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Archived News: January 2001

From Elisapeti Inia in Rotuma (25 January 2001; posted 31 January)

The av mane'a in Rotuma was a mixture of everything: fara, parties, funerals, höt'ak hafu, and weddings. I saw three fara. The Lopta fara one night came to us because Marieta Morris married to Jo Sautiak of Lopta. I met Marieta, Jo, Makereta of California, Sarote of Utah, Memory Ann of Suva and her good husband whose new van helped to transport the fara. The van was especially brought because Gagaj Kauteraf and the Lopta group were visiting and it eased their travelling everywhere. The van was brought by the Cagi Mai Ba' and was returned to Suva when the boat came back to take the visitors back to Suva in mid-January.

The second fara was the Suva Noa'tau people. The dancers were dressed up in real Rotuman costume for the tautoga and the hafa was well rehearsed and worth all the attention it got. It was the day of fao te for Willy and Rachael's wedding, the 5th of January. Willy is Lingi Klink's brother; he lives with his mother at Lopta. Rachael is from Sydney, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Jone Mataere. She was living with Fuata and Makereta Varea in Oinafa so the wedding took place in Oinafa Village. We were at fao te at Lopta and were spending the day there when the Noa'tau fara came before lunch. When this fara was over and they had received a portion of taro and 'i'ini (a carton of corned beef), the Hapmak fara arrived. It was a real big fara, made up of young people--a mixture of Suva, Savlei and Hapmak youths. They danced all sorts of dances of the Pacific Islands except their own. The boys wore only a sulu and grass skirts, and the girls were wrapped in red lavalavas. They looked more Samoan than Rotuman. The crowd was so well entertained that Mekatoa, the spokesman of the fao te, asked the Hapmak fara leader to come the following day to dance at the wedding. They agreed and they ag su at the wedding the next day.

There were so many parties: breakup parties, welcoming parties, Christmas and New Years parties, and farmers' show parties. There were farewell parties for Rev Samuela Isimeli and family of the Motusa circuit who are to serve in Churchward Chapel in Suva this year, for the D.O. Semesi and his family, for Dr Eric Rafai and his family, and for Maniue and Sister Vika Vilsoni who are being transferred from Rotuma to Fiji and their family.

The funerals were for some prominent figures: Gagaj Tivao from Hapmafau who was 96 years old, and before a'of fau, Marseu Tomasi, son-in-law of the late Mesulama and Akesa (Itu'muta), at Fianpani next to the Itu'muta Hall; Gagaj Tuipeua of Malhaha during the second week of January; Fanifau Puiforo, daughter of Kijian Taksäs and mother of Gagaj Osias. The höt'ak hafu of so many took place, two or three the same day: Gagaj Kautarfon; Rev Fatiaki of SDA in Motusa; Pak Maraf of Hapmak; Paula, who was reared by Harieta Katafono;Vamarasi, Sanimeli Maraf's mother; Aitu of Lopta, etc., etc.

It was the first time I attended a fa 'es itu'u's funeral (G/Tuipeua). The people of Malhaha failed to sing a ki to their chief and there was no teran lima (fifth day) ceremony. Added to that, the ao mane'a was to carry on as usual because there were only a couple of days left to its termination. The Hapmak people were hurt and they performed the teran lima from Hapmak where Jioj, the wife of the late chief, is now living. Two of his daughters and two other foster daughters came from Fiji to the teran lima.

It was the first time in Rotuma we met so many people from Fiji and overseas. There were several weddings: Maggie and Daniel Smith (American) whose wedding on 27 December was at 'Oilala in Motusa. Maggie is the daughter of Mistress Akata, the high school economics teacher, and Fonmanu (see below). On the 5th of January Willy and Rachael Mataere were married.

Parties of visitors were: Lopta visitors, Itu'muta visitors, 'Up mea'me'a (Hapmafau), Muaror ta clan of Oinafa (40), and Americans who came on a chartered flight for Dan and Maggie's wedding, not counting the school children on holidays, etc.

Before the visitors returned there was an outbreak of the flu--coughing, etc.The atmosphere must be full of flu germs; that's why everybody complains of the flu.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (31 January 2001)

Gagaj Fikitua', who was faufisi in Malhaha, was installed (niu heta jol) last Saturday, 27th January 2001 as the new district chief (fa 'es itu'u) of Malhaha. His new title is Gagaj Fatafes. A decision has yet to be made on who will replace him as faufisi.

From Fijilive (31 January 2001)

Gibson to arrange for Rotuma's independence

MEMBERS of the controversial Malmahau clan in Rotuma were counting on self-styled chief Henry Gibson and Australian Rotuman Rafeok Riogi to make arrangement for Rotuma's independence, the Suva Magistrates Court heard yesterday.

Jao Antrea, who operates a bakery in Rotuma, told Chief Magistrate Sekve Naqiolevu during the sedition trial of Riogi, that Gibson and Riogi were making all the arrangements to make Rotuma an independent state. Riogi was arrested last year in Rotuma for trying to revive a sessionist group, mainly made up of people from Malmahao. "They were the main people we were depending on to make all the arrangements for Rotuma's independence," Mr Antrea said.

"We were told to aim for independence and there were people overseas who are working on it." Mr Antrea said he relinquished his title as Gagaj Kausakmoa (leader of the Malmahao clan) in December last year when police started making investigations on the sessionist group. He said that Gibson had installed him Gagaj Kausakmoa. "That's why I stepped down. It was not the correct way to it. Only the chief of Juju Village, Gagaj Maraf, can install the leader of the clan." Antrea was later cross examined by Suva lawyer, Tevita Fa, who represented Riogi.

The Malmahau clan has been behind moves to sever ties from Fiji since the 1970s and after the 1987 coup. Gibson and the accused father, who was also questioned, have been major players. Police believe the group are linked to American convict David Korem, who visited the island in January last year. Korem and another part-Rotuman, Taraivini Rae Costello had drafted and distributed a draft copy of what was to be the Rotuman Constitution in Janaury of 1999.

National Bank of Fiji former boss Visanti Makrava is expected to testify against a former Fiji resident facing sedition charges.

note: errors are in the original. Gagaj Maraf is the chief of Noa'tau district, not Juju village.

From Fiji Times (30 January 2001)

Temo orders hearsay omission.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Office was ordered to omit from 18 affidavits irrelevant information and hearsay relating to a sedition case.

Gagaj Refeok Riogi appeared before Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo on charges of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility among Rotumans in Fiji between November 7th and December 12th. The case was yesterday adjourned because the DPP's office needed time to delete from the 18 written and typed statements information that is irrelevant to the case.

Speaking from experience, defence counsel Tevita Fa said he could not work with the DPP's office to omit unnecessary information in the affidavits. He said it will be difficult for them to agree on what was relevant to the case and asked the court that the DPP's office work on it alone. Mr Fa told the court that five witnesses out of the 18 should appear in person for the case. They include former National Bank of Fiji chief manager Visanti Makrava, who is Rotuma Council chairman and Petero Faktaufon.

The case resumes in Suva court today (30/01/2001)

Three witnesses were flown in from Rotuma for the trial and return on Friday.

Riogi is a former Fiji citizen who lives in Australia.

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (24 January 2001)

Noa'ia Rotuma is out in the streets this morning. The publication contains:

  • Gagaj Tuipeua par vahia
  • 'Inosot ne leum 'e Mereke la kesmas 'e Rotuma
  • Rogrog 'on kaujauteaga te Setne - Lalavi
  • Mal ne hot'ak haf on Captain Kava Tevita Konrote
  • Mias Rotumet ne a'sok 'e Parisi te Nadera
  • MANE'A
  • Mareta Mani - Basketball
  • Rupeni Varea - Sik 'ia
  • Frank Atu - 'Us pa lu
  • Rigamoto Kafoa - Karate

Rotumans who wish to subscribe to Noa'ia Rotuma can e-mail their request to: subject: Noa'ia Rotuma.

According to the Associate Editor of Noa'ia Rotuma, the next edition is expected to be out on Thursday, 8 February 2001.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (12 January 2001, posted 23 January)

Two boats came and left last week taking the holiday makers back to Fiji. Today the Bulou ne Ceva is at the wharf. It will leave tomorrow taking the last of the Noa'tau visitors and others remaining back to Fiji to start work and school.

Sunflower Airlines has no fuel for its return flights and they keep changing their flight times to suit themselves, which has caused a hardship for visitors and Rotumans alike, eliciting many complaints.

The Noa'tau Community Hall was opened on 19 December 1999. We still have a few things to touch up and some repainting, but when that's done it will be A-one. Left to be completed are the canteen floor and shelving; the dispensary floor and shelving; the floor in the ladies shower and toilet, and painting the kitchen. We're hoping to tile the floors, but it will take $3000 Fijian dollars, so if any of you Noa'tau people overseas would like to make donations it would be much appreciated. We have already received donations from Makereta and her husband Petero from San Francisco, Elizabeth Benz from Sydney, Frank Stace from Melbourne, and Violet Burns Cameron & Daniel Burns from Sydney. Many thanks to all of you!

If possible please send your donations in Fiji currency to:

Gagaj Maraf
Noa'tau Community Hall
P.O. Box 28

The district office will keep records and you will be issued a receipt when the money is received.

A big thank you to the Seven Stars Club of the San Francisco Bay area for their kind donations to our Rotuma Hospital Board of Visitors. We're getting a new doctor to replace Eric Rafai, a new sister, a new dental therapist, and a new district officer, so it looks like 2001 will involve big changes for Rotuma.

Teis 'otomiar far te, faksor'akiof se te' ne 'os kainag ne Noa'tau ne noh e vas ta. Alalum 'aus. Noa'ia.

From Bruce Richmond in California (22 January 2001)

Aitu, daughters Lohana & Maurea, and Tukagsau

We had a very pleasant trip to Rotuma during August and September 2000. Our main reason for going was to attend the 60th birthday party for Aitu's father Tukagsau Semesi. The celebration was well attended with lots of koua food, singing, and dancing.

Before our trip we were very concerned about the political situation in Fiji and how it might affect conditions in Rotuma. Once on the island, Fiji seemed so far away-- life on Rotuma did not seem impacted by problems in Fiji. Rotumans were more concerned about the arrival of the next ship, an upcoming event, or keeping their gardens going. It was very comforting to know that peace and stability remains in the island.

There was a mens choir competition and fundraiser at Malhaha which raised nearly $1,000 for Malhaha. Twelve groups competed from around the island with top honors going to the Lopta group with the winning song "Noag Ne Kaunohaga Ke Te Asunhuga" written and composed by Willie Wesley.

The chuch congregation at Peteli, Lopta
The Lopta group during the competition

From Tomasi Sumasafu in Suva (22 January 2001)

An Air Fiji charter flight took off from Nausori for Rotuma at 10.30 a.m. on Monday, 22 January, 30 minutes behind schedule, carrying five adults and four children. Ticket holders were told that because the plane had to be filled with enough fuel to make the return trip, two passengers would have to be off-loaded. That created a lot of arguments between the ticket holders and the Air Fiji staff. The passengers were told to decide for themselves who was to be off-loaded. All of the children were returning to schools in Rotuma and three of the adults were either school administrators or teachers. One of the other two adults was going to visit a very sick mother and the other is recovering from an illness and was going to seek traditional medicinal treatment on the island.

No one was willing to be off-loaded. Passengers were then told that their baggage, already checked and loaded onto the plane, would have to be off-loaded to allow all of them to fly to Rotuma. Despite the fact that some passengers had checked in much more than the 15 kg maximum, all passengers were required to off-load some luggage.

While at the airport, we learned that Sun Air had a full flight going to Rotuma from Nadi at 2:00 pm the same day. It was rumoured that Sun Air sent two flights to Rotuma last Saturday. (Unfortunately the situation lends itself to rumours that are unflattering to the airlines.) The first one supposedly arrived in Rotuma with only three passengers and the second supposedly had to return without landing in Rotuma because of engine trouble.

This is not an isolated case; it happens frequently at both ends of the journey. Sun Air and Mobil Oil may have their excuses, but the fact remains that people are stranded because somebody just did'nt do their homework properly. Passengers who hold confirmed tickets on flights have to put up with all kinds of inconveniences and fight for a seat, fight to ensure that their baggage is not off-loaded, etc. What a mess!

From Fiji Times "Voice of the People" column (22 January 2001)

Rotuma Service

Sun Air has been unable to operate normal services between Nadi/Suva and Rotuma given the unavailability of fuel on Rotuma. The services are usually operated by a DH6 Twin Otter aircraft, however, given range considerations this aircraft needs to refuel in Rotuma for the return trip.

As a result many of Sun Air's passengers booked to travel to and from the island have been inconvenienced. Sun Air management understands their frustrations and we are doing everything we can to provide seats for them. Sun Air reservations can confirm that the affected number of people holding bookings is 39 (your reporter mentions 80).

We anticipate two services will depart on January 20. Sun Air will utilize a Queen Air for this service. It is the only aircraft in our fleet that is able to carry return fuel for the Rotuma sector. In the meantime, we will continue to liase with our fuel supplier as per ensuring adequate reserves of jet fuel reach Rotuma as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, your reporter has implied (through comments attributed to a Mr. Bennett) that Sun Air has yet to settle a debt with the supplier. This is a ridiculous and mischievous claim without any basis. You would understand that such comments are damaging to our credibility hence my concern. Sun Air maintains an open relationship with the press all times. Your reporters are welcome to contact us at anytime for information/comments relating to our services.

Director of Marketing
Sun Air

From Fiji Times (21 January 2001)

Sun Air to fly out stranded passengers

Sun Air is organizing flights to bring in the 80 passengers who've been stranded on Rotuma by a fuel shortage.

Sun Air director Ian Collingwood said they would use a small aircraft which would not require refueling on the island for the return trip. Mr. Collingwood said the island ran out of aviation fuel last week and the boat carrying supplies this month did not refill drums. "It's been frustrating for all of us," he said.

Mobil Oil, which supplies aviation fuel, said its bulk jet facilities on the island are undergoing maintenance and it was supplying fuel in drums. Acting general manager Bernard Dimattina said while Mobil was working to maintain supply to the island, unexpected problems caused the fuel shortage.

"During December, Rotuma experienced more than double the normal demand for jet fuel through increased flights to the island." he said.

"The shipping schedule for the vessels carrying drums to Rotuma have been hampered by recent poor weather which has delayed some voyages whilst other scheduled voyages have been canceled."

Mr. Dimattina said reports that Sun Air had an outstanding account with Mobil were not true. "The bulk storage tank will be refilled after maintenance works are completed in February," he said.

Maggie Tolo

From Nancy Smith in Massachusetts (20 January 2001)

I am an American who lives in the state of Massachusetts in the US. I recently returned from Rotuma where my son, Daniel Smith, married Maggie Rita Tolo of Oilala, Motusa on 27 December 2000. Her parents are Fonmanu and Akata Tolo. Both Daniel and Maggie work for Habitat for Humanity International. They are based in Suva but work throughout the South Pacific region.

[For a personal account by Nancy Smith of her experience in Rotuma and photos, click here]


From Fiji Times (19 January 2001)

Fuel shortage leaves 80 stranded

ABOUT 80 people are stranded on Rotuma because scheduled flights to the island have been postponed. One of the waiting passengers, John Bennett, said they were told that a shortage of aviation fuel on the island forced the postponement of flights.

Sun Air, which services the island, has to refuel on the island for the two-hour return trip. No comments could be obtained from the airline management yesterday. Mobil Oil, which supplies aviation fuel, will comment on the issue today.

Upon inquiry, Mr Bennett was told the airline had yet to settle its debt with the supplier. "There are people here who have to return to jobs,'' he said yesterday. "I work in Hawaii and I'm already two weeks late to work. "There was a boat that just left the island but it was too small for all of us. We're trying to charter a boat from Lautoka.''

Earlier this month, passengers returning to Suva were delayed by a week because of a similar problem.

From Bruce Tizard-Varcoe in England (17 January 2001)

Nigel in action for
England at last
year's Hong Kong 7s

Nigel Simpson has been included in the England 7's squad for the forthcoming World Cup 7's in Argentina.

From Marlon Isimeli in Suva (25 January 2001)

With the Rugby 7s World Cup starting this weekend in Argentina there is a lot of hype here in Fiji since the Fiji 7s team is the defending champion. For Rotumans, besides backing their team they will be backing the only Rotuman playing in the World Cup, Nigel Simpson.

Nigel is playing for England's World Cup 7s team. He is the son of Tupou and Ian Simpson of Nadi, Fiji and had been playing rugby in England for the last couple of seasons. His mother Tupou nee Wilson hails from Malhaha , Rotuma.

For all the players in the World Cup , our favourite teams, and Nigel , all the best.

From Ragkae Manueli in Fiji (14 January 2001)

Noa'ia 'e Mauri se 'aus 'otomis hunsasig fak'Ata 'e Fiti, Rotuma ma Rante.

'Ihte fak'gagajat se 'os rot ne 'ua'ua'ak tauna'it 'e ka, A'ite 13 ne Jenueri 'e heliam heta, 'e Kinoya AG Primary School 'e Kinoya (opp World Harvest Centre or CMF Church).

'Ihim ta sasigit la 'is la te ag'esea 'e 'amnak pumua ne 'Aitu he' vahia 'is sin, la 'e te' ne te'i kolori ma 'ua'ua'aki la moumakikia se Ia 'e as 'on Jisu.

Se 'os o'o' haina, kepoi ka po la leet ma 'umefet se 'os 'iom ti 'e vahiag ne rotu ma la pumua pau, kepoi ka kat po, ka pumua makikia.

Hanis fuamamau 'on Gagaja la 'onomus

From Randolph Bentley in Vancouver, B.C. (10 January 2001)

The article below is an excerpt of a news clip. To many readers it maybe a small news item. However, as small it may seem to be, it may or will have far reaching consequences for travellers to Rotuma. More so it will have a strong effect on all residents of Rotuma, including their loved ones wanting to visit their families on the island.

Aviation is an exciting business. It is also a necessary business for many communities like Rotuma. The reader knows that his only other option is by boat. Most of us love and enjoy travelling on a ship, but not many of us have the time to do it. Especially if an emergency situation is at hand.

Having said that we are also aware that it costs money to operate an airline. But when we read a jump of 15 percent of the airfares does that mean that the fuel went up 15 percent too? In other words, how does the 15 percent increase justify itself? These and some more questions Rotumans certainly should ask themselves. When fuel prices dropped, were airfares reduced too?

Rotuma has been served with various kinds of aircraft in the past and present. We do not know what the costs are for operating the aircraft. But we have a basic idea. The discerning reader would find out that there is a certain profit margin. In that margin there is flexibility. Further investigations would show that an increase of a smaller percentage would still show profitability for an operator.

The money to pay for the airfares comes from everyday workers. It is not very often that they receive an increase of 15 percent in wages. Therefore we would want to know how such a large increase in airfares is justified.


From Daily Post (4 January 2001)

Chamber says hike in airfares just

RECENT increase in domestic airfares is fair according to the Fiji Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber says this is justified by the continuing increases in global jet-fuel prices that is affecting the operating costs of domestic airline operators.

Domestic airfares shot up by 15 percent across the board on January 1, 2001, after the Interim Government approved the increase that was previously declined by the deposed Coalition government in 1999.

According to the Ministry of Public Enterprises, the two domestic carriers, Air Fiji and Sunflower Airlines, had lodged an application for an increase in fares in November 1999 to the then Minister for Communications and Civil Aviation, Meli Bogileka.

This was because of drastic increases in global jet-fuel prices that rose from $50 a barrel in June 1999 to $70 by November of the same year. However, Mr Bogileka's affirmative recommendation was rejected by Cabinet resulting in Air Fiji threatening to withdraw flights to its outer island routes, saying they had become uneconomical.

Air Fiji said their new fare on the Suva/Nadi route is now $104 in lieu of $90 for one-way travel, and fares to other destinations had also been amended.

Sunflower Airline's fare to Rotuma that used to be $288 (one-way) now costs $331, while the Taveuni route is $183 replacing the old fare of $159 (one-way).

Acting Fiji Chamber of Commerce President, Taito Waradi told the Daily Post that domestic airlines needed to make profits on their operations in order to remain sustainable.

He said this was a major factor in keeping the domestic airline industry alive.

"Generally, we are trying to revive the economy and we cannot achieve this if businesses continue to operate at a loss."

Gagaj Tuipeua

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (12 January 2001)

Gagaj Tuipeua died on 9 January 2001. The night of his death his body lay in Malhaha Hall and the drums (lali) beat all night. The new minister of Malhaha, Rev Irava Fatiaki, performed the service at 8 a.m. the next day together with the president of the Rotuma circuit, Rev Vai Taukave of Noa'tau.




(10 January 2001)

Elizabeth Benz flew to Rotuma on 16 December bringing the headstone for the höt'ak hafu of her mother, Vamarasi, which was held on Friday, 22 December. She wrote while on the plane about the headstone and about her successes at ballroom dancing, a hobby she took up following the death of her husband, Karl, in May 1997. Concerning the latter she writes:

The night I got my trophy and "best dancer" award at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. My son André, self, my dance teacher Tony Leoni, and my son Anton.

"My ballroom and Latin dancing have progressed well. They encouraged me and although it took seven or eight months, I decided to take part in the Nevada Star Ball Championships in August, 2000. My teacher, another student and yours truly left Sydney 16th August. We stayed at the Stardust Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for eight days, then went to Los Angeles. The competitors were from all around the United States and Canada. I entered at the silver ii level (I qualified at the bronze 1-4 in eight months at the end of February and at the silver ii by August. My teacher was thrilled that I came first (92% & 90% x 2) by the three judges for my waltz routine, so won a beautiful gold trophy. I also won seventeen medals for seconds and thirds in the Latin dances: chachacha, rumba, mambo, merige, bolero, east coast swing, salsa, and a fourth for the tango. This "Cinderella" was surprised and happy!

Back in Sydney I've continued and passed silver iii at the end of September and am now well into silver iv, all in less than eighteen months. Dancing, as I'm experiencing, is an easy and enjoyable thing to do. It is a challenge and brightens my life after the sad events of the last few years."

At the April 1st Ball this year, at which I danced a waltz and got a trophy for completing bronze iv (with honours), I also received an award for "best dancer" that night. It was such a pleasant surprise--none of us students knew that a judge from another dance school was there. The theme from that night's floor show was "At the Fair," so I decorated a black taffeta skirt and used my monuam (Rotuman dance top with bright ribbons) and ended up winning the award (see photo).

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