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Archived News: July 2000

From Alan Howard in Honolulu (26 July 2000)

Akeneta (right) with her mother Seferosa, father Sakimi, and Sakimi mea'me'a in 1960

It was with great sadness that Jan and I learned of the deaths of two of Itu'muta's most prominent residents yesterday. We were informed by Elisapeti Inia that Gagaj Ti'u died in Fiji on Monday, 24 July, and on the following day, on Rotuma, Akeneta Sakimi passed away.

When I first went to Rotuma in 1959, Akeneta's family took me into their home at Salosa and put up with me for a full year. They treated me with the greatest kindness, and Akeneta was like a sister to me. I loved her dearly. It was one of our joys in revisiting Rotuma regularly to spend time with her and her adopted family, Sakimi mea'ma'a (as I first new him), Sarote, and their children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Akeneta in 1998

Akeneta was highly skilled in Rotuman crafts, skills she taught to generations of Rotuman schoolchildren. She was a warm and generous person and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her.

I first knew Gagaj Ti'u as Jione Pagkale, before he took the title and became faufisi of Itu'muta. He became a good friend, and I was delighted to renew our friendship after my return to Rotuma in 1987. Our meeting then was memorable. Jan and I were walking past Pala into Lopo when I saw him walking down the road. I recognized him instantly, but he was puzzled by this fa and han fisi walking toward him. When I called out his name, and said who I was, we embraced and shed tears of joy. Somehow that incident symbolizes the delight we find in returning to Rotuma again and again.

Jione Pagkale in 1960, with son Fasiu
Gagaj Ti'u in 1987

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (13 July 2000, posted 25 July)

On Tuesday, 11 July, the Direct Micro-Expeller (DME) project opened in Pepjei. The DME is a community demonstration project aimed at producing value-added coconut products such as body oil, cooking oil, soap, body lotion, and insect repellent. All project costs are paid by the government (MAFF). The equipment was purchased from Coconut Pacific in Australia. The goal of the project is to train people in the community to assume responsibility for making Rotuma economically prosperous. For the next five years the island of Rotuma should be focusing on projects to improve the economic status of households, village, and districts. The cost of the DME materials is:

Drier plus freight


Shed plus freight


DME equipment plus freight


Labour costs


Two markets are Mokosoi Company and Natural Oil. Mokosoi Company pays $4/litre; 400 litres = $1,600. Natural Oil pays $3/litre; 400 litres = $1,200. So the economics of the DME are as follows:

Rotuma tall: 2,800 nuts = one ton copra = $580; 2,800 nuts = 400 litres oil @ $4/litre = $1,600

Fiji tall: 6,000 nuts = one ton copra = $580; 6,000 nuts = 400 litres oil @ $4/litre = $1,600

DME Production Per Year, working 3 days a week, 280 nuts per day = 40 litres @ $4/litre = $160 per day. This would amount to 840 nuts per week = 120 litres @ $4/litre = $480 per week; 3,360 nuts per month = 480 litres = $1,920, and per year 40,320 nuts = 5,760 litres = $23,040. The same amount of copra (14 tons) at current prices would bring in $8,120.

Rotuma will have to develop a five-year economic plan with an integrated development approach. The plan will have to be based in each district, and its objective is for Rotuma to be economically well-developed in five years time, resulting in improvements in: sources of income (MAFF), education, water supply, roads, electricity, telecom systems, shopping centres, etc. etc. etc. Finally it is hoped that what has started off in Pepjei will mark a new beginning of progress and prosperity for Rotuma. The official opening of the project was done by the Principal Senior Agricultural Officer, Eastern, Mr. William Yambakivu and by Fereti Susau, Development Planning Officer, Eastern. The training officer is Mrs Yani Sigaivui.

Last Sunday, the 9th July, was the Noa'tau conference. We collected $6,574.10. It consisted of singing church hymns and mak pel. Deaconess Olovia came from Fiji and David from Sydney. Saturday (15 July) is the conference at Losa. Mamao Konousi will be one of the judges for the choir. He is married to Sai (from Paptea) and is spending some time here in Rotuma preparing the mass choir that was supposed to perform at the Vuda conference. The song we were going to perform was "Glorious is Thy Name Almighty Lord," by W.A. Mozart, arranged for choir. We practiced very hard on that lovely song, but unfortunately the trip was cancelled. The talent of Mr Konousi and his family is incomparable.

The chief of Itu'ti'u stopped the hul asa of the Mölmahao clan. The district officer and the police visited the clan on the request of Gagaj Markao, the chief of Itu'ti'u.

From Fijilive (27 July 25 2000)

Police probe Rotuma claims

POLICE have obtained vital documents which will help them continue investigations relating to international fraudster David Korem and the circulation of fraudulent documents in Rotuma.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (crime)Moses Driver, who is also heading the investigations said the documents were given to police by an islander. These documents can be used as evidence in this case.

We did not have this material at the start of the enquiry in February," Mr Driver said.

Bogus documents circulated on Rotuma relate to stock and seals worth over $1 million in non existent companies such as Pacific Paradise Citrus and Rotuma National Fishing Corporation.

Police have confirmed that the companies do not exist.

The television programme, 60 minutes, unearthed Mr Korem as a fraudster operating out of the United states.

Mr Driver said they had sent an investigation team to Rotuma in February when Mr Korem first came to the island.

Police believe he was accompanied by his local partner who is known to police as Taraivini Costello.

From Fijilive (25 July 25 2000)

Rotuma bans two from island: Makrava

THE Rotuma Council of Chiefs has banned two agents of the Dominion of Melchizedek, Taraivini Rae Costello and Henry Gibson from setting foot on Rotuma.

Mr Gibson, who also goes under the name Gagaj Sau Lagfatmaro and Ms Costello have been central players in moves for Rotuma to sever all ties with Fiji.

This was revealed by council chairman, Visanti Makrava yesterday morning.

The council voted on the issue after it became known that Costello and Korem were collecting signatures for secessionists purposes.

The two were trying to get a mandate to form a new Cabinet and to buy communal land on the island on behalf of David Korem, founder of the Dominion of the Melchizedek.

Korem was recently exposed as a fraud, on America's "60 minutes" television programme when he printed bogus stock certificates and seals for non-existent corporations in Rotuma.

Rotuma is a small island lying about 300 miles to the north of Fiji with a local population of about 3, 000 people and 5, 000 in Fiji. The inhabitants are mostly Polynesians and have been administrated by Fiji since 1871.

Mr Makrava displayed three stock certificates and corporate seals:

  • Rotuma National Copra Product; 100, 000, 000 shares, without par value;
  • Rotuma National Fishing; 50, 000, 000 shares, 50 cents per share; and
  • Pacific Paradise Citrus; 10, 000, 000 shares, without par value.

Mr Makrava said Ms Costello and Mr Gibson were in possession of these certificates and seals as well as a document naming individuals who will comprise of a Rotuman Cabinet responsible to the Dominion of Melchizedek.

Mr Makrava said there are about 78 signatures which were either forged or signed under duress but emphasised that no one had lost money. He said the council will also be seeking legal action against Costello and Gibson.

The documents were signed two weeks ago. Fiji police will interview those who have signed the documents.

Mr Makrava said he was determined to protect the Rotuman people from frauds and cult leaders.

"If these people are allowed to carry on, more people will be lured in," he said.

Early this year government had investigated reports that secessionist moves were underfoot in Rotuma wanting the island to be declared an independent republican state severing all ties with Fiji.

It was reported to be engineered by David Korem who is currently in Rotuma on holiday.

Mr Korem has gone as far as putting together a constitution for the proposed Republic of Rotuma.

Mr Makrava said Korem was on the island in February this year and the relative isolation of the island has been a telling factor for the secessionist movement.

Supporters of the move have been urging the chiefs and residents of the island to sign the proposed instruments of independence.

It was first mooted by members of the Malmahau Clan, headed by Gagaj Sau Lagfatmaro in the early 1970s. The movement became very active and vocal after the 1987 military coups.

From Fijilive (25 July 25 2000)

Rotuma wants Rigamoto out

Further dispute looms with the naming of the Cabinet line-up as Rotuman chiefs expressed their disgust about not being consulted.

Chairman of the council of chiefs Visanti Makrava said he did not approve of former Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests Marieta Rigamoto in the interim line-up as he was not consulted.

"There has been no approval because I was not consulted and this is something which I need to discuss with her," he said. Rotumans have been part and parcel of Fiji from 1871.

Mr Makrava said there was no election and if someone was to be nominated for Rotuma then the council should have been consulted.

Mr Makrava said he had not been able to seek the view of Mrs Rigamoto as he had not been able to speak to her.

"I certainly want the Government of Fiji to consult me and if they do not I will be disappointed.

"And if I will be consulted I will voice my disappointment about the issue," he said.

Mr Makrava said the people of Rotuma felt sad and sympathised with the people of Fiji for what has happened.

"They have spent most of their time trying to sort this out and as a tribe of the Government of Fiji we are equally sad as everyone else," he said.

Mr Makrava denied speculation that he had funded Mrs Rigamoto's campaign.

Mr Makrava said he was aware that the 1997 Constitution was abrogated but was not consulted about Rotuman rights.

"But once they make up their minds on what constitution they are going to implement they will obviously be consulting us," he said.

Followup Report from Fijilive (24 July 2000)

The Rotuma Council of Chiefs would like to see one [of] their representatives in the interim government to be announced tomorrow. Council chairman, Visanti Makarava says the council should be consulted to see who would represent the islanders.

Former Coalition government minister Marieta Rigamoto was in the lineup announced by interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo but since the swearing in of the nominees was cancelled, the Rotumans want to ensure they are represented in the interim government.

From Fijilive (17 July 2000)

Indigenous Fijian blueprint gets blessing

THE Interim Civilian Government's blueprint has received the full support of the Great Council of Chiefs. The blueprint was presented to the GCC by prime minister Laisenia Qarase in the second day of the meeting.

Mr Qarase said after the overthrow of Mahendra Chaudhry's government by George Speight and his group, there was country-wide protests by indigenous Fijians and all of the protests were linked to land issues. After listening to the demands made, the prime minister said they had put together the blueprint so it could address Indigenous Fijians' and Rotumans' concerns.

Most chiefs said the blueprint is a life-saver for indigenous Fijians. "For a long time Fijians concerns had been unheard of and the Interim Civilian Government believes it was time for a change." Much of the measures proposed in the blueprint can be implemented in the next two years. However, it also proposed a 10-year plan for Fijians and Rotumans development be prepared. This will incorporate the measures set out by the blueprint with the development proposals in other areas.

Education for example, is a very important area where we need to pay greater attention in order to improve the performance of Fijian and Rotuman children. Mr Qarase admitted he has been labelled a racist because of the blueprint by a certain groups in the society. But he said his critics should understand indigenous Fijians' concerns. Mr Qarase said other races should be rest assured that they would be catered for.

He predicted if Fijians are looked after properly and they excelled in business, the end result will be harmonious relationship with all races in the country. The Fijian race has been frustrated over years and Mr Qarase said it is time their concerns are to be addressed.


From Fijilive (11 July 2000)

THE Great Council of Chiefs will meet at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks on Thursday says chairman Sitiveni Rabuka.

Mr Rabuka said it is the prorogative of the chairman to decide on the venue as stipulated under the GCC regulations and the Fijian Affairs Act. The former prime minister said all council delegates have been informed and travel arrangements have been made except for the two members from Rotuma.

They will not attend as the only flight from the island is on Saturdays.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (30 June 2000, posted 7 July)

On 24 June a medical team from Suva came to Ahau at the invitation of Dr Eric Rafai. This is an NGO team from non-governmental organizations funded by the World Health Organization (WHO). The team included Dr Varea and his wife Mereame, Sister Vika Tikinatabua (who travels to the South Pacific Countries), and Golly Vosamosi. They talked to the youths about the reproductive and sexual side of things, and especially how important it is to make the right decisions. They showed a film on how pap smears are done, and also a film about a Tahitian girl who got AIDs. Dr Taukave also talked on the subject of women's health. There were twenty-eight participants from different places, some representing youths and different organizations. Gagaj Maraf and I also went and found it very interesting.

On the 1st of July the Rotuma Hospital Board is having a walk-a-thon, so we are preparing for that big exercise.

The mini market in Ahau is selling vegetables and other foods, barbecue, and all sorts of stuff.

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