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Archived News: April 2013

From Fiji Times Online (30 April 2013)

Islands low on supplies

by Tevita Vuibau

PEOPLE living in outer islands continue to face a shortage of basic food items and fuel as disruptions plague inter-island shipping services.

When contacted by The Fiji Times yesterday, villagers on Rotuma and on islands in the Lau Group attributed these shortages to the lack of shipping services.

Cicia villager Epeli Draunidalo said villagers were forced to go without rice, flour and sugar after supplies on the island ran out.

"It has been like this for a few weeks, the boat is supposed to come to the island once a month but there have been no services for over a month now," Mr Draunidalo said.

Tovu villager Tevita Ravunivadra echoed Mr Draunidalo's sentiments, saying the shortage of basic food items was compounded by the shortage of fuel.

"Because there is a shortage of fuel, people are finding it difficult to take their boats out to fish, there is no diesel in the store and only those who have spare stores are able to go out," Mr Ravunivadra said.

He said people managed to survive by living off the land, harvesting crops to put food on their tables.

Ministry of Transport permanent secretary Commander Francis Kean said they were making efforts to address the needs of the islanders.

Mr Ravunivadra said the last boat came to the island on March 15.

"So it's been more than a month without supplies and the village store is empty."

Meanwhile, the fuel shortage in Rotuma is causing problems for the island's water supply. The island last received a shipment of fuel and food items in March.

Lopta villager Rejieli Panapasa said pumps on the island were run by generators and water pumps had to be turned off because of fuel shortage.

"They had to shut off the pumps. Right now, people are relying on the water from their water tanks to get by," Ms Panapasa said.

"We are also running short of basic food items such as rice and while we do not rely completely on these items, we still need them to supplement the food on the island."

However, hope is just beyond the horizon for the islands, with government and inter-island shipping agencies already resuming operations. MV Lady Sandy operator Durga Prasad said his vessel was back in business.

"We will leave on Wednesday to service the yasayasa Moala and lower Southern Lau and we will service upper Southern Lau next week," Mr Prasad said.

Cdr Kean said two extra vessels were provided by the Government Shipping Service to enable private shipping companies to meet demand under the Fiji Shipping Franchise Scheme.

In response to questions sent last week, Cdr Kean said the Iloiloivatu and the Rogovoka were being used to meet demand in outer islands.

He said the Iloiloivatu had already serviced northern Lau and upper Southern Lau and would service the yasayasa Moala and lower Southern Lau next month.

He also stated the Rogovoka was undergoing repairs but would service Kadavu and Rotuma once it was cleared to sail.

Cdr Kean said shipping was disrupted because of a number of factors but the government had acted decisively in response.

"A lot of these issues are beyond our control. Some of the vessels have had mechanical problems and the Lau Trader suffered a fire on board," Cdr Kean said.

"There have also been issues with delayed payments to the operators but 70 per cent of the outstanding invoices have now been cleared. The rest will be paid when the owners provide us with the necessary documentation."

Note from Pam Nataniela in Tarsua, Rotuma (30 April 2013)

Greetings from Rotuma where for around 1 month, all shops are empty (except for an odd jar of jam or bottle of cordial) and from last week Thursday, (April 25) there has been no running water (fuel is finished), and this will continue till a boat comes, which is sheduled to leave May 8 (gov't boat) to arrive on time for the Rotuma day festivities.

Sorry for asking, but I wonder who is jumping to celebrate? This is about the time I expect many to come up with such lines as, "Oh, you live right by the sea, and you must have a garden in the bush!" of which both are true, but a fact which, coupled with unpredictable weather and tide, doesn't afford us regularity of accessibility, and while we certainly haven't starved, many are really, seriously struggling. This is where the elderly and those with large families are really challenged!

(26 April 2013) Aviana Airways has announced plans to launch domestic air services in Fiji in July 2013, including service to Rotuma. It will use the brand name of "Inter Island Airways (Fiji) Limited." Its base of operations will be at Suva Nausori International Airport.

Inter Island Airways (Fiji) Limited plans to operate an initial fleet of four (4) Dornier 228-212 (18-seats) aircraft and (1) Dornier 328 Turbo Prop (30-seats) from its main base in Suva, and from Nadi in early 2013 to and from the following destinations:
Labasa, Savusavu, Taveuni, Kadavu, Rotuma.

Let us hope that competition will help to improve air services to Rotuma!

From Fiji Times Online (21 April 2013)

Letters to the Editor:

Rotuma air services

I READ somewhere on the web the wonderful slogan for our domestic airline Pacific Sun 'Best value under the Sun'.

Pacific Sun management and bosses are urged to treat their patrons and the islanders of Rotuma with more dignity and be more responsible and more sympathetic in the caring manner you run your air services from Fiji to Rotuma.

On Friday April 19, 2013, at least 12 passengers left their homes as early as 12.30am from Suva and made confirmed holiday plans from as far as Hawaii to visit their exotic, incomparable island paradise.

A traditional island welcome was organised on the island to welcome the arrival of a new member of a family.

A lot of preparation went into welcoming a kainaga who now makes his return to the island after 30 long years. Not far behind was a father who excitedly looked forward to meeting up with his daughter and niece with friends from Fiji.

And he is going back after 28 years since his school days. A group of five were greatly anticipated by their friends and brothers in Rotuma.

One should have been at the Nadi International Airport to see the smiling beaming faces braving the cool morning, happily queued up among the group with baggages prepared with much love and care for their island kinsfolk.

And then we got the best value under the sun. Of the 12 but maybe more passengers (too dejected to count) that turned up and had called Pacific Sun a day earlier and were confirmed booked to fly were shot by the sacrificial lamb behind the counter when they said they would only take four passengers.

Months of preparation and anticipation, fares paid at least two months in advance of $632 one way at least Pacific Sun got the best value on bank interests under the sun.

We urge Pacific Sun please, to do justice to your air services to Rotuma.

With the many economic investments going into Rotuma, you need to allow a wider neck for your bottle. Investors and peoples' time is important and patrons plan their holidays and events months and months well in advance.

Help the island grow its economy and have in place a regular, reliable and trustworthy service.

Should a flight get cancelled because of bad weather or over booked cargo, can you consider running a supplementary flight for people as soon as possible if not on the same day?

The people of Rotuma support Pacific Sun well by putting up with airfares that can take them two return trips to overseas destinations.

One of our nieces travelled to Rotuma three weeks ago and the same incident was experienced at the Nadi International Airport. She was called three times to go to the airport with three cancellations. We understand this is an ongoing problem with Pacific Sun and their flight to Rotuma. We too want the 'Best value under the sun' for Rotuma air service.

Allen Lockington

See Rotuman Forum for responses to this posting

From Fiji Times Online (14 April 2013)

Island restocks cattle supply

by Maciu Malo

THE Council of Rotuma has invested more than $20,000 in the purchase of 48 cattle from the government.

Council chairman Tarterani Rigamoto said the continuous slaughter of cattle for feasts had reduced the number of livestock on the island over the past years.

Mr Rigamoto said the cattle would be distributed to the seven districts on the island for breeding purposes.

"We have seen a reduction in cattle over the previous years and this is the main reason for investing $23,845 in purchasing 48 cattle from Viti Levu," he said.

"The cattle will be distributed to the seven districts in Rotuma where they will be bred.

"Most cattle have been slaughtered for magiti (feast) purposes and this is the reason why we are purchasing more cattle," said Mr Rigamoto.

Agriculture commercial undertaking officer in-charge of the marketing of livestock Ulaiasi Tadulala said the demand for the cattle in Rotuma was high.

"In fact, the shipment was supposed to happen but the lack of transportation prevented an earlier shipment.

"Seven of these cattle will be used for magiti while the rest will be bred for food security," he said.

The cattle were shipped to Rotuma yesterday.

From Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (3 April 2013)

Seaview shipping stops servicing Lau and Rotuma

Report by Apisalome Coka

Seaview Shipping has stopped services to Lau and Rotuma until it is paid subsidies owed for the last five months.

Lau hasn't had any services for two months after the MV Sandy suffered mechanical problems.

Vessel owner Durga Prasad is now refusing to sail the franchise route until they're paid about $185,000.

The major issue is that we cannot move the vessel at the moment since last 5 months we have not been paid from government under the franchise scheme.

Prasad says his boat the MV Lady Sandy is having mechanical problems and they need money to get back on the water.

Permanent Secretary for Transport, Francis Kean has assured that the payment will be made in the next few days.

I want to re assure my good friend Durga that he'll receive his money we beg his patience and understanding due to the fact there are processes and systems that we need to follow, there is a dire need to improve in this area.

Until all the issues are sorted – the MV Sandy will remain berthed in the Suva Harbour.

From Alan Howard and Jan Rensel (2 April 2013)

It has been brought to our attention that Gagaj Mora‘ of Pepjei died during the Christmas holidays. The funeral included a la‘ ne ‘itu, he ‘atua, he‘ȧk koua, and fakpej ne kav ta. The men performed a ki when the body of the late chief was brought into the district hall. The new title for the fa ‘es ‘itu‘u of Pepjei is Gagaj Mou. The title holder is Semesi married to Luisa. Their son Roderick is a police officer at Ahau govt station.