From Kafi Muaror in Sydney, Australia
The Rotuman Uniting Church members in Sydney, Australia, held a combined choir competition between the City Congregation and the Drummoyne Congregation on March 16th. City won the anthem competition with Hymn 207 from the Rotuman Hymnal. Drummoyne won the bell (mak pel) division with a song conducted Fred Pene. City also won the fund-raising competition. A total of A$5000 plus was raised between the two groups.
Everyone is busily preparing for Rotuma Day celebration, to be held on May 17 & 18. There will be groups from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Top Ryde, Drummoyne, City, The Sydney Mormon Combined and the Pepjei group from Suva. Looks like we will have to start early to be able to finish the dances before dark! There will be a combined church service the following day.
Posted on the message board by Katarina Gaskell (Alexander), from Brisbane, Australia:
Noa'ia 'e Mauri! The Rotumans in Brisbane have organised an active cultural community group here and meet regularly. They are presently heavily involved in practicing the dance routines for the upcoming visit to Sydney on May 17 & 18. They have organised transport to Sydney and are all looking forward to the event. Happy Rotuma Day to all!
Fiji Times, Wednesday, February 26, 1997
An article in the Fiji Times quotes Council Representative Aisea Atalifo as saying, "Rotuma's shipping service has never been better." The article states that "Thanks to the Kadavu provincial boat, Bulou ni Ceva, Rotumans are guaranteed a boat service every month," and that "apart from the main visit...other smaller and Government boats [are] coming in between."
An accompanying article reports that fishing is well on its way to becoming a main source of income for Rotumans. The article quotes Aisea Atalifo as saying that Rotuma's Parliament Representative, Paul Manueli, assisted in organising the Government fishing vessel Dausoko to come to the island. It now comes once a month and buys fish. Atalifo also said the island council was considering alternative ways of processing catches. One possibility is partial processing which would mean more space for shipment of other products. He said one of the problems of the trade is teaching skills of commercial fishing to the island's inhabitants. A Fisheries Ministry team was expected during the month of March to conduct classes for the fishermen in Rotuma.
From Antoine N'Yeurt (March 15, just having returned from Rotuma)
"We were very lucky, in that Cyclone Gavin did not hit us. At one stage (4 March) it was located 9.5 S and 173.5 E, moving SE straight for Rotuma with 45 knots winds. But as it reached 9.8 S and 176.7 E on the 5th March, it miraculously changed direction due East until it reached 10.6 S and 178.6 E (clear of the island) and then veered SE towards the Western Fiji Group (Labasa, Lautoka). In effect it bypassed the island, saving us from potentially very damaging winds. At most, there was rough seas and a few banana plants were blown down. The cyclone proceeded to devastate Lautoka and Nadi with 120 mph winds, and moved south to the East coast of New Zealand (where people referred to it as "that Fijian cyclone..."). In Fapufa where I stayed people were scared of "another hurricane Bebe", but the old man [Aisake] was confident the prayers of the Rotuman people would chase the cyclone away and it seems that is what eventually happened? One thing for sure, we were very lucky to escape the full force of this cyclone. A few days ago another depression was threatening the island, but it moved away causing only strongwinds.
The Sunflower Airlines saga is another story: 3 successive flights were cancelled because the airline claimed there was no aviation fuel on the island to refill the plane. That meant that many people, including ourselves and an American doctor (Dr John Brooks) doing a filariasis/diabetes survey, were stranded for over 10 days. The doctor was particularly angry about this as he had to urgently return to his job in the US, and he rang Sunflower everyday "shouting at them" in a bid to get the truth about the plane situation. Furthermore, two patients with life-threathening ailments had to be quickly evacuated to Fiji as medicine supplies ran low. It turned out that the fuel story was a fabrication, and Sunflower did not want to sent a plane for economic reasons (not enough passengers). However, after collecting a petition from all stranded passengers (about 30 of us) and more "calls" to Sunflower, the airline eventually agreed to send a plane on Thursday (March) 13. I understand that the US Embassy in Suva was on the verge of suing Sunflower airlines for lack of customer service... It was interesting to see the plane being refilled with two drums of fuel, which were not supposed to exist!! I hope our next tripto Rotuma will be less problematic.
The Lumu project went well, despite some hiccups (we had to shift our raft from Lihava (Maka) to Atapisi (Hapmafau) because of heavy fouling by other seaweeds in Maka). Initial results show good growth for the lumu, and we hope the experiment will be successful. The MPI officer on the island is cooperating with us, and Pita Aisake in Fapufa has been hired by FAO/SPADP to maintain the cages while we're away. The 700-odd dung beetles have been released in a number of cattle grazing areas near Ahau and Fapufa, and we hope they will feel at home in Rotuma. On the next trip (July), we will check if they have established themselves and started doing their good work...I hear that the coming Methodist Conference in July will be held at Itumuta. Already, people are busy getting ready for that event. The Post Shop at Ahau is indeed successful, and also instrumental in closing down many shops (including the one directly facing the post office!). Prices are very low compared to other shops, and are close to Fiji rates. They sell everything, from flour to toys and even Mars candy bars.
Speaking to the Earth Station manager on Rotuma (Fatiaki), I heard that E-Mail is maybe coming soon to the island. That would be good news!"
In response to complaints against Sunflower Air we received the following email message from Ian Collingwood, Director of Marketing for Sunflower:
"I was interested in seeing these comments posted by a very recent visitor to Rotuma and I hope that you will find that my comments shed some light on the current situation with flights to and from Rotuma. Before I do, I will acknowledge that your writer has been caught in Rotuma for a long time in difficult circumstances and I appreciate that Sunflower was involved in some respects.
YOUR WRITER SAID
The Sunflower Airlines saga is another story: 3 successive flights were cancelled because the airline claimed there was no aviation fuel on the island to refill the plane.
- There was no fuel on the Island. Our aircraft use Jet Fuel, while there was Av. Gas available on the Island, this type of fuel is not compatible with the aircraft we operate to Rotuma (Piston vrs Turbine). We normally have a large store of Jet Fuel stored at the Rotuma airport but on this occasion, it was still sitting on the Boat at the Suva Wharf (only to be off-loaded when the Boat was redirected to the Lau Group following the Cyclone).
YOUR WRITER SAID
That meant that many people, including ourselves and an American doctor (Dr John Brooks) doing a filariasis/diabetes survey, were stranded for over 10 days. The doctor was particularly angry about this as he had to urgently return to his job in the US, and he rang Sunflower everyday "shouting at them" in a bid to get the truth about the plane situation. Furthermore, two patients with life-threatening ailments had to be quickly evacuated to Fiji as medicine supplies ran low.
- This is true, it was very unfortunate (and not the first time) that these passengers were stranded. We expected that Jet Fuel would be delivered to Rotuma 2 months ago on the boat. This has not happened and we are now in the difficult position of having no fuel. The Dr. involved was very angry and had every right to be. Unfortunately, the consequence of no return fuel was compounded by the Cyclone that firstly went over Rotuma, then came down to Nadi to haunt us here. The bad weather meant further delays to our services (we do not fly in Cyclones) - and further delays for the boat and our much needed petrol.
YOUR WRITER SAID
It turned out that the fuel story was a fabrication, and Sunflower did not want to send a plane for economic reasons (not enough passengers). However, after collecting a petition from all stranded passengers (about 30 of us) and more "calls" to Sunflower, the airline eventually agreed to send a plane on Thursday (March) 13.
- NOT TRUE. We fly scheduled services based on a license provided by the Fiji Air Transport License. Such approvals demand attention to every flight and every route, regardless of the number of passengers involved. Our inability to service these people properly was largely a function of outside forces. It is not in our interests to leave people stranded anywhere as long term effects of poor service far outweigh the profitability of a single flight. At all stages, we were aware that people were stranded in Rotuma and at all stages we were working to get them off the Island as soon as possible.
YOUR WRITER SAID
I understand that the US Embassy in Suva was on the verge of suing Sunflower airlines for lack of customer service...
- The events that led to problems with services to Rotuma were beyond our control and I doubt that even the American Embassy has talked to any Lawyers about the quality of our service - we did the best we could and will continue to do so. Rotuma is a difficult destination to serve based on isolation and the nature of traffic. We do not always get it right - but no body could question our commitment to this Island and the Rotuman people.
YOUR WRITER SAID
It was interesting to see the plane being refilled with two drums of fuel, which were not supposed to exist!! I hope our next trip to Rotuma will be less problematic.
- After working through all of the possibilities (including bringing in different aircraft from other nearby countries to operate the flight for these people) - the best solution we could realise involved getting approvals from CAAF (Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji) to use Av. Gas in an aircraft which uses Jet. Fuel. The impact of this is a reduction on the life of the equipment and marginal operating performance. It is not a course of action that exists in normal circumstances and was only used in the absence of any other solution.
In addition, all Sunflower Airlines services to Rotuma will remain affected until such time as the boat arrives with our Fuel. If pressure needs to be applied in any direction - the provision of a regular boat service to Rotuma is something we all need.
Members of the global Rotuman community are always welcome to contact me with any queries relating to Sunflower Airlines and air services to and from Rotuma.
My E Mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org - Mr. Ian Collingwood - Director of Marketing."
Milestones: On Sunday, March 16, Aitu Richmond gave birth to a "beautiful little girl" named Maurea Jeanette, 8 pounds/20 inches. Aitu is married to Bruce Richmond; they live in Menlo Park, California. This is Aitu & Bruce's second daughter. Their first, Lohana "is ecstatic to be a big sister." Bruce's email address is: <email@example.com>