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Archived News: November 2000

From Fiji Times (30 November 2000)

Island blaze

Police received two fire reports from Rotuma this week. At about midnight Monday, the thatched roof of the Molmahao Foundation building was set alight. The foundation was built by the followers of Henry Gibson at Noatau. Arson is suspected.

In another fire, a house in Malhaha Village was destroyed with all its contents. The incident happened at about 10 am on Tuesday.

Police officers will leave for Rotuma soon to assist in the investigations.

From Daily Post (1 December 2000)

Rotuma approves Land Commission

The Council of Rotuma has resolved to have the Rotuma Land Commission Act enacted next year. This was one of the most hotly debated issues during the day-long council meeting in Ahau last Thursday. The enactment of the Act will see the establishment of the land boundaries and the register of ownership of these boundaries. Council chairman Visanti Makrava said the Rotuma Land Commission was first put to the Council by the late J.E.Rigamoto in 1987. According to him the idea was shelved because of disagreement between members then.

He said last week's decision was in line with the Council's decision to amend the Rotuma Act.

"Some amendments had to be made because there were some conflicts between certain requirements and overlapping clauses that did not collaborate with the constitution," he said.

The issue of land ownership registration was first discussed on Tuesday during a presentation by the Native Land Trust Board. It was evident during the council's deliberations that the issue is a sensitive one given that Rotuma is a matrilineal society.

According to Mr Makrava, this is the sticking point since Rotumans want to be registered under both, their father and mother, and thereby be able to claim land from his/her paternal and maternal sides.

"The Land Commission Act stipulates that land cannot be leased or sold to foreigners except to full-blooded Rotumans. It must be understood that Rotuma has only 11,000 acres of land for its 8,000 people on the Island. That is small so there is no point in giving land to outsiders when we have a growing population," Makrava said.

Land in Rotuma is not registered under any form of ownership but a traditional form of ownership where landmarks are used and this has been passed fron past generations to those living today.


Note: There are several factual errors in this account. The number of Rotumans on Rotuma reported in the 1996 Fiji census was 2,580, much less than the 8,000 reported above. It is also incorrect to characterise Rotuma as a 'matrilineal' society. Rotumans trace their ancestry bilineally, through both their mother and their father. Furthermore, the first Rotuma Land Commission was proposed in 1959 and was led by a Mr Hammond, advised by the late Josefa Rigamoto.

From Fijilive (30 November 2000)

Dr Mitchell heads 2003 SPG organising committee

The Fiji Association of Sports and National Committee (FASANOC) yesterday announced the appointment of eight key people on the 2003 South Pacific Games Organising Committee.

Those named will be headed by FASANOC president and International Olympic Committee member Dr Robin Mitchell.

In announcing the names, FASANOC secretary general, Vidhya Lakhan, said the individuals appointed have been selected for the in-depth knowledge they have in the respective areas they have been appointed to head.

"Particularly in the organisational and management areas and their skills and knowledge of the sport as well," Lakhan said. "Members of the general public were invited to volunteer their services on the games organising committee and there were expressions of interest from some excellent people."

"The selection and appointment process was not an easy task but we are delighted with the calibre of people who have been appointed." The newly appointed individuals will be responsible for various areas during the preparation period for the SPG.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (16 November 2000, posted 29 November)

Rev Tomasi Kanilagi arrived today to ordain Rev Vai Taukave as the talatala kase for the Rotuma Methodist Church. This Monday a medical team from Suva led by Dr. Lepani from Health Management is expected. He will be accompanied by a health planning unit team that will explore ways to improve the hospital. Some of them will stay for two weeks.

The Dausoko is anchored at the wharf; it brought machinery to work on our rough roads. Five years ago the government promised to fix our roads here on the island but nothing has been done--they still talk, but no action. Work has now started on the Oinafa and Pepjei seawalls.

The Rotuma Council meets today to prepare for the arrival of government officials from different branches, e.g., agriculture, sports, medical, etc., etc. Also coming at the invitation of the council will be two representatives from each of the seven district organisations in Suva. They'll arrive by boat on Monday, November 20th and the council will meet with them on the 23rd. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and find ways of developing the island. On the 24th another boat arrives bringing government people, including the district commissioner eastern and Fatiaki Misau, to discusss the constitution. They will visit all the districts for meetings.

An Air Fiji flight is arriving today with representative of the CAAF to discuss matters regarding the runway.

From Fijilive (29 November 2000)

Rotuma Council calls for separate island department

The Council of Rotuma wants Government to establish a separate Department of Rotuman Affairs which will serve their interest. This was one of the many resolutions reached at the council meeting in Ahau last week.

Council chairman Visanti Makrava said the establishment of such an administrative arm would speed up the decision process in the implementation of Government policies and projects on the island.

He said the department should be headed by a director appointed by Government. However, he stressed that the director although a civil servant, must be required to work in consultation with the council.

Mr Makrava said the council's demand fell within the sphere of the mutual and historical relationship between Fiji and Rotuma."Fiji is made up of Fijians and Rotumans," said Mr Makrava.

"Our relationship goes back to well before colonisation and we still hold that relationship that our forefathers established centuries ago, and the need to have a department to look into our affairs is within the norms of and is accommodated in this long held relationship," Mr Makrava said.

Currently the affairs of the Rotuman community is handled by the Prime Minister's Office, which is not fully addressing the needs of the islanders, he said.

He said the PM's Office was looking after many national responsibilities and there was a tendency that important issues regarding Rotuma could fall on the way side.

"The need to have the director being consulted by the council is based on the fact that development on the island must be done to our ability and at our pace, not at the speed the outside world is going through.

"That way we control our affairs effectively and to the everyday need and viewpoint of the simple lifestyle we live in Rotuma," Mr Makrava said.

He said it would be unreasonable to seek for a ministry for Rotuma as it would be too high powered and the work involved does not warrant such an establishment.

"People will have different perspectives about this but we are working within our free association with Fiji and Government's desire to spread development and be closer to the people can be made effective through the set up of the department considering the distance between Suva and Rotuma," Mr Makrava said.

The council also resolved that the $362,500 annual allocation it receives from Government be used to establish a roading unit to ease the burden on the Government.

From Fijilive (27 November 2000)

Finau revives rugby in Rotuma

Rugby on Rotuma is in for a revival after a successful trip to the island by Fiji Rugby Football Union Development Officer Solo Finau.

Finau was selected by the National Rugby Development Board to accompany a delegation from the Regional and Rural Development Ministry to the island on the request of Minister Ilaitia Tuisese. Finau said the main aim of the trip was to try and develop the sport at primary school level.

He said the game is only played at club level on Rotuma. Finau talked with school administrators on the island on how rugby could be introduced into the school curriculum.

"Talks have been very successful and the school administrators have assured me that they will discuss it, and will let FRFU know about their intentions of running a mini-rugby programme on the island by early next year," Finau said.

"They have never had rugby at primary or even secondary school level and bringing the idea up is something totally new to them."

Finau said FRFU is looking at teaching the basic skills of rugby and laws at primary schools through a mini-rugby tournament which could be further developed at secondary school level.

The only rugby games played in Rotuma are club games to select a team for the Island Rugby Zone held annually in Suva. This year the season ended abruptly in July as a result of the May 19 coup.

"When the players knew they were not coming they just lost interest thus the season ended sooner," Finau said.

Excerpts from a dialogue with Bernadette Ramafono (daughter of Joe Ramafono of Itu'muta), currently undergoing military training in Sandhurst, England; submitted by Marlon Isimeli (27 November 2000)

Training here is quite different from what I did in Fiji. This one is tougher and more demanding physically and academically. Well, I have about four months to go so I am nearly there. Just have to be patient I guess...The cold weather has been a factor to overseas cadets' performance but we still manage when going out to the field.

There are only two from Fiji in Sandhurst, myself and a Fijian guy by the name of Kulavati who happens to be a QVSOB. He went to USP too. To date only three Rotumans have been to Sandhurst. The first was Paul Manueli, then Shane Stevens, and I am the third Rotuman and the only Rotuman female so far. I hope more Rotumans get to be trained here.

The weather here is cold and coming close to winter and this week has been quite busy with physical tests and academic tests too. Our main exam will be next week and the week after that we are off to Wales for a one week field exercise. Then we should be left with one week for the seniors to get comissioned. Right now they are overseas for two weeks for their final exercise. So next year March we will be doing the same thing, and looking forward to going back home.

Well, for me being the first female from Fiji is a privledge and a lot of expectations, too. So proud to be a Rotuman and thanks for all the advice I usually get from Dad. I guess it runs in the family....

Anyway, we have just completed a fitness test today and it's a big relief to get it over with, although some of the ladies didn't make the training. I am the only female overseas cadet in our term. Altogether there are 21 overseas cadets from countries such as Jamaica, Kuwait, Dubai, Jordan, Senegal, El Salvador, Oman, Guyana, Tonga, Belize, Malta, Ukraine, and Ghana.

I'm doing well so far and hope to finish by April next year. Regards to all at home and abroad, especially those away from home.

From Fiji Times (24 November 2000)

Club to honour Konrote

The Nadi Airport Golf Club is gearing up this weekend to remember one of the club's more distinguished members, the late Captain Kava Konrote. Captain Konrote, who was one of Air Pacific's most senior pilots, will have his memory implanted in the club's annual golfing calendar. The inaugural Kava Konrote Memorial tournament starts tomorrow and club captain Raymond Singh said he wanted this annual event to be the best. Already, more than 100 golfers, a lot of whom are leaders of the game in the country, have confirmed participation.

"I was a very close of Kava (Captain Konrote) and we miss his presence at the club," said Mr Singh. He was a former vice president of the club but he never let his position at work interfere with his mixing with ordinary golfers.

"He dedicated his time in promoting junior golf in Nadi and not only was he a father, friend and avid golfer, but also a person who did so much for the community. That is why we wanted to remember him every year." He said former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka had spoken highly of Captain Konrote and has made sure he would be one of the starters for the day long event. Mr Singh said a number of attractive prizes have been put up for grabs by Ravesi, Captain Konrote's wife. The prizes included are for the overall men's A, B, and C grades winners and a special division incorporated for a women's competion. "Since everyone had known Kava, each would be sure do his/her best to try and grab the winner's prize and this will make the competion a lot tougher," Mr Singh said.

From Hanuarani Atalifo in Rotuma (6 November 2000, posted 26 November)

Our deepest sympathy goes to Sheridan Rosser for the loss of his wife, Harieta. Harieta has been so dear to me and my family since the eight years we lived together in London. She is one of my family and will be missed by my family, by the people of Oinafa, and by the Hospital Board members, as she and Sheridan donated to our walkathon fundraising in July during their visit to the island.

My best friend, Sofie Arntsen, has been in and out of Rotuma recently and she has cheered a lot of people in Oinafa with her professional therapy. She held a clinic free of charge for the oldies and children. We wish she could stay a bit longer, but are looking forward to the Arntsen family coming back next year. I miss our swim together at Roro, Sofie.

Rachael Mataere from Sydney is getting married to Willy Wesley from Lopta on January 5th. Her parents, friends, and sister Alisha are all coming. She is a lovely girl and I am sure most young men in Rotuma will be envying Willy; as an aunt to her I know she and Willy are a great match. We wish them all the happiness and cannot wait for the big day.

An eye specialist, dentist & teams are visiting us on November 20th. Apart from all the problems in Suva we are glad to know that we are not forgotten. Noa'ia ma hanisiof se aus os lelea' Rotuam atakoa around the globe.

From Fijilive (19 November 2000)

Sosefo in good form for Mini SPG

NATIONAL rep Sosefo Fonorito hurled the shotput 14.01 metres to win the open men's grade event at the IDL Suva Athletics championships yesterday.

The distance thrown by the 20-year-old Rotuman lad means that his preparation for the 2001 South Pacific Mini Games in Norfolk is on track. Sosefo is part of the elite group selected by the Fiji Amateur Athletic Federation (FAAF) to prepare for the games next year.

The former Marist Brothers' High School student is the top male contender in the event, having hurled the shotput to a distance of 15.36 metres at the Guam SPG games last year. Only inches short of the 15.48m national record set way back in 1951 by Mataika Tuicakau, Fonorito's mark to date has been uncontested locally for the past five years.

Although only a handful of enthusiasts turned up for competition at the National Stadium yesterday, FAAF secretary George Williams has emphasised that those in the SPG squad must be at the tracks every Saturday so their performance can be monitored.

"The final selection for the games boils down to those whom we see doing the work and not just lazing around expecting to be picked on reputation."

Also making his appearance at the National Stadium yesterday was Paralympian Fuata Faktaufon.

Competition resumes next Saturday at the National Stadium and the FAAF is sending invitations to the sporting public to come and compete.

Also making a show yesterday was long distant runner Esala Taleibula who is expected to feature strongly in the up coming Olympic day fun run on December 2.

Yesterday's results: (all events are in the open grade) 100m (W) Kara Kainoco 14.2s, Leba Usa 14.5s, (M) Kaliove Tabaka 11.1s, Fuata Faktaufon 11.7s, Josaia Covu 12s, John Morell 12.4s.

400m (W) Lavenia Bukarau 64s, (M) Jale Malevatu 54.2s, Sunia Rakuita 56.9s, Livai Ting 58.5s, 200m (W) Kara Kainoco 29.8s, Leba Usa 31.2s, (M) Kaliova Tabaka 23.

1s, Sailasa Koroi 24.0s, Fuata Faktaufon 24.5s, Josaia Covu 24.7s. 3000m (M) Esala Tabuatalei 9m.2.7s, Jonathan Morell 11m.16.16s. 4x100 relay Mix Team A 49.0s, Team B 49.6s.

Discus (M) Usa Vakaloloma 36.30m, Sosefo Fonorito 35.82m, James Domoniko 32.64m, veteran men Jese Cool 23.25m. Shot put (M) Sosefo Fonorito 14.01m, James Domoniko 11.73m, veteran men Jese Cool 9.03m.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Suva (10 November 2000, posted on 16 November)

The followers of Henry Gibson (G/Lagfatmaro) made a henrauifi to the Rotuma Council. All the flags were taken down by his followers and also G/Kausakmua's title was given up.

In the month of November the Bulou ni Ceva is going twice to Rotuma--tomorrow (11 November) and on the 28th. In December it is scheduled to go on the 12th. The Itu'muta crowd will go on the 19th and are making their own arrangements. Sunflower Airlines will have to go there 2-3 times a week to accommodate all the people going for the holidays.

On the 16th of October 2000, a graduation ceremony was held at Central Queensland University, Suva branch. Maraf and I and the family went along to watch because his son, Tipo Solomone, graduated with a Master's degree in Business Administration. Other graduates included Doreen Erasito (Graduate Diploma of Management), Philip Erasito and Curleen Taukave, both of whom received Graduate Certificates in Management and Business Law. Curleen (Mrs. Langman) is the daughter of Dr Taukave and Tupou of Ahau, Rotuma. I met Mrs Sa'a Erasito after the ceremony where refreshments were being served and she was a proud mother. Congratulations to all!

Rotuma is preparing many activities for the Christmas season, so everyone there should enjoy the holidays.

From Fijilive (12 November 2000)

Fuata competes in meet

NATIONAL rep to the Sydney Paralympic games Fuata Faktaufon was at it again at the IDL sponsored athletics championships at the National Stadium yesterday.

The 23 year old partially blind sprinter says the national teams performance at the recent meet Sydney event could have been bettered if the athletes had more international exposures. "The trip was a very good experience for me, but we had the downside of not having stiff competition prior to the meet," said Faktaufon.

"All the athletes we competed with had been competing in international championships through the year, so the difference was evident. The Rotuman lad who competed in the 100 metres event in Sydney last month now aims to compete in as much local meets as possible as he prepares for the 2002 FESPIC games in Korea. At the last FESPIC games in Bangkok in 1998 he won a two silvers, and a bronze in the 100m, 200m and the long jump.

The games are the equivalent of the world championships for the Asia-Pacific region for disabled people, "Our management really had a hard time in securing funds for us to compete in international competitions to prepare for the games so now I'm just making the effort in competing in all the local competitions," said Faktaufon.

From Mark Vaurasi in Darwin (8 November 2000)

I am based in Darwin with the NZ National Support Element, as the Administration Officer for the NZ Battalion. I arrived in Darwin on 10 October for a Tour of Duty of six months (April 2001). As part of my job, I deploy into Timor on a fortnightly basis for a week.

Mark Vaurasi

My first trip to Timor was by the Australia Army Ship "Jervis Bay" to pick up the Australians. We sailed from Darwin on Sunday 29 October at 7.00 p.m. arriving in Dilli on Monday 30 October at 5.15 a.m. On arrival we were picked up by a patrol of Kiwi Movement Operators and headed off to the NZFOREM (NZ Forces East Timor Mission) National Headquarters. To my surprise, I learnt that the Force HQ Sergeant Major appointment is currently filled by a Rotuman--Joe Ramafono (an old school mate). My belated congratulations on your appointment Joe; well done. He was away when I called at his workplace--next door to the Kiwis. We will have to catch up on my next trip. We caught up with the few Kiwis in Dilli and I managed to fit in a game of touch rugby against the Australians. We won 6-4 tries. I was told by the Fijians that there is a Rotuman lady at UN Headquarters in Dilli--didn't get a chance to meet her.

On Tuesday 31 August, we flew with six other Fijians on a UN helicopter to Suai. Again, a surprise to meet up with the Officer Commanding of the Fijian Company--Major Sam Kafoa and two other Rotumans already mentioned on the web (Taito & Filipe). Sam gave me and my comrade a ride to the NZ Battalion headquarters after breakfast and catch up. What a small world! You never know who you could run into.

On Wednesday 1 November, I was invited back by Sam for dinner and a few bowls of kava with the boys. They made some fekei; would you believe? I stayed overnight in the Fijian Company lines.On Wednesday and Thursday 2 November, we travelled to all NZ Company locations, including the area where Private Manning was shot by the militia. We also passed the areas where the two other NZ soldiers accidentally died (Walsher & White); they have built memorials there.For Kiwis back home it is interesting to note that one of the Company areas of Operation is named "CRUSADERS" and a look-out tower aptly named "Merthens's Tower". I guess with the changing of Battalions and Wellington winning the NZ Ruby National Provincial Championship, it will change to "LIONS" or "HURRICANES" and Merthen's Tower will be renamed "Cullen-Umaga-Lomu"?I also met up with Taito at PKF Headquarters. He was as surprised as I am and it's a great morale boost for me. I also found out that the Fijian Company will be holding a medals parade on 17 November in East Timor and I hope to attend.On Friday 3 November, I flew out of Suai, East Timor on a light aircraft, a Cesna, back to Darwin.

Unfortunately, I missed Fabiano (Kiwi Army) who had to return home for personal reasons. However, there is another young Rotuman lad in the Kiwi Army who is coming over from NZ this month-- Daniel Scott, Sosefo Mua's son.

Hanisiof from all Rotumans in East Timor

From Alan & Jan (3 November 2000)

We visited recently with John and Harieta Bennett who now live on the "Big Island" of Hawai'i. John is managing a commercial kava farm of seventeen acres and the enterprise looks to be quite successful. The kava is shipped to Germany where it has become very popular for its stress-reducing qualities.

With the Bennetts are daughter Kimberly, who is enrolled in the University of Hawai'i-Hilo's Marine Options Program, and was ranked the top woman surfer on the island of Hawai'i during the last surfing season, which ended in July; and Hannah, who is in the fourth grade. Their eldest daughter, Leilani, works in Honolulu. To see a photo of Kimberly in a recent issue of Wahine magazine, click here.

For the story of John's kava farming enterprise, with photos, click here.

On 30 September, 2000, John participated in an 'awa (Hawaiian for kava) symposium at which issues associated with the growing of kava was discussed. The symposium opened with an Hawaiian chant, followed by a Rotuman kava ceremony, complete with fakpeje. The photo to the right shows Manrava (visiting from Fiji), who acted as mafua and chanted the fakpeje, Harieta who did the manu!, and Hannah and Kimberly, who served the kava.

From Bruce Tizard-Varcoe in England (1 November 2000)

More sad news from England...a funeral was held yesterday for Katarina Erasito, daughter of Terence and Mary and sister to Edwina, Marion, Philip, and Sefton.

Sefton travelled from Suva to join with relatives and friends of Katarina's to bid farewell on a bright, sunny afternoon in Aldershot, Hampshire.

Katarina's smile and laughter will be missed by all.

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