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Archived News: December 2000

From Fijilive (30 December 2000, posted 5 January 2001)

Makrava to testify

FORMER National Bank of Fiji boss Visanti Makarava is expected to be one of the 17 witnesses to be called to testify against a former Fiji resident facing sedition charges at the Magistrates Court in Suva.

Mr Makarava who is the chairman of the Rotuman Council of Chiefs is expected to be flown to Suva with other witnesses when the trial starts in four weeks time. Defence lawyer Tevita Fa for Gagaj Rafeok Riogi yesterday pushed for a trial in two weeks time. He said his client who is married with children is an Australian citizen and needs to return.

However, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Josaia Naigulevu said it was impossible to have a trial in two weeks. He said his office will need to take statements and fly each and every witness to Suva to testify. Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo said he was prepared to release Gagaj Riogi to return to Australia on a $5000 cash bail and the case be called for trial in June or October next year.

The prosecution however, objected. A frustrated Mr Fa yesterday had to be asked by Mr Temo to keep his cool after he kept interjecting while Mr Naigulevu was making his submissions. Mr Fa said the State should be prepared at any time for a trial because my client had been charged with sedition. "If they are not ready, don't charge people," Mr Fa said.

Mr Fa said the accused had come to Fiji on an invitation of the Malmahau clan to make submissions to the Constitution Review Commission which was to have sat in Rotuma in November this year. Mr Fa told the court police charged his client on the basis of the submissions he was to make to the CRC. He was arrested by a police team from Suva who went to the island to make the investigations.

The accused is a member of the Malmahau clan led by Gagaj Henry Gibson who is in New Zealand. The Malmahau clan has been behind moves to sever ties from Fiji since the 1970s and after the 1987 coup. Police believe the group is also linked to convicted American David Korem, who visited the island in January this year. He and another Rotuman Taraivini Rae Costello had drafted and distributed a draft copy of what was to be the Rotuman constitution. The case has been adjourned till January 23.

From Fijilive (29 December 2000, posted 5 January 2001)

Rotuman rebels deny charges

A FORMER Fiji resident with Australian citizenship yesterday denied he was behind moves to form a secessionist group on Rotuma Island.

Gagaj Rafeok Riobi, who is in his early 40s, appeared before Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo charged with committing acts with seditious intentions to promote ill feelings and hostility among Rotumans between November 17 and December 12. His lawyer, Tevita Fa, told the court that Riobi had come to Rotuma upon invitation from the Malmahau clan to make submissions to the Constitution Review Commission, who were supposed to sit on Rotuma in November.

State prosecutor Asishna Prasad has completed the first phase of disclosures, but said it was impossible to have a trial in two weeks. Mr Temo then adjourned the trial to 11am today, following submissions by Mr Fa for a trial as early as two weeks from now. "They've charged my man. If the Director of Public Prosecutions is so confident then we're ready to sit for trial tomorrow. They don't need to request for time," Mr Fa said.

Mr Fa said that Riobi, who has been in police custody for the past 12 days, was given a two-month leave from his employers in Sydney. Mr Fa also produced in court a copy of a letter from his employers stating that his client's leave had expired. He said the accused was willing to pay a cash bail of up to $2000 and surety of up to $10,000. He said that if the State could not proceed with trial in two weeks, Riobi should be allowed to return to Australia and attend court later on a given date.

The court has withheld his passport and travel documents. Mr Temo said he was of the view that the accused should be released to travel to Australia because sedition was a minor offence under the law. "Come with alternatives tomorrow if you can't fix a trial date," Mr Temo told the prosecutor. "This court has other priority cases and must attend to those first," he said, referring to the George Speight and the heroin cases. Riobi and his father, who lives in Suva, were arrested by a team of policemen from Suva on Rotuma on December 15.

They belong to the Malmahau clan which is believed to be backed by an American convict, David Korem, who wanted to create "a state within the state" on Rotuma early this year. Police believe Riobi is also linked to Henry Gibson who is in New Zealand. Mr Gibson, who is the chief of the Malmahau clan, has been behind moves to severe ties with Fiji since the 1970s and after the 1987 coup. Rotumans have been politically part of Fiji since 1881. It is located 465 kilometres North of Fiji. In January this year, Korem, the founder of the Dominion of Melchizedek, a state which only exists on Cyber space, visited the island. He had tried to put together a constitution for the new republic of Rotuma but this caused a division among chiefs.

The South American, who also claimed to own other States around the world, came to Fiji via Australia on a DOM "diplomatic" passport. Others behind the move also include part-Rotuman Taraivini Rae Costello, who is believed to be in Australia. She and Korem had distributed a draft constitution and incited the island's 2200 inhabitants to break away. During their visit, Mr Korem had promised to fund new hospitals, improve schools and develop other government projects.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (3 December 2000, posted 23 December)

Two weeks ago the bure of the Mölmahao clan burned to the ground together with their three flags. Before that the clan made a henrauifi to the Rotuma Council and was told to stop their disturbing acts. But after only two weeks one of Henry Gibson's followers named Sakimi [Gagaj Rafeok Riogi] arrived from Australia and started the business all over again, though only a few people turned around. With Rotuman custom no matter what someone has done, making a henrauifi to say you're sorry is supposed to end it; the matter is forgiven and done with. Now another person came and stirred things up.

Two senior police officers are here now at the request of the Chairman of the Rotuma Council interviewing a few people. They visited Gagaj Maraf to get his permission for a search warrant in the district of Noa'tau to investigate the Mölmahao clan. There are other matters to be dealt with as well.

The Solkope kainaga met two Saturdays ago to discuss the matter of the $500 lease based on one man's permission to Taraivina and the DOM. The matter is to be discussed again after the new year and may be brought to court. So if the DOM claims Solkope Island belongs to them it's not so, no matter what they put on the internet.

The Rotuma Council meets this Thursday, the same day as the for the Tauna' Hual Fol of the Oinafa circuit.

The Noa'tau community is putting the final touches on their multi-purpose community hall, which will be officially opened on the 19th and 20th of December 2000. The Noa'tau people of Suva, Lautoka, Vatukoula, and Nadi will come over to celebrate the Christmas season and especially the opening of the hall. The Lopta, Itu'muta, and Pepjei crowds, etc., etc. will be coming over as well, so there will be lots of fara, swimming, pasa, visiting friends, and feasting up to the ears.

To all our kainaga overseas wherever you are--East Timor, Europe, north and south of the globe--may God bless you all. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (21 December 2000)

An article in today's Fiji Post (22 December 2000 in Fiji) states that thirty Justices of the Peace were sworn in by the Commissioner Central Ratu Isoa Tikoca at Nausori yesterday. Four, one of which is Marieta Rigamoto, the Assistant Agriculture Minister, have their appoinments effective throughout the entire country. The other Rotuman listed is Susau Managreve, the Marist Brother High School principal.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (21 December 2000)

Vol.1 No. 1 of "Noa'ia Rotuma" went into circulation today, Friday, Decmber 22nd 2000. It is an addition to today's Daily Post newspaper.

On the front page:
1) A photo of Deaconess Olovie & children of the Dilkusha Home taken inside Churchward Chapel during the Malhaha Day thanksgiving service held on 16/12/00. 2) An article titled, "Kesmas ma Fau Fo'ou lelei se te' ne 'is 'atakoa."

On Page 2:
1) Articles - a) "Noa'ia kainag 'e Fiti ma Rotuma," by Mausio Munivai for Chairman, Council of Rotuma. b) "'Os faeag Rotuam ta," by Luise Tonu Vuibau-Suva, c) "Sal noanoa pau se 'os la'a'o
se Rotuma," by the Editor

2) Photos: a) Kaumakag ne Pephaua/'Elsio-Malhaha Day Celebration, b) Congregation attending Malhaha Day thanksgiving service at Churchward Chapel, c) Bulou Ni Ceva at Narain Jetty (Walu Bay) preparing to depart for Rotuma,

Page 3:
1) Article titled "Helava 'ia Ava," by V.T. Sosefo; 2) Photo titled "Noa'ia e manea feeni," showing Silivia Joe of Juju (Golf), Rupeni Varea of Oinafa (Weightlifting), and an Xmas greeting from Agnes of the Home of Compassion.

Page 4:
1) An article by the Editor titled "Haipotoag Fak Rotuam."

2) Photos: a) Kaumakag ne Pephaua/'Elsio during Malhaha Day celebrations, b) Fekau Jione Lagi presenting Xmas presents to Dilkusha Home children--Malahaha Day, c) Dr Aisea Konousi--Fa puer ne itu'u te Malhaha 'e Suva, d) tele'a ne kautauna'iag na itu'u te Mahaha, e) Father Xmas ma lariri ne Malhaha--Malhaha Day.

From Jan & Alan in Honolulu (20 December 2000)

We just received our CD of the Lalavi Band's recordings of Rotuman Polynesian Music and it is quite wonderful. To hear sound clips from the CD click here.

From Solomon Islands Broadcasting News (18 December 2000)

Wife Appeals

The wife of an Australian being held by the police in Fiji will make a personal appeal for his release to the Fiji High Commission in Canberra tomorrow.[Tue] Radio Australia reports that the man - who is originally from the island of Rotuma - could face sedition charges. Gagaj Rafeok Riogi, aged 47, was arrested by police on the island of Rotuma last week along with several other supporters of the Rotuman independence movement. He's now in Suva under detention and could face the courts this week. His wife, Kay Riogi, says she managed to speak to him on Saturday and while he is fine physically, she says he's under considerable stress. She claims he went to Rotuma to help a local group draft a submission to the Commission that is now reviewing Fiji's Constitution and he was arrested just days before he was due to fly home to Sydney. Kay Riogi says she's made an appointment to see the Fiji High Commissioner in Canberra tomorrow morning.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (17 December 2000)

The Malhaha community in Suva will be going to Deuba on Tuesday, 26th December for a picnic. Buses will depart the Flea Market (ex Cope Allman) at 9 a.m.

There was an ad in Rotuman in the Sunday Post that the newspaper will publish a monthly edition titled "Noa'ia Rotuma." Rotumans in Fiji, Rotuma, and around the world have been invited to send news (Rotuman) to the paper for publication. If successful, the Post will publish Noa'ia Rotuma fortnightly.

The Itu'muta community is preparing to go to Rotuma this week and on Saturday evening, 16th December, they went to the Dilkusha Girls Home, together with a koua, and showed the Home all the dance items that they will be doing in Rotuma. I was told that people at the Home really enjoyed the dancing and the 'omoe.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (16 December 2000)

The Malhaha District Community living in and around Suva celebrated their annual Malhaha Day on Saturday, 16 December 2000, at Chucrward Chapel, Rewa Street.

The celebration began with a thanksgiving service at 10 a.m. The sermon was conducted by Rev. Jione Langi. This year's celebration focused on:

1) the children of Dilkusha Home (thus the presence of Deaconess Olovie, her staff, and the children);

2) a farewell for Rev Atalifo Faktaufon & family and Rev Irava Fatiaki & family, who are both going to Rotuma in January 2001, to take their new postings. Rev Faktaufon will be based in Motusa, Rev Fatiaki in Malhaha;

3) honouring all the 'oldies' of Malhaha who are Suva residents.

Dr Aisea Konousi, the Chairman of the Malhaha District Council in Suva, started the thanksgiving service with a word of welcome to all. He quoted a bible verse and conducted the first prayer immediately after the opening hymn.

After the service, everyone went downstairs to the hall to witness:

1) a presentation of Christmas gifts by Reverend Jione Langi, Atalifo Faktaufon, and Irava Fatiaki to Deaconess Olovie and all the children from the Dilkhusa Home;

2) a presentation of Christmas gifts to the Malhaha 'oldies' by Dr Aisea Konousi;

3) a performance of haiagaiag mak pelu by choirs from 'Elsio, 'Else'e, and Pephaua;

4) a mak tautoga by a combined Elsio/Pehaua hafa, and

5) monetary donations by fuag ri.

The committee, in its drive to collect funds for development purposes for Malhaha, decided that the monetary donations listed in (5) above will be by fuag ri. All the fuag ri in Malhaha, starting from 'Elsio to 'Else'e were called out individually, and as they are called out, kainaga of the fuag ri will all march forward to present their monetary danations. It's great fun collecting money this way. The crowd gave a standing ovation when they announced the fuag ri that housed the Rotuma High School principal's house, and Isapeti Inia and all her children/grandchildren came forward. Note that Mrs Inia left Malhaha years ago to settle at her village of Savlei yet she and her family still have some roots left in Malhaha.

The organising committee prepared a hearty Christmas lunch of fekei, fupag masi, poat kau, puaka, moa, merene, ponapa and the lot. Malhaha District has given its assuarance to Deaconess Olovie that the children of Dilkusha Home will now be part of the celebrations every year. Also, it was agreed that Malhaha (Suva) will invite all the other Malhaha groups around Fiji to join them for next year's celebration. Terotume John Tevita was the master of ceremony for the day.

From Fijilive (16 December 2000)

Rotuma rebels nabbed

TWO men believed to be part of a secessionist group that wants the island of Rotuma to be declared a republic have been arrested.

The father and son duo, whose names have been withheld were arrested by police from Suva who were on the island for the past week.

Criminal Investigations Department director Emosi Vunisa said yesterday the men could face treason charges because of the seriousness of the offence.

The men who are of Rotuman origin were brought to Suva yesterday afternoon on the 4pm flight from the island.

They are believed to be detained at the Central Police Station in Suva for further questioning. Police said the younger man is a resident of Australia, while his dad lives in Suva.

Mr Vunisa said the arrest is part of an on- going investigation into reports that the group, backed by an American convict David Korem, wants to create a "state-within-a-state" on Rotuma, similar to that enjoyed by the Vatican in Italy.

"The allegations are very serious. I have not seen the file so I can't say if they will be charged for treason" he said.

He said police believe the men are linked to Rotuman self-proclaimed chief Henry Gibson who is believed to be in New Zealand.

Mr Gibson who is the chief of the Malmahau clan has been mooting the proposal to sever ties with Fiji since the 1970s and after the 1987 coup.

Rotuma which has been politically part of Fiji since 1881, is located at 12 decrees south latitude and 177 degrees east longitude and is 465 kilometres North of Fiji.

In January last year, Korem, the founder of the Dominion of Melchizedek (DOM), a state which only exists in Cyber Space, visited the island.

He tried to put together a constitution for the new Republic of Rotuma but this caused a division among chiefs which triggered a police investigation. Korem, a South American, who claims to own other States around the world came to Fiji via Australia on a DOM "diplomatic" passport.

He was accompanied by part-Rotuman Taraivini Rae Costello and distributed a draft Rotuman Constitution and incited the island's 2,200 inhabitants to break away.

Under a sub-heading in the draft Rotuman Constitution titled "Sovereign Status" the document says:

"The Dominion of Melchizedek is granted by this constitution all the rights that the Vatican enjoys within Italy.

During his visit Mr Korem promised to fund new hospitals, improve schools and develop other government projects.

Mr Vunisa said he was not sure if Korem was still backing the group.

"Whether or not he is still involved with the group I don't know."

Meanwhile, police are also continuing investigation into a fire that destroyed the Gibson Centre in Malmahau district about four weeks ago.

No one has been arrested in connection with the fire.

From Sean Dorney, Radio Australia (15 December 2000)

Australian Arrested on Rotuma for Independence Campaigning

Police in Fiji have arrested an Australian citizen on the island of Rotuma. Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that the man, who is originally from Rotuma, is expected to be taken to the capital, Suva, to appear in court.

The wife of the arrested man, Kay Riogi, says her husband, Gagaj Refeok, went back to Rotuma to help prepare a submission for Fiji's Constitutional Review Commission on the future status of Rotuma. However, she says he was arrested on Tuesday night along with a number of other Rotumans who've been campaigning for independence.

Ms. Riogi says she has not been able to speak to her husband but that a policeman had told her on the telephone that he could be charged with sedition. The two have lived in Sydney for fourteen years.

Ms. Riogi says an Australian consular official has spoken to her husband and she's been told he's in good health.

From George Managreve in Sydney (11 December 2000)

Album Cover

A compact disk of Rotuman songs recorded by the band Lalavi has been released and is now available for distribution. The CD contains twelve songs and the package includes a songsheet with all the words, so if you want to sing along or learn the songs, you can do so. An official launching of the recordings will take place on 16 December at 2 p.m. in Sydney at Alan Walker College, 6 Lincluden Place, North Paramatta.

For international orders please send postal money orders to:
P.O Box 4108
NSW 2124

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