The above article states that the definition of who is a Rotuman is unclear and that Rotumans do not exist until it is given a satisfactory definition. Your article is not only appalling but disrespectful.
The Laws of Fiji Chapter 122 cited as the Rotuma Act states; "Rotuman" means any person of Rotuman or part-Rotuman descent. If any dispute arises as to whether a person is or is not Rotuman the Council shall decide, but any person aggrieved by the Council's decision may appeal to the Minister whose decision shall be final."
"Council" means the Council of Rotuma established by this Act.
The Rotuma Act therefore clearly defines a person as Rotuman so long as he or she is a descendant of a Rotuman, irrespective of whether on the paternal or maternal side. So that is the definition of a Rotuman and there is no such thing as being a half-caste Rotuman.
One has to be insane if the above definition of a Rotuman is still unclear. To state that Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Marieta Rigamoto, agrees that the definition is too broad is utterly shameful and disrespectful. If her comments were not taken out of text than an apology on her part to the Rotumans would be appropriate.
Rotumans will certainly not change the definition of their identity merely for financial gains. If the Rotuman identity is unacceptable to the Fijian Affairs Board and an obstacle to Rotumans having Shares with FHL, than that is an executive decision that must be accepted and respected by the Rotumans and the Council of Rotuma.
I strongly urge the Council of Rotuma to take a step forward and thank the Fijian Affairs Board and decline their offer of FHL shares. Rotumans must understand that in terms of financial needs and development, there are other provinces that so deservingly and rightfully should be given that portion of shares allocated to Rotuma.
Rotumans must realise that we cannot depend on the Government and the Fijian Affairs Board to shoulder our needs. Going forward, we Rotumans must call for a review of the Rotuma Act to strengthen and broaden the administrative role of the Council of Rotuma and to update subsidiary legislation. The Rotuma Act must be in order before Rotuma can proceed confidently with development. All we need is for our Rotuman chiefs to step up, lead the charge and pursue an honest and nationalistic approach to consolidate the people and their resources to finance our own development needs.
We will certainly not change the definition of a Rotuman merely for financial gains.
I couldn't agree more with Lilino Vaurasi. Samisoni Pareti's article is condescending, all encompassing, and a joke to say the least. It's not only irresponsible journalism but a disgrace to blame Rotuma for the holdup of the allocation of the FHL shares after 14.5 years of this being put in place by the interim Government of the late Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara.
It is my view that if Rotuma is lucky, we will receive $1 million of the FHL's $20 million share allocation. But to cite the holdup of the allocation of these shares to "Does anyone know who or what a Rotuman is? " is outright ridiculous. Surely there should be a provision in place to deal with this after all these years. Believe me, the definition in place is very clear, and not shrouded in mystery, nor is it so confusing that we need to assimilate and adopt a definition of who we are similar to that of the Fijians as enshrined in their VKB.
The foresight of our Chiefs gave us a "broad definition" (as others have termed it) in their quest to accommodate all who can trace their heritage and blood line back to Rotuma, so that no one who claims that heritage should miss out. This has been in place for years and was reiterated and reinforced throughout the ages with a check in place for the RIC to resolve any such disputes. In the absence of any questions by our community to clarify its so called "broad" definition, I believe that we Rotumans are comfortable with the definition and with who we are.
I also believe that our Chiefs do care and have a lot of compassion for us, and I trust that they and the RIC will do the right thing by all of us. For they have agreed according to the minutes of 15 March 2004 meeting that all Rotumans will be registered under both paternal and maternal sides according to our customs.
Rotumans have been partners in a great number of mixed marriages that have produced a lot of offspring; I am one of the many products of such unions and am blessed to be one. I can easily trace my maternal side back to Tonga and to Charlie Howard (an English sailor who is buried at Haga, Juju).
Furthermore, in countries like the USA, England, Australia, and many others that I know of, the policy is that as long as you can prove your connection and heritage you can be counted and included as one of that particular race (for example, American Indian, Australian Aborigine). It would be dirty of someone to claim otherwise, for I will always be a Rotuman first and foremost. Hence my belief that the definition was made with foresight to accommodate people like me, for they probably foresaw that in the future, interaction with other races would lead to mixed marriages and that only a few blue-blooded Rotumans would be left.
Thus, given the definition we have, the checks in place, and the minutes cited above, there should be no such question or doubt at all as to who we are. Such a question "Does anyone know who or what a Rotuman is?" posed by Samisoni Pareti should never have arisen. Should the definition be a hindrance for Rotuma receiving its fair share of the $20 million then I'd suggest that Rotuma does what Lilino advocated: “strongly urge the Council of Rotuma to take a step forward and thank the Fijian Affairs Board and decline their offer of FHL shares. Rotumans must understand that in terms of financial needs and development, there are other provinces that so deservingly and rightfully should be given that portion of shares allocated to Rotuma.” For we Rotumans are proud of our heritage and who we are and are not a commodity to be easily bought. Money is not everything--it's who we are, Rotumans, that counts most.
Bula. I am the Suva-based writer who wrote about Rotumans and buying shares in Fijian Holding Limited. I have noted the comments of your commentators and the least I can do is to ask both gentlemen and others who have strong opinions on the subject to raise them directly with the Rotuma Island Council, their representative in parliament, and the Fijian Affairs Board. It is sad that in writing about the matter, I, the writer, have been called names by your two commentators. I believe more good would come if these energies are directed to those officials now wanting a "narrower" definition of who is Rotuman.
I for one don't buy an once of Samisoni Pareti's commentary response. As far as I'm concerned, he wrote the article sensationalising the issue for sale. The question he posed--"Does anyone know who or what a Rotuma is?"-- is very offensive to us Rotumans after all these years of association with Fiji. There's not a shred of doubt both legally and morally of who we are. Therefore he must expect the consequences of a crude response from Lilino and me in defense of our community.
The Rotuma Act is quite clear on the issue. Therefore allow me to restate again that the RIC reiterated it's commitment to perpetuate the registration of Rotumans under both maternal and paternal sides as per the Minutes of their meeting on 15 March 2004. This clearly indicated to us that the RIC had no intention of changing the description of who we are nor the Act; otherwise they would not commit to this. Furthermore, neither the RIC nor our Chiefs had mooted the idea nor mentioned anything to the contrary. Otherwise they would have followed a standard protocol in which they are well versed, allowing discussions at all levels of our community to take place, before deciding such an important issue affecting the Rotumans.
Since there was nothing to the contrary from the RIC and our Chiefs after all this time, other than that mentioned in the article by Samisoni, why should we take it up with our Council if they have not raised the issue?