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Archived News: March 2001

From Daily Post (31 March 2001) by David Inoke.

Riogi to sue state

Rotuman chief Gagaj Rafeok Riogi who was acquitted of sedition charges on Thursday will sue the State for damages. His lawyer Tevita Fa said they were preparing papers for the lawsuit and compensation claim.

Gagaj Riogi's travel documents has been with the courts since December last year when he was arrested in Rotuma to make submissions to the Constitutional Review Committee. Police arrested him and charged him with sedition, to promote ill feelings and hostility between the people of Rotuma between November 12th and December 12th. Gagaj Riogi who works as a foreman in Sydney, Australia is likely to lose his job when he returns.

"We will be claiming for damages. I think my client has lost his job," he said.

Mr. Fa told the court before the trial Gagaj Riogi was on leave and needed to return to his family and work in Australia. He said he would return on a given court date but the office of the Director of Prosecutions strongly objected to this. In his judgement Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo said the prosecution did not prove their case.

From Fiji Times (30 March 2001) by Josua Tuwere

Call for Independent Rotuma Debate

Independence for Rotuma should be debated freely and fairly to find out if it enjoys popular support, says Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo. He made the comments while acquitting former Fiji resident Gagaj Rafeok Riogi of sedition in the Suva court yesterday. Riogi denied causing ill-feeling on Rotuma in November last year by installing Rigamoto Tonu as a Rotuman chief.

The installation caused controversy because it was not recognised by the Rotuma Council which claimed ownership of the title, Gagaj Kausakmua. Mr. Temo, recounting evidence presented, said Riogi, who resides in Australia, derived his authority from the Malmahau Clan.

"He claimed that the Clan was the royal clan of Rotuma, and it has existed since 4000 BC headed by the then Gagaj Sau Lagfatmaro the First. He said that the clan superseded the seven districts of Rotuma."

Riogi, represented by Suva lawyer Tevita Fa, admitted he was a member of the clan which wanted independence from Fiji in a lawful way. Mr Temo said Malmahau Clan members were entitled to raise the issue of independence through lawful means.

"The issue must be debated fairly and freely by the people of Rotuma, if certain segments of them entertained it," he said. "Only then will they find out, whether or not, the idea enjoys popular support. If it does enjoy popular support, then the appropriate legal remedies should be sought."

Temo said that the State had not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt because of the questions that remained on whether Riogi had any seditious intentions.

Rotuma Council chairman Visanti Makrava said during the trial that the Council did not recognise the Malmahau Clan.

Riogi has been allowed to return to Australia after Mr Temo had ordered police to return his passport and travel documents.

From Saumaru Foster in Sydney (25 March 2001)

Mrs Senovefa Foster, 77, wife of Gagaj Tokoar, deceased, died suddenly and peacefully in her sleep in the early morning of14 March at her home at Hofpapa, Rotuma. She was buried in the afternoon of the same day by Fekau Apao (her nephew) and Fekau Lui (her cousin) at the local Kalvario tamure. Her funeral was attended by many of her relatives and friends. She is greatly missed by her children Lisi and Saumaru, their partners,Vamarasi and Ben, her grandchildren David (and his wife Therese), Christine, and Sauhani, her three great grandchildren and her many siblings, relatives and friends whom she had always loved dearly. She has left us a legacy of love, faith, strength and serenity. Senovefa had always believed that famor gagaja are known not by their wealth or status but by their humanity, their kindness and humility, and their moral passion. Her quiet life embodied all these virtues in abundance. May she rest in eternal peace with all the saints.

This photograph shows Senovefa, her children Lisi and Saumaru, and her granddaughter Christine in the frontyard of her home at Hofpapa, Lau, Rotuma, during the festive season of 2000/2001.

From Tausia Alifereti in Vatukoula ( 25 March 2001)

The Tieri members had their annual general meeting at the Rotuman Community Hall on Monday, 12 March 2001, and have elected the following people to run the team this year.

  • Patron: Mr. Nepote Batidigei was re-elected; he is married to Sarote.
  • President: Ieli Fauoro, son of Kaitu'u and the late Alifereti Tafo'ou. He is assisted by Alfred Aropio and Sireli Konusi.
  • Secretary: Mrs. Tamara Alifereti, assisted by Vamarasi Ieli.
  • Treasurer: Miss Luisa Antonio, assisted by Mrs. Fuata Mario.

The coaches for the various sports are, Kepani Sanipate--Volleyball , Konusi Ratusau--Rugby, and Mrs Thelma Bovitu--Netball.

At the moment the Tieri members are training for the Fiji Rotuman Sports Council Volleyball Tournament which will be held on Saturday, 31 March 2001. Team training is being held up the Rotuman Community Hall grounds daily in the afternoons, except for Sundays. The hosts are the three Suva clubs (Sarafui, Sataru & Raesea). The games will be held at the Gospel High School grounds and will kick off at 7.00 a.m. We will be heading to Suva on Friday, 30 March 2001 in the afternoon at 5.00 p.m.

From Elisapeti Inia in Suva (1 March 2001, posted 12 March)

Rotuma is still without a doctor in the hospital except for Dr. Taukave, who fills in part of the time. Dr Aisea Rafai (retired) offered to help but was turned down by the Rotuma Council.

The Rotuma High School library, which will be built by the Australia Rotumans from Sydney, is scheduled to begin construction soon and should be finished by June or July. Work is also soon to begin on renewing the pavilion at Ahau, on the sea wall at Rotuma, and there are plans for building a new meeting house for the Rotuma Council; these projects will all be the government's responsibility.

I think more new houses will be built as a consequence of the December visits from overseas and Fiji visitors to Rotuma. In Mea, Hapmak, two thatched bures and a two-story house are being made ready for Vili Hereniko's film. Vili's sister Vamarasi has planted some flower plots; she's a hard worker and very capable. Mea village has improved a lot; it is the best laid out village in all of Hapmak because the houses stand in a row like in the Samoa section of Motusa.

This letter appeared in the "Voice of the People" section of the Fiji Times (12 March 2001)

Rotuman for PM

We have had indigenous PMs and an Indian one. Why not give a Rotuman a chance this time as they are part of the blueprint also?


From Kathey Foi in Levuka (9 March 2001)

Greetings from the old capital! We would just like to inform you that the Rotuman Community on Ovalau have been meeting regularly. Our meetings are held on the first Saturday of every month. Though we are a small group, we are confident that we will grow in number.

The move to revive the Rotuman meeting was initiated by Mrs Akanisi Kaad who saw the need for the Rotuman people[and those who have links to Rotuma] on Ovalau to meet and know one another.

Our next meeting will be held on the 7th of April at Eric and Moana Ashley's residence. For further information regarding our meetings, please contact Mrs. Moana Ashley at the Levuka Community Centre [tel # 440356], or Mr Apao Solomone at the Levuka Public School [tel # 440192]

Finally, we wish to offer our sincere condolences to the Stevens family on the sudden passing of their father and grandfather, Mr Walter [Wally] Stevens [Snr], on Monday, 5th March 2001. Mr Stevens, a well known Levuka resident, was present at our last meeting at Mrs Kaad's residence on Saturday, 3rd March. He will be laid to rest today, Saturday,10th March. May he rest in peace.

This photo was taken last year when we were joined by Mrs Raki Nofaga from NZ and Mr Alfred Jack.

Back [L-R]: Mrs Raki Nofaga & Mrs Akanisi Kaad

Middle [L-R]: Mr & Mrs Apao Solomone, Mr & Mrs Eric Ashley

Front [L-R]: Mr George Gibson, Mrs Lora Evans, Mr Alfred Jack

From FijiVillage (8 March 2001)

Acting President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo has written to the Interim PM, Laisenia Qarase requesting him and his ministers to carry on for the time being until the completion of consultations and his steps to return the government to constitutional legitimacy.

The request by Ratu Josefa follows the Qarase administration's stance that they stand ready to resign in order to facilitate the decisions made by the Acting President.

Meanwhile the Rotuman Island Council has pledged its full support to Ratu Josefa Iloilo and the interim administration, This was conveyed by Chairman of the Rotuman island Council, Visanti Makrava.

From Bruce Richmond in California (6 March 2001)

The first harvest of locally grown 'a'ana occurred recently in Fremont, California. Although we regularly get taro shipped from Hawaii, Samoa, or Fiji, nothing beats the fresh product (it's even better when grown yourself!). The harvest day picture shows Pedro Rigamoto; Viki Atu, visiting from Hawaii; Iane Vaurasi; and Fereti Taito. Everyone was pretty excited at the harvest and next year we expect to see a farmer's competition amongst the Bay Area Rotumans. Maki Rigamoto made some delicious fresh herhere fekei for the party that followed the harvest.

The Bay Area Rotumans will be celebrating Rotuma Day on the evening of Saturday, May 12 at the King Center Hall in San Mateo (for further information contact Supa Susau at:

From Fiji Times (5 March 2001, posted 6 March)

Digging graves to retrieve human bones and skulls is not a crime, said a State witness in the sedition trial of Rafiok Riogi on Friday. The witness, Sergeant Isei Ecele said the exhuming of human bones by Riogi was one of three activities on which the sedition charge was based.

During cross-examination, Sgt. Ecele admitted that his investigations could not prove Riogi's activities were seditious because the accused never admitted anything when police questioned him. Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo agreed sedition cases were not new in Fiji after defense lawyer Tevita Fa highlighted an incident between the Tui Nadi and Tui Nalawa of the Mamanuca Group.

"Even in Fiji, we've got until March 15 to decide who the real chief is," he said referring to the Court of Appeal decision on the Gate's order.

Sgt. Ecele said information he had on the case was drawn from the affidavits of witnesses.

The court heard that Sgt. Ecele also based his case on a strange flag bearing the heads of seven snakes which was hoisted when Riogi arrived. The flag, which belonged to the self-proclaimed king of Rotuma Henry Gibson, flew beside the Union Jack and the United Nations flag, Sgt. Eceli said.

He said the flags were hoisted by supporters on instruction from Riogi. "The evidence (of promoting independence from Fiji) were in letters Riogi wrote to the Queen, President Clinton and the United Nations," Sgt. Ecele said.

But charges alleging Riogi was involved in criminal activities on the island were based on heresay," he said.

Another police witness, Constable Waqa Cavuilati, also gave evidence. Constable Cavuilati evoked the wrath of Mr. Temo, who reprimanded him. Mr. Temo reminded Cavuilati that his failure to properly answer a question reduced his credibility. Constable Cavuilati said their investigation considered some of Riogi's activities to be seditious.

These include:

  • The installation of Gagaj Kausakmua; and
  • Rebuilding the foundation bure of the Malmahau clan which was destroyed in a fire.

Constable Cavuilati said it was the manner in which Riogi and his group carried out their activities that brought about the sedition charges. He said Riogi's group did not consult the government administration on the island, nor the Rotuma Council.

Issue #3 of Noa'ia Rotuma (22 February 2001, posted 5 March)

This issue includes the following articles:

  • Gagaj ne 'oris asa hul vahia 'e Rotuma
  • Fekau ne väe ut 'e fau te'is
  • Antonio la' re re'ia 'on faki'oag ne 'Injinia
  • Fekau Mataere hö'akia hanisit ne Gagaj 'Aitu a'sok vahia se ia
  • 'Af'afa haiasoag la a'jeam jeam se'
  • 'Iom kava
  • Taku fer se Rotuma 'e 16:2:2001
  • Semisi ta DO fo'ou ne Tavua
  • Gagaj puer ne Itu' hifu 'e Suva a'sokoa 'oris taunä' ta
  • Te ag'esea 'on haisasig Muaror ta
  • Viki Tuxson a'lamlaman as 'on famör Rotuma 'e mane'a
  • Beat Motorcycles ma 'oris motopaik ne la a'luken ma a'vaohinen 'ou sal ta
  • Rirakot te Narere FNTC ma CITT
  • 'Amnäk 'on Kostino sokoan la te airet
  • Juju a'sok tape' ma 'oris taunä' ta
  • Malhaha a'sokoa 'oris taunä' ne hual ta
  • Kat 'es te a'noat ra kepoi ka 'äe na 'ou a'häe 'atakoa
  • Fa ne Motusa maro 'e rakapi 7s, ka haian ne Juju 'e vollyball

Again, there are lots of pictures accompanying the text.

From Bruce Tizard-Varcoe in England (5 March 2001)

There have been two new additions to the Rotuman community here in England. Firstly, a baby girl, Lania Veronica, to Alex and Sultan Morris on Wednesday 7th February. Four days later, on Sunday 11th February, a baby boy, Iane Tavo, to Fereti and Letila Atalifo.

Both mothers are well and the fathers have mastered the art of nappy changing. The babies, especially Iane, in true Polynesian style are growing ever bigger!

From Fiji Times (1 March 2001)

by Frederica Elbourne.

The Rotuma Council was forced to ask police to investigate a sedition case because of the increasing number of complaints it received against the formation of a certain clan.

Council Chairman and key witness Visanti Makrava told the Suva court that elders of the seven districts and other individuals on the island had expressed displeasure against an individual who was not a Fiji citizen and did not live on Rotuma.

Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo heard in a sedition case against Gagaj Riogi Rafiok that the council was not happy with the conduct of a man who came to the island and bypassed Rotuman custom and protocol to establish a clan.

"This strong feeling manifested itself in the burning of the Mulmahau Clan headquarters," Mr. Makrava said.

"Traditional apology and protocol were disregarded and caused ill-feelings among islanders.

"I had to report it because of the number of complaints coming to me and because of the safety of the people involved."

He said he knew members of the newly-formed clan as they were from five districts.

Mr. Makrava said four reasons why the islanders disliked the clan were:

  • It did not exist in reality;
  • History has proven that there was no Gagaj Lagfatmaro as claimed by the clan;
  • Members of the clan failed to partake in society for the good of Rotuma as a whole; and
  • The clan disregarded all Rotuman customs and protocol.

Mr. Makrava said he did not acknowledge the existance of a clan or that Gagaj Rafiok has established himself as a chief.

The court was told that the accused's mother hailed from the same village as Mr. Makrava, Oinafa, and his father was from Noatau. Mr. Makrava said the Rotuma Council was formed by the Fiji Government with the assistance and approval of Rotuman chiefs for the island to abide by Fiji laws, live peacefully and maintain good governance.

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