Fiji Elections, Rotuman Seat, 1999

Daily Post, Monday, 17 May 1999 (from
Fijilive archives)

Marieta Rigamoto attributes her win to God and all the Rotumans

A JUBILANT Marieta Rigamoto said after winning the Rotuma communal seat that she wants a Rotuman office to support people living outside the island.

Ms Rigamoto won the seat against Kafoa Pene by 30 votes.

At the end of the count Mrs Rigamoto had polled 2012 votes against Mr Pene's 1982.

She attributed her win to God and all the Rotumans who had so much faith in her.

"I thank God for his blessings on my family and Rotuman who trusted me to be their voice in parliament," she said.

"I also did my home work which really helped a lot in my win."

She described Mr Pene as a good opponent which could be seen in the small margin in the results.

"Kafoa (Mr Pene) had a lot of supporters who back him up, but I only had my family who were behind me all the time," she said.

She wants to do a lot for Rotumans.

"While working in government I used to notice a lot of problems faced by Rotumans back at home," she said.

"The island of Rotuma needs a lot of improvement in terms of infrastructure and medical facilities," she said.

"This would come about with the establishment of a Rotuma office as part of the government machinery to look into these problems."

Mrs. Rigamoto said she was glad to be the first woman candidate to be elected into parliament from Rotuma.

One of her aims is to look into the plight of women especially at the beginning of the new millennium.

"I am happy to be elected as a woman and I hope that many other women candidates would be elected especially when we have started the women caucus," Mrs Rigamoto said.

"At least we'll be able to look after women's issues."

On whether she will support another party when she goes to parliament, she said she will wait for the counting to be completed.

From Luisa Finiasi in Suva, 16 May 1999

Official result from the National Election Centre, in Suva Grammar School, Rotuma Communal:

Total Ballot Papers counted: 4682
Less Invalid Ballot Papers: 688
Total Valid Ballot Papers: 3994
Number of Voters on List: 5232
Votes required for majority: 1998

Kafoa Ieli Pene (LFR) = 1982 votes (49.2%)

Marieta Rigamoto (Independent) = 2012 votes (50.38%)[elected]

Fiji Daily Post,Thursday, 29 April 1999 (from Fijilive archives)

Rigamoto offers dedicated service

WE are entering a new era, and it's time to make a difference, says Independent candidate for the Rotuma communal seat Marieta Rigamoto.

Ms Rigamoto who has been a civil servant for the last 31 years said she wanted to enter politics to continue her service to the people.

She said she had been groomed to be a politician while working for Government.

At the culmination of that colourful career she worked in the President's office between 1994 to 1998.

The former Fiji School of Agriculture College principal said that when she retired from the civil service last year she was not thinking of contesting the general elections.

However, after several approaches from political parties, she knew her service was still needed so she decided to go into politics.

"It was a tough decision to make but I had to because I know my service was still needed," Ms Rigamoto said.

She said that because there was no party for the Rotumans she decided to be an Independent candidate.

"I was told that Rotuma will form a party in the next general election as negotiations were still underway."

Ms Rigamoto said that being an Independent candidate she was offering her services to the people free, however the party system, means members have to pay their membership fee for them to be heard.

Ms Rigamoto admitted she was surprised that a new party was formed but believed they would not pose a threat to her.

Commenting on her election campaign she said that she has already briefed the Rotuma Council and she was also given their blessing.

She campaigned in Rotuma and was very pleased with the response.

"I'm not calling any rally but I have to go to my voters and meet them in person."

Ms Rigamoto said she has also been involved in a number of social activities with her fellow Rotumans and understood their general plight and concerns.

She said some of the issues she would like to see addressed in Rotuma are: Infrastructure - improvement of Circular and Feeder roads.

On transportation she would like see the completion of the wharf, maintenance of the airstrip and regular shipping to the island.

She would also like to see that the hospital in Rotuma is upgraded so that dental services and an eye specialist is available.

On national issues Ms Rigamoto said she would work hard for the establishment of a Department of Rotuman Affairs.

She said that she was looking forward to the election and it was up to the Rotumans all over Fiji to decide which candidate should represent them in the new Parliament.

Ms Rigamoto said she was ready to go into Parliament and has promised that she will offer her best service.

Ms Rigamoto's background:

Born at Navuso Agricultural School, Naitasiri - spent most of the early years in rural areas.


Dudley High School - 1957-1962
Fiji College of Agriculture - Diploma in Tropical Agriculture (1965)
University of Hawaii - B.Sc. Agriculture (1969)
University of London - DHE & CD (1971)
Wolverhampton Polytech College (UK) Cert TTA (1965)

Work Experience

Joined the Civil Service - 1966
Ministry of agriculture - 1969 - 74 Extension Services
1977-78 Economic Planning Division
1982-89 Principal, Fiji College of Agriculture
Public Service Commission - 1975-76
Ministry of Fijian Affairs & Rural Development 1979-1982
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1990-1992)
Cabinet Office (1993)
Office of the President (1994-98)
Retired from the Civil Service on 1 December 1998
Awarded the Civil Service Medal (CSM) 1995

Community Activities

Oinafa Community group
Lopta Community Group
Church Activity
Member of the Rotuman Methodist Women's Fellowship


Married with three children and one grandson

Current Activity

Farming at Rovedrau, Deuba, Serua.

Advertisement for Lio 'on Famör Rotuma Party Rally at Suva Civic Center on 24 April, 1999

For an account of the rally see below

Daily Post, Sunday, 25 April 1999 (from Fijilive archives)

Lio On Famor Rotuma's plans

A good Rotuman crowd turned out at the Civic Centre in Suva yesterday for the launching of the Lio `On Famor Rotuma Party manifesto.

And party candidate for the Rotuma communal seat Kafoa Pene was happy with the turn out and was positive the party was now getting the support of the Rotumans.

He said that it was time that the voice of Rotumans was taken up by a party.

"Rotuma has for long been represented by an Independent candidate and the formation of the Lio `On Famor Rotuma Party would be good for the Rotumans in the future," Mr Pene said.

He said the party had the support of the Rotuma Council and the presence of Gagaj Titofag at the launching of the party's manifesto was a blessing.

Kafoa Pene will contest the seat against Independent Marieta Rigamoto.

Party manifesto:

Mission: Born out of a determined mission to promote the political, economic and social life of the people of Rotuma living in Fiji and Rotuma. In so doing, the party is committed to working with the government of the day as and when the occasion demands.

Vision: "Lio On Famor Rotuma" has a vision of an equal and just society where from Rotumans will have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills to advance the development of Rotuma and its people towards self-reliance and self-sufficiency. To forward this vision, the party has committed itself to a path of hard work and solidarity that will enable it to meet the targets set to achieve for Rotumans.

Economic Goals: To promote economic activity on the island through self-help (cottage industries) projects for individuals or groups through the development of natural resources on the island such as root-crops, fruits, mineral water, marine resources, copra, etc. This would involve the commissioning of feasibility studies to establish the viability or otherwise of these projects. Also to assist Rotumans already in business and prospective entrepreneurs through the enhancement of their knowledge and skills.

Social Goals: education - Lobby for free education up to the end of secondary school level (Form 7), and for the review of the school curriculum to be vocation-oriented. Seek assistance for the continuation of vocational education to cater for the needs of school leavers and young people. Establish adult education programmes for the enhancement of Rotumans' knowledge/skills, economically, politically and socially. Ensure that the Rotuman language and culture are part of the curriculum in primary school in Fiji and Rotuma and at tertiary level. Establish a Rotuman Educational Society in Fiji to promote the education of Rotuman children and those of other races, from preschool to secondary level. The party will, for the time being, act as an agency to assist parents and children in their quest for education in Fiji.

Health: Ensure that health services are available to all people in both Rotuma and in Fiji. Facilitate improvement of health facilities on the island in terms of physical structures, equipment and manpower. At the moment there is no mortuary, or proper dental facilities on the island. The theatre needs to be upgraded to cope with emergencies or urgent cases. Explore the possibility of establishing special health clinics for specific medical needs, such as consultancy services at regular periodic intervals.

Infrastructure: Improve road conditions, wharf and airport, and provide the necessary machinery on the island for the continuous upgrading of the roads. A study is to be commissioned to explore the relocation of the wharf. Explore ways of improving shipping and airline services to the island. Explore the possibility of an alternative power supply throughout the island.

Employment: Vigorously pursue the achievement of the economic goals through which employment opportunities would be created. Set up an employment agency within the party of office in Fiji with the objective of securing employment for Rotuman youths who have completed secondary, tertiary or vocational training either in Fiji or Rotuma.

Political: To provide a medium through which the voice of the Rotuman people will be heard at the decision-making levels of government.

Improve the political knowledge of the people through regular information circulars/newsletter from the party.

Create and maintain political awareness amongst the people through continuous awareness programmes.

Promote equity at the decision-making level by encouraging women and young people's (youth) participation at all forums.

Seek establishment of a desk for Rotumans within the office of the Prime Minister as provided in the Rotuma Act. The desk must be managed by a person of Rotuman descent, and be directly accountable to the Prime Minister.

"Lio On Famor Rotuma" is aware of the economic, social and political climate that currently exists here in Fiji. In this regard, the party subscribes to working with the government of the day.

Fight against crime and uphold justice in every respect.

Promote the interests of women and youth through their inclusion at all decision-making levels.

Work towards the elimination of poverty.

Explore ways of employment creation to meet the demands of 1300 school leavers each year, through the promotion of foreign investment and establishment of local enterprises. Today, the unemployment rate stands at about 28 percent.

Review government's reform agenda bearing in mind its effects on the lives of the workers and their families.

Improve health facilities and services throughout the country.

"Lio On Famor Rotuma" is conscious of the difficulties it will face in pursuing all that it has set out to do. However, with determination and perseverance, the party resolves to tackle each challenge as it comes within the means and resources available to it.

Daily Post, Wednesday, April 14, 1999 (from Fijilive archives)

Vote Pene, Rotuma!

LIO On Famor Rotuma Party candidate Kafoa Pene believes it is time for Rotumans to air their views through a party system.

And he said he was the best to represent them in this regards.

"For too long Rotuma has been represented in Parliament by an independent candidate, which has denied us our democratic rights," Mr Pene said.

He said only a political party would enhance the advancement and wellbeing of Rotumans who will be answerable to party members and not to themselves as in the case of independents.

Mr Pene said that he would not make any promises but was prepared to be the vehicle of the Rotuman voters.

A former teacher, Mr Pene said the grassroot Rotumans were denied their say for too long.

"This is a disadvantage when Rotumans do not have a party of their own."

The former school principal said the youth group too had been left out from the decision making body.

He said that many youths are highly qualified and they should be asked to contribute to the development of Rotuma.

Mr Pene said that he had just returned from Rotuma where he paid a courtesy call to the Rotuma Island Council.

"I clearly explained to them why we had formed a party and also gave them the party's assurance that we would at all times uphold the Council as the supreme body on Rotuma Island."

He said that he had been given the blessing of the council.

Commenting on his chances against Marieta Rigamoto, the Independent candidate, Mr Pene said he would let voters decide.

"I must say that we're doing well in our election campaign."

The former civil servant is also a member of the Council of Chiefs in Rotuma.

Born in the chiefly district of Noatau in Rotuma, Mr Pene holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of the South Pacific.

He was the former principal of Rotuma High School, Levuka Public School, Queen Victoria School and was in charge of the Careers Section in the Ministry of Education, before resigning this month to contest the election.

Daily Post, Friday 2 April 1999 (from Fijilive archives)

Rotuman party endorses Kafoa Pene

LIO On Famor Rotuma Party or Voice of the Rotuman People has unanimously endorsed former Civil Servant Kafoa Pene as its official candidate to contest the Rotuman Communal seat in the coming general election.

Mr Kafoa, 51, was born in the chiefly district of Noatau in Rotuma and is a former member of the Council of Chiefs in Rotuma.

He holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of the South Pacific, and was the former principal of Rotuma High School, Levuka Public School, Queen Victoria School.

The former school teacher was in charge of the Careers Section in the Ministry of Education before he resigned this month to contest the election.

According to party officials he is an active member in various Rotuman community affairs in Fiji and Rotuma, an excellent Rotuman orator and is well respected by the Rotuman community in Fiji and Rotuma.

Lio On Famor Rotuma Party was formed by the leaders of the Rotuman Community in Suva as the political, economic, social and cultural voice of all Rotumans and part-Rotumans living on this planet.

It is run by a council of leaders representing Rotumans living in the Central, Eastern, Western, Northern constituencies and from the island of Rotuma.

It has its own constitution with a manifesto that ensures all Rotumans enjoy the many economic, social, political and cultural benefits in Fiji's new constitution.

Lio On Famor Rotuma Party has its own registered office at 48 Cumming Street, Suva, staffed by volunteer council members.

"We urge all Rotumans and those of Rotuman decent to be united and register as a member of Lio On Famor Rotuma Party and vote for our official party candidate Kafoa Pene in the forthcoming general election.

"We believe he is the best man to champion our cause in Fiji's new parliament," said Hae Rigamoto, the party spokesman.

Mr Pene and his delegation visited Rotuma and met the Council of Chiefs.

The seven chiefs on the island thanked the delegation of their commitment to helping all Rotumans in Fiji and Rotuma economically, culturally and socially.

"We are absolutely delighted that our chiefs have given the party their blessings and their wish to work very closely with us in the future," said Sukamanu Pene, the President of the party.

Fiji Daily Post, Thursday, 1st April, 1999 (from Fijilive archives)

Govt sold our rights

A GROUP of Rotumans are claiming that the government had sold out their rights by pitting them against Lau and Taveuni for the only seat allocated to them.

The new constituency boundaries drawn for the Northern Division open seat for Rotuma also includes the densely populated provinces of Lau and Taveuni.

President of the Rotuma Independent Movement Aleki Kafoa said Rotumans should boycott the elections because they have already lost to either the Lau or Taveuni candidate.

Mr Kafoa said the penalty for not voting will not deter Rotumans from boycotting the elections.

"Rotumans must boycott the elections and the government should be ready for a confrontation in court because we will fight tooth and nail to unveil to government the injustice forced upon us," Mr Kafoa said.

He said even if all the Rotumans voted for their candidate on the Lau/Taveuni/Rotuma seat, they would still lose out as they are grossly outnumbered.

"We are now treated as sub-class citizens, we are told that we have two seats to contest but in reality we have only one that is the Rotuman Communal Constituency seat," said Mr Kafoa.

A popular and respected man within the Rotuman circles, Mr Kafoa applied for a ticket with Fiji Labour Party to represent the Rotumans but later withdrew.

He also claimed FLP had sold out their faithful by allowing its coalition partner to contest the communal seats.

Kafoa said the uncertainty surrounding the coalition was one of the reasons he withdrew.

"Labour party entered into coalition with other parties, having known that their partners have a tarnished track record and it is a wonder why FLP chose to pursue a partnership with them."

He was also critical of the government for treating Rotuma like a province when it should have been rightfully treated like a state.

Mr Kafoa also stated that many Rotumans are unhappy with the structure of the new Rotuman political party, Lio on famor Rotuma (Voice of the people of Rotuma), and do not want their previous MP to represent them anymore.

Mr Kafoa predicted an interesting poll but he sympathised with the Rotumans because their fate had been decided even before votes were cast.

Fiji Times, Monday, 19 April (sent by Marlon Isimeli)

$10,000 poll fund angers Rotumans, by Irene Manueli

The allocation of $10,000 from the Rotuman Seven Districts' (Suva branch) coffers to the Lio 'on Famor Rotuma party has angered some members of the Rotuman community.

Among the disgruntled members is former Seven Districts (Suva) committee chairman, Doctor Tukaha Mua. Dr. Mua has called on the political party to return the $10,000 to the committee.

The committee had broken the $21,000 fixed deposit in order to donate $10,000 to the party, said Dr Mua. While Dr Mua agreed that the committee had the authority to break the fixed deposit, it was "wrong and a blatant abuse of office".

Party spokesman Hae Rigamoto disputed that the $10,000 was a donation. He said it was a loan. Mr. Rigamoto referred further queries to the committee chairman, Varea Mora'a. Yesterday (Sunday 18th) Mr. Mora'a refused to talk to reporters. His niece was sent to inform a reporter that he had no comments to make.

"The political party (Lio 'on Famor Rotuma Party) is not the party of the Chiefs or the Rotuma Seven Districts in Suva, Lautoka, Nadi or Vatukoula," said Dr Mua. Dr Mua was chairman of the Suva Seven Districts committee in 1997 when the formation of a political party was endorsed. He said a special committee established the framework of the political party before Rotumans were invited to form the party. The idea was to have those interested to form the party, "elect their officials, raise their own funds and sponsor their own candidates," said Dr Mua.

"This is an exact copy of the $220 million dollar NBF scandal." He said the 1998 committee chairman Susau Managreve "maintained the same rigid stance that funds be used sparingly to complete the draft constitution only."

For a full text copy of Dr. Mua's letter to the Council Chairman click here

Fiji Times Monday, 19 April (sent by Marlon Isimeli)

Rigamoto offers to help Rotuma -

After spending 29 years in the Civil Service, Marieta Rigamoto has a lot more to offer to the Rotuman Community.

Speaking to her supporters in Lautoka, the Independent candidate reminded them that it was time to make changes and move ahead. She was concerned about the infrastructure in Rotuma, the health services and transport facilities.

Mrs. Rigamoto feels that a Rotuma desk should be established in Fiji to deal with Rotuman Affairs. She said the circular and feeder roads in Rotuma needed improvement while the wharf needed completion, the airstrip needed maintenance and there was a regular need for shipping.

Mrs. Rigamoto also intends to improve the hospital services with provisions for dental services and an eye department.

With a Diploma in Agriculture from the Fiji College of Agriculture, Mrs. Rigamoto is managing her farm at Serua and serving the Oinafa and Lopta community. She joined the civil service in 1966 and worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Public Service Commission and the Office of the President where she retired in 1998.

Mrs. Rigamoto looks forward to serving her people with her vast experience.

(19 April 1999) We have obtained a pamphlet being handed out to voters by Marieta Rigamoto, who is running for the Rotuman Parliamentary seat as an independent. The contents of the pamphlet are reproduced below. Posting of the pamphlet does not constitute an endorsement of Mrs Rigamoto. If anyone has comparable information for the other candidate, Kafoa Pene, we urge them to send it so it can be posted as well

Marieta Makarita Rigamoto of Lopta, Oinafa, Rotuma

Noa'ia 'e mauri , te' ne 'aus Gagaj 'atakoa. Rogrog te'is gou ga'iof la rak'akia, ne gou la fu 'e hil teet ne la a'sok 'e 1999 - 'e PÄEAG het ne mou se 'is lelea' Rotuma. (Rotuma Communal Seat). Gou a'hae la rak'ak tape'ma, ne gou fu fak "Independent Candidate" ma 'otou faki'oag het ne mou se goua pulol ne lag het. Gou fu la pel'akia AIER ta, ma NONOJOT ne mou se 'is lelea' Rotuma.


Born at Navuso Agricultural School, Naitasiri - spent most of the early years in rural areas.


Wolverhampton Polytech College (UK) Cert TTA (1985)
University of London - DHE & CD (1971)
University of Hawaii - B.Sc. Agriculture (1969)
Fiji College of Agrculture - Diploma in Tropical Agriculture (1965)
Dudley High School - 1957 - 1962

Work Experience:

Joined Civil Service - 1966
Ministry of Agriculture
1969 - 1974 : Extension Services
1977 - 1978 : Economic Planning Division
1982 - 1989 : Principal, Fiji College of Agriculture
Public Service Commission : 1975 - 1976
Ministry of Fijian Affairs & Rural Development 1979 - 1982
Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1990 - 1992
Cabinet Office 1993
Office of the President 1994 - 1998
Retired from the Civil Service on 1 December 1998
Awarded the Civil Service Medal (CSM) 1995.

Community Activities:

Oinafa Community group
Lopta Community group

Church Activity:

Member of the Rotuman Methodist Women's Fellowship


Married with three children and one grandson

Current Activity:

A farmer at Rovedrau, Deuba, Serua.

Issues of Concern :

Improvement of circular road, feeder roads
Completion of wharf
Maintenance of airstrip
Regular shipping
Health Services
Upgrading of hospital
Provision for dental services & eye specialist
Establishment of Rotuma Desk to deal with Rotuman Affairs.


  • Are you registered ?
  • Know your polling station
  • Exercise your constitutional right
  • Vote your Parliamentarian of the new millennium 8-15 May 1999.

Fiji Times (14 April 1999, sent by Marlon Isimeli)

Rotuman Chiefs want Manueli in Senate

by Irene Manueli

Home Affairs Minister Paul Manueli has won majority votes to secure the only seat allocated for the Rotuman community in the Upper House.

"Of the 12 votes cast, six votes were in his favour," said council Chairman, Gagaj Titofag, from Ahau, Rotuma, yesterday (Tuesday April 13th).

Mr Manueli was a career solider and former army commander before he entered politics. He was the Chairman of the National Bank of Fiji , which accumulated losses of around $200 million.

The applicants for the Senate seat were Mr Manueli, former education officer Harieta Katafono, former teacher Tiu Malo, Noatau Chief Gagaj Maraf, and former Senator Aisea Aitu.

Gagaj Titofag said Gagaj Maraf was the runner-up with three votes. Two council members did not vote. The chief of Pepjei was late for the meeting and the chief of Itutiu Gagaj Kauterfon was too ill to attend.

Meanwhile, the council is not supporting any particular candidate. Gagaj Titofag said it was up to the Rotuman voters to elect who they wanted into Parliament.

"The council will not influence them. Whoever wins will be accepted by the council because they are both children of Rotuma." he said.

Candidate wants boycott

Rotuma Independent Movement president Aleki Kafoa reiterated his call for Rotuman voters to boycott the general elections next month. And to symbolise commitment to his beliefs, Mr Kafoa has withdrawn from contesting the elections.

"I feel it is the right thing to do," said Mr Kafoa who withdrew on Friday.

Mr Kafoa called for a boycott because he felt that the Rotuman Community was being cheated out of an extra seat with the allocation of only one open seat for Rotuma and the densely populated provinces of Lau and Taveuni.

Initially, Mr Kafoa said he would contest the Rotuman communal seat under the Party of National Unity banner. His withdrawal leaves former high school principal Kafoa Pene and former Secretary to the President's Office Marieta Rigamoto to contest the seat.

Fiji Times (6 April 1999, sent by Marlon Isimeli)

Candidate changes tune, joins race, by Irene Manueli

President of the Rotuman Independent Movement , Aleki John Kafoa, has joined the election race and will contest the Rotuman Communal seat. This is despite his call for Rotumans to boycott the elections. When asked about the contradiction, Mr. Kafoa said there was nothing contradictory and insisted that his stand on the matter had not changed. He had called for a boycott because he felt that the Rotuman people were cheated out of an extra seat with the allocation of only one open seat for Rotuma, and the densely populated provinces of Lau and Taveuni.

"That is why no Rotuman is contesting the open seat," he said. Mr Kafoa will contest under the Party of National Unity (PANU) banner. He is vying against his former school principal, Kafoa Pene, and former secretary to the President's office, Marieta Rigamoto. A father of three and a self-employed businessman in the bailiff and investigations business, Mr. Kafoa left school after Form Five and entered the work force. He is also a former pastor for the Assemblies of God church. Mr. Kafoa believes a good heart and common sense and no necessarily good qualifications, make the best candidate.

For instance, he said, the Government was full of qualified people but they "still messed up". He said he decided to stand in the general elections because he wanted to fight for Rotuma to be recognized as a state instead of a province. The fact that Rotuma was ceded to Fiji was reason enough for Rotuma to be given state status, said Mr. Kafoa. He said Rotuma's uniqueness was acknowledged in the phrase "Viti kei Rotuma" but in terms of development, Rotuma has been ill-treated.

Mr. Kafoa chose to stand under PANU instead of the "Lio of Famor Rotuma" party banner because he believes PANU has more strength, experience and impact. If he wins the seat, Mr. Kafoa said his first priority would be to try to set up a factory on the island to use copra. His other priorities include improving shipping services to allow the island to export oranges and fish. He wishes to expose Rotuma to tourism. Mr. Kafoa said it was ridiculous that the Rotuma Council of Chiefs banned tourism. He said such project, if managed properly, would increase the standards of living of those on the island.

Fiji Times (3 March 1999)

Rotuma Seeks Poll Candidates, by Irene Manueli

THE Rotuma Council is still to endorse a candidate for the general elections.

The sole Rotuma communal seat is held by Home Affairs Minister Paul Manueli who has not sought re-election.

Noatau chief Gagaj Maraf Solomone said no one had approached the council nor shown interest in the seat. Gagaj Maraf said the chiefs had not been warned that Mr Manueli was to step down. He said Mr Manueli last year agreed to stand in the general elections but on his visit to the island in January, he announced his withdrawal.

"He (Mr Manueli) said he felt the burden he was now shouldering was too much for him and that he was growing too old for politics," said Gagaj Maraf.

"At the moment nothing is confirmed. "All we know is of talk that certain people are interested but no one has approached the council."

Gagaj Maraf said Mr Manueli told the council that the former secretary to the Office of the President, Marieta Rigamoto, was interested. Mrs Rigamoto confirmed on Friday that she would vie for the Rotuma communal seat as an independent candidate. Other people known to have shown interest in the seat are Kafoa Pene, the former principal of Queen Victoria School, and Firipo Nakaora, a former district officer.

Gagaj Maraf said the next council meeting would be held during Mr Manueli's visit to Rotuma this month.
"Everything should be ironed out by then. The council should decide on a candidate then," said Gagaj Maraf.

Mr Manueli makes his last official visit to the island this month. The council is preparing a feast for him. Meanwhile, attempts are underway to form a Rotuman political party.The party, which had its constitution drawn up last year, is without a name and is yet to be registered. Suva representative for Juju District, Susau Managreve. said the party had until March 18 to obtain 200 signatures on its registration application form.

"Once this is done, the party will call on applications from interested people," said Mr Managreve. "The new party is to ensure that the member of parliament for Rotuma is accountable to the people of Rotuma."

Chairman of the Suva Seven Districts Rotuman Community John Konrote said a meeting would be called on Saturday to decide on the fate of the political party.

"Walter Rigamoto (the Supervisor of Elections) said we have until the end of this month to register the party," said Mr Konrote. "At the meeting this Saturday we will determine whether or not to pursue the formation of the party. "