of decision-making to now one of ceremonial uses only.

Drinking from a human skull - 26 October 2009

In the old days defeated warriors were eaten and their skulls used as cups.

Back in 1800s, when cannibalism was still very much a part of Fijians' daily diet, human skulls were used as drinking cups.

Not much is known about these relics but there are historical accounts of rare occasions when the human skulls were used as drinking cups.

William Diaper in Erskine's book, 'A journal of a cruise among the islands of the Western Pacific' - talks of two human skulls used as yaqona drinking cups in a spirit house (bure kalou) in Mouta, Macuata in Vanua Levu.

It was only on rare occasions when a chief wanted to have part of an enemy's skull for a soup-dish or drinking cup - that orders were given not to strike the victim on the head.

The Roko Tui Dreketi's skull cup was handed over to Reverend David Cargill (a British missionary) in Rewa in 1840.

The skulls is that of a Fijian Chief seen as a threat to Kania and was kept as a symbol of "victorious revenge". In fact, the bones of cannibal victims were symbols of trophies.

Historical accounts record cannibalised skulls and bones wedged between tree forks in the Viti Levu highlands. Only the hill tribes of eastern Viti Levu and some coastal tribes of western Viti Levu did the practice.

(People in Bau and Rewa, on the other hand, didn't keep bones as trophies but used amputated sexual organs that were hung in trees near spirit houses and cannibal ovens.)

The bones were either wedged between tree forks or made into sail needles, comb handles, head scratching pins and ear-lobe ornaments. Human teeth were strung together to form necklaces.

And as a further insult, some people grounded the bones and mixed the dust into puddings, which they presented to the victim's unsuspecting relatives.

One of the main reasons for cannibalism in Fiji was revenge. For instance, in Nadroga, a warrior would keep the liver and hands of an enemy in a bundle over his fireplace so when he grieved over his relatives' deaths, he would take down the bundle of his enemy's flesh and eat some to ease his pain.

This, it is said, would go on for about two years until his vengeance was sated. An even greater form of vengeance was to cook the body and leave it in the oven marking it as unfit to eat.

A warrior who killed his enemy was seen as triumphant if he ate him too and would then be held in high esteem by his fellow villagers. But woe and humiliation befell the man to be eaten. The term used for the victim was bokola (cannibal meat) - it is a derogatory term that is considered a gross insult for a Fijian. During this time, when a famous chief or warrior was killed and cooked, parts of his flesh were sent all over the country. When the missionary Thomas Baker was killed at Navatusila in Central Viti Levu in 1860, a piece of his flesh was sent to almost every chief in Navosa.

Religion and habit were the other reasons for the practice in Fiji. There was clearly a religious (this was pre-Christianity) overtone to the practice.

It is initially thought to have begun as the highest form of offering to the gods following strict taboos and ceremonies with a haunting drum beat and a death dance. In Bau, the body was presented to the war god of Bau and priests in other parts of Fiji took part in these cannibalism ceremonies.

Men would eat after decomposition had set in, something they would not consider doing with other meat. Women, however, were forbidden to eat human flesh and those chiefly Bauan women who indulged in it, did so in private.

The cutting up and cooking of human bodies was done in a systematic way where bodies were in most cases dismembered before cooked. The actual dismembering was done with almost surgical precision - using sharp pieces of bamboo. And in some cases it was the priest (bete) who made the cuts. The type of cuts on the bodies deferred slightly from place to place.

Captain Richard Siddins, a sandalwood trader in Fiji between 1808 - 1809, writes about one such incident in his 1925 book describing the cutting up of the body of a chief of Naivaka, Navakasiga, Bua in Vanua Levu.

"The chief's hands were cut off at the wrists, his feet at the ankles, his legs at the knees and his things at the middle. The bone was divided with an axe bought from one of the ships that had visited the area.

The head was then cut off very low toward the breast and placed on some hot ashes.

These ashes had been specially prepared in a hole dug for that particular purpose.

The head was left there for some time and then the hair was removed with some shells. Then the head and all other parts of the body were placed in the hole and everything was covered up with hot stones. Not unlike the way a lovo is done today."

William Endicott in his 1923 book Wrecked among cannibals in the Fiji’s, tells of a similar experience (March 10, 1831) in Vunirara, Macuata, also in Vanua Levu.

In this case, "the head was cut off first and laid aside. It was set fire to and the flesh completely signed off.

The hair was burnt off and the flesh scraped white. This was necessary before the head could be considered for cleansing. The people of Vunirara had a very methodical way of cutting. Once the head was cut off, then they cut off the right hand and the left foot, right elbow and left knee.

And vice versa until all the limbs were cut off. The chief or king had his own special piece of meat - an oblong piece about eight inches wide.

This was cut from the body beginning at the bottom of the chest. This piece was especially reserved for him and nobody was allowed to eat it.

The guts and vitals were also taken out and cleaned for cooking. They cut the flesh through the ribs and right to the spine, which was then broken - having the body. The cleansing and preparation of the body took about two hours.

A large fire was made in the lovo (earth oven) and small stones were heated in the fire.

As the body was cut, the pieces were thrown in to the fire. And again like in the first incident mentioned above, the skin is scraped white after being completely signed. The stones are removed and the oven cleaned out.

The flesh was then wrapped in plantain leaves and placed in the oven. The stones are also wrapped in leaves and placed among the flesh. Everything is covered with plantain leaves and several layers of earth to keep in the heat.

There are instances, however, when the body was not dismembered but cooked whole.

This was particularly the case when bodies were being presented to chiefs. In these incidences, the bodies were first disembowelled and the cavities stuffed with red-hot stones before being placed in the earth-oven.

The well-done flesh was either peeled off with fingers, gnawed off or cut off from the bone with a bamboo knife. This was also done to dismembered body parts cooked on the bone".

Historical accounts point out that the joints were scorched prior to scraping. The muscular flesh tended to shrink into lumps, which then split and separated from the bone.

The boneless meat was scraped and packed into leaves for baking. Repeated boiling and baking as in the case of the Nadroga warrior aforementioned also preserved human flesh.

But the cannibals had their own reservations about eating human flesh. They were afraid of touching the meat with fingers or lips and usually used a special fork, which had special names.

Forks were never used in eating food; even food offered to the gods but was used solely for cannibalism.

It was thought that human flesh had some sort of "quality" in it that made it taboo to touch with fingers or lips.

Only the owner of the fork could use it - it was taboo to everyone else. And forks of chiefs were always specially named.

Probably the most infamous of Fiji's cannibals was Ra Udreudre of Rakiraki, on the North Eastern side of Viti Levu.

His victims were called lewe ni bi (contents of the turtle pond). It is thought that his fork was called Udroudro (meaning small person carrying a heavy load or burden) but Udroudro actually belonged to his son Ra Vatu.

His sons showed a missionary in 1849 a line of stones representing the numbers of his victims. There were 872 stones in all but this was not the true number because some stones had been removed by then.

Ra Udreudre also practiced torture (vakatotoga) to avenge the death of a relative. Vakatotoga was a form of punishment where the victim was mutilated before death. In most cases it was done for revenge and it was practiced in ancient revenge and it was practiced in Tonga.

Ra Udreudre ordered a woman from the offending village to be laid alive in a wooden trough and dismembered so that none of the blood was lost. And it is amazing that Fijians who were victims or prisoners of this type of torture did not even try to escape or even resist.

There were many other examples where different ways of cruelty were practiced for revenge. One such example is of a whole village in Namosi, Viti Levu, who were punished by being doomed to be eaten household by household.

The chief commanded them to plant a taro bed, which they did. But as soon as it was harvested, a household was clubbed and the family eaten with the root crop.

No one knew who was going to be eaten next because the executioners chose at random. Most people would have fled if such a fate awaited them but these people did not.

In those days, Fijians did not look to the future but lived for the day. And they believed life on earth was just temporary, a place of abode until they passed to the other side - where hopefully better things awaited them.

Each part of the body had a symbolic name, which was only used in terms of cannibalism. The trunk was eaten first and was called na vale ka rusa (the house that perishes): the feet, dua-rua (one-two).

Fijians did not eat their aged relatives. They believed that they would lose their teeth if they ate the flesh of a relative or ate or drank from the vessel of a man who had done so.

Although relatives were not eaten, no one escaped the cooking pot - whether male or female, young or old, if you were targeted, you ended up as the main course.

The flesh of young people (particularly the heart, thing and upper arm) aged between 16 and 20 was considered a great delicacy.

But warriors slain in battle were usually not eaten and chiefs were often spared this insult. If a friend of the deceased happened to be one of the victors, he would probably intervene to save the body from the oven.

A truce was then called and the deceased's relatives were allowed to come and bury the body. There was also a custom where mourners at the funeral cut out their thumbnails and fixed them on a spear.

This spear was kept in the temple as a reminder of what was done for them - the body of their relative being spared the humiliation of the cannibal's oven. And when the war ended, they paid their debt to the warrior by presenting him with valuable presents.

It makes one squeamish to think of women and children being killed and eaten. But for the children of old, moku na katikati (club the women and children) was done for a reason.

The whole aim of war was to inflict pain and suffering on their enemies. And to spare women (the bringers of life in the world) would mean a new breed of enemy warriors to fight against.

And this was one risk they did not want to take - hence the killing of women and children.

Habit became a reason for cannibalism later on during the 19th century Fijian wars, when warriors would kill people to satisfy the tastes of some chiefs who had developed a fondness for human flesh.

Some places you might want to visit to see remnants of Fiji's dark past are in Sigatoka. Take a trip with Waterfall tours - they run guided tours to the Naihehe Cave - a place steeped with mystery and intrigue.

The cave was last bastion of the Nabuavatu Tribe, one of the last cannibal tribes in Fiji. They held on to this practice even after most of Fiji had converted to Christianity.

The Fijian warship - 26 October 2009

Drua - the Fijian warship.

The construction of the Waqa Drua, the aristocratic canoe of Fijian High Chiefs, was wrapped in blood and ceremony.

Because of the part she played in the winning of a crucial battle, like the great ship the Ra Marama.

Built in the early 1850's the Ra Marama had more than a thousand square feet of deck space, a 60-foot high main mast and two sleek hulls.

She was over 100 feet long, carried more than 150 people, and sailed faster with the wind than the European vessels visiting the Fiji Islands in those times.

Because these were the Waqa Tabu, or sacred boats, their use was restricted to Fijian chiefs of the highest rank and to Tongan royalty.

The Tongans began making trips to Fiji as early as the 1300s to buy the huge vesi logs needed to build large vessels because their own small islands had no trees of the girth and mass required.

After a few centuries, they abandoned their own designs and purchased fully-made druas from the Fijians.

The process of building a Drua started with a feast to mark the felling of two trees which would be spliced together to form the keel.

The process, from the felling of the first tree to the finished vessel, could take as long as seven years.

The human sacrifices began when the keel was laid. The hull was constructed from split logs lashed together with sinnet and caulked with breadfruit gum and mulberry bark forming a watertight seal.

Because the Fijians had no writing, they passed the knowledge of how to construct these great ships from one generation to the next as traditional stories.

Each plank of a Drua had its own name and was set in place according to tradition and ceremony.

The result was a fine, fast sailing vessel capable of riding out the roughest seas, but at a cost of many lives due to the ceremonial sacrifices required during construction.

Usually when a new Drua was launched, it slid into the sea on the blood of slaves who served as rollers under its massive hulls.

The Ra Marama was promised to King George of Tonga by Ratu Cakobau, who wanted the Tongans to join him in his war against Rewa.

Eventually, King George arrived with a procession of forty war canoes to take possession of his fine new Drua.

He probably would have merely gone back to Tonga, but the Rewans killed a Tongan Chief and left King George with a matter of honour to be settled. The result saw the Tongans, allied with Cakobau, defeat the Rewans at the battle of the Kaba Peninsula.

After the battle of Kaba, King George and Cakobau sailed the Ra Marama on a victory tour of Rewa, Kadavu and Ovalau with a long procession of war canoes in their wake. No full scale Druas are now in existence.

However, there is an authentically built 1:10 scale model of one of these fine vessels on display at the Fiji Museum in Suva.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vunivalu title remains vacant

Vunivalu title remains vacant - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE position of the Vunivalu of Bau is still vacant since the death of Ratu Sir George Cakobau on November 25, 1989.

His eldest daughter, Adi Samanunu Talakuli, said the Cakobau family had not talked about the issue for some time.

"We have not discussed about this and we will wait for God's time," Adi Samanunu said. "At the moment, we have a funeral to attend to and just living our daily lives," she said from Bau Island yesterday.

Vunivalu Title Holders:

1) Ratu Nailatikau — 1770

2) Ratu Banuve Baleivavalagi — 1770-1803

3) Ratu Naulivou Ramatenikutu — 1803-1829

4) Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa — 1829-1832

5) Navuaka Komainaqarakula Tui Veikoso — 1832-1837

6) Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa — 1837-1852.

7) Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau — 1852-1883

8) Ratu Epeli Nailatikau — 1883-1901 (never installed but generally recognised as such)

9) Ratu Penaia Kadavulevu — 1901-1914 (never installed but generally recognised as such)

10) Ratu Popi Seniloli — 1914-1936

11) Ratu Tevita Naulivou — 1936-1957 (never installed but generally recognised as such)

12) Ratu Sir George Cakobau — (1957-1989)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tui Cakau Stresses Education Priority

Cakaudrove stresses educational priority - Serafina Qalo
Monday, October 19, 2009

MONEY earned from the qoliqoli of Cakaudrove Province will not be used for any other purpose other than the education of the province's, says paramount chief Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

The chief said revenue from fishing licences and pearl farming would not be given out as loans or used on any function hosted by the province.

At a qoliqoli meeting at Wailevu Village, Ratu Naiqama told the people of Tunuloa education was paramount and all money would be directed towards the children's education.

Currently, the province's main source of income is from fishing licenses fees.

With plans to boost pearl farming, Ratu Naiqama said this would help increase revenue.

A group of villages along Buca Bay and Kioa island have been employed on pearl farms and their earnings have helped upgrade their living standards.

Ratu Naiqama said the children of Cakaudrove needed assistance in education such as paying of school fees because many parents still struggled to meet educational expenses.

He said some parents struggled to pay building fees of as low as $20.

Ratu Naiqama said the province would be barred from obtaining loans from the educational funds.

The criteria has been outlined for interested applicants.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Battle of Charlie checkpoint - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the early afternoon of August 21, 1979, a civilian vehicle approached the Qana checkpoint, manned by a Fijian sentry. The driver, who initially objected to a search, threatened retaliation when he was allowed to drive on after the customary inspection.

General Erskine said the man was possibly humiliated he had to submit to orders from foreigners as about 20 minutes later, the checkpoint came under intense automatic fire.

The fire fight lasted some three minutes and indications were the armed elements (AE) were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a splinter group of the PLO.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that one of the armed elements was wounded. There were no injuries to Fijibatt or the attached Lebanese personnel.

At 7.30 that night, seven AEs approached the same checkpoint and were stopped by Fijibatt soldiers on duty. Procedures required the occupants of the vehicle to get out of the car and while five obeyed instructions, two refused. One of them had a pistol and refused to surrender the weapon.

A struggle followed as the AEs tried to snatch rifles off the Fijian sentry. Unable to overpower the Fijians, the armed AE drew his pistol and cocked it with the intention of firing. In self defence the Fijian sentry fired two rifle rounds, seriously wounding the AE in the chest and jaw. The injured AE was taken to Tyre Hospital while the rest were detained. Sometime later a PLO officer arrived to negotiate the release of the detainees.

But the battle was far from over. The next day it was discovered that the wounded man had died. Retaliation was expected as he was no ordinary AE. His name was Major Ibrahim al Kheisham, a 30-year-old senior commander of the Organisation of Communist Action of Lebanon.

Soon after news of the death got out, the Fijibatt HQ received reports at 9.30 am that an attack of the "C" Company checkpoint in the village of Al Bazuriah was imminent, from a wooded area about 200 meters away.

FijiBatt had a platoon-sized (30 men) checkpoint and Major Ratu Epeli Ganilau, the commanding officer for "C" Company was ordered to take command and reinforce platoons at the checkpoint. By 10.30am a fire-fight had developed and continued until mid-day.

However, while the "C" Company was still under pressure at checkpoint 1-21, AEs were sighted moving around the eastern flank of "B" Company's checkpoint 1-16, known to the Fijians as Charlie Checkpoint.

Mr Sanday said a major problem developed after the Fijibatt began defending their position.

"The first relates to the participation of the Dutch armoured re-inforcements in the Battle of Charlie Checkpoint."

"After the battle with the attackers had been "joined", opening fire against the AEs, Dutch reinforcements entered our area of operation. But they did not report to Fijibatt HQ for a briefing prior to being deployed. They drove past the FIJIbatt HQ and bowled straight up the road into the middle of a raging battle, ignoring the shot and shell that was going on around them."

On seeing the approach of the two armoured vehicles the Lebanese militants attacking the Fiji checkpoint turned their attention to the approaching Dutch reinforcements, firing at them with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades.

"The Dutch officer leading the Dutch vehicles took a bullet that passed through his body and shattered his spine. He slumped forward onto the turret of his armoured vehicle unable to move as bullets ricocheted around him."

"The attackers, numbering more than 60, approached the Dutch vehicles firing their assault weapons from the hip and spraying hot lead. They were shouting and cheering as they advanced pouring fire at the trapped Dutch soldiers."

For their part, the Dutch soldiers withdrew into the safety of their armoured vehicles and were in a very vulnerable position. A Dutch armoured ambulance with a red cross painted on the side of the vehicle also started to come under fire.

"There was no respect for the Geneva Convention in this part of the world."

"The situation for the Dutch was very grim indeed. If nothing was done to help them they would most certainly have all been taken out by the attacking militants. Something had to be done to salvage the situation."

It was then that Fijibatt machine guns on the roof of the Fijibatt HQ came into play. They were ordered to switch their fire from supporting Charlie Checkpoint and swing their barrels towards the trapped Dutch.

Fijibatt was able to lay down a curtain of fire between the hapless Dutch soldiers and the advancing attackers.

"In a sustained fire role, Fijibatt machine guns methodically laid down a curtain of fire that would enable the Dutch to withdraw to safer ground near Qana Village. Several of the attackers ran into this curtain of fire and were incapacitated."

"The Fijibatt machine guns were using tracer bullets - they ignited on their trajectory thus allowing the machine gunners to establish where their rounds were falling. This ignition factor was also used to pour fire into the dried grass in the area causing a grass fire."

The tactic worked. The wind blew the smoke from the grass fire across the Dutch soldiers, masking them from their attackers and affording them extra cover to withdraw.

By this stage more of the attackers had run into the curtain of fire. The remnants of the attacking force realised the futility of their attack and turned and ran from the scene, scattering down a slope into a gully at the foot of the hill.

This is where the second unreported turn of events occurred which demonstrated the application of fire discipline by Fijibatt.

Abandoning their dead and wounded on the battlefield, the surviving AEs ran down into the cover of a gulley near Qana where they went to lick their wounds and regroup.

Unbeknown to them, the gulley was covered by a group of Fijibatt soldiers from Headquarters Company.

Concealed by the rocks and olive trees above the gulley, Major Jo Volau was in charge of this group. He was the battalion's second in command. He radioed Fijibatt HQ reporting the situation and seeking approval to engage the surviving AEs.

The reply from commanding officer Sanday was promptly relayed: "We are professional soldiers. We do not shoot prisoners. We will always respect the human and political rights of the civilian population. Do not engage. Let them go in safety."

Those orders were obeyed.

Later that afternoon the AEs wanted to negotiate a ceasefire and once an agreement was reached the attackers withdrew into safety. They were given the opportunity to remove their dead and take the wounded with them.

Erskine said the casualities suffered by the AEs were high, compared to the UNIFIL who had four men injured, two seriously.

"Indications were that some 15 AEs were killed and many more wounded in what was considered the most serious clash involving UNIFIL up to that date. Considering the AE's heavy casualties and the Arab tendency to seek revenge, it could be reasonably assumed they would retaliate."

This they did, two days later with an ambush at Wadi Jilu

Ratu Mara - Pillar of Pacific, October 10, 2009

It would require many books to be written by many different people before we can fully appreciate the life story of the late Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Kapaiwai Tuimacilai Mara says his friend, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

At the launch of late Ratu Mara’s biography today at Motel 6, an emotional Sir Michael said that no single book can fully tell the life story of Fiji’s late President and Prime minister and a dominant political figure – late Ratu Mara.

The book, “Tuimacilai, A life of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara”, is a work of leading historian Dr Deryck Scarr.

Tuimacilai, he said admirably assembles together a mosaic that brings out a picture of a man deeply steeped in culture and tradition, well educated, thrust into the responsibilities of leadership and genuine desire to make a positive contribution towards the lives f all those that call Fiji home.

Sir Michael said as far as he can see, every policy he formulated, every position he adopted, either domestically or internationally, was predicted on what he believed was good for and in interest of the people of Fiji.

“This was the main driving force behind his social welfare policies in health, education, affordable housing, cooperatives, etc,” he told the present families and guests at the function today.

“To this end, he was “not afraid to pursue policies even if they entailed sacrifices not popular with his people”.

Sir Michael and late Ratu Mara knew each other when they were both young men starting out on their public and political careers.

The two met frequently over the years and formed a deep personal and professional relationship.

Sir Michael visited the late statesman shortly before he died in April 2004.

“In international relations, he was a guiding light to many of us Leaders from emerging independent Pacific Island Nations,” he said.

“He was a real bati –warrior for the interests and needs of Pacific Islands countries.”

Also Sir Michael was honoured with the rare and elaborate Fijian ceremony by the Vanua ko Lau of Suva today. This was last performed for Late Ratu Mara at a meeting of the Lau provincial council in 2000.

“For me personally Tui Nayau was my mentor who I have tried to emulate but will never equal, whose counsel I have valed but have since missed an whose friendship I did not deserve but will always treasure,” he added.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Warning on Fijian Culture

Guide warns on culture - Thursday, October 08, 2009

GENUINE Fijian culture attracts tourists, says Tui Tai Adventure cruise guide Losefati Ligairi.

Ms Ligairi, who has spent 20 years in the industry, told villagers in Taveuni during a visit with tourists that genuine Fijian culture included the yaqona ceremony and its traditional dress.

"In many Fijian villages today, most villagers no longer perform the genuine ceremony, or wear the (correct) clothing, so we have asked the villagers to maintain that touch of the culture.

"It is very important for the villagers and the indigenous community to maintain the culture passed down to us by our ancestors because this is what attracts tourists to our shores."

She said in some occasions he had visited villagers and asked them to wear genuine meke dress and traditional ceremony wear.

Wearing a lei of frangipani on our heads or having a flower on one side of our hair is not Fijian, she said.

"The real Fijian way is to tuck a Fijian comb in the back of our hair and wear masi cloth for the kava ceremony," Ms Ligairi said.

"The villagers have responded well," she said.

Tui Tai Cruise owner Tige Young said the Fijian villages in the areas of Cakaudrove had supported cruise activities over the past seven years of operation.

"We have worked well with the villagers and our relationship has strengthened over the years," Mr Young said.

Roland Williams Wins Maori TV Song Competition

Let Roland rule

Ioane Burese -Sunday, October 04, 2009

THE reign of Roland Williams has begun. The 18-year-old former frontman of the Suva band, One-2-Eight, beat nine other finalists in the Maori Television singing competition -- Homai Te Pakipaki -- in Auckland on Friday night.

Roland crooned his way to the $10,000 first prize money with the tune Me and Mrs Jones, a signature track of legendary Philadelphia soul singer Billy Paul.

In a commentary on his performance, the New Zealand news website reported: "When Roland Williams sings, he sounds much older than his years."

It's an acknowledgement of Roland's strong tenor range that allowed him to experiment with the soul and funk of Stevie Wonder and Tavares while here with One-2-Eight.

The performance capped off a 23-week run of Homai Te Pakipaki, that started in May, and which has developed a cult-like following since going to air for the first time in 2007.

The former Marist Brothers High School student, who left for Auckland's Kelston Boys High School earlier this year on a rugby scholarship, won his heat on September 11 with the Gregory Abbot smash I Wanna Shake You Down.

For that effort, he took home the weekly prize of $1000.

On Friday night, in a two-hour finale that featured a guest appearance by popular New Zealand singer Mark Williams, Roland broke new ground by excelling in a field other than the rugby paddock.

Speaking from Auckland yesterday Roland said while he was enjoying the feel-good experience, he was still a little stunned.

"It was quite tough. There's a lot of talent here and everybody came prepared," Roland said.

"My school has also been very supportive."

Roland packs down Kelston's Second XV at Number 8 and has managed to balance his blossoming music career with his rugby and his studies.

"My studies have been going great, really well -- it's a massive improvement from what I'd been doing in Fiji," he said.

"The rugby's been going great too. We reached the semi-final of the competition in Auckland."

Here at home, on hearing the news on Friday night, Roland's mum, Glenda, was over the moon.

"Oh man, I feel on top of the world," Mrs Williams said while admitting Roland could be facing some difficulties adjusting to a new environment.

"His studies are going well although I believe he can do much better.

"I wish I was there to celebrate with him."

Roland's achievement also ensured the yaqona flowed thick and fast with the One-2-Eight gang, which is gaining a reputation as a kind of ex-Marist Brothers High School institution.

The band features guitarist Nesbitt Hazelman and bass player Ratu Jo Tabakaucoro.

"It's a big achievement for Roland and everybody's happy here," Ratu Jo said.

"The Maori are great vocalists and for Roland to win that kind of competition says a lot about his abilities.

"I think his weapon is his old-school repertoire for a young kid -- that's his edge."

Roland plans to study psychology some time in the future while he nurtures his rugby.

And his music?

"I'll probably pursue it later," he said. "There're opportunities for the performing arts here in Auckland -- so things are really great."

Roland Williams' exploits -- on and off the rugby field -- have come in only his first year in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

But if they're anything to go by, this Namadi Heights kid is going places -- to be sure.

Legend of the Yasawa Giant Eagle

Legend of the giant eagle -Sunday, October 04, 2009

WHILE Sawa-i-Lau in Yasawa is known for its majestical caves, most people have not heard of the legend of the giant eagle the locals believe lived there once.

According to Josese Draya, legend says the island was home to a great eagle that only survived by eating virgins.

If you go to Sawa-i-Lau, try and use your binoculars and check out the top right hand corner of the island of Sawa-i-Lau. A large patch of guano or bird droppings is visible.

Draya is convinced that was the spot where the giant eagle or manu levu lived.

According to legend, whenever the eagle was hungry, it would fly to the nearby village and grab a virgin and took it to its nest.

Draya said one day, the eagle flew down and grabbed itself a virgin which did not augur well with her husband to be.

The husband to be swam to Sawa-i-Lau and climbed up to the eagle's nest to rescue his bride to be.

While trying to do that, the eagle flew back and they fought over the virgin.

Draya said they both fell to the ground and died. And that was the end of the eagle of Sawa-i-Lau. Draya says villagers still wonder why the large patch believed to be bird droppings was still there. He said people of Nabukeru and Tamusua believe in the legend.

Cave God of Yasawa

Home of the cave god

Mereseini Marau - Sunday, October 04, 2009

THE locals here often say that Sawa-i-Lau Island is the heart of Yasawa and Fiji.

It is where the mana of this country is hidden.

The people of Yasawa believe that you have not been to Yasawa if you have not set foot on Sawa-i-Lau.

The island - a distinctive limestone mass rising 1000 feet above sea level - is the object of Fijian legends and sacred Fijian mythology.

This island off Nabukeru Village is owned by the people of Tokatoka Koro and Mataqali Koro of Nabukeru.

According to Josese Draya, the cave keeper, the island is riddled with caves.

Relaxing on the rocks on the beach in front of the caves, Draya explains the caves are the popular attractions on the island.

There was something about this place that made it eerie. The silence was just so unnatural. The cool breeze sent shivers up my spine, goose bumps a constant reminder that I was venturing into something dark and mysterious.

On the entrance to the main cave, there are inscriptions on the walls, which have long puzzled archaeologists.

Draya recalls that a team of archaeologists visited the caves some years ago to see the writings.

This Nabukeru no nonsense villager explained that a lot of people visited the island to just dip in the pools inside the caves.

"They say this is the source of the seas around Yasawa," he said.

The island is internationally renowned as one of the locations for the popular movie Blue Lagoon which was shot in the 70s and featured famous child actress, Brooke Shields.

But apart from that, Draya said a lot of people believe the site was the resting grounds of the legendary 10 headed god, Ulutini.

Expanding on stories passed down from elders, Draya said each chamber of the caves was supposed to represent each of the god's nine snake heads. The 10th resembled a human head.

Allaying fears of myth-struck visitors, Draya reassured the island was free of snakes.

"Until now, no snake can live here," he said.

Draya recalled this statement of fact was tested by villagers who introduced a small snake from Tamusua to the island.

"We put that tiny snake in a bottle and took it to the island," he said.

"Just before we reached the island, the snake died in the bottle."

But in a twist just as dramatic as the myths itself, Draya reported that while villagers were steadfast in the belief that there was no snake on the island, a late uncle - Laisenia Taulele - is said to have seen the great 10 headed god in person.

"His plantation is here on the island," he said.

One day while farming, he claimed he saw the snake sunbathing.

After the snake revealed himself to Taulele, the Nabukeru villager reportedly acquired the gift of healing - but on the condition he did not sleep with women.

"After that encounter he was able to heal people," said Draya.

News of this magic healing travelled all over the Yasawas and the province of Ba and thus he began travelling. Later he moved to Korovou in Tavua and lived there for a while.

While there he composed a meke about this 10 headed god.

Today, the women of Korovou perform a special meke known as the manu. The lyrics of the song for this particular meke are derived from the legend of the snake god.

The story goes that it was in Korovou that Taulele broke the condition set by the snake god. It cost him his life.

While Taulele might not be around to testify to what he saw, Draya said that the stories had gotten around.

I did not get to go deep into the caves but legend has it that the snake god's central human face possesses angelic beauty that is almost too much for any mortal's gaze to behold. Added to the mystery is the belief that embedded in the god's forehead is a shimmering diamond like stone, which is the source of the great mana.

The villagers also claim that the caves are home to Dema Leka and Damu Balavu (two fish), as well as Donu (eel). In this case, the story goes that they have lived there forever without ever breeding, changing, growing or dying.

Draya said that one of the chambers within the caves was said to be the pregnancy cave. "That cave can be entered by everyone of any shape or size except a woman who is pregnant and is hiding it," he said.

"Even the slimmest pregnant woman will get stuck there."

So for women who want an alternative pregnancy test - the caves could be the place for this.