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February 2014 | $4.95VIP aud/nzd













Counting down to election

Getting to grips with a secular state

Changing of the guard



Volume 2 | No 4

BAINIMARAMA Tribute to a political cartoonist






Vol 2 | No 4 | February 2014


16 | Changing of the guard Who Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama will hand over the reigns of the Fiji Military Forces to when he resigns wHo wILL as commander SUCCEED BAINIMARAMA at the end of the month will be an interesting reveal for the man who has held dual roles of prime minister and chief of the armed forces for the past seven years. Netani Rika outlines some of the potential candidates and weighs the likelihood or not of those officers getting endorsed. On the one hand, Bainimarama has a chance to take a bold step and name Fiji’s first Fijian of Indian descent. But on the other, he is likely to stick with a safe bet to ensure On the march The new Republic of Fiji Military Forces’ commander, expected to be in place by next month, will lead an army dedicated to its leader. his political survival. February 2014 | $4.95VIP aud/nzd






Counting down to election

Getting to grips with a secular state





ChaNGING of ThE GuarD

Tribute to a political cartoonist




Volume 2 | No 4


SALON 26 | Election 2014 Kelvin Anthony on getting into gear for the polls


28 | Walking tall How Pranay Chand overcame disability through determination

30 | No barriers Deaf bus-builders hold their own


35 | Farewell to Lai Mere Naulumatua on her cartoonist father


6 | Briefing No end in sight in Sereima murder investigation

13 | The Rising Ape Alex Elbourne on human’s propensity for hypocrisy

12 | Pasifika Post Tonga gets insurance for Cyclone Ian damage

15 | The Green Line Nakita Bingham on the trashing of our islands

42 | The Last Word Gary Juffa on the problems in PNG leadership

38 | Coconut Cognition Gregory Ravoi on life, love and death

February 2014

ESSAY 31 | Secularism Satendra Nandan on the challenges of a secular society | Repúblika |




Farewell to all that ... kind of

Vol 2 | No 4 Publisher & Editor Ricardo Morris EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Rosemary Masitabua

coming on. Either way, these are exciting times to be witnessing as we prepare for our first general election in over seven years. Much work remains to be done to prepare the country for elections. As political leaders have pointed out, electoral laws are yet to be promulgated and the details of our new electoral system have not been clearly and fully spelled out yet. The devil could very well be in the detail. In January, we lost our cartoonist and friend here at Repúblika. Laisiasa Naulumatua had drawn for us since we published our first issue in September 2012. He may have been dimunitive but Lai - as he preferred being called - had deep political insight and humour to match that belied his quiet exterior. As a young child, I was fascinated by Lai’s cartoons in the Fiji Times and often wondered what type of person was behind these sketches. In 2010, as editor of Mai Life Magazine I thought of tracking Lai down to ask him if he would draw for me. I didn’t know where to start looking for him or even if he was still alive then. I reasoned that if he was drawing when I was still a child, then he might already have passed on. As it turned out, as I was making enquiries trying to get in touch with Lai, he was thinking along the same lines of getting in touch with me.

One day, out of the blue, in walks this small man with a big smile on his face. “Hello,” he said as I peered at the figure in front of me curiously. “I’m Lai. I was wondering if you would be interested in some of my cartoons?” I almost fell over. The very man I had been trying to find for some weeks just rocked up out of nowhere and proposed the very idea I had in mind. I suppose intuitiveness was one of Lai’s traits and it served him well over his seven decades of life. His trademark in his political cartoons, after all, was a cat that ‘meowed’. In a brief chat last year about his stint as a visiting artist at the Fiji National University, Lai lamented the lack of interest young people had in learning free-hand drawing and sketching. He seemed almost sad that young people were not really interested in the skills he was trying to pass on to them. Computers, he said, were what did most of the ‘drawing’ for them. With Lai’s passing goes a wealth of knowledge, skills and home-grown humour of this self-taught political humourist, and Fiji and the Pacific are poorer for it. Unless, like a cat with nine lives, there’s a reincarnated Lai waiting in the R wings.




Kelvin Anthony


Fiji Alex Elbourne Margaret Mishra

We welcome your comments, contributions, corrections, letters or suggestions. Send them to or leave a comment on our social media pages.

Mere Naulumatua Nakita Bingham Netani Rika Pacific Gary Juffa

The opinions expressed in Repúblika are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. The editor takes responsibility for all nonattributed editorial content.

Published by Republika Media Limited | 8 Mitchell Street, Peace Embassy Suite A107, Suva | PO Box 11927, Suva, Fiji | Phone: +679 3561467 Mobile: +679 9041215 | Email: | Printed by Quality Print Limited, Suva | ISSN: 2227-5738 | Issue 9 4

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In veritate libertas


his time next month, if all goes according to plan, we should know who the new commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is. Veteran journalist Netani Rika tries his hand in this issue at predicting some of the officers likely to get Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s blessing as he steps down to pursue his political dreams. Whether we like it or not, over the past decade the position of commander RFMF has become overtly political. The reinvented military sees itself as not just the defender of the realm, but also a vital partner in national governance and development. Bainimarama will have been in the post 14 years when he bows out. His successor will have inherited an institution thoroughly oriented towards the Bainimarama doctrine. And no doubt Bainimarama will want to chose an officer who will carry on his vision of using the military to help build a better Fiji. In many ways Bainimarama is taking a gamble by stepping aside as commander (these are rules his own legal people formulated) and appears to be confident that in setting up his political party he will secure a majority to rule democratically. Some believe he has a high chance of leading a successful party, while there are others who feel there is a surprise

February 2014

inbox Your letters, feedback and viewpoints

I would not blame the investigating officer (in the Sereima Degei death investigation) because I think at that time he might not have served for five years yet, and the responsibilities directed to him to handle (would have been greater than usual). I would put the blame on the supervising officer. Arthur Rounds via Such laxity on the part of police then (in investigating the Sereima case in 2007). It is deplorable. Josh Alexis Valentine via All parents and guardians should aware that there are devils in human forms among us so let us stay alert and let our responsibilities, the children, be our first priority. We cannot save Sereima and bring her back to life, instead let us prevent more cases like Sereima’s death from happening. Sala Bevu via If you put money into a machine expecting to win something, be it a pokie in a pub in Australia or a machine at Tom’s World – isn’t that gaming? Just because you don’t win cash doesn’t mean that your prize has no monetary value - an iphone is worth quite a lot. On one hand the Government allocates massive resources to help parents with school fees and then allows an enterprise to milk parents of hard earned cash through gaming for kids. Yogesh Gokal via Under the 2013 Bainimarama Constitution which the government is supposedly following, as with the 1997 Constitution, civil servants are expected to show the highest standards in accountability and transparency to taxpayers, for the use of tax payers’ funds. The Permanent Secretary of Fi-

TALK BACK TO US February 2014

nance is the chief financial officer, who is properly appointed by the Public Service Commission, and who bears ultimate responsibility for the proper disbursement of taxpayers’ funds annually. This seriousness and uniqueness of these responsibilities has been emphasised by the recent doubling of the salary of the Permanent Secretary for Finance, and this is one salary increase which may be justified by the magnitude of taxpayers’ funds and the large public debt managed by this one position. Can Filimoni Waqabaca therefore inform the taxpayers (a simple “yes” or ‘no’ through these columns will do) whether some government ministers’ salaries have been paid at any time since 2007, through a private accounting company? If the answer is “yes” can the PS Finance inform the taxpayers what the total emoluments of the Prime Minister and Attorney General are? Can the chairman of the Public Service Commission (or any of the individual board members who may believe in public accountability) inform the public whether these are proper questions that taxpayers can legitimately pose to the PS Finance, and which must be answered, given the Public Service Commission’s own guidelines to civil servants for accountability and transparency? Professor Wadan Narsey Suva If the police want solutions (to violence against women), they could start by taking complaints of rape, intimate partner violence and breaches of DVROs (domestic violence restraining orders) seriously. This is an ongoing issue in many Pacific nations and often victims are discouraged from lodging reports at the outset. Charging those who report crimes with making false statements further erodes public confidence in the police force. Perhaps

they could start with a public survey as to whether people trust the police force enough to report crimes when they occur? Kate Schuetze via the Ministry of Education should have been doing some repairs during the school break (at Nasinu Secondary School dormitaries). I guess it’s free education (but) in structures that need to be (demolished) due to their structural conditions. Chay Habbib via Why do they keep calling it the “first genuine democratic election”? Talei Kotobalavu via Free West Papua, be strong my brothers. Emosi Lasaqa via Our hearts and prayers go out to the people in the Ha’apai group (in Tonga after Cyclone Ian). Basilio Benedict Vanuaca via

If you have a burning issue that you would like to address and need





your views, Repúblika is here for you. Send your articles to

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briefing The nation reviewed




No end in sight to Sereima inquiry Two months after an inquest found Tailevu teenager Sereima Degei was murdered in 2007 and did not commit suicide, two separate investigations into the matter continues. Acting Police Commission Ravi Narayan told Repúblika the case was a “complex” one and had come after a lapse of many years. He said officers had to look at the evidence to be able to establish a “prima facie” case. “Though there is some evidence we have to go back to the people and review their testimony, take their testimony and establish a prima facie case. “We are not going to rush this investigation but we will view every aspect of it and analyse the evidence before we send it to the DPP for their advice,” Narayan said. Nausori Magistrate Charles Ratakele conducted an inquest between August and November 2013 and ruled on 10 December that Sereima of Nabouciwa Village was murdered. The inquest was ordered after a Repúblika investigation into the circumstances of the girl’s death was published in September 2012. 6

| Repúblika |

Menawhile, a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) against three men at the centre of the investigation years ago was extended on 29 January. The restraining order was sought by Sereima’s uncle, Apisalome Rabo, on the day of the inquest ruling, after he alleged the men named by the magistrate had threatened his family and that of Sereima’s friend. The Fiji Sun reported the DVRO hearing was transferred from Ratakele to Magistrate Waleen George, who adjourned the matter to 12 February. There was tension as families from both sides packed the Nausori court precints during the DVRO hearing. Fiji Sun photographer Paulini Ratulaili, was heckled by a relative of one of the men named in the order. The woman asked the photographer why she was taking photos outside the court building. She then alerted the two of the men involved that their pictures were being taken. A police officer inquired about the commotion and told the photographer she could carry on working. n




New police recruits for the first batch of 2014. Out of the 150 recuits, who will undergo six months’ training, 30 are female.

3 7 20

The road death toll as of 31 January.

The total number of drownings in the first month of 2014.

The number of new cameras that are to be installed in the Suva and Lautoka ports.


Enrolment at Lami High School at the beginning of the new school year that prompted the education minister to threaten its closure. February 2014


The nation reviewed



Warning over Facebook shops as suspect returns with new name A Facebook shop that closed after allegedly scamming Fijian customers to the tune of thousands of dollars has reemerged under another name – before being exposed again by the Consumer Council of Fiji. Pink Window Creations, with an outlet at Sports City in Laucala Bay, Suva, has been at the centre of controversy after failing to deliver jewellery customers through their Facebook page. The Facebook page was closed but the Consumer Council has reported that the Pink Window was launched under a new Facebook page called Fashion Bure, which retailed fashion accessories and trendy clothes. That page is also now closed. In a statement, Consumer Council chief executive Premila Kumar said an investigation had established that Fashion Bure was registered under one Sanjeshni Kumar of Lot 11 Joyce Parks Street, Bayview Heights, Suva on 15 January

2014. However, Sanjeshni Kumar changed the ownership of the Fashion Bure to one Shabrina Mehnaz Nisha on 28 January 2014. The physical address of the outgoing owner of Fashion Bure as stated in the business registration form, matches the residential address of where the owners of The Pink Window Creations reside, according to Kumar. Before Fashion Bure closed its Facebook page, it showed no fixed physical address except: “Suva, 00679, Suva City, Central, Fiji.” The Consumer Council began looking into Fashion Bure after receiving queries from customers. Kumar warns people who shop through Facebook to be cautious and establish contact details and physical location of the retailers before parting with money. n


Life insurer pay-outs rise 11% BSP Life announced it paid out $43m to customers in 2013, $44 or 11 per cent more than 2012. Of this, $37.2m was for life insurance claims and $5.8m for health insurance claims. BSP Life’s managing director Malakai Naiyaga said: “In 2013 we paid an average of over $800,000 a week in claims assisting thousands of our customers with payouts on their policies. “Of the $37.2m for life insurance, $32m or 86 per cent was paid to customers for maturities and other benefits meaning they were able to use their insurance payouts to fulfil their life goals whether it be retirement, payment of children’s tertiary fees, paying off a mortgage or taking a well deserved family holiday. “The remaining $5.2m was for death payments assisting families financially after they’ve lost a loved one.” On health insurance, the bulk of the payout was for medical claims including overseas evacuations assisting hundreds of customers in their time of medical need. Total health claims increased by $0.4m or seven per cent compared to 2012. February 2014

Since re-branding in 2011, BSP Life has experienced rapid growth due primarily to growing customer confidence in the brand. BSP Life’s products cater for payouts in the event of death, disability, critical or terminal illness, and also provide periodic payments throughout the insurance policy term with a final payout at maturity, depending on the policy taken. With retirement planning now a key area of focus, life insurance acts as a vehicle to support this with the dual benefit of a payout to family members in the event of untimely loss. Health insurance sales have also grown rapidly for the insurer and this is credited to more customers understanding the importance of having insurance to cover for escalating costs in medical treatment, particularly for overseas evacuations. BSP Life has over 50,000 policyholders, 150 licensed Insurance Advisors and ten Customer Service centres Fiji-wide. n

For the first time a national minimum wage of $2 an hour covering both the formal and informal sectors has been set by the Ministry of Labour. Labour minister Jone Usamate said the wage policy was designed to alleviate poverty among marginalised workers. It comes into effect in March.


President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was among guests at the Acting Australian High Commissioner’s residence on 29 January to celebrate Australia Day, the first time it has been marked since 2006. In a sign of warming relations between Fiji and Australia, Fijian government ministers and officials responded to invitations from the High Commission to attend the event.


Fiji was invited to join the United Nations Environment Programme Committee of Permanent Representatives at its meeting in Nairobi in January attended by Fiji’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Beniamino Salacakau. Fiji is the only Pacific nation that took part in the UNEP meeting.


Montfort Boys’ Town, Veisari and Vivekananda Technical Centre, Nadi are piloting the National Qualifications Programme, the first two institutions to do so since a qualifications framework was developed last year by the Fiji Higher Education Commission to address the mismatch between training provided by institutions and current industry needs.


The United Arab Emirates is to fund a us$5m renewable energy project to be implemented in Kadavu, Rotuma and the Lau group. The renowned Emirati company, Masdar will carry out the project which will expand the government’s solar integration efforts in off-grid locations.


BSP LIFE | Repúblika |


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The nation reviewed

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February 2014


The nation reviewed


PDP mixed messages end in resignation Fiji’s newest political party, the People’s Democratic Party, has been embroiled in controversy over the public statements of its former spokesman Nirmal Singh, who has resigned from the party on 2 February. Party insiders were concerned about the mixed messages emerging from the party, with Singh pre-empting the official line on matters of national interest by releasing his statements before that of party president Adi Sivia Qoro. Singh, a founding member whose office at Gordon Street was used for party meetings (he rented space from the Fiji Trades Union Congress), was reportedly sacked as spokesman by the party’s executive committee 20 January. On resigning, Singh released a statement saying the move was “based on a fundamental disagreement with several issues.” “As you would have noted, there have been several conflicting statements released from the party in recent times and this does not augur well for the reputation, well-being and unity within the party. “We have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons and this is affecting PDP’s profile and credibility among our people. “I am dispensable – the party is indispensible. “I must admit here that the policies of the party expressed so far in the media were mostly articulated by me and this has not gone down well with some founding members and this was done in absence of party having any firmed up policies,” Singh said in the statement. One of the party’s founding members, veteran politician Krishna Datt was ambiguous in describing the situation with Singh to the Fiji Sun. “Obviously there were some statements made that were a little bit controversial – not all members had the same view but in broad, general terms, he put the party profile up – we’ve got to acknowledge that help and support,” Datt told Fiji Sun elections editor Rosi Doviverata. “But increasingly as the party founders, we began to think that we should now begin to project someone as in the leadership role much more – coming closer to the elections. “He himself said it and rightfully we all feel the same way – that Adi Sivia should February 2014

be projected much more vigorously in a leadership role. “His difficulties arise from some legal interpretation of involvement of unionists in the party and that we’ll try to handle that...”

Never-say-die Rabuka wants SODELPA leadership Former prime minister and 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka has applied for the leadership of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), in a move that was not surprising but still raised eyebrows. In a wide-ranging interview with the Fiji Sun, Rabuka, 65, said he “still had a lot to contribute to Fiji.” Rabuka said he did not want potential divisions over his leadership contest break the party up because “the party is more important than any single member.” However, he added: “I just want to prove that I still have a lot to contribute to the leadership of the nation as part of a team or as a leader – whichever way it turns out, I will be prepared to run.” n

Read Fiji Sun elections editor Rosi Doviverata’s interview here:

NFP calls for clarity on poll processes THE National Federation Party has called for clarity on how the electoral process will work. At a working committee meeting in Ba on 26 January, party president Raman Singh said with only seven months to go before the deadline for a general election, more information is needed on the workings of Fiji’s new electoral system and procedures, the Fiji Times reported. Singh also reiterated the need for a free and fair environment in the lead up to elections. The party’s manifesto is expected to

be released by late March or early April when its annual general meeting is held, according to Singh. An election for office bearers will be conducted during the AGM and nominations will soon be sought from branches. Candidate applications will also soon be accepted. He also called on branches to begin fundraising activities to support the party’s election bid. Although the NFP is the country’s oldest party at 50 and arguably the most principled, it has failed to win a seat since the 1999 general election. The party has yet to decide who will lead it into the general election, although academic Dr Biman Prasad has been signalled as a top contender.

FLP’s Chaudhry has his say on election prep THE Fiji Labour Party has called on the news media to allow “honest, balanced and unbiased coverage of statements and views across the political spectrum.” The FLP and National Federation Party were the first two of the four registered political parties whose uncensored opinions the Fiji Sun will publish each Saturday in the lead up to elections. In his column, party leader Mahendra Chaudhry thanked the newspaper for opening up the political debate space, which he said had been lacking. “Open, robust debate on issues of national importance is an absolute prerequisite for elections to be considered free, fair and credible.” Chaudhry also outlined seven other points including: concern that no electoral legislation was yet in place; there had been a lack of consultation in choosing the electoral commissioners; a supervisor of elections had yet to be appointed; some 20 per cent of voters were yet to be registered; an electoral process controlled by the Attorney-General; unhappiness with a one-day poll and draconian decrees that limited freedom of association, expression and assembly. n Read Mahendra Chaudhry’s opinion column here: | Repúblika |



The nation reviewed



Under construction ... The entrance to the new Navua hospital being built by Chinese construction company Yanjian Group, at Namelimeli along the Queens highway. In 2011 it was estimated the Chinese funded 22-bed hospital would cost $8m. A sign to the right of the site entrance explains in Chinese and English the construction company’s achievements and qualifications.


| RepĂşblika |

February 2014


The nation reviewed



Tragedies mark start of year The new year began on a deadly note for many families across the country with a number of drowning, accidents and murders. On New Year’s Eve, one family in Duvula Road, Nadera were in mourning after the drowning of six-year-old Semi Maivalu. The boy was out playing at the so-called Paradise Pond over Duvula Road when he was found unconscious in the pond. The next day, a two-year-old was reported to have drowned in the open sea at that Cavai village in Kadavu. A few days after that, in a bizarre incident, 17-year-old Abdul Johan was involved in an accident on near a bridge in Labasa. He got out of vehicle, ran to a nearby shop to make a call before running back to was the bridge and jumping off. On 5 January, a 55-year-old man became the first road fatality for the year after the car he was in hit a culvert post and overturned in Vanua Levu. On 6 January, a four-year-old old had gone to Nakama river outside Labasa for a picnic but drowned, while on 12 January a 19-year-old boy from Natadola Beach drowned because of strong currents which carried him to deeper water. The body of Pauliasi Canivalu, 28, was found floating lifeless near a bridge at the Nadi Back Road. He had gone fishing with his partner and daughter but he then decided to swim from the spot they were fishing at to a bridge. His body was discovered there. Yet more drownings dominated the news. A class two pupil had gone swimming with his six older siblings at

Kalacraft Rifle Rants in Lautoka, more than an hour after he disappeared. On 16 January, a family of Tacirua East were struck by tragedy when their 10-year-old son Rokovale Valetino was found dead hanging from clothesline while the family were having a prayer meeting inside the house. The boy’s mother said he may have lost his balance while playing on a piece of wood. On 18 January, Sashi Kala, 58, and Ram Rati, 78, were killed in an accident on the Kings highway near Korovou. Their car slipped and overturned on loose gravel while they were on their way to visit family in Rakiraki. On 25 January, a 37-year-old man’s body was discovered in open sea after he failed to return from a diving trip. The day after, 23-year-old Roneel Kumar’s body was discovered by police in Naleba River in Macuata after he did not return from a fishing trip. Several days after a four-vehicle crash on Ratu Mara Road near Nabua, a man who was a passenger in one of the taxis involved died. On 28 January, a 50-year-old woman was murdered, allegedly by her nephew, at her Nakavu, Nadi home. Even while overseas, tragedy touched the lives of those left in Fiji. On 28 January, Deepika Rani Kumar, 18, drowned at a Hamilton motel pool in New Zealand. Kumar, who had lived for three years at St Christopher’s Home, had won an essay competition and a trip to New Zealand was part of her prize. n


“Everything my government and I have worked for over the past seven years is coming to a climax with the general election before the end of September. When the new parliament is chosen – with every Fijian 18 years and over having an equal say for the first time – our revolution will be largely complete.” Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in a speech on 3 February during Chinese New Year celebrations at Yat Sen school in Suva. “A single-day poll greatly decreases the chances for fraudulent behaviour, in particular tampering with ballot boxes. Unfortunately, some politicians are trying to turn this into a political issue by making unfounded statements in order to call into question the legitimacy of the preparations for elections.” Attorney-General and elections minister Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum in a statement on 23 January. “Two important qualities a police officer must have is that of heart and passion. Your purpose here within the organisation and your ultimate goal is to serve and this should be inbuilt into your everyday thinking.” Acting Police Commissioner Ravi Narayan in his speech welcoming 150 new police recruits on 23 January.

You don’t have to suffer in silence free and confidential counselling services and legal advice are available at our branches in suva, nadi, Ba, rakiraki and labasa. You can call our hotline 24 hours a day.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968)

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre | 88 Gordon St, Suva | Phone: 3313 300 / 9209 470 (24hrs) | February 2014 | Repúblika |


pasifikapost Regional current affairs worth noting

drua pr & media company limited

Cyclone Ian devastates Tonga

Tukuafu Tu’ipulotu sits among the ruins of his home in Koulo, Ha‘apai after Cyclone Ian devastated Tonga in January.

The World Bank has awarded the first Pacific catastrophe insurance payout to Tonga to help the country recover from Cyclone Ian. Tonga is one of six Pacific island nations, including Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, currently participating in the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot. The scheme, operated by the World Bank, is based on a similar concept trialled in the Caribbean. Franz Dree-Gross, the World Bank’s country director for the Pacific, told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that Tonga will receive us$1.27m (fj$2.4m) to cope with the devastation caused by Cyclone Ian. “What the World Bank does is that it purchases disaster risk insurance with private risk insurers on behalf of a number of Pacific island countries,” he said. “When a disaster strikes, a computer model generates an estimate of the actual damages that Tonga has sustained, without having to do a detailed loss assessment.” Cyclone Ian, a category five storm, devastated the northern islands of Ha‘apai 12

| Repúblika |

in January, leaving one person dead and more than a thousand buildings destroyed. Tongan Minister for Finance and National Planning Dr ‘Aisake Valu Eke says the money from the World Bank’s scheme will help the people of Ha’apai recover and “return to their everyday lives without delay”. In a statement, the World Bank said it is also supporting damage assessments in Ha‘apai that will allow Tonga to measure the full extent of the cyclone damage. The New Zealand government announced an additional nz$370,000 (fj$566,480) for cyclone recovery efforts including personnel and equipment support for electricity and agriculture, with contributions now totaling nz$2.27m (fj$3.47m). Japan donated emergency relief goods worth 13 million Japanese Yen (us$126,000/ fj$237.9m) through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), including 600 portable jerry cans, 30 collapsible water tanks, and transportation charges. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a situation

report that 53 temporary learning spaces were needed to start the new year. The Tongan government is currently finalising a response plan to address the immediate and short terms needs of the affected population for a period of three months. Government ministries have been appointed to lead 12 national clusters, including shelter, housing, education, logistics, food security, health, safety and protection, livelihoods, public works, communications, electricity/power and water, sanitation and health (WASH). The response plan will include more than 80 activities and the funding requirements of each cluster area, and is expected to be presented to Cabinet for endorsement in February. The response plan will be followed by a recovery and reconstruction plan covering a 12 to 18 month period. 800 households have been provided with either a tarpaulin, tent or shelter tool kit. n



Hypocrisy at each turn The Rising Ape with ALEX ELBOURNE


e hate “the gays” but … we want to see them “doing it.” I read an interesting article recently about how a US magazine, Mother Jones, published an analysis of the places in the world where the Google search engine was most used to find gay porn sites. Yes, gay porn sites. I don’t know what qualifications you need to get paid to search out porn sites but I wouldn’t mind that kind of job. No? Moving on. The analysis showed that the top four countries in the world where the term “man f***ing man” was most used were Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda and Jamaica. Here’s the thing: in the first three countries homosexuality is actually illegal and Jamaica has a reputation as one of the most homophobic countries in the world. So four countries where homosexuality is treated as “unnatural” and it seems like they just can’t get enough of, well, homosexuals. Haha! Come on guys, human nature being what it is, the moment you make something taboo is pretty much the moment you make people want to find out more about the taboo subject. And you can legislate, repress or pray all you want, it ain’t going to change. (See the story on The Guardian site here: Then there’s Nigeria… Nigeria recently signed into law an anti-gay bill. I wonder if a bill like that could ever be enacted here in Fiji. Judging by some of the comments on Facebook it would not surprise me in the least if that happened here. Knock on wood, it won’t. But you never know. Since I’m yet to see a single rational non-theological argument against homosexuality, I’ll just have to assume that homophobes aren’t exactly the most rational people around. Oh and Nigeria’s president’s name is Goodluck Jonathan. Can I just say that’s a FABULOUS name, darling! Realpolitik on West Papua So let me see if I’ve got this right: the West Papuans want to join the Melanesian February 2014

Spearhead Group, so the MSG guys go and meet the Indonesians. Yeeeeahhhh! That makes no sense whatsoever. Ain’t Melanesian solidarity just the best. Oh well. To be fair though, in terms of geopolitics, Indonesia is just too important and powerful a player for small countries (relative to Indonesia) to get its bad side. In fact, Australia would pretty much be the only country in the region that can at least voice its concerns about what’s happening in West Papua right? Right? What’s that you say Tony Abbot? “The people of West Papua are much better off as part of a strong, dynamic and increasingly prosperous Indonesia”, Abbot told reporters in Bali in October according to a Guardian report. Abbot appeared to shrug off reports of human rights abuses in the troubled province, arguing the situation in West Papua was “getting better, not worse”, because of the reforms implemented by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He was responding to questions about an incident in Bali where three West Papuan students occupied the Australian consulate in October to protest about conditions in the province. The prime minister was implicitly critical of the incident. “We have a very strong relationship with Indonesia. We are not going to give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia. I want that to be absolutely crystal clear,” Abbot said. Oh Australia, you staunch defender of human rights, what happened? And that ladies and gentlemen is how you play the game. You kowtow to the ones bigger than you, Indonesia in Australia’s case, and bully the ones smaller than you, Fiji for example. That way you can assuage your sense of guilt. Then again, these are politicians playing so the concept of guilt may be a bit too much for them to grasp. See how it goes? Your principles are all important as long as they do not impact the bottom line too much. Oh and by the way, I have no issues with Australia and its PM fellating the Indonesians, just don’t try and screech like fingernails across a blackboard about democracy and/or human rights.

At the end of the day Fiji is a tiny country in the South Pacific with minimal impact on the world stage. So we have to be on everyone’s side while trying to maintain our sovereignty. What’s your excuse Australia? As it is, West Papua remains the forgotten war and the West Papuans an unwanted people. (Read more here: ForgottenWestPapua) But just in case… Let me try and explain something here. Reading what I’ve written so far, do I come across as cynical and bitter? Yes? Here’s the thing though, I’m not (or rather I’m trying very, very hard not to be). I’m going to be 34 this year (tempus blerrie fugit) and it’s taken me all this time to get to this point and finally figure out something about, well, life in general. Here it is: my life ain’t half-bad. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty damn good. I’ve got someone I love dearly. Two kids whom I also love (obviously) and keep me honest (the realisation that YOU, as a parent, are responsible for this little person and how others see them is the beginning of – finally – growing up). Is there struggle? Of course there is. Money, health, how others see you. All the human stuff we worry about. I think about my mortality and it’s just, quite frankly, pants-shittingly scary to think of your death. Or even worse, the death of those you love. But, in the midst of all these worries, there’s so much to be happy about. There’s love and laughter and friendship and family. There’s respect from those important to you. Contentment when things come together. Lazy days, busy days. There’s that awesome curry you just had. There’s that perfect cup of coffee when you’re blearily stumbling around the house in the morning. A nice cold beer or the perfect mix. I saw a woman recently hug her baby to her and it was such an intimate, human moment. Know what I mean? Big things, little things, there is joy in this world. And it makes the struggle worthwhile. R n Alex Elbourne is the Breakfast Show host on Legend FM. The views expressed are his own. | Repúblika |



Phone: (679) 3477 268 Fax: (679) 3477 511 Email: P.O.BOX 2427 Government Buildings, Suva 14

| RepĂşblika |

February 2014


Why are we trashing our islands? The Green Line with NAKITA BINGHAM


he South Pacific is made up of more water than landmass, making our small Pacific Island nations especially vulnerable to the effects of marine pollution. For many Islanders, our livelihood and continuance are contingent on the enduring richness of the seas, but in this day and age of rapid growth, development is superseding environmental awareness and education, threatening the very sustenance we rely upon for survival. Humans are leaving their mark on the world in the form of plastic bags, plastic bottles and containers, food wrappers, old fridges, out-dated computers, tyres, and so on. I continually see litter being thrown out of buses and cars and have witnessed numerous instances of people dumping their rubbish in the sea. In trying to understand why people do this, I’ve concluded that accountability for the sustainability of our environment can be measured on an individual basis. A sense of care doesn’t magically appear the day we are born, but emerges as a condition taught to us. Today, 80 per cent of all marine pollution comes from land-based activities. However, not all is from deliberate dumping. Other sources include agricultural and untreated sewage run-off, coastal tourism, mining, industrial waste, as well as construction and manufacturing pollutants. Commercial shipping and fishing waste are also the main sources of marine pollution. A devastating outcome of agricultural runoff and discharge of untreated waste into the ocean is eutrophication, which causes toxic algal blooms. The blooms flourish in phosphorus and nitrogen-saturated water, turning it green, blocking sunlight and depleting oxygen levels. Thus, marine life is suffocated and diverse underwater ecosystems are destroyed. Areas where this occurs are referred to as dead zones because they cannot sustain any life. There are cur-

February 2014

rently 500 dead zones in the world – equal in surface area to the UK. With development comes convenience and rapid accessibility to products like food, beverages, appliances, and electronics; all encouraging today’s on-the-go lifestyle. Even in the most remote areas, there is evidence of residual consumer packaging. We cannot escape the saga of packaged goods. Predominantly, such wrappings and containers are made from hydrocarbon-based plastics. It is estimated that the world produces over 220 million tons of plastic each year. Sadly, almost all of it isn’t disposed of properly. Recently, a sewer overflowed onto Grantham Road in Suva due to blocked drains caused by garbage build-up. The nearby community in turn was held responsible, as it was their trash causing the problem. In instances such as this, attributing blame doesn’t remedy the issue at hand, because localised littering is evidence of a systemic issue when the entire nation is full of people who do so with zero regard or knowledge of the consequences of such actions. When we think of plastic waste in the ocean, we imagine plastic bags, food wrappers and bottles floating on the surface, much as what can be seen in Nabukalou creek. Garbage entering marine waters is extremely dangerous to sea creatures, such as turtles ingesting plastic bags because they think they are jellyfish. Another hazard lies just below the ocean’s surface and sometimes can’t even be seen with the naked eye, in the form of little pieces of plastic. Such tiny plastic fragments have caused the death of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals a year. Since plastic is not biodegradable, it merely breaks down into micro debris that looks like plastic confetti. In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that every 2.5 square kilometres of ocean contained about 46,000 pieces of plastic. The North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is an area of ocean with the most concentrat-

ed amount of micro-plastics, making the water resemble plastic soup. A gyre has very little wind and sometimes no wind at all; combined with incredibly high-pressure weather systems, ocean circulation is reduced. Waste then gets caught in the vortex of stationary ocean water, trapped as it slowly drifts, collecting more plastic waste and debris every year. It is estimated that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is between 700,000 square kilometres to 15,000,000 square kilometres in area. It is difficult to tell how big it is because the waste consists of tiny pieces just below the sea surface. If the Garbage Patch was an actual concentrated island of waste, it would be easier to measure, as well much simpler to clean up. Where does social responsibility begin and to what extent can we implement a code that fosters a sense of care in the world, accounting for each other and all other living organisms with which we share this Earth? Whose responsibility is it to teach successive generations how to be conscious and conscientious humans taking care to protect and sustain our fragile ecosystem using preventative measures such as education and awareness? In 2011, the Department of Environment launched a Keep Fiji Clean campaign consisting of a TV commercial, public bulletins and a green environmental awareness bus. Such initiatives send the message out loudly but are not a long-term solution. Spreading awareness is only a first step in a continuous process. In addition to general public campaigns, environmental science education must be made mandatory in primary and secondary school as an effective prevention measure. Thus, everyone will learn the values of being environmentally conscious early in life so generations to come consume less and reuse efficiently to build a sustainable future. R

n Nakita Bingham is a Suva resident as is employed as a legal assistant with experience in environmental and corporate law. | Repúblika |



Changing of the guard


Who will take over the reins as head of the defence forces when Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama steps down as commander at the end of this month? NETANI RIKA outlines some of the potential candidates for this crucial role.


| RepĂşblika |

February 2014


February 2014 | RepĂşblika |



Top brass ... Senior officers of the Fiji Military Forces, including President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, at left, during the funeral of former President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu in February 2011.

Who will the torch pass to? By NETANI RIKA


hen the Fiji Military Forces’ new commander is paraded before the public in March he will have been plucked from relative obscurity to lead one of the most influential institutions in the land. And in a departure from international military tradition, it is likely that he will have little or no battle command experience. The major pre-requisite for the man who steps into the shoes of Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama will be loyalty to the institution and unwavering support for his predecessor. When Bainimarama was appointed commander in March 1999, he was chosen ahead of several more senior offi18

| Repúblika |

cers, in a move that took observers by surprise. Ahead of Bainimarama in terms of seniority were at least three men – Colonels Alfred Tuatoka, Ratu George Kadavulevu Naulivou and LieutenantColonel Samuela Raduva. Already on the sidelines and in politics was Military Cross winner (the late) Colonel Savenaca Draunidalo. Outgoing commander Brigadier Ratu Epeli Ganilau – himself picked ahead of the more senior Brigadier George Konrote – recommended Bainimarama as his replacement to Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka who acquiesced. Of the defence forces’ five commanders since independence, only Col-

onel Paul Manueli and Brigadier Ratu Epeli Nailatikau were groomed over an extended period to take on the role. Former Police Commissioner Brigadier Ioane Naivalurua was groomed for over a decade to succeed Bainimarama but the events of 2000 and 2006 intervened and put an end to his aspirations. Ganilau believes that Naivalurua would be the best choice for commander in 2014. “Ioane commands the respect of the men, he’s had the necessary training and the command experience and he satisfies every criterion for the post,” Ganilau told Repúblika. He agreed, however, that Naivalurua’s recent appointment as ambassador at large would probably preclude February 2014



Takeover crew ... Geared-up soldiers during the military takeover in December 2006.

Voices of the past

the Sandhurst graduate from taking command of the armed forces. “What we must hope for is that Frank’s successor will be someone who upholds the integrity of the army and takes into consideration the future of Fiji as a home to us all,” Ganilau said. Bainimarama’s replacement will be handpicked, as he was, to fulfill the specific objective of maintaining the status quo and ensuring the defence of the ruling elite. The most senior officer in terms of rank is Brigadier Mohammed Aziz whose loyalty was called into question when he became embroiled in a plot with disgraced fellow Brigadier Pita 4CONTINUED PAGE 20 February 2014

THERE are three strong contenders for the post of Army Commander once Brigadier Ioane Naivalurua moves to the diplomatic corps. Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka – former Chief of Staff, now Australian National University academic – believes Aziz is front runner for Bainimarama’s job. “The field is very limited and since the choice of a successor is made (on the recommendation of Bainimarama) to the President, it’s quite obvious to all that a successor will most probably be one who entrenches his political ambition,” Baledrokadroka said. “Brigadier Aziz would be the choice for Bainimarama and Aziz as commander would be unlikely to go against him. Aziz owes Bainimarama everything.” Baledrokadroka said Bainimarama’s purge of the officer corps meant the Land Force Commander and all unit commanders were loyal to him and he would not feel threatened by a commander of Indian descent. “Frank will not feel threatened by

Aziz trying to carry out a coup against him.” A former minister and senior military officer who asked for anonymity agrees that Brigadier Mohammed Aziz and Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga are potential replacements for Bainimarama. “They have done the time, have most of the qualifications and now it comes down to which one the commander will choose,” the officer said. “Naivalurua would have been the best but once you rule him out you have to look at Aziz and Tikoitoga seriously. “As a long shot I’d choose (Inia) Seruiratu at agriculture because he’s shown loyalty and that he can get the work done.” Many observers believe the selection will be determined by loyalty. “Frank needs to know that he can trust his replacement not to make a move against him,” said a former midlevel officer. “This will come down to trust.” | Repúblika |


courtesy fiji sun/RAMA


Forward march ... Members of the RFMF Land Force Command Battalion during a medal presentation at Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Nabua in May 2013.


Driti to overthrow Bainimarama in December 2010. While Aziz was arrested and interviewed by police he was later released and returned to barracks while Driti was charged, tried, convicted and jailed. Aziz’s seniority and the public relations possibilities for the current administration ahead of the September election – he will be the first Indo-Fijian commander since the raising of Fiji’s first military force – will be weighed against his tainted past. And Aziz has no military accomplishments of note. He has neither command experience in battle nor decorations for valour and most of his service time has been in the Army Legal Corps. He was military prosecutor during the courts martial of Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit soldiers for their part in the mutiny of November 2000. One step ahead of Aziz in line for the position but one rank lower is Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga. He has been Bainimarama’s strong right arm over the past two years, replacing Driti, and commanding crucial military units including the Third Battalion, Fiji Infantry 20

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The outsiders Commodore Esala Teleni, ambassador to China and former Police Commissioner has always been close to Bainimarama. Both men attended Marist Brothers High School and joined the Royal Fiji Naval Squadron when it resumed active service in 1975. Teleni was sent to China after he was accused of forcing religious views on police officers but has maintained close links with Bainimarama. His loyalty is beyond reproach but age is not on Teleni’s side. Lt-Col Sitiveni Tukaituraga Qiliho is currently Commanding Officer, First Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment attached to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Syria-Israel border. A product of Xavier College, Ba, and military staff college in India, Qiliho has a temperament similar to that of Bainimarama. This officer has had command experience serving for a long time as commanding officer of the Fourth and Fifth Battalions FIR responsible for security of the Western Division.

Regiment (3FIR) and the Land Force Command. Tikoitoga has also been active in local and foreign media interviews, espousing the virtues of Bainimarama’s government, its new Constitution and assuring journalists of the loyalty of the troops to the regime. During the clampdown on prodemocracy activists in 2009, Tikoitoga

escaped the public and media attention which came to bear on Driti, Lt-Col Roko Tevita Uluilakeba Mara and Lt-Col Sitiveni Tukaituraga Qiliho. These three officers were accused of directing a hit squad to intimidate people deemed in opposition to the State. 4CONTINUED PAGE 22 February 2014


Major Veer Vijay Singh Before Brigadier Mohammed Aziz, the highest rank ever held by an IndoFijian in the Fiji Military Forces was major. The swarthy, mustachioed, Major Veer Vijay Singh typified the Punjabi soldier, seen in Fiji on cinema and television screens. Born in Tamavua he joined the civil service and rose through the ranks to become an assistant clerk in Parliament. He enlisted in the Territorial Forces – like many career civil servants of the era – and served as a company commander with the First Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment in Lebanon and the Second Battalion in Sinai. As the Fiji Military Forces expanded, Major Singh joined the Regular Force and resigned to contest the 1987 elections on an Alliance ticket for the South Eastern Indian National seat. He lost to Coalition candidate and former policemen Fida Hussein by just over 1000 votes. The most senior Indo-Fijian officer after Brig Aziz in the current army is

The three contenders Brigadier Mohammed Aziz, Deputy

Commander, is a qualified lawyer with a degree from Bond University in Australia. He previously headed the Army Legal Corps and has spent most of his time in that area. The highest-ranking candidate, Aziz has no command experience of active units and this will be where he loses the edge over his challengers. Aziz’s strongest point will be the fact that Bainimarama can use his appointment to showcase a new, multi-ethnic Fiji. February 2014


Mosese Tikoitoga,

Land Force Commander, is a graduate of the Australian Defence Forces Staff College and former student of Ratu Sukuna Memorial School. He entered the RFMF through its officer cadet programme and has served extensively on peacekeeping missions in the Middle East. Tikoitoga rose to prominence after the military takeover of 2006 and has become one of Bainimarama’s most trusted officers. He has held the important role of Commanding Officer, Third Battalion FIR and is respected by his troops. Tikoitoga’s trump card will be his strong relationships with the common soldier.

of captain rank and also in the Legal Corps. It is most likely Aziz – with his legal background – will become police commissioner so he remains under close scrutiny. But if Bainimarama is serious about his efforts to build a multi-ethnic Fiji in which all are equal, it will be impossible to overlook an Indo-Fijian replacement any longer. In the words of former army Chief of Staff Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka: “Frank will want to showcase his multiracial (sic) policies by having someone like Aziz as commander.” Today, just under 100 years from the first overseas deployment of Fijian troops, Indo-Fijians make up less than five per cent of the Fiji Military Forces. Recruitment since 2006 has made no significant change to that number. Should Aziz take command, the move will show – on paper at least – that there is hope yet for ethnic integration in an institution which remains firmly indigenous or iTaukei.

Lt-Col Ro Jone Kalouniwai Logavatu, the army Chief of Staff, was educated at Latter Day Saints Technical College, Tamavua, Suva and is a masters graduate having attended Military Staff College in India. Of chiefly descent in the Rewa Province, he entered the RFMF through its officer cadet programme in 1989. After being commissioned he served throughout the military – mainly in training roles and rose to become Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment. Seen as a fit, quiet, loyal, unassuming officer, Lt-Col Kalouniwai has strong family values which Bainimarama has often spoken about to his troops. Kalouniwai’s morality and health could just give him the edge over his challengers. | Repúblika |



The commanders

Major General W. H. Cunningham 1940-1942

General O.H. Mead 1942-1942

Brigadier J. G. C. Wales 1942-1943

Brigadier G. Dihmer 1943-1946

Colo C. L. Ple 1949-

Colonel M. C. K. Paterson 1960-1962

Colonel J. Morris 1969-1971

Brigadier D. J. Aitken 1971-1974

Colonel P. Manueli 1974-1979

Colo I. Tho 1979-


Their operations included the detention and beating of Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Director Virisila Buadromo and youth activist Peter Waqavonovono. The squad was also accused of being behind the attack the homes of unionist Attar Singh and retired Colonel Sakiusa Raivoce in 2009. Police investigations into the incidents remain ongoing five years after the event. Without this stigma and with no questions about his loyalty, Tikoitoga stands out ahead of Aziz. But perhaps the most obscure officer in the ranks and most likely candidate for commander is a third-ranking officer – much like Bainimarama in his time and Rabuka in 1987 – Lt-Col Jone Kalouniwai. 22

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A career soldier with service mainly in the RFMF’s Training Group, Kalouniwai has also served as head of the Third Battalion, the army’s main active local unit. This post is seen as a testing ground to determine whether troops – officers and enlisted – have respect for the incumbent. Kalouniwai assumed a military intelligence role after 2009 and was the key to cracking the Driti-Aziz-Mara conspiracy. A young officer from the Force Training Group at Nasinu went to Kalouniwai with a mobile phone Mara used to communicate with his lover. On the phone were stored several messages in which Mara alluded to the woman – also a soldier – that Bainimarama would be removed. Kalouniwai conducted a thorough investigation –

including undercover surveillance – before approaching the commander with the information that led to Driti and Mara being suspended, investigated and charged. While others may have taken the information to Bainimarama immediately, Kalouniwai’s patience, perseverance and persistence saved the interim administration. His loyalty to the RFMF and the respect of the troops is unquestionable. Kalouniwai’s obscurity will be his strength. Not linked to the beating of civilians, rarely highlighted by the media and therefore relatively unknown to the public he has no known negative attributes. He will be seen as a breath of fresh air by the public, viewed at the same February 2014


Colonel T. C. Campbell 1953-1956

Colonel J. P. Sanders 1956-1958

Colonel R. W. Foubister 1958-1960

Colonel F. Rennie 1966-1959

onel orpe -1982

Colonel Epeli Nailatikau 1982-1987

Major Genral S. L. Rabuka 1987-1992

Brigadier Epeli Ganilau 1992-1999

Commodore J. V. Bainimarama 1999-Present


onel easants -1953

time as the least likely threat to the continuation of Bainimarama’s political aspirations. Many observers – like Ganilau – had hoped Naivalurua would succeed Bainimarama. A career officer with vast experience, loyalty and commanding the respect of the troops, Naivalurua is now out of favour with the regime. Trained at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Naivalurua is the longest surviving officer of the post-2000 purge of officers of lieutenant-colonel rank and above. Gone are Naulivou, Samu Raduva and Commander Timoci Koroi who signed a letter pleading with Bainimarama to follow the law and not overthrow the Laisenia Qarase government. February 2014

They accused Bainimarama of using the military to save his job when the Qarase government sought to replace the commander in 2004. Also gone are Baledrokadroka and Filipo Tarakinikini who were accused of disloyalty. Vilame Seruvakula, Samu Saumatua and Mason Smith have also moved on or been replaced along with Kepa Buadromo and Sam Pickering who have joined foreign defence forces. These men were in turn replaced by Driti, Aziz, Lt-Col Sitiveni Qiliho and Mara. Those who might otherwise be considered are Lt-Col Inia Seruiratu who may run for election after his work in rural development and agriculture and Commanders Timoci Natuva and Viliame Naupoto who are also likely to seek office.

Most observers agree that Bainimarama must himself answer a number of critical issues when he chooses a successor: n Will the replacement follow orders from politicians? n Will his successor defend the Bainimarama legacy? n Will the new commander remain loyal to his predecessor? That leaves Bainimarama with very few choices. Come 1 March when Bainimarama’s replacement is named the old guard will truly be gone. n Netani Rika is a former editor of The Fiji Times

and works as a consultant for civil society organisations including the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum. | Repúblika |



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February 2014



On the books ... Officials from the Elections Office were part of a government delegation that visited Vanuabalavu in Lau in January to register voters and allow them to check their names on the electoral role.

Getting into gear for democracy By KELVIN ANTHONY


ore than 540,000 Fijians have registered to vote and will be eligible to go to the ballot when elections are help before the end of September under a new electoral system with the branding “one person, one vote, one value”. This new system aims to bridge community divides and nullify ethnic-based voting under which all previous elections were held. Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s government says this is intended to create a “paradigm shift” in how Fijians elect their government. Bainimarama has made no secret of his loathing of Fiji’s previous ethnically weighted polling systems that bred ethnic tensions and prevented the development of a shared national identity and common citizenship. In the 2013 Constitution a “common roll” system with no ethnic distinctions between voters is intended to create that long-elusive national identity that many believe has been one of the root causes of Fiji’s political problems. But even after the announcement of an Electoral Commission, led by former president of the Fiji Law Society, Chen

February 2014

Bunn Young, the details of how the new electoral system will work remains to be seen because electoral decrees have yet to be promulgated. To get a grip of how the one person-one vote system will affect Fijians, Repúblika sent a request to Father David Arms, one of the Electoral Commissioners and a constitutional expert, to explain what the common roll voting system is and how would it work. Repúblika also asked why the previous voting system is of no relevance anymore, and whether a oneday election would be ideal for Fiji. However, Father Arms declined to comment and stated the Electoral Commissioners had decided that all media queries were to be attended to by Young, and only if the chair delegates this responsibility to any other member of the commission could they respond to such requests. An interview request was then sent to Young who had not replied when this edition went to print. However, Father Arms did note that making a statement on the new voting system would be hazardous at this stage as Fiji’s electoral legislations are still not in place. 4CONTINUED PAGE 26 | Repúblika |




So while the Elections Office is tasked with fostering democracy and ensuring its values are understood and embedded in the national psyche, ambiguity surrounds the very process of what will determine Fiji’s new democratic polity. Where then does this leave democracy? While democracy may not be perfect is it still the best form of governance? What political parties say “True democracy is having a system of government that has a political system in place which governs the changes in government through fair and free elections, the full engagement of its citizens in political and civic matters that affects their very lives, the protection

of human rights including group rights and the rule of law where the processes and mechanisms are applicable to all, without exception,” says Adi Sivia Qoro, the interim president of the People’s Democratic Party. The Social Democratic Liberal Party general secretary, Pio Tabaiwalu explains there are fundamental principles of democracy that qualify a nation as democratic. He says that one of the principles is having a system of government in which a country’s political leaders are chosen by the people in regular, free, and fair elections. “The present government cannot in any way qualify under this principle,” says Tabaiwalu. “The titles of honourable ministers, the charade of respectability, the number diplomatic relations established, the number of prominent citizens that support it nor the length of

‘Genuine democracy is for, of and by the people not rhetorical statements by leaders.’ Raman Singh NFP president

Shamima Ali, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre coordinator A country where everyone lives with dignity, everyone is equal in terms of access to resources, human rights; where the rule of law is respected and a country built on firm democratic principles. A country where there is no racism and no religious bigotry. A country less militarised. A country which respects its women. A country which keeps its environment secure and safe for the future. 26

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Pio Tabaiwalu, Social Democratic Liberal Party general secretary My vision is for a free country that respects the rule of law and Parliament as representative of the will of the people. A Fiji where there is respect for the cultures, traditions and beliefs of the various communities and protects and appreciates the unique culture of the indigenous Fijians as a shared cultural heritage for all its citizens.


Gregory Ravoi


Visions of a new Fiji

Reverend Akuila Yabaki, Citizens’ Constitutional Forum CEO A Fiji where the people have a say in running of their country, with all their strength and many faults and perhaps wrong choices they make sometimes. It is the people or citizens who will decide.

Professor Vijay Naidu, University of the South Pacific academic A rainbow nation where there is equality, justice and opportunities for all citizens and inclusive development so that the disadvantaged are given adequate care and support. I would like to see a better informed citizenry that participates actively in decision-making that affects their livelihoods and wellbeing, and who hold those who rule accountable.

February 2014


their rule, does not make it democratic. “The people are sovereign; they are the highest authority. The important issue is that the just powers of government are based on the consent of the governed,” Tabaiwali adds. Independent candidate Roshika Deo believes that genuine democracy is one where women and young people actively participate and contribute to societal development. “Democracy is genuine when we have a multitude of opinions and views which are then debated on, leading to informed decisions,” Deo says. “Democracy is also real for me when people stop saying that women belong at home and that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. Women belong everywhere and young people are the leaders of today.” “Voting only makes up a small por-

tion of being democratic. Being able to speak freely without fear, the media being free from censorship, when public accountability thrives – this and more are what determines our democracy,” says Deo. National Federation Party president Raman Singh says there are no alternatives to democracy, constitutional governance and parliamentary rule. “Democracy is for, of and by the people; that is genuine democracy – not rhetorical statements made by leaders,” said Singh. He adds: “Democracy has checks and balances where the elected representatives are accountable to the people, it is about the rule of law where every action of government is scrutinised through audit reports and parliamentary reports, it is about making fair and just laws, not draconian and regressive

decrees that has been a feature for the last seven years.” Singh says the coup culture that has plagued Fiji since 1987 has made some people believe that it is better to overthrow governments at the barrel of the gun. “The NFP has, is and will always condemn and oppose in the strongest manner any act aimed at illegally deposing a democratically government because it is treasonous. We did so in 1987, 2000 and 2006 and we are the only political party which is not tainted by any of the four military coups in Fiji since 1987.”

n Kelvin Anthony is a youth activist and a correspondent for Repúblika covering the build-up to the general election.

Adi Sivia Qoro, People’s Democratic Party president A Fiji that is premised on constitutional government, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and not by individuals and where the sovereign will of the people is paramount. I believe in a Fiji that respects the human dignity, freedom and equality of all individuals while preserving and conserving the rights of the indigenous people and different groups of people that have made this nation their home. February 2014

Sitiveni Rabuka, 1987 coup leader and former prime minister A Fiji where every person can live out their dream of a secure and meaningful life.



The Fiji Times

ricardo morris

Repúblika political correspondent KELVIN ANTHONY asked several political, academic and NGO personalities what their vision is for Fiji.

Raman Singh, National Federation Party president The National Federation Party was born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of the ordinary people of Fiji 50 years ago in 1963. The NFP’s founding vision has been “One Country, One Nation” which is peace, progress and stability. This translates to social, economic and political advancement of Fiji and all its citizens.

Roshika Deo, prospective independent candidate A Fiji in which we all play an active role; where we all are able to find avenues to voice our opinions without fear or apprehension. A Fiji where we all own our citizenship rights and we cultivate a culture of ‘patriocracy’. My vision also includes seeing young people and women being visible and contributing to national and political processes. | Repúblika |



How Pranay Chand overcame disability through determination



| RepĂşblika |

February 2014

Rosemary masitabua



By Rosemary Masitabua


or somebody who was not able to walk until the age of six, and still struggles to move, Pranay Chand is a surprisingly well-accomplished man. The eldest of five children, Chand was born in Labasa in September 1970 with deformities in both his lower limbs. Until he underwent surgery, he moved around by crawling. He remembers not being able to join his siblings in their after-school games. Even now Chand, 43, must shuffle and shift to walk. But Pranay Chand’s determination proved greater than his disability. In 1975, educationist Frank Hilton asked Chand’s parents if they would consider sending him to his special school in Suva so he could be treated and get an education. After the operations on his legs, “I was able to walk but before that I was always crawling on all fours”. He lived at the Hilton hostel until the 1980s and it was there that he was trained as a telephone operator. Chand never let his disability prevent him from developing a career and he soon set out to find employment. In 1991, two new paths opened up for Chand: he got married and the same year started work as a telephone operator at the Bank of New Zealand as it was being bought by ANZ. He worked for a year at the bank and in 1992 his first son was born. Chand then left the bank to work at a supermarket between 1992 and 1993. His daughter was born in 1994 and the next year he retuned to ANZ as a telephone operator where he remained until 1997. Chand then moved on to work for various bus companies including Shore Buses, Tacirua and Dee Cees. In 2002, Chand worked at Courts Homecentres where he received an award for the employee of the year. “Winning the award for employee of the year was definitely one of the highlights of my career because even though I am disabled I always put 100 per cent into my performance. I believe in hard work and being able to provide for my family. “Growing up I wanted to become a police officer but having different jobs in various companies has indeed helped me to gain a lot of knowledge and build my skills.” February 2014

Not a quitter ... Pranay Chand at home with his wife Shaleen and youngest son.

While Chand’s work life was looking good, at home things were not going well. After 11 years of marriage he was abandoned by his wife and left alone to raise their two children. “I had to make a tough decision in life and send my children away for adoption because my wife didn’t want to take care of them and due to my physical condition I wasn’t able to look after them,” says Chand. Fortunately, Chand’s sister-in-law – his former wife’s sister – agreed to adopt the two. However things didn’t turn out as Chand expected keeping in contact with his children. “Very rarely do we keep in contact, maybe because they’ve adapted to the culture there and are both busy with their own lives,” says Chand. “My son has moved to Australia now and lives with his girlfriend so we don’t keep in touch.” After overcoming that challenging phase in his life Chand picked himself up and continued to look for other job opportunities. In 2005 he started work at Saint Giles Psychiatric Hospital as a receptionist and a telephone operator and is into his eighth year of service. In 2009 he married again and had another son in 2010. “After marriage we moved into the Hart (Housing Assistance Relief Trust)

in 2011 and then I started to save money to pay off my land I had bought in Clifton Road (in Valelevu, Nasinu) where I want to build a home for my family.” Being the sole breadwinner of a family that will soon be expecting an additional member, Chand values the welfare and wellbeing of his family above everything. He believes he was given a second chance to prove his worth as an able father after he lost his two oldest children. “I always feel the happiest and really proud when I do things for my family but I’m getting old and the pain in my leg is beginning to get really bad and I don’t want to take pain killers because I don’t want to get addicted to taking them.” What would really make Chand happy at this stage of his life, is if he could raise enough money to build a house for his family on the land that he has bought. He has tried various avenues, but funding a home is something civil society organisations seldom do, so he is banking on public support to make his dream come true after the many years of struggle. Asked what he considers his motto to be, Chand replied: “Don’t ever give up. Things may be tough but nothing is R impossible.” | Repúblika |




Highly productive ... Deaf workers employed by PA Lal Coachworks at the company’s Walu Bay, Suva workshop. Production lead hand Paula Ranatawake, left, received an award from the company for more than 20 years of service in December. Vinesh Shankar, middle, also received an award for 23 years of service, the longest-serving deaf employee.

Deaf bus-builders hold their own By RICARDO MORRIS


A Lal Coachworks is where the majority of the buses on Fiji’s roads begin life and integral to the making of these buses are deaf employees. The country’s largest bus production company, PA Lal Coachworks is also a pioneer in integrating people with disabilities into its workforce. Long before other companies recognised the value of giving opportunities to people with disabilities, deaf workers had already been contributing to the company’s success for some years. Founded in 1946, PA Lal Coachworks has grown from producing wooden buses for Fiji’s early unsealed roads to all manner of custom-made vehicles such as air-conditioned coaches, mobile medical labs and trucks. Part of the PA Lal Group based at Walu Bay in Suva, the company rolls off between 60 and 90 units each year. In 1995, PA Lal Group directors Richard Lal and Victor Lal instituted a policy to employ more disabled workers, after already employing several for some years before that. Group general manager Lawrence Rao says this was done to give disabled workers equal rights while enabling them to earn a living. Of the 71 people employed in PA Lal Coachworks, nine of them are deaf and play an important role on the production line working as welders and bus-body fabricators. The production lead hand, Paula Ranatawake was one of two deaf workers recognised for more than 20 years of service 30

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to the company at its annual awards night in December. Ranatawake started work at PA Lal in April 1992, while fellow awardee Vinesh Shankar began in December 1990. Rao says the company’s deaf workers are highly productive employees and their work ethic acts as a motivator for ablebodied staff. “Our directors and team members have a very special place in their hearts for all deaf employees. They are looked after very well and are highly paid based on their service performance,” says Rao. Its visionary policies have seen the 67-year-old company become a powerhouse in heavy vehicle production, tyre, engine and spare-part supplies, as well as real estate investments. In December, the company was given the Investment Fiji Prime Minister’s export-substitution award for its increasing representation in Nauru, Kiribati and Samoa. The company is also exploring the Papua New Guinea market. The company’s success can be attributed to its heavy investment in the professional and personal development of its workforce. Staff are regularly sent on overseas training stints, expats are sometimes brought it to train workers, and the company encourages and sponsors further education. Rao says other corporate bodies should follow PA Lal’s lead in employing disabled workers and the company’s success is proof of the benefits. “Our company continues to recruit disabled workers regularly and we feel that our organisation is blessed to have them on board.” R February 2014


Challenges and changes in a secular society Academic, writer and former constitution commissioner Professor Satendra Nandan argues that a secular Fiji does not lessen one’s passion for prayers or fellowship but it does demand that our actions and words, in the name of faith, do not become a public nuisance, whether it comes from a pulpit or the Parliament.


he new Fiji constitution states clearly: “Religious liberty, as recognised in the Bill of Rights, is a founding principle of the State.” It further notes that: “Religious belief is personal; Religion and the State are separate”; and it goes on to explain, among other things, “the State and all persons holding public office must treat all religions equally.” Equality of citizenship and conscience are at the heart of the new Constitution. Certainly this is a noble ideal in any democracy. In a multi-religious society it becomes imperative both for social harmony among its members and for building a progressive, inclusive and cohesive civil society. It demands collective understanding and deep personal responsibility. It is a basic requirement of good governance. Politics, after all, is an extension and development of a society’s image of itself, a network of human relationships and the creative capacity to live together. The Bill of Rights further elaborates February 2014

this freedom as “freedom of religion, conscience and belief”. As we know in any free society, freedom is never absolute: so in clause (7) it’s stated: “To the extent that it is necessary, the rights and freedoms set out in this section may be made subject to such limitations prescribed by law – (a) To protect – (i) The rights and freedoms of other persons; or (ii) public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) to prevent public nuisance. Fiji now constitutes a secular state explicitly. It is a statement full of challenges and open to multiple interpretations in a democracy, especially in the South Pacific, a region suffused with a kind of religiosity. It demands changes in thinking of a postracial democracy. The right to freedom of religion is no more or less than other rights such as human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, enshrined in the constitution. A whole raft of rights, new and old, are enunciated for the citizens of Fiji. Any violation is against the nation’s law.

There’s nothing vague about it albeit Fiji has practised secularism implicitly. These rights become inalienable in what we may regard as civilised democratic polities in our modern world of which we are an integral part. For us perhaps the most important aspect is to realise that what we now take for granted has taken generations and centuries to inherit and implement. It is our priceless legacy from diverse sources, through untold sacrifices. The story of exploration, colonisation and evangelisation of the islands in the South Pacific is also a remarkable story. By the time imperial imagination invaded the islands, the civilising missions had already done much of their work in various parts of the world, for good and ill. The Siamese-twins of sin and salvation declared that natives needed civilising everywhere and this could only be done by missionary zeal from the West. 4CONTINUED PAGE 32 | Repúblika |




The truth came to the South Pacific through the good book, the Bible. The 19th century was the great era of conquests and Bible translations. The empire of God was white and John Williams, a boot-maker in London, who joined the founders of the London Missionary Society, had read well the Pacific voyages of James Cook and others. He was not impressed by the visions of paradise recorded by sailors and explorers. He kept a map of the world on his workbench which showed the various religions of peoples in remote regions, that is, remote from London and the Bible. His fervent belief was that there was only one true religion and that was evangelical Christianity. The diffusive benevolence of Christianity was the order of the day. It arrived in the South Seas in a much gentler garb of colonial encounters. As a perceptive writer put it: “In his view there was no such thing as a noble savage: he had never existed. The South Sea Islander was in a state of sin, and the missionary would have to voyage to the South Seas to redeem him, to save him from himself.” And voyage the missionaries did. Their extraordinary work became often indistinguishable from colonial interests. Neither the Ten Commandments nor ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’, were taken too seriously. The islander was more sinned against than sinning. The story of Australasia, our portion of the Pacific, is that story: not a clash of civilisations but complete conversion of peoples for a salvific fate.

irredeemably erased that any mention of that long growth of a people, obliterated by merely 200 years of a new ideology, is an anathema. While this was happening in the South Seas, Lord Babbington Macaulay was writing his Minutes for Indian education and babbling that all the literature, science and philosophy of Arabia, India, China can be put on a single bookshelf of an English public school boy. He’s reputed to be a great historian. By sheer coincidence of historical fate, Fiji became the only colony in the vast Pacific with a big Indian multicultural presence of an antique kind. Even Macaulay hadn’t seen this.

seashores and on riparian river banks. Occasionally in the minds and hearts of humankind. And when anyone claims to hold the monopoly of truth – such people are either crucified or assassinated. Christ and Gandhi exemplify the tragedy of that truth. A European Christian artist wrote: “If someone is searching for Truth, I’ll gladly die with him; but if someone says he has found the Truth, I’d happily kill him.” All revolutions, therefore, begin from within and Jesus’ was no exception. Religion and science Democracy, of course, gives a lie to any monolithic ideology. Its basic premise is variousness and plurality – as varied as peoples and cultures, ideas of love and compassion, and the richness and natural evolution of our world in its infinite variety of colours. We know that ALL the religious texts – from the Vedas to the Book of Mormon – have been created by men. They created, generally patriarchally, castes and outcasts, too, as we created communalism and racial categories in some constitutions. The prime example is the Bible itself. For its most popular version, 50 men were employed by King James to compose the final authorised text that is so magnificent in its poetry that its beauty remains unsurpassed despite many versions attempted by wealthy American institutions. Unfortunately the first person who attempted to translate the Latin Bible into English was burnt at the stake. Americans are often overdoing things spiritual, having never produced a genuine prophet in their deserts. Not surprisingly, therefore, recent research in the US shows that the number of Republicans who believe in religious creationism is increasing. Evolution has no place in their thinking. This is, of course, glad tidings for the Democrats in an increasingly secularised society. But more importantly it shows the moral courage of Charles Darwin’s most insightful theory about human origins published in 1859. How did this gentlest of Christians, come up with the most revolutionary

‘When anyone claims to hold the monopoly of truth, such people are either crucified or assassinated. Christ and Gandhi exemplify the tragedy of that truth.

Fervour of converts Converted people develop a zeal that is all their own. There’s nothing wrong with conversion. The whole of Europe was converted: Christ was not born in Rome or London. Nor Marx in Beijing or Cuba. And yet there are more communists in the world today than adherents of any one religion. The sadness in the past is so 32

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Most indentured Indians were neither literate nor articulate in front of coolumbers and sardars. But like the Pacific Islanders they had their oral traditions, memorising hymns and parables and even epics, the likes of which you do not find in the European canons. If you read the Mahabharata you’ll begin to better understand the two World Wars also. These, of course, were belittled as mere myths while another version was served as the only “truth”. But the Tree of Truth, like Life, has many roots, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. It’s fed by numerous sources, pure and impure, native and foreign. It blooms in deserts and mountains, on continents and islands, across cultures by craggy

February 2014


insight about the origins of our life in this world: the theory of evolution. It shook the hoary world of slave and master, illusions and delusions – divine and demonic. The Origin of Species, his most famous book, has its origins in the practice of slavery so rampant in 18th and 19th century Europe and America based on untenable and abhorrent racial theories. In Darwin burned the moral fire against slavery and that fire eventually reduced slavery to ashes and questioned the most hallowed beliefs of a people who practised it with impunity and the arrogance of ignorance. Darwin demolished scientific racism so slavishly pursued at some institutions of higher learning. Slavery to him was the greatest sin and abolishing it became his deepest sacred cause. Evolution meant emancipation and he established that men and women, white and black, plants and animals, had a common ancestor: a world-illuminating revelation. The Origin of Species was written by a natural scientist after a life-time of observation and experimentation. Democratic values Democracy with its central proposition of human equality and freedom takes ideas from many sources, including religious beliefs. But it is essentially a struggle to separate the power of organised religion from the government of the people in which hieratic power has no legal status. The remarkable progress in the transformation of the quality of life of the common person, the amazing advancement of science, benign technology and medicine, is our story of considerable glory despite unspeakable horrors in our lifetime. You can find equally inspiring and horrific stories in many religious texts. Certainly in the name of religion. The 20th century was the age of extremes s – even Nazism, totalitarianism, colonialism were eventually defeated by the common soldier and the common person – the Aam Admi. It took 17 years to defeat Hitler’s Nazism; 70 years to dismantle Soviet Communism. The great movements that continue February 2014

to shape our world are science and secularism and some understanding of life on this planet. The worst war, before the First World War, was the 30-year religious war in 17th century Europe. It was fought by the old religious hierarchy to regain its lost privileges to a diversity of new ideas and freedoms. Nobody was infallible – the Inquisition had amply demonstrated that and Galileo had shown the world was round and not flat. Copernicus had earlier demonstrated that the earth was just a speck of dust suspended in infinity, revolving round the sun and not vice versa. These marvellous discoveries changed

that gave them that power over their people. The moral is that you may get elected but if you don’t rule justly, disaster may befall and often does. Many myths in every folklore warn us against such abuse of public morality and trust. Constitutional freedoms Today we enjoy rights and privileges, so well codified in the Fijian Constitution’s Bill of Rights. A few centuries ago these rights were enjoyed only by the privileged few – the religious clerics, aristocrats, many decadent kings and a few queens – the homicidal landscapes are full of the ruins of their tombs and fortresses haunted by jackals and hunted by wolves. For ordinary human beings individual liberty, free speech, due process of law and equality before it, representative and transparent governance, equal rights and dignity for all, freedom of faith and expression, are the most momentous achievements. Our freedom of movement is not due so much to aviation; it’s more due to the courage of a Gandhi in South Africa or a Rosa Parks in the American South, among a million other acts by other millions. The battles, of course, go on like waves breaking on the ancient rocks. The abolition of slavery and indenture, the legislation against racial and caste discrimination, the demand for social justice, education, health and decent shelter, the enfranchisement of women, the empowerment of the powerless, the rights of working people, claims for a living wage, the protection of the poor and vulnerable, are all part of the struggle despite the blood and tears of centuries. We enjoy what others have given their lives for: a life full of fulfillment in this life. There may be life after death, but is there one before it? That is the great secular question.

‘Democracy with its central proposition of human equality and freedom takes ideas from many sources, including religious beliefs.’

our sense of reality, transcedental and earthly. One might say even today in the Middle East, a rather oily region, the visceral conflicts are both religious and imperial. Mohammed Morsi came to power in an election – the first democratic one in ancient Egypt’s tragic trajectory – but he refused to rule in a democratic way and paid the price. Too much Muslim Brotherhood, too little simple brotherhood, as an observer remarked. This is true of Hitler, the arch villain, using religion’s ancient hatreds to destroy so systematically a people. Nearer home it has happened in our own little country: people gain power through democracy but, once elected, they do not ethically follow the principles

Understanding secularism In all these the most important development, I think, is the idea of secularism; this immensely exciting philosophy is not a denial of religion or a negation of a human being’s spirituality. 4CONTINUED PAGE 34 | Repúblika |




Nor does it say that God is dead – I’m aware that it IS an argument by many western philosophers. But this may be because they have a rather limited concept of God. Or what we call Life in stones and stars – the spirit that rolls through all things. But the philosophical position is far more complex than the age-old argument: if there’s a watch, there must be a watchmaker. This is naïve – after all, when was the first watch invented? In understanding our timeless planet, we talk in billions of years. Nature’s time frame is different from ours – and this was the crucial argument of Darwin. Secularism demands our understanding of the visible first. There’s nothing more beautiful than the world as we slowly have come to know it, value it, share it and live by its measureless generosity. We begin to fathom its mystery and magic that a child sees every day in a sunrise and a sunset. Yet we know the sun doesn’t rise or set – it simply burns to give us both light and life. The wonder that is this world – isn’t there a song: What a wonderful world? But it’s not only in the human expression that we behold this wonder; it is in the chirping of the birds, in the surf surging over a reef, in the silence of the sea, in the solitude of our sleep as we close our eyes to dream or die. As the world darkens, the evil in one dies too. That is the true beauty of death, the universal leveler, the immortal democrat . Religions may give us answers to some questions that really are unanswerable and a true democratic polity must protect that freedom; indeed provide a platform for its free discussion. But it must never let it interfere with the democratic processes of the people as a community of individuals who wish to better their lot in their present existence, not in a life hereafter. This is a question of social responsibility of governments and its political and its civil agencies. Once religion is entwined with politics, it becomes an explosive mixture. It can cut through the heart of nations and peoples. The Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, the US are overloaded with religions, gurus and god-men; Europe has been fighting it for centuries with mixed results. 34

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In 2014 two elections, important to us, will further demonstrate the validity of secular democracies: Indian’s general election before 31 May; and Fiji’s elections before 30 September. India’s constitutional preamble states categorically India to be “a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic”. The world’s largest democracy and one of the world’s smallest, both profoundly religious, seem to have a common vision for the future of common men and women. Secularism attempts to provide some of the answers to the human condition, with the arts, culture, politics and science as its companions. It is based on the belief that life is worth living and we can continue to treat each other with respect and with self-respect. We can be comfortable in the colour of our skin and the content of our conscience. Setting an example Fiji as a secular state can be a model to many a bigger state. The one thing I’m profoundly proud of is that where I used to graze my sacred cow, Lali, Nadi international airport stands with its shining new Fiji Airways aircraft. The airport is a protean symbol. Just across the fragile wire fence there’s Constitution Avenue. If you stroll on it you’ll see a church, a little further down a mosque, and in the bend on the road, towards the glorious Pacific, a temple. A newly erected statue of Hanuman is next to it – possibly our first jumbo jet and a genuine Brigadier-General ready to fly across any ocean! Far more fascinating for some than Batman, Superman or Spiderman. This is Fiji’s priceless heritage born out of a history of service, suffering, sacrifice and a tradition of proactive tolerance. In 1987, the fatal year of the two coups, some people tried to destroy that. They failed. The new Constitution ensures that such reprehensible atrocity will not be repeated in Fiji. Fiji has had a generally healthy religious sense, reflected in daily activities and relationships: the true reflections of political maturity. Secularism, for us, means simply that all religious beliefs and faiths have freedom of practice in Fiji. This is how it should be. Religion, personal and organised, has a place in houses of worship, and in the spiritual quest of every individual under a tree or by the shore.

But democratic secularism is the supreme national value. It brings communities together as nothing else can for the greater common good. Secularism is not a denial of religion. It is in fact a positive understanding of the most exciting inheritance we all have – our one and only world, far richer and varied and beautiful than any promised land or paradise. Secularism’s deepest concerns are with the multiple realities of ordinary lives in an extraordinary universe. If we understand this world, we’d want to leave it better and well protected in its environment, climate, creatures, our sinking islands – from oceans to galaxies, from little birds to our grandchildren. The acts of secular science do not diminish the wonder of the world; indeed they deepen it a billionfold. Bit by bit we unravel the magic, the mystery and the magnificence of our world in which WE are the true miracles. This is no facile humanism – it is our deepest humanity. We don’t need a veil of maya to appreciate the wondrous beauty and the grandeur of a seashell or a rainbow. Often democracy’s greatest battle has been with religion where faith becomes fanaticism. And this is not confined to any one religion – it’s common to all. A secular Fiji does not lessen one’s passion for prayers or fellowship or ceremonies of innocence or festivals, but it does demand that our actions and words, in the name of faith, do not become a public nuisance, whether it comes from a pulpit or the Parliament. The proper understanding of secularism makes our living world more sacred. It creates a planetary consciousness that makes our lives more valuable in relation to other lives. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Fiji constitution; freedom from religion is equally, if not more important, thank God! R n Satendra Nandan is an Emeritus Professor

at the Donald Horne Institute of Creative and Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra, and an awardwinning writer. Since June 1978, he has been actively involved in Fiji’s political and cultural life; in 1987 he was a minister in Dr Timoci Bavadra’s cabinet. He was appointed a member of the Fiji Constitution Commission in 2012. His new book Nadi: Memories of a River is scheduled to be published on 15 May this year. He’s currently compiling a book titled A Life in Literature and Politics for which he was awarded a Harold White fellowship by the National Library of Australia. This essay was first published in the Fiji Sun on 13 January 2014. February 2014


Laisiasa naulumatua

End of a cartooning era

salon Cultural stimulus for the curious mind


Repúblika | salon

February 2014

The radio man who beca

Fun filled and full of purpose ... Laisiasa Naulumatua with his best mate Ramesh in 2009; One of his cartoons from 2011 on the national sevens rugby team’s dismal international performance; and with his two daughters, Mere (left) and Kelera at the Suva Grammar School jubilee celebrations in 2010. Previous page: Laisiasa Naulumatua in Germany to attend a workshop circa 1964.

By Mere naulumatua


n era has ended with the passing of one of Fiji’s better-known political cartoonists in Laisiasa Naulumatua. He died on 21 January at the age of 72. Lai, as he was affectionately called, was a jovial little man, who embraced life, warts and all. He was always helping others to achieve their goals and ready to support his extended family in any way he could. Naulumatua was born in Nakobo Village, Cakaudrove on 19 September 1940. His father was Jim Dyer from Bau, Tailevu and his mother was Maca Levaci from Nakobo, Cakaudrove. He was raised solely by his mother and through his humble beginnings, hard work and obtaining a good education were emphasised as a priority. In 1966 he married Emele Nabalarua (who died in 1999) and together they had five daughters: Maca Tinaitabaki, Mere Mapi, Keleni Sau, Laisa Dibuka

and Kelerayani Adimatacoco. In 2000, Lai married Salome. His education started at the local village district school, before he transferred to Buca Levu Provinicial School, which at the time was a stepping stone to prominent government schools. He began his high school years at Queen Victoria School before going on to complete his final year at the then Boys’ Grammar School, Suva in 1959. Along with several of his classmates who were not able to return home during the school breaks, Lai and his friends spent their holidays in the school compound looking after their school masters’ residences. This is where the bonds of friendships were cemented and remained for the rest of their lives. Lai was good with that – making friends and keeping them. He started work at the Fiji Broadcasting Commission as a technician soon after completing high school before being offered a scholarship to attend Sydney’s Marconi School of Wireless where he

graduated in 1963. He continued working at the FBC upon his return rising through the ranks until his retirement in 1995 as Radio Fiji’s general manager. Lai was not one to follow the straight and narrow. He constantly reminded his five daughters to always pursue their dreams and always try out new things once in a while. It was during his study days in Sydney when he had part-time work at a local bookshop that his love for books and music blossomed. In the mid 1970s, with a friend, Lai set up the Dateline Bookshop at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Bay campus. The bookshop soon grew to have two more branches in Suva City, at Pratt Street and in Marks Street. Lai was never going to have his daughters escape the lessons of hard work that he was raised on, and so during the school holidays his two older girls would serve customers at the bookshop on Saturday mornings. The big task was to carry out the

me a political humourist

ImageS courtesy naulumatua family

quarterly stocktaking of books where all record keeping was done by hand. Also around the mid 1970s, Lai began his drawing career with the Fiji Times with weekly cartoons aptly called ‘Lai’s look at…’ Without any formal training in drawing, Lai used his unique sense of humour in his cartoons to draw attention to the current political events removing all seriousness of the issue at hand and making it understandable to the masses. While pencil drawing and ink drawing were his favourite mediums, Lai tried his hand at watercolour, pastels and oil painting. Lai never forgot his roots and as his daughter Mere recalled in her thanksgiving speech in the church service in his honour, she “had wonderful memories of the family home full of relatives living with us for short periods of time to be close to education and employment opportunities.” She said their home may as well have been a boarding school, with everyone pitching in to do their share of

n Read a tribute to Laisiasa Naulumatua by former Fiji Times editor Vijendra Kumar at this link:

chores whether it was laundry, washing the dishes, cooking meals, changing a punctured tyre and, on the odd occasion, kick starting a vehicle. Having also spent some time studying in Japan, Lai actively led the Japan International Cooperation Agency alumni branch in Suva. Upon retirement from Radio Fiji, he took up correspondence work with Australia’s SBS radio providing a weekly news update in the Fijian language to Fijians living in Australia. He recently completed a stint at the Fiji National University as resident artist sharing his knowledge and experience in the world of art. Lai was as a wonderful family man. He provided well for his wife and children and was also a father figure to his many nieces and nephews. His memorial service at the Centenary Church on

25 January was well attended by those from all walks of life including some of his former classmates in former prime minister Laisenia Qarase, former high commissioner to the UK Emitai Boladuadua, Henry Elder, Tui Mailekai, Isikeli Konrote, George Tavanavanua, Ratu Meli Vakarewakobau and Ratu Yavala Kubuabola. If anything, the life of Laisiasa Naulumatua can be summed up as having been fun filled and full of purpose. He pursued a successful career in radio; he nurtured his natural talent of drawing and turned his doodles into a regular feature in the local newspaper, raised a family of strong women and was loved by all those who knew him. Friends and family will miss him for his humour, words of advice and encouragement, heated words in constructive arguments and, most of all, for his love of life. He is survived by his wife Salome, five R daughters and nine grandchildren.


Repúblika | salon

February 2014


On life, living and love

Gregory Ravoi leads the pallbearers at the funeral of his maternal grandfather in January.

Coconut Cognition with GREGORY RAVOI


s the first month of 2014 came to an end and with children back at school and everyone grown out of the festive fever, I can’t help but notice the many tragic deaths occurring in our country. Yes, I know death is part of how life works but there is usually a peak of tragic deaths during the festive season through accidents, drowning and murder. Almost daily there are news reports of murders, people discovering bodies and mysterious deaths. This is all happening right here in our beloved Fiji. The world is changing and so is Fiji but what can we do about it? Is this an indication on how the rest of the year might go? In January I experienced the deaths of three family members, two of them were my two grandfathers. It is an unsettling way to start the

New Year, especially my maternal grandfather who lived for many years with me since I was a child. His passing really hit me and showed that life is too short – seriously too short – for regrets, too short not to forgive and too short to be unhappy. I thought back to the times when as a child when I’d get corrected by him or scolded for being naughty, and thinking I knew better. I never really appreciated those lectures then, but now as a 20-year-old looking back at those I’m grateful for it. For it is those little lessons we get from our elders that take us a long way in life. We never really appreciate such lessons as much we should until later on in life, when we get wise enough to figure out how they have influenced us immensely,  although sometimes it turns out to be too late when we finally realise it. We sometimes never properly express our appreciation and gratitude towards the special people who have had an impact on our lives. We may live with them under the same roof but never actually tell them or show them how

grateful we are for all they have done. Wouldn’t it be better for a person to know how much the people around them appreciate and love them while they are still alive? This should be not only in our words but through our actions. I know I would love to experience that when I’m older. I reckon we should take current events as a wake-up call to start showing the people that matter most to us that we really do care for and love them. We should also be thankful that we have made it to another year of life. Life is a gift and we should share it with the people around us. Make memories at every opportunity because life is too short to just sit by and be ordinary. And it is these memories that we make that are all that we have to hold on to when our loved ones pass on. Stay safe, have an enjoyable month R and a happy Valentine’s to you.

n Greg Ravoi is the reigning Hibiscus King. He is a graphic designer with Republika Media Limited.

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f Papua New Guinea is to progress, and its significant potential for development harnessed, it needs to shift its leadership philosophy from tribalism to nationalism. This is one of the most significant observations I have made in my first term as an elected official, a political leader in the ninth parliament of Papua New Guinea. Last year was an interesting year in Papua New Guinea’s ninth parliament. There were good and bad outcomes but one particular lesson was most sobering for me. I have noted with dismay how, save for a very small minority, many of my fellow elected leaders remain quiet about national issues; they are reluctant to voice concern and opinion about the many issues that affect the nation, its people and its interests. Seasoned politicians went about with confidence and, in some instances, boredom; the newly-elected struggled to find their feet, some replicating the template of politicking associated with accessing funds, others learning through trial and error. As a leader, I was disappointed that many politicians who claimed to have entered parliament to address corruption and fight for PNG – some exceptionally passionately during the election period – shied away when presented with the opportunity to do so. Last year there was certainly no shortage of opportunities to engage in either the fight for PNG or the fight against corruption. Instead I witnessed many instances of apathy by my colleagues towards the national interest and even disdain for any effort to address corruption. I noted, however, that many members were passionate about voicing concern about issues affecting their electorates and this is of course commendable as well as necessary to prove to their electorate that they are active. But I am of the opinion that Papua


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New Guinea’s elected leaders have a responsibility not only to their electorates but to their nation as well. The handing down of the 2014 budget brought upon me the realisation why leaders remain quiet and behave according to the unwritten laws of politics in PNG. Speak up and you will pay the price; be a good boy (or girl) and gain an affectionate pat and a beef cracker. For my efforts, I have been penalised by a very unfriendly budget for my province, receiving less than last year’s allocation and losing funding for major infrastructure projects. In fact I had been warned by a particular minister, yet I never dreamt that a people would be punished for their leader’s efforts to raise concerns about national issues. That fact was realised, when scouring the books of the 2014 budget. Not a single major project submitted by my Provincial Government had been funded although all the meetings had been attended and all the appropriate processes and procedures of costing and justification diligently followed. What a bitter pill and a lesson in the murky politics, played with such inconsideration in Papua New Guinea; although no doubt similar to other economies where political survival takes precedence over the wellbeing of the people. I understand the stance taken by my colleagues. I cannot blame them. But a part of me still believes that their behaviour ignores the collective expectations of the citizens of this great nation, with its vast potential and substantial resources. But is it true that most Papua New Guineans are concerned? Or is it only a minority who are concerned about national issues and who are aware of what is going on. Certainly many people in Oro Province have been vocal about my efforts, urging me to be silent and focus on the province and its needs and advising me to ignore the interests of the nation as a whole. I understand their concern but I am

a Papua New Guinean first and foremost and I would like to think that I speak for the many Papua New Guineans, whether or not they are aware and concerned about national issues, who would like some effort made by their leaders to address these issues. It is a given that tribalism is necessary for the preservation of cultures, languages, unique identities and customs but it need not be embraced as the only method of leadership. To allow this would be to suppress nationalism which in turn will ensure a status quo where political bullying of leaders allows inconsiderate decision making and corruption to prevail. Papua New Guineans and their leaders need to take that step towards developing a big picture: the country first and the tribe second, rather than the other way round. So yes, I have noted that many leaders would rather quietly go about their business than be starved of much-needed funds for their electorates. That much is now crystal clear and no doubt many would perhaps promote this strategy of political survival: surviving to see another term by dishing out gifts and projects even if these are suspicious and not in adherence to the Finance Management Act and other laws of transparent procurement and expenditure of public funds. Politicians choosing to work with a perverted system rather than trying to correct it. I guess that, in this regard, they are correct to remain silent and behave accordingly. They have been granted their rewards, even if they are short-sighted. Well, I will speak out and speak up, even if it is at the cost of my next election. If I lose, I will at least be able to say that I did exactly what I intended to do: represent my people, not just those who voted for me and my electorate but those from all over this great nation that I canR not but help feel for. n Gary Juffa is the Governor of Papua New Guinea’s Oro (Northern) Province. February 2014

*But facts are sacred. ~ CP Scott

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Current affairs and commentary for Fiji and the Pacific.