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Archived News: August 1998

From Yvonne Aitu in Suva (31 August 1998)

The Tafaga Rowing Club participated in World Canoe Racing Sprints, held recently in Suva. For a team that was newly formed and didn't have much professioanl experience, we did extremely well. The women made it to the semi-finals for the 12-man canoe, and the men qualified for the finals in the 12-man canoe race. Overall, our times improved as compared to the monthly regattas. As a team we got to meet some fellow Tahitians. In the process of showing them our city, they held two rowing clinics for us, where they showed us their techniques and several methods of training, which we now have incoporated into our training. We've now started training for the year 2000 World Sprints which are going to be held in Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

From Marlon Isimeli in Suva (30 August 1998)

Former Director of Lands and Surveyor General, Mr Timote Tokaroro Rupeni has been appointed as the new Permanent Secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources after 5 years in the private sector. This position was left vacant since the former Permanent Secretary, Mr Bhuwan Dutt, retired in July last year. In his new appointment, Mr. Rupeni will now become the new Chairman of the Fiji Land Information Council (FLIC).

Mr. Rupeni is a land surveyor by profession and is a graduate of the Otago University. Most of his career life was spent in the Department of Lands and Surveys. During his more than twenty years of service in the Department, Mr Rupeni has served in various capacities as Divisional Surveyor, Assistant Director and Director of Lands and Surveyor General before joining the private sector in 1994.

[Note: information provided by the FLIS, Fiji Lands Information system Newsletter, June 20.]

From Bruce Tizard-Varcoe in England (30 August 1998)

Highlights of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo were televised on British television yesterday and featured the Fiji Military Forces Band. They have been in the U.K. for a few weeks now and on their arrival, performed at the Commonwealth Institute in London and at the Royal Military School of Music (within view of Twickenham Rugby Stadium). The band has been playing an excellent variety of music, including traditional songs and dances for which they have received much praise and enthusiastic (sometimes wild !) applause by the many people who have been to watch them.

The lone Rotuman band member is Staff Sergeant Aisea Molia, whom several of the Rotuman Community here in London got to meet. He was very pleased to see us all and we were equally happy that we got to meet him. It certainly was a proud moment to see him on TV, marching, playing and singing with the band in front of Edinburgh Castle---all the way from Motusa !

From Rupeni Fatiaki in Suva (29 August 1998)

At Fiji's provincial games, held on 20 August 1998, seven Rotuman athletes participated in powerlifting events. Of the seven, two were women: Fern Fapiano and Milly Turner. The men included Maroof Ramzan (A Fiji Indian who trains with the Rotuman boys at Charmans All Races Club), Raymond Konrote, Benjamin Fatiaki, myself (Rupeni Fatiaki), and Iliesa Irava.

We competed against nine other provinces from around Fiji in fourteen events, in which we won six gold medals, followed by Lomaiviti with five, Cakaudrove with two, and Rewa with one. Our powerlifting team was 100% successful, with each athlete winning at least one medal. This helped put Rotuma in fourth place in the overall competition, with ten gold medals. The other four came in other sports that Rotuma took part in. Not only did we dominate the powerlifting medals, two of our lifters also set new national records.

The individual results are as follows:

Fern Fapiano, with a body weight of 73.4 kgs, lifting in the weight category of 82.5 kgs, squatted a total of 120 kgs, bench pressed 40 kgs, and dead-lifted 110 kgs to give her a total of 270 kgs and a gold medal for Rotuma.

Milly Turner, with a body weight 96.4 kgs, lifted in the 90 kgs and over weight category; she squatted 145 kgs, bench pressed 70 kgs, and dead lifted 140 kgs to give her a total of 355 kgs and a gold for Rotuma.

Maroof Ramzan, whom we refer to as Maraf, competed in the weight category of 56 kgs at a body weight of 55.7. Maraf squatted 130 kgs, bench pressed 110 kgs, and dead lifted 190 kgs for a total of 430 kgs and another gold for our small island.

Raymond Konrote, who is only 18 years and is one of our young aspiring lifters, competed in the 90 kg weight category with a body weight of 86.9 kgs. He squatted 170 kgs, bench pressed 105 kgs, and dead lifted 200 kgs to give him a total of 475 kgs, and a silver medal. Raymond won the bronze medal in the Fiji games.

Benjamin Fatiaki who had represented Fiji in the last mini games in Pago Pago, American Samoa (1997) and the South Pacific Games in Tahiti (1995), competed in the 75 kgs weight category with a squat of 200 kgs, 100 kgs in the bench press, and 180 kgs deadlift to give him a total of 480 kgs and a gold.

Rupeni Fatiaki competed in the 90 kgs weight category with Raymond and won the gold with a squat of 240 kgs, a 160 kgs bench press, and a 220 kgs deadlift. His lifts gave him a total of 620 kgs, a new national record in his weight category. The old one was 610 kgs, set last year by himself during the trials to pick the team for Pago Pago.

Our final lifter was Iliesa Irava, national champion in the 100 kg weight category. He won a gold in the mini-South Pacific games last year. Iliesa squatted a total of 270 kgs, bench pressed 205 kgs [a new national record for the bench press, the old one was set in 1995 by none other than our strong man Tifere Ravai, another Rotuman, who won gold in the South Pacific games in Tahiti. Tifere is now retired.] Iliesa dead lifted 250 kgs to give him a total of 725 kgs, a new national record in the 100 kg weight category, and 5 kgs away from the national record of the heaviest total ever lifted in any weight category, set by Tifere in the 110 kgs weight category. Iliesa won a gold to give us our sixth gold.

Team members who could not make it to the provincial games were Fanny Ralifo and Filomena Fapiano. Fanny, who competes in the 75 kgs women's category, won a silver in Pago Pago and a gold in the last Fiji games. Filomena won bronze in Pago Pago and gold in the last Fiji games.

Now that the provincial games are over our next target is the national championships, which will be held in December, and then the Oceania championships in Napier, New Zealand if our association will enter. Our long term goals are the next South Pacific Games, and the national championships in coming years.

Apart from powerlifting we have other Rotuman brothers who are also making headlines in the sport of weightlifting. They are Rupeni Varea and Vira Sandia (whose mother is Rotuman). They are now in Nauru training for the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. They were the only weightlifters qualified to represent Fiji (powerlifting is not a part of the Commonwealth Games). Rupeni Varea is currently the South Pacific Champion in Weightlifting. His achievements have reached a new level of recognition with him appearing on a Fiji Stamp commemorating the 1998 Commenwealth Games. The stamp is viewable on the Fiji stamps website <>

So far we have done well and we hope to continue to make our small island proud. When we began lifting for our island we called ourselves "the sons of Rotuma," but now we have the daughters of Rotuma joining us, and together we will continue to powerlift and weightlift, bringing the name of Rotuma up with us..

To all fellow Rotumans who read this: we want you to know that we love you and we are proud to be fellow Rotumans together with you. We thank you for whatever you are doing in lifting the name of our small island, ROTUMA.

[Note from Marlon Isimeli concerning

From Bruce Tizard-Varcoe in England (25 August 1998)

A barbeque was held at Loraine (nee Rigamoto) and Richard Tizard-Varcoe's home in Sutton, England (13 miles south of London) on Saturday, 15th August, for those with Rotuman connections.Forty-two guests turned up, mainly from the London/South East England area and included:

  • Harieta (nee Muaror), her husband Sheridan Rosser and their son David.
  • Nikola & Dorothy Morris and their sons Ben & Alex. Eldest son Phil, his wife Vakacegu, and their five sons were also present. We celebrated their youngest son Ernest's first birthday with a rousing performance of "Happy Birthday" accompanied by a guitar and ukulele.
  • Richard Kaad, his sister Elsie Ah Sam with her husband Noel (our guitarist for the day) and family including their son Winston and daughter-in-law Aina, who were visiting from Norway.
  • Luisa (nee Lilino) and David Copping.
  • Katarina Erasito.
  • Viane Amato Ali came up from Bournemouth University and had just got back from Fiji a few days earlier (our ukulele player for the day).
  • Emily (nee Morris) & Leo Clarke who came up from Devon in the South West. Emily met up with her first cousin Nikola for the first time in 32 years.

The weather was excellent, blue sky and sunshine. Everyone brought food and drink with them to add to the delicious food prepared by Loraine and daughter Tieri. Plenty songs were sung and towards the end of the afternoon, most people were lying on mats on the lawn (imagining they were in Rotuma or Fiji no doubt). The only thing missing was a beach and coconut trees!

P.S. Any Rotumans/Part Rotumans coming to England for study, work, etc.-- give us a call. See our address/telephone details in the Directory on the Rotuma Website.

Survey of Diabetes, Hypertension and Obesity on Rotuma

While on Rotuma we obtained a copy of Dr. Temo Kilioni's report entitled "Prevalence of Diabetes and Hypertension in Rotuma," dated July 1996. The report gives a sobering view of health problems on the island.

Kilioni took blood pressure and glucometer (blood sugar) readings on 915 adults, age 20 and above, in addition to weight and height. Hypertension was defined as a reading of 140/90 or above sitting up on three consecutive readings; diabetes as an RBS reading of 11 mmol on two occasions. The survey revealed 139 cases of hypertension (including 66 new cases) and 87 cases of diabetes (including 23 new cases). It also found 600 individuals (65.6%) to be obese or overweight.

The figures are especially alarming for individuals over 50 and for women. Whereas only 3.1% of individuals under 50 suffer from diabetes, 19.1% of those over 50 have the disease; hypertension affects 8.1% of those under 50 and 26.0% of those over 50. Whereas only 5.3% of men are diabetic, 13.4% of the women have the disease. And women have almost double the rate of hypertension (19.2% compared to 10.8% for men). Women are also more like to be obese (47.2% compared to 17.6% for men; an additional 31.5% of women and 33.3% of men are categorized as overweight). Only 17.3% of women meet ideal weight standards compared to 42.7% of men.

In his report Dr. Temo recommends a program of health education focusing on the risk factors of improper diet, smoking, and lack of exercise.

A number of people have commented about the increasing incidence of heart attacks and strokes that seems to be affecting people on the island. Dr. Temo's report suggests that this may be the result of an improper diet and lack of exercise, with smokers additionally at risk. Our own observation is that in recent years the Rotuman diet has increased substantially in animal fats, salt and sugar. In the past people ate pork or beef (including poat kau) only on special occasions. The daily diet consisted mainly of root crops (tela'a) and fresh fish. Today people eat much more processed food purchased from the shops, and they eat pork, corned beef, and mutton flaps much more often. When there were few vehicles on the island people walked a lot more--to the bush, to visit relatives, etc. Now people tend to rely on motor vehicles for transportation and get less exercise. Cigarettes are also more readily available and smoking seems to have become more prevalent.

Dr. Temo's report documents the results of these changes and should be a serious wakeup call to all of us concerned with the health of people on the island.

We (Alan & Jan) are back in Honolulu and ready to resume the work of webmaster. We had a wonderful trip and enjoyed renewing our relationships with people in Fiji, Rotuma, New Zealand, and Australia. See our photo montages of Rotuma, Fiji, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne & Wellington.

In Suva we were hosted by Susana and John Tevita. On 4 July we attended the wedding in Churchward Chapel of Mosese Faga Rigamoto and Sylvia Emeli Alexander. Mosese is the son of Robert and Marieta Rigamoto. Sylvia is the daughter of Susana (who is the daughter of Alfereti Pene) and Faga (who is the son of Aleki & Nin). Unfortunately the joy of the occasion was blunted for many of the kainaga because of the death of Vilsoni Fartoga on Tuesday, 30 June, in Lautoka.

We went to Rotuma on 4 July by Sunflower Air and were hosted by Elisapeti Inia in Savlei. The cleanup campaign in Savlei really shows, and the restoration work on the Methodist Church is coming along nicely. The spirit of community is well-exemplified by the way Catholics and Methodists are working together on the project.

Of major concern during the week was news of a blight affecting the coconut, orange and breadfruit trees, taro plants, pandanus (sa'aga) and all green plants except papai. The blight, caused by a microscopic insect, turns leaves black so that they wither, causing fruit to fall off prematurely and eventually killing the plant. Being microscopic it spreads by blowing on the wind, but at that time was confined to Noa'tau and Oinafa. We were told that plant material from the two districts were not supposed to be taken elsewhere on the island. People attending kato'aga in those districts were told to use plastic bags to take food home rather than coconut leaf baskets or banana leaves.

Two agricultural officers came to inspect the infected plants and reported to the Rotuma Council a few days before we arrived. They said that the blight could be controlled by bringing in an insect that feeds on the insects causing the problem. Several of the people we spoke with expressed anxiety about this plan, and wondered what the imported insects would eat after they eradicated the blight. They were told that the imported insects would die off but not everyone was convinced. For an update see the report below by Sanimeli Maraf.

Another topic of concern was the split in the Methodist Church, with the Motusa Circuit breaking from the Oinafa Circuit to form its own division. If this split is approved by the Fiji Conference, which is taking place now, the Oinafa Circuit would become a division with its own Superintendent minister. The Motusa Division would also have a Superintendent minister. As a result of the split two separate conferences were held this year, one in Malhaha, the other in Motusa. The Malhaha Conference was held on 11 July and included only a hymn competition. There were no tautoga out of respect for Gagaj Tu'a (from Malhaha), who died earlier in the year. The Conference raised F$11,000. The Motusa Conference was held on 25 July and included both hymn and tautoga competitions (see below).

Another recent development has been the founding of an Assembly of God church on Rotuma. The church compound is on the shortcut road between Ahau and Hapmafau. We were told that about fifteen families have been attending services there, and that those who have joined are mostly younger adults in their 20s and 30s. This is a similar pattern to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. According to SDA minister, Albert Mani, 29 families belong to his church, including 70 people who are baptized. Most are young, in the 25-35 age range. There are also Jehovah's Witnesses on the island.

We were sorry to learn that both the Fletcher Bible College and the preschool at Upu have closed down. The Bible College closed because the number of students diminished to the point where it was no longer feasible to keep it open. The preschool closed because financial support is lacking.

Economically the island is not as badly off as we had expected following the collapse of NBF and demise of the Raho Co-operative. The price of copra is relatively high (F$15 per 100 kgs) and kava sells for F$20 per kg on the island and up to F$28 in Fiji. There are eight small co-ops and eight private businesses exporting copra and other crops, so money is being made.

However, the cost of imported goods has gone up as a result of the devaluation of the Fiji dollar. Most of the small shops on the island have closed, leaving the Post Office shop as the main retail outlet on the island. Many people complained that their prices are high compared to Suva. Also making life a bit more difficult is the fact that the NBF bank has closed, so there are no banking facilities on the island. Money can be sent or received by postal money order, and the Post Office operates a savings bank from which limited sums can be withdrawn, but there is no place to cash checks.

We attended a gathering of the Rotuma Teacher's Association at Rocky Point during our first evening on the island. The gathering was in honour of Maniue Vilsoni, who was visiting during his term break from University of the South Pacific. Maniue taught at Motusa and Malhaha Primary Schools before getting a scholarship to complete his studies at USP. We are happy to report that he has done exceptionally well in his studies and should get his bachelor's degree in December.

The weather on Rotuma was fine, except on Monday, 6 July when it rained all day. It was a welcome rain, since the island has suffered a drought this year. Monday was Sports Day at Ahau, so the rugby and netball games were played in a pouring rain, which did not, however, dampen the players' spirits. The games were opened by Dr. Taukave, who has retired to Rotuma with his wife, Tupou.

On Monday night we had dinner with Gagaj Irav, who has been acting chief of Itu'ti'u for the past eight months because Gagaj Kautarfon, the fa 'es itu'u, has been in Fiji where he is recuperating from operations on both knees. Gagaj Irav told us that the conflict over chieftainship in the district has greatly subsided, although some people still harbor ill feelings and refuse to cooperate. The situation in Oinafa is likewise--better than before, but still unresolved.

The hospital at Ahau seems to be improved, with the assistance of The Rotuma Hospital Board of Visitors, chaired by Sanimeli Maraf. The new ambulance is a real asset and the new doctor on the island, Dr. Eric Ralifo, is highly regarded. It is also good to see a full-time dentist on the island.

We were told that Gagaj Titofag has done a good job as Chair of the Rotuman Council. The Council has paid off previous debts and accounts are now in the black. Gagaj Titofag also was instrumental in getting the Chinese Embassy to donate two new buses to the island. The Council has asked Paul Manueli to run for re-election to the Legislature in next year's elections.

Harieta Katafono was elected by Itu'ti'u to the High School Board of Governors and this year was made chair. The board is composed of the seven chiefs and seven elected members, one from each district.

Dr. John Fatiaki was on the island for the week visiting four of his children who are attending school on Rotuma. He told us that he intends to send his children, up to class 7, to Rotuma for one semester a year so that they will learn Rotuman language and custom, and get to know their kainaga. Harieta Bennett also was on Rotuma with her daughter, Hannah, and Lingi Klink was in Lopta with her three children. Both Harieta and Lingi live in Hawai'i and are members of the Tefui Club. They also want their children to learn the language and customs of the island while they are young. It was generally heartening to see the concern of emigrant Rotumans for perpetuating Rotuman language and culture.

From Rotuma we went back to Fiji for a few days, then departed for Auckland, where we were hosted by Rev. Jione Langi and his family. Rev. Langi is scheduled to finish his ministry in New Zealand this coming December. His next assignment will be determined at the Fiji Conference, now underway. On Saturday, 18 July, we met with the Auckland Rotuman fellowship at a special gathering at which we talked about our work and discussed various issues concerning the Rotuman community.

Next we flew to Sydney, where we were hosted by Maretoa Dickinson. We were privileged to attend the opening of the third annual Rotuman Language Workshop at Alan Walker Bible College on Saturday, 25 July. The workshop was conducted by Kava Fonmoa. Also present at the workshop were Reverends Fesaitu Marseu and Emotama Pene, who is in Sydney for further study.

On Saturday, 1 August we attended a fund-raising fair at Drummoyne Uniting Church where we had the opportunity to talk with many members of the Sydney Rotuman community. We also attended Rotuman services at both the Drummoyne and Wesley (City) Churches, which allowed us to renew old acquaintances and discuss Rotuman issues.

From Sydney we flew to Melbourne where we were hosted by Torika Sanerive & Kapieni Patresio. We were present for a meeting of the Rotuman Club on Saturday, 8 August, and enjoyed meeting with the group which, though small, is quite active.

Our final destination was Wellington, NZ, where we were hosted by Arthur and Ravai Shaw. There, on Saturday, 14 August, we attended a meeting of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship (NZRF). The group, which includes members from Masterton, Napier, and Palmerston North, held a taumaka for dances to be performed at the October meeting of the NZRF in Auckland. The dances honour Reverend Langi and his family for their service to Rotumans in New Zealand .

We arrived home on Sunday, 16 August, exhausted but full of wonderful memories. Once again we were overwhelmed with the hospitality and generosity of our Rotuman friends, and especially would like to thank our hosts for all they did for us. We come away with renewed commitment to the global Rotuman community and dedicated to making this website a vehicle for keeping Rotuman culture alive and well in the years to come.

From Marlon Isimeli in Suva (16 August 1998)

The Hibiscus Festival has started this year, and went off with a bang on Saturday with fireworks heralding the beginning of a festive week for Suva. Rotuman participants are Donna Cavuilati and Donna Hoerder. Donna Cavuliati's mother is Rotuman; her father was the late Pio Cavuilati. She was a Fiji Secondary School women 100m sprint champion, and is currently a dominant representative in the women's triathlon. Donna Hoerder is of German/Rotuman descent. She is a member of the same dance group as last year's Miss Hibiscus, Letila Mitchell. Letila was carried onto the grounds during the Saturday afternoon parade by the strong, tough , fit muscle-men of the Tafaga club who are taking part in the 8th Va'a World Canoe Sprints.

Currently the 8th Va'a World Sprints are also being held in Suva, on the waterfront along the seawall from the YWCA building (in line with) to the area behind the Fiji Development Bank building. There are close to 2000 participants from clubs all over the world including Hawaii, Canada, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, France, Italy, New Caledonia, Palau, Wallis and Futuna, New Zealand and Australia. Also participating is the Autumn Rose Canoe Club from Lummi Nation in Washington State, made up of Native Americans. The Tahitians are the favorites to win the Open Men's category, with the Canadian women led by an Olympic medalist running strong in the women's category. Rotuma's participation in this great event is mainly with the Tafaga Club, with last year's Miss Hibiscus and her sister rowing for another local club.

It was a great development for local rugby when Rotuman Fred Atalifo was selected to captain the Capital side Suva in their last two provincial matches. This level of competition is the highest level of national rugby, with the next step being selected to represent the national team. The capital side Suva consists of national reps such as Sevens wizard Waisale Serevi, former Fiji XV Captain Mosese Taga, and is currently the only undefeated team in the Provincial competition.Whilst the Fiji National team was touring NZ two weeks ago, Fred was selected to Captain Suva against Tavua, with a lot of new reps in the side. Fred featured strongly at the number eight position, scoring a try in the game which they won to keep their undefeated record. Fred also captained Suva last Saturday, and while his fiancé Letila was leading the Hibiscus parade in Albert Park, Fred was busy leading the Capital team at the National Stadium against last year's champions Tailevu. Suva maintained their unbeaten record with a 13-9 win over the defending champs. Suva has been at the top of the ladder and now has a game to go before the quarter finals. Fred Atalifo, was also the captain of the winning Sarafui team that won the rugby competition in last year's Rotuma games.

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