From Fiji Sun Online (3 June 2012)

Rotuma, Tuvalu trade

Antonio Muera Tanu

It was said to note that a Fiji Sun caption dated Thursday, May 10 2012 “Chief rejects Tuvalu Trade” and some subsequent comments by the Noatau District chief, Gagaj Maraf.

The highlighted heading tendered to portray a picture of ungratefulness despite the tremendous efforts undertaken by the present Government to help the farmers on the island and help lift the living standards of the Rotuman people.

As a member of the Council of Rotuma and the representative (Mata) of the Itutu District, I feel obliged to comment on some of the issues raised by Gagaj Maraf.
It is a fact that a land mass may not be as big as one would like it to be, but Rotuma has a lot to offer if only the inhabitants on the island make full use of their resources.

Gagaj Maraf said and I quote: “I believe that God did not create Rotuma to provide agriculture products for other places”, unquote.

I believe that Gagaj Maraf is well versed with the Bible and the Bible teaching is that you share with others of what you have.

Rotuma is very fortunate to have rich and fertile soil resulting in an abundance of fruit trees and root crops and I honestly believe that God wants us to share with others, especially those who are in need of what he has generously given to us.

If we do keep them to ourselves then do not be surprised if one day these may all be taken away from us.

Gagaj Maraf mentioned that the produce on the island was only enough for the people. I have been living on the island most of my life and the farmers have been crying for markets to sell their surplus produce and Rotuma customary functions are testimonies of this.

But if this is the situation in his district best known to him then I pray and urge those farmers to move away from the subsistence farming mind-set and adopt commercial farming techniques.

Finally it was stated and I quoted: “…a Rotuman high chief does not approve of agriculture trade between Tuvalu and Rotuma” unquote.

I take it that this Rotuma high chief was Gagaj Maraf. If it was so, then coming from a former school teacher, former Senator and current district chief of Noatau was really sad.

Gagaj Maraf went to Tuvalu on a fact-finding mission with airfares paid by others on behalf of the council of Rotuma.

As far as I can recall, when Gagaj Maraf returned from Tuvalu, what he said in the council of Rotuma meeting was that ‘mission accomplished’, and nothing about his approval of such trade.

I fail to comprehend the logic of why Gagaj Maraf waited all these years to finally reveal his disapproval in the media.

However, I would like to categorically state that the other six chiefs, the council and the people of Rotuma fully support this trade initiative with Tuvalu and are very grateful to the Government for all projects initiated and implemented on the island.

I admit that Gagaj Maraf is entitled to air his own opinion, granted that he is well over 80 years, but I humbly urge him to be more considerate in future.