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Murder or suicide? Could Sereima have ended her own life so violently, or was she the perfect murder victim? Five years on, her family wait for answers from reluctant authorities. EXCLUSIVE
Volume 1 | No 1
Catholics’ long wait for an Archbishop By Netani Rika
A tribute to Sir Moti Tikaram By Nazhat Shameem
Fiji’s daughter becomes an MP in the Solomons By Koroi Hawkins
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Leading the hybrid revolution, and shaping the future of cars, the new Prius is unlike any other. Its Hybrid Synergy Drive gives you three independent driving modes - Eco, Electric, and Power. Advanced features like Electronic shift lever, Smart entry with a push start, Traction control, High fuel efﬁciency, Low CO2 emissions and many more. No wonder the planet loves it. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
/republikamag Vol 1 | No 1 | September 2012
COVER 14 | Murder most foul? Seeking answers – and perhaps justice – on what led to the death of 13-year-old Sereima Berwick Degei five years ago. Repúblika’s inaugural cover story is at its heart one about justice. Sereima Berwick Degei was three months short of her 14th birthday when she was found hanging Murder or suicide? from a tree at the back of her house after going missing from her Tailevu village in early September 2007. Her body had what appeared to her family to be injuries they found hard to believe she caused herself. From early on they had their suspicions about what may have transpired, but the police officers tasked with investigating Sereima’s death never seem to have gotten far five years later and seem reluctant to confirm whether she indeed committed suicide. Why was this? And why has it been so difficult to obtain her autopsy report? September 2012 | $3.95VIP
Could Sereima have ended her own life so violently, or was she the perfect murder victim? Five years on, her family wait for answers from reluctant authorities. EXCLUSIVE
By Netani Rika
Fiji’s daughter becomes an MP in the Solomons
A tribute to Sir Moti Tikaram
By Nazhat Shameem
By Koroi Hawkins
republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Volume 1 | No 1
Catholics’ long wait for an Archbishop
Sereima This photo taken just over a month before her death shows a happy girl.
46 | Tuna talk Save Waqainabete on
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
44 | Tribute to a gentle judge Nazhat Shameem on Sir Moti Tikaram the wrangling over tuna fishing licences
22 | Among the worthy Netani Rika on the search for a new Catholic archbishop
32 | Solomon Islands Koroi Hawkins on the Fijian woman elected MP
28 | Heaven on earth? Mosese Velia talks to Taniela Tabu about his new ideas
36 | Tonga Kalafi Moala on the kingdom after King George Tupou
38 | Papua New Guinea Alex Rheeney on finding a way back from the abyss REGULARS
6 | Inbox Your letters, suggestions and
42 | Salon Rajan Sami curates some
11 | The F-Word Roshika Deo on Fiji and feminism
7 | Briefing News worth noting
50 | The Last Word PNG mp Gary
13 | The Rising Ape Alex Elbourne resurrects his commentary on society
10 | Pasifika Post Regional current
affairs worth knowing
cultural stimulus for the curious mind
Juffa on the Pirates of the Pacific
35 | Politika Aman Ravindra-Singh
on the intersection of law and politics
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The Repúblika Manifesto “Every generation, Blames the one before, And all of their frustrations, Come beating on your door.” ~ The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics, 1988
y first political memory is of the M middle of 1987, as a six-year-old engulfed in the aftermath of the Pa-
cific’s first coup d’état carried out by a dashing (at the time) Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka. To a young mind, it was a period of intrigue and emotion; the forerunner to an epoch of instability as never seen since Fiji’s nationhood just short of 17 years before that. That loss of innocence for Fiji, I realise today, was to play a great part in my choice of career: to become someone who would bear witness on behalf of the public, be a writer of the first draft of history, the asker of questions in the defence of human rights and the rule of law. In 1987, UB40’s Red Red Wine was a radio hit, apartheid still haunted South Africa, and Roostrata was one of two reggae acts starting a musical revolution in Fiji. Generation Y, as we now know ourselves to be, are those who remember the last years of nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1990s. More importantly we are a generation who are old enough to remember a time, even if all too short and blurry, when we were a country without coups, yet young enough not to have been tainted by the political turmoil that has ensued. The generation that I grew up with is this country’s greatest hope for redemption. Fiji
will find regaining a democratic mantle tough going if the old guard involved in our quarter-century of national dramas continues to dominate the national discourse. This is our time to build the nation we envision. But for us to do this we should be unafraid to emerge from the shadows into the national conscience, to raise our voices against injustice and prejudice. We should be able to differ with each other without resorting to violence or stripping our detractors of their dignity; be willing to follow the rules we create; be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. And if we are to accept – or seize – positions of power, we should be ready to acknowledge criticism as constructive and avoid taking it personally. We should be unafraid to hear out and examine ideas and viewpoints different from our own. Like no other Pacific country, Fiji has been fated with a unique amalgam of ethnicities, with the iTaukei – the ‘Fijian’ in pre-2006 parlance – as the first peoples of this archipelago. But rather than be a cause of division, Fiji’s rainbow of ethnicities should be the centrepiece of a country whose peoples can put aside prejudices and bigotry and construct a free and just nation. Repúblika is founded on these ideals. The word Repúblika has its roots in the philosophical work titled The Republic recorded by the Greek philosopher Plato around 380 bc discussing, as Wikipedia summarises so well, the definition of justice, the just person and the order and character of the just citystate.
This publication is an addition to Fiji’s established fourth estate – the print media, news websites, radio and television. Some would question the sanity behind launching an independent media company in the middle of an ambivalent economy, and under the spectre of a new media dispensation. But I believe there has never been a better time. And Fiji deserves it. In the past two months, Fiji has embarked on two crucial preludes to the restoration of much-vaunted “democracy”. The first round of electronic voter registration has been completed and the Constitution Commission is hearing from people across the country on what we want our new foundational law to look like. Despite the difficulties, it has never been a better time to observe and document the course of history. We will bring you refreshing perspectives, be the voice of reason, and the publication of record for Fiji. R We aim to regain some of the vibrancy of a free media, to act as a mirror on society without fear or favour. The Pacific – and Fiji – has not been immune to the ethical lapses that have been all too common in recent years in media establishments around the world so we anticipate being held to the same high standards we expect of our leaders and those we criticise. R Repúblika also recognises the inextricable link we share as Oceanians. We will to explain Fiji to Oceania and explain Pasifika to Fijians. R We are independent, we aim to be informative and we will inspire you.
Vol 1 | No 1 Papua New Guinea CONTRIBUTORS We welcome your comments, contributions, Fiji Alexander Rheeney corrections, letters or suggestions. Send them to Alex Elbourne firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment Aman Ravindra-Singh Solomon Islands on our social media pages. DEPUTY PUBLISHER Laisiasa Naulumatua Koroi Hawkins Aman Ravindra-Singh Mosese Velia email@example.com Nazhat Shameem The opinions expressed in Repúblika are the authors’ Tonga Netani Rika Kalafi Moala own and do not necessarily reflect those of the ADMIN MANAGER Rajan Sami publisher. The editor takes responsibility for all nonAsena Camaivuna Roshika Deo firstname.lastname@example.org attributed editorial content. Save Waqainabete Published by Repúblika Publishing | 8 Mitchell Street, Peace Embassy Suite A107, Suva | PO Box 11927, Suva, Fiji | Phone: +679 3561467 | Mobile: +679 9041215 | Email: email@example.com | Printed by Bluebird Printery, Suva, Fiji | ISSN: 2227-5738 Publisher & Editor Ricardo Morris firstname.lastname@example.org
republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Your letters, feedback and viewpoints
e first announced Repúblika’s launch on Facebook - ironic for a print publication but absolutely appropriate for a social media era.
Below is a curation of some of posts, not all necessarily especially for Repúblika, from some public Facebook discussion groups where issues and challenges confronting Fiji today are thrashed out. More than anything, it’s our readers who will make this magazine their own, so we would like to hear from you on the issues you want Repúblika to cover and whether you satisfied with the job we are doing. My hope for the future I wish I was a billionaire. If I were one, I would not let the sick and the aging, who have been abandoned by their loved ones, struggle find food to feed themselves. I would have built care homes so they could live and die with dignity. If only I was a billionaire, I would ensure I own hospitals where the sick who are fighting between life and death, are immediately attended to and not die awaiting for medical attention. Yes, if I was a billionaire, I would invest in educating and training the poorest of poor, ensuring they receive education, not necessarily degrees but some decent form of education, which will fetch them jobs and transform their minds as the mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness. I guess, becoming a billionaire is a long way to go for me but I am hopeful that we as a nation, the leadership, the NGOs and as individuals, can help in our own little ways to materialise my wish list. I am confident that Repúblika would address these pressing issues and set a platform for debate to finding solutions to such problems. We have got to be hopeful, optimistic that we will provide our aging population a life of dignity; ensuring no life is lost waiting in an emergency ward and educating our vulnerable children to receive empowerment. Hearty congrats to Repúblika. Mithleshni Gurdayal Suva 6
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Practising what we preach I would say that most Christians nowadays are just hypocrites. They can’t even practice what they preach. I won’t be surprised if most homosexuals go to heaven than most so-called Christians. A heart can be deceiving, only God knows. People condemn homosexual people yet they lie, steal, cheat and break the Ten Commandments. If God gave humans the freedom to decide for ourselves then who are you to judge? Adultery and divorce are two most common issues in the church yet the church still entertains them, yet condemns homosexuality. Nowadays, there are more Christians and less Christ-like people. Ropate Valemei Via Facebook In a discussion on sexual orientation
Role of the military If I am correct the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is now made up of about 3000 Fijians. People are now beginning to discuss the role of the military and how much we need them and if we need to cut down on such a vast number for such a small country. My question is, if we are to cut down the number of soldiers, what other employment options do they have after leaving the army? Or are we happy to settle for an even higher unemployment rate in Fiji? Stino Naqarase Via Facebook We could increase the size of the rural development engineering unit of the RFMF and decrease the infantry unit. We could increase and equip the territorial force component and decrease the regular force component. We could transfer a portion to the rural development arm of the Public Works Department. At the same time we could slow down recruitment and start thinning out the unproductive ones. There are many ways we do this. Sakiasi Ditoka Via Facebook In response to Stino Naqare’s question
Rebuilding Fiji with the new constitution, do you feel that Fiji needs a new flag and a new national anthem where both are free from stereotype, race and religion? We need to remove the sugar cane and the
rest of it. Fiji doesn’t rely on those things anymore. We need it to be current. Faraaz Mustapha Via Facebook A lot of people I know are excited about the making of a new Constitution and some have even gone as far as making submissions to the Constitution Commission and almost all have registered themselves for the 2014 elections. A lot of them are the very people that have been against the Bainimarama government and have constantly declared it illegal and opposed its charter for change. But the making of a new constitution for our country would be not have come about so quickly if it weren’t for the so-called “2006 coup”. Are we finally accepting defeat? Are we finally accepting that the takeover of the democratically elected SDL government in 2006 was right? Are we finally accepting that Bainimarama was right all along with his vision for change in Fiji? Leone Tupua Via Facebook Media priorities A few weeks back an 8-year-old boy commited suicide in Nabua. The night after a house burned down in Vatuwaqa, a young Tuvaluan boy later died, a victim of that mishap. Nothing was in the media about the two incidents. They were not even mentioned, no one deemed it important to ask the ‘why’, ‘how’ of those situations. Fast forward - a contestant didn’t get the Hibiscus crown and the media is abuzz with the whole issue as if the life of the nation depends on it. Are we getting our priorities wrong? Rups J Sivo Via Facebook
TALK BACK TO US 4Join us on facebook.com/ republikamag 4Email your comments and letters to inbox@ republikamagazine.com 4Follow us on twitter.com/ republikamag September 2012
briefing News worth noting
LIFE THROUGH LAI’S EYES
Lai’s brings back his ‘look’
FIJI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
epúblika is proud to have on board veteran current affairs cartoonist Laisiasa Naulumatua who will give us his take on national issues each month. Even with computer-aided design, the man popularly known simply as Lai, still draws on paper, just as he has since he began cartooning in the 1960s. Lai, who never had formal art lessons, is one of a rare breed of editorial cartoonist with a distinct style still working in the Pacific. Explaining the rationale behind his inaugural drawing for Repúblika, Lai says: “It’s time for Fiji to come together and get things done for the future.” n Read Seona Smile’s account of Naulumatua’s cartooning career at tinyurl.com/naulumatua
republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
briefing The organisation that spearheaded the formation of the Fiji Labour Party in 1985 is now at the centre of a leadership challenge, the party’s most significant since its founding. At the FLP’s delegates conference last month, the Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony confronted party leader Mahendra Chaudhry and his son Rajendra over their control of the party. Another senior party member challenged the pair on the loss of the party’s multicultural roots. Anthony had spoken on improving internal democracy with the party and greater tolerance for differing views and positions. He added that any questions to the Chaudhrys were “interpreted as a challenge to the leadership.” “Here we have a party that preaches democracy but its practices and its operations are totally
opposite to the very principles of democracy. In utter frustration and disgust, I decided to walk out of the meeting,” Anthony said in a statement. Those who remained went on to elect as president staunch Chaudhry supporter Lavinia Padarath, and as assistant general secretary, Kini Marawai, a lawyer with Gordon and Chaudhry. Mahendra Chaudhry, a former finance minister in Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s cabinet, will return to court later this month for pre-trial hearings on currency control violations. Chaudhry, the first Fijian of Indian descent to become prime minister, is left to defend three charges of breach of the Exchange Control Act. In late July, the High Court threw out five of the more serious charges of money laundering against him. n RICARDO MORRIS
Majority registered Around 80 per cent of current eligible domestic voters, were registered in the first wave of voter registration, with another period of registration to come later in the year, and the first registrations of Fijians living abroad to begin next year. At the close of the first phase of sixty-one days, 488,734 Fijians registered at Voter Registration Centers (VRCs) that were open in locations across the country.
Welcome to the party
The division of Labour
Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai is interviewed.
AS the Fiji Labour Party suffers from a leadership challenge, it’s party time for emerging political players as they use the opportunity provided by the Yash Ghai-led Constitution Commission to declare their interests in national leadership. With a promised general election two years away, the once-sealed lips of the public are beginning to open, not least among those with political aspirations. One of the first parties to declare themselves was the National Youth Party, claimed to be headed by Nayagodamu Korovou, who advocates for a permanent role for the military in national affairs – and the vice president’s post for Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. His party also supports a multicultural Fiji, with a focus on improving education and reducing unemployment and the cost of living. After that we heard from the Social Liberal Multicultural Party of Fiji, which already has a website (www.slmparty.org). Led by Joketani Delai, the SLMP proposal is based on principles that are almost identical to the so-called nonnegotiable elements of the constitution in the making. We also hear that the Fiji First Party is making its comeback with Anit Singh as interim party leader. The party resurfaced recently in support of striking mine workers who have been picketing for 21 years. And now to the big question: Is Bainimarama setting up a political party? Yes he is, according the sometimes-wrong, sometimes-right blogs on Fiji. One of the more highly visited blogs suggests it could be called the National Unity Party. The blog also suggested an alternative could be Fiji One Party, but if this is so then somebody had better tell our first television broadcaster which styles their news as Fiji One News.
n REPUBLIC OF FIJI
n RICARDO MORRIS
ON THE RECORD “I think people need to shut up.” ~ Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns reacting to Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai’s plea to the government not to publicly criticise submissions while the hearings were ongoing. (Fiji Times, 18 August) “If you really had to dress the poor girl up as a bird, wasn’t there one more ap8
| Repúblika | republikamagazine.com
propriate to Fiji?” ~ Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis commenting on the owl costume worn by Koini Vakaloloma at the Miss World finals in China. (Grubsheet. com.au, 21 August) “Workers in Fiji cannot protest like those in other countries so I am protesting in their name.” ~ Father Kevin Barr on his resignation as chairman of the Wages
Council because of government’s decision to defer 10 new Wages Regulations Orders until 31 October. (Fiji Times, 18 August) “Thank you for controlling the maji!”
~ Miss Mai Life Magazine Drue Slatter thanking her hair stylist on stage after being crowned Miss Hibiscus 2012. (25 August) September 2012
briefing COURT WATCH
Samisoni given bail change
Satini Lakepa encourages his brother Laisenia Qarase outside the Suva court, after the former prime minister was convicted on 31 July.
Qarase appeals conviction The lawyers for jailed former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase have filed an appeal against his conviction for abuse of office. It is understood one of the grounds of appeal is that the judge erred in his summing up of the case to assessors. Qarase was convicted in late July and sentenced on 3 August to 12 months in prison for abuse of office and failing to discharge duty in respect of property in which he had an interest. The convictions stem from his in-
volvement in the buying of Fiji Holdings Limited shares in the early 1990s on behalf of his family and community companies. Prosecutors for the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption had asserted he had failed to declare his interest and had benefited unjustly. At the time he was a director of FHL as well as managing director of Fiji Development Bank. Qarase is serving his sentence at Korovou prison. n RICARDO MORRIS
Businesswoman Dr Mere Samisoni – known as Granny Fiji to her family – was in court 11 times in five weeks before finally receiving permission to travel overseas for urgent medical treatment in August. Samisoni, 74, a member of parliament in Fiji’s last elected government that was deposed by a military coup in 2006, was charged in January with incitement to political violence. In July she applied to the courts for bail variation to seek urgent medical treatment linked to a dental condition. She left for Australia late last month after finally getting the go-ahead from the court. Samisoni is charged along with Mataisi Ragigia, Apete Vereti and Semesi Lasike for allegedly organising to overthrow the government. It is alleged these four, between September and December 2011, in Suva, “conspired to overthrow by force of violence the Government of Fiji.”
republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
pasifikapost Regional current affairs worth noting
A journalist from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has gone undercover in the Indonesian region of West Papua and emerged with an account of a struggle for independence that resistance leaders say they are losing. Hayden Cooper, reporting for the current affairs programme 7.30, discovered a police state operating with impunity in the secretive Indonesian provinces. Cooper found that after almost 50 years of Indonesian rule, the reins of control are being pulled tighter than ever, with claims that an elite counter-terrorism unit, one that has been funded and trained by Australia, is operating in West Papua where it is accused of targeting and killing independence leaders. The sheer scale of the police and military presence is obvious from the
West Papua at risk of losing fight for freedom
Victor Yeimo says the likelihood of death is the consequence of the fight for freedom.
moment of arrival in the ruggedly beautiful region – a treasure trove of mineral wealth and a place where two vibrant cultures meet and struggle for the right to rule. Police and military outposts dotting roads at almost every kilometre are augmented by an unmarked, plainclothed brigade of motorbikes – many
of them allegedly police – and a coordinated web of police informants. And the heavy security presence keeps the closest eye on the independence leaders, including Victor Yeimo, the chairman of the West Papua national committee (KNBP). Speaking from a safe-house in the capital, Yeimo told 7.30 his organisation was peaceful and simply pushing for a referendum on Papuan sovereignty. “We believe that in the open era, we believe one of the best methods we have to use is civil power now,” he said. “I don’t think about how Indonesian they will attack me or target me, I don’t feel about that - I don’t think about it. What I’m thinking is how I can bring my people to freedom.” n ABC News n Read the full story at tinyurl.com/westpapua2012 and follow the campaign at facebook.com/freewestpapua
He shot the raskols
© Stephen Dupont
P hotographer Stephen Dupont is of a rare breed. He infiltrated a raskol community, and documented the rough and ruthless individuals involved in Papua New Guinea’s gang life. His new book, Raskols: The Gangs of Papua New Guinea, presents formal portraits of members of the Kips Kaboni (Scar Devils), Papua New Guinea’s oldest criminal gang. Dupont set up a makeshift studio inside the Kips Kaboni safe house, where he photographed his subjects and their unique handmade weapons and firearms. These mostly young, unemployed men orchestrate raids, carjackings and robberies as a means of survival. The gangs control the streets. Despite the crime and violence they have unleashed on their city, some view them as modern-day Robin Hoods. Many of these raskols initially turned to crime, violence, and anarchy as a way to protect and provide for themselves and their communities. n powerHouse Books One of the images in Dupont’s book of a member of the Kips Kaboni. 10
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n Raskols: The Gangs of Papua New Guinea is published by powerHouse Books in October. September 2012
Lessons in feminism The F-Word with ROSHIKA DEO republikamagazine.com/opinion/fword
“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” ~ Gloria Steinem
eminism and feminists are loved, hated, misunderstood, ignored and dreaded among many other things. So to set the tone of the F-word let us do some unlearning and learning. ‘Feminists hate men’ The most common and one of the most absurd myths surrounding feminism is that they are men-haters. Why would feminists hate men? In fact most, if not all, feminists around the Pacific and the world have, or have had, men in their lives they love dearly, be it their husbands, partners, brothers, fathers, sons, nephews or friends. Yes we may challenge people (including men) to change their attitudes or behaviours. We may challenge or criticise systems and structures in which men dominate. We may demand for change to power structures that suppress, violate, and discriminate against vulnerable and marginalised groups, including women. This is a hate of systems and the structures that are not working fairly or effectively for both men and women. And let’s not forget that feminism is also about men, since women’s liberation may very well mean the liberation of men too. The same social structures and systems that suppress women also work to suppress men. For instance, society generally forces men to fit into its limited definitions of acceptable “masculinity”. So let’s face it: feminism is not about hating men but liberating them. ‘Feminists are elitists’ Feminists come in many forms, shapes and sizes. Yes, we are all diverse in our backgrounds, education, work, opinions, values, lifestyles. So don’t paint us all with the same brush. Some are born with privileges, some not. Some are well-educated, some not. Some have an attitude and some don’t. September 2012
The list goes on. The point is, people are diverse and feminism doesn’t determine elitism – society does. In fact feminism breaks down the traditional context of elitism to create a society based on egalitarianism. I have also heard some ridiculous notions of elitism along the lines of “going to villages in high heels” and “prancing around in their fancy clothes”. That is just sheer foolishness. Everybody is entitled to make a choice and dress in whatever they are comfortable in, based on their understanding of the contexts in which they are at a particular time – feminist or not. So why are we being judgemental about feminists? Is it because our culture has taught us to criticise and moralise girls and women based on their appearance and clothing, and it just so happens that they are feminists? ‘Feminists are hypocrites’ People forget that being human we make mistakes, feminist or not. Growing up and living in a society with deeply entrenched patriarchy forces many of us to subconsciously say, do, behave or act in a way that is contradictory. The reality is that we have been all socialised into discriminatory and prejudicial behaviour and attitudes, and live in a culture that continues to perpetuate this. So it is tough and there will be mistakes, but instead of calling us hypocrites, stand in solidarity with us to unlearn and learn. ‘Feminists are lesbians’ Yes some of us are lesbians; some of us are not; and some of us love both men and women. And there are gay women who do not identify themselves as feminists. It is quite simple logic. Sexual orientation or gender identity does not decide whether people are feminist or not. But why do we even say this? What is wrong with being a lesbian anyway? Absolutely nothing! So let us not be homophobic. And remember that feminism is also about positive and healthy sexual empowerment for both women and men so sex is pleasurable and consensual in its truest sense. ‘We don’t need feminism anymore’
Let us take a glance at the reality to give this notion some context. In 2011, at least 80 per cent of women in Fiji had experienced some form of violence in their life, mostly domestic violence. Why is it that our loved ones think it is okay to hurt us and violate our dignity and body? Why are more than 95 per cent of perpetrators men? Why is it that women are educated, intelligent, good leaders and make up nearly half of the population in this country but we hardly make up 10 per cent of parliament? If some claim that both men and women are already equal then why do more women participate in beauty pageants than become politicians? If both men and women have been socialised in a fair and equal way, why then do such large variables exist among men and women in both beauty pageants and parliaments? Working women have legally-mandated maternity leave but we still don’t think it is important to give paternity leave to allow fathers to stay home and look after their children if they want to. Women are expected to and they still do the majority, if not all, of the household chores, child-rearing and care work. More women than men are getting tertiary education and excel better than men, but why is it not translating proportionally to more women in highpaying jobs, owning property, running and managing large corporations, and earning the same income as men with the same experience and qualifications? Why are men who express emotions or show their feelings jeered at and called “sissies”? Over 46 per cent of girls and women get sexually harassed walking on the streets of Suva. This is just a glimpse. So you still think we don’t need feminism and that feminists have gone too far? If anything, everybody should be putting feminism on their agenda and pushing it as far as possible so we all can live in a culture of love, equality and reR spect. n Roshika Deo is a feminist and human rights defender. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
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Whose life is it anyway The Rising Ape with ALEX ELBOURNE republikamagazine.com/opinion/risingape
uess who’s back? It’s been a while and it’s felt strange not writing. Strange and frustrating! When I stopped writing Disjointed Ramblings (in Mai Life magazine), I felt like, really weird y’know. It’s funny how doing something you love, even if it’s something small, can become so important. Whether it’s making something or putting words to paper, you develop a habit that becomes a part of who you are and influences your world view in a subtle way. Okay, is it just me or do I sound like a tree-hugging hippie? On that note The Rising Ape will be a lot more laid back and less “provocative” than Disjointed Ramblings was … and if you believed that, then I’ve got a bridge in Nausori you might like to buy. And just in case you were wondering where the name of this column is from, well I got it from Hogfather, a book by the great Sir Terry Pratchett. The full quote reads: “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” Ain’t that the truth brother! We all are a brief light bookended by an unimaginable void, and without our ability to dream, we’d be mad in no time. Well, onwards and upwards (kinda). Who owns your life? Pratchett (sorry to go on about him but the guy is one of the most brilliant people around, which makes what’s happened to him even sadder) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years back. He recently came out with a fascinating documentary called Choosing To Die. In it, he explores the option of killing himself in a clinic in Switzerland when his condition becomes too debilitating. It’s a process called assisted suicide and the reason Pratchett, as a British citizen, would have to do it in Europe is simply because assisted suicide is against the law in the United Kingdom. What really fascinates about the isSeptember 2012
sue is the question of who exactly owns your life? Why does an outside entity have the right to determine that you cannot kill yourself? People love to go on about the right to live, flip the coin and we should be given the right to die. With dignity. At a time of your own choosing. The problem seems to be that the whole issue is wrapped up in religion and people go on about how only the man upstairs has the right to let people die. Okay then, in that case, somebody better tell the entire medical profession that what they’re doing is against the will of God. Right? If you aren’t allowed to kill yourself because it might tamper with God’s will then people should not be allowed to save lives because isn’t that also against God’s will? By all accounts Alzheimer’s is a horrible, horrible disease. It takes a toll on the sufferer and on their family. If an adult in the early stages of the disease decides (while their faculties are still intact by the way) that they refuse to be a burden on those they love then why would you not allow them that choice? If they decide that they would like to pass on with their dignity intact instead of waiting for the end with all the pain and suffering that entails, then who the hell are we to tell them that they cannot do it? The problem is that dying is one of those issues people get all emotional about, so having a reasoned, adult discussion on the matter is very hard to do. However, it needs to be done. Gays getting hitched A few weeks back I had a very, very interesting conversation about gay marriage. We’re sitting around the tanoa and one of the guys in the group pipes up out of the blue: “What do you guys think of gay marriage? I think it should never be allowed.” Boom! Just like that. Here’s the interesting part. The person who said that is gay. Like a full on homosexual. I know because I asked him. So I’m reeling from what he said (or it just might have been the grog) and I ask him to explain his reasoning. Ac-
cording to him homosexuality is against the Bible and allowing gay people to get married would be wrong. He also freely acknowledged the hypocrisy of his views. He also mentioned that he was looking to get himself “cured” of the “curse of homosexuality”. By this time I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked, my mouth was open (again, that might have been the grog). How in the world can an obviously well-educated individual believe that his lifestyle is wrong and can be cured like it were some sort of disease? And the answer is clear: it’s because the Bible says it’s wrong. Ah yes, the Bible, that favourite tool of the bigots and the hate-mongers; the reason a person could feel guilt every time they fall in love just because the person they love is the same sex. It’s something that pisses me off about a lot of religious people. A lot of them seem to have forgotten what Jesus Christ’s greatest message was. They call themselves Christians but then preach messages of exclusion and intolerance and then feel good about themselves. You have to wonder how a religion based on a guy telling all of us to love each other more than we love ourselves went so badly wrong. How loving is rejecting your son or daughter based on who they fall in love with? How much love is shown when we tell our children that being attracted to someone of their own sex is sinful and dirty? Too many of us have stated loud and publicly that we are Christians while failing to live a Christ-like life. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” R (Matthew 22:36-40) n Alex Elbourne is the Breakfast Show host on Legend FM. The views expressed are his own. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Scene of death The mango tree at
APISALOME RABO PHOTO: APISALOME RABO
Nabouciwa village where Sereima Berwick Degei, left, was found hanging from the first branch. The metal ladder that was leaning against the tree that day has now rusted but remains unmoved five years later. Her house is just visible through the vegetaion. This photo of a happy Sereima, who was 13, was taken just six weeks before her death.
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Could she have taken her own life or was it murder? By RICARDO MORRIS Editor
he would have been 19 in December and making headway into the world of adulthood had Sereima Berwick Degei not been found hanging from a small mango tree just at the back of her home at Nabouciwa village on 7 September 2007.
It was the week after her Fiji Eighth Year Examination which she sat on the last Wednesday and Thursday of August. She had gone to her best friend’s village for a church service and did not return until her aunt and older sister went to fetch her two days later from the neighbouring Naivakacau village. When she came home, she was questioned on her whereabouts and disciplined with a hosepipe. She was then made to scrape coconuts before she left the house. That Wednesday evening, 5 September, Sereima’s maternal aunt and her husband – the teenager’s guard-
ians – searched the village for her but those they asked claimed not to have seen her. The next day, Sereima’s grandmother went to her school – now called Ratu Veikoso Primary – to ask her best friend Lepania Salusalu if Sereima had come back to her. But Lepania said that she had not seen her since she had left Naivakacau. Two days later, at about 1.30pm on Friday, as her grandfather bent to pick up a stick to shoo a pig away, his head came up against Sereima’s legs. She was 4Continued on page 17 republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Documents relating to the autopsy, police investigation and a letter from Sereima’s father Emosi Serukasari. The post-mortem certificate shows Police Constable 3762 Avenai Tamanalevu witnessed the autopsy. He was the officer in charge of investigating the medical legal case number MLC-237-2007. A
A letter from the Eastern Divisional Police Headquarters signed by Acting Superintendent of Police Bijendra Prasad, B
| Repúblika | republikamagazine.com
dated 22 January 2008, says senior officers at Nausori police were investigating the case under file number DR41/07 “to find the whole truth of the matter”, thanking her uncle “for bringing this important issue to our attention.” A letter by Sereima’s father to the CWM Hospital superintendent requesting the release of his daughter’s post-mortem report. A notation on the letter by a hospital official indicates the hospital filing number for Sereima’s post-mortem as 590047737. C
BODY OF EVIDENCE
Strange marks likened to cigarette burns or cuts
NABOUCIWA VILLAGE A moat constructed around the village resembles a footprint and helps keep the village from flooding. Sereima’s family home is just outside the village bounds.
Dislocated or broken right arm
Sereima’s paternal grandparents’ home where she lived. The red spot indicates the position of the mango tree from which she was hanging.
Bruising on the stomach and thighs
Marks of death Sereima’s
aunt Asenaca Naivolasiga, witnessed these injuries on the girl’s body when she was cut down from the mango tree. She was baffled about how the girl came to be injured in such a way.
3Continued from page 15
dangling from a stunted mango tree just metres away from their outside bathroom. He was horrified and shouted for help, grabbing her by the legs and pushing her up to support her weight. Sereima’s aunt, Asenaca Naivolasiga, was the first on the scene after the elderly man stumbled into Sereima. What she saw has haunted Naivolasiga to this day. There hung Sereima, on a mango tree not much higher than five metres, a strap – like a seatbelt – choking her limp neck. Blood trickled down the girl’s mouth as her grandfather dared her to be alive. But she was dead. Naivolasiga noticed that the girl was not wearing the top she had on when she left the house at about 7.30pm two nights before. She was wearing one they recognised as belonging to a friend of hers who lived not far from their home. A person related to the friend was taken in for questioning last year but released without further inquiries. But that had been the very first house Naivolasiga and her husband September 2012
Apisalome Rabo had gone to when they started looking for Sereima. They were told that she was not there. The incident left the family reeling. They asked themselves if Sereima had really been so depressed to have hung herself. While awaiting the autopsy, they were reconciling themselves to the idea that Sereima had committed suicide. The “why” of her suicide they had decided to leave until after her funeral to ponder. Almost a week later a post-mortem examination was carried out by forensic pathologist Dr Prashant Samberkar at Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva. The autopsy certificate showed the cause of death as “asphyxiation due to hanging.” The sections of the certificate where a doctor would describe any injuries or the condition of the body were marked “NA” – not applicable. Sereima appeared to have indeed taken her own life. But Naivolasiga had looked closely at the girl’s body when she was cut down off the tree and placed on the front porch and saw strange markings on the girl’s torso, what appeared to be bruis-
ing on her stomach and thighs, and a disfigured right arm. (Asked if this could have been caused by the hosepipe beating the girl received, Naivolasiga says Sereima was hit on her calfs, it was the first time she had been physically punished like that and that it was not done harshly.) Naivolasiga was also on hand to officially identify Sereima at the autopsy. “The marks on her chest and down both sides of her belly were in a pattern and looked something like cigarette burns or small wounds,” Naivolasiga remembers. “Her arm looked like it had been twisted backwards and there were bruises on her stomach and thighs.” Raising her suspicions further were two things Samberkar had said. The pathologist had asked her whether she knew that Sereima – who would have turned 14 in three months – had been sexually active for sometime. That genuinely shocked her. She had had no idea. She was still there when the doctor also instructed the police constable 4Continued on page 18 republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
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Happy days Apisalome Rabo, his wife Asenaca, and their two children. Sereima is standing on the right, while her older sister is beside her. This photograph was taken two months before Sereima’s death. from Nabouciwa – holding one in custody for two days (in early 2011), while police in Nadi had interviewed Lepania when she was schooling there last year. Apisalome Rabo first related this story to me in late 2010 in the hope that journalistic queries would bring some answers. I first contacted police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri about the case in early 2011. Over the course of several weeks, I was told he was following up with Nausori police but after not hearing back for a period, I stopped asking. This year, Apisalome Rabo and I resumed our work on the case, making various attempts to obtain a copy of the pathologist’s report. I travelled to Nabouciwa to visit the scene of Sereima’s death and speak to her family. I met Sereima’s father Emosi Serukasari, a former First Meridian Squadron soldier who had served a six-year sentence for his part in the 2000 coup and mutiny. While in prison, his wife moved on, and their six children were sent to live with extended family. Sereima, or Ima as she was affectionately known, was only six years old when her father was involved in the coup that removed Mahendra Chaudhry’s government in 2000. She went to stay at her grandparents’ home with her father’s younger sister Asenaca, her husband and their two children. She was a freespirited child but prone, perhaps like many teenagers, to moodiness and tantrums.
who witnessed the post-mortem, Avenai Tamanalevu, to ensure that autopsy file number MLC-237-2007 was investigated. Coupled with that revelation, not long after the funeral, an overheard argument in a house nearby made the Rabo couple begin to suspect that Sereima may have met her end very differently. Sereima’s uncle Rabo started inquiring with police about the status of the investigation into the case but whenever they managed to get in touch with the investigating officer, Police Constable Avenai Tamanalevu of Nausori police station he could not provide any new information. Soon enough, Apisalome Rabo was being told by the officers at Nausori that they had received a report from a fellow villager insinuating an improper relationship between him and his niece, suggesting he may have been responsible for Sereima’s death. Rabo visited the forensic pathologist, Dr Samberkar, and when he described the case, the doctor commented: “The 14-year-old? That’s one case I will never forget.” However, the doctor said it was now the responsibility of police to investigate and protocol meant he could not release any further information. It was to be the beginning of a fiveyear campaign led by the Rabo family and Sereima’s father Emosi Serukasari. They only want to be told what the investigation has found or be given access to the post-mortem report. Rabo wrote letters to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Prime Minister’s office and the Nausori police. He gave police a 10-page statement outlining his theory of what may have transpired and a possible person of interest, followed by two additional statements. In many instances he got no reply. The most promising reply was a letter from the Eastern Divisional Police Headquarters in Nausori dated 22 January 2008 in which acting Superintendent of Police Bijendra Prasad confirmed that an investigation had begun “under the close supervision of Divisional Crime Officer Eastern and other Senior Officers of Nausori to find the whole truth of the matter.” But today, five years to the month Sereima died, that was the closest the family would come to knowing what was happening with the case, although police had interviewed several people
SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
3Continued from page 17
A father’s quest Sereima Degei’s dad Emosi
Her closest friend for much of her short life, Lepania Salusalu told Repúblika she does not believe Sereima could have taken her own life as she never appeared depressed. Lepania, 17, a seventh former at Lelean Memorial School in Nausori says in the weeks before they sat the eighth-year exam, Sereima had told her about a man from her village who would turn up at the school when they stayed back for afternoon classes and who would expose himself to her, something that disturbed the girl. Lepania tried to tell their teachers but did not get far. Today Lepania regrets not pursuing the complaint saying if she had the chance to re-live that period with Sereima she would make sure adults were told about what was happening to her friend. Asked about her thoughts on how Sereima died, Lepania states emphatically: “I think someone did something to her.” She cannot help breaking into tears when recalling their friendship. “I have never found a friend like her. She was like a sister to me. At school, whenever I needed something she would buy it for me because she always had money.” Sereima would never find out that she had passed the once-dreaded exam for primary school leavers that has now been abolished. And she would never attend Suva Grammar, her school of choice, according to Lepania. Recently, Apisalome Rabo’s father, September 2012
COVER OBJECTS OF INTEREST
Still haunted Asenaca Naivolasiga Rabo, who was Sereima’s guardian.
A heavy metal ladder was leaning against the trunk of the short tree when Sereima was found. It was a tree Sereima would climb with ease. It would have been brought from under the house and her friend Lepania remembers it was too heavy for them to carry whenever they played there.
Still sorry Lepania Salusalu, now 17, was Sereima Degei’s closest friend.
Lagisoa Delana – a former minister in Sitiveni Rabuka’s government – became interested in Sereima’s death after a relative of his told him that she had read the post-mortem report and pitied the way Sereima died. But the woman later denied seeing any file and refused to talk to police. Other incidents, which we cannot specify for legal reasons, make a case for murder look a certainty. Independently, a man previously unknown to the family from a village in Tailevu had left a report with police on what he had been told by a heavily intoxicated man from Nabouciwa in the weeks after Sereima’s burial. He said he could identify the man he had taken in his taxi. But the officers investigating the case never showed real interest or, if they did, they never pursued it. Repúblika has contacted the pathologist Dr Samberkar in Malaysia where he now works and he agreed to share what he remembered of the case provided we were able to send him the electronic version of his report which he says the police forensic unit should have. However, various attempts by Repúblika and the family to get a copy of the report have failed. In August, Emosi Serukasari was told to write to the superintendent of CWMH to obtain the file. But after doing so he was told they needed police permission before they could release it. Serukasari had been told some time back that a magistrate in Nausori would September 2012
carry out an inquest. But nothing has happened and he is still waiting. As this inaugural edition went to press, Repúblika was still waiting for a substantial reply to questions regarding the case from the Fiji Police Force. Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said while they were following up on the status of the case, she was not in a position to provide more detailed answers at this stage. “Right now we are following the trail of the case,” she said in an email, adding the last information she had was that the case was classified as a suicide. Naisoro said they were “tracing back to where the case was last and only then can we confirm if it is still open.” Analysing the scenarios So could Sereima really have been murdered? Indeed she could have been the perfect victim of either suicide or murder. A middle child, whose parents had separated, and who had received a beating the evening she disappeared, Sereima died in a year in which under16-year-olds made up 20 per cent of the suicide statistics. In 2007, 11 children under 16 years hanged themselves, the highest yet in six years. A homicidal hanging could easily be covered by the phenomenon of teen suicides that were dominating the news at the time. And despite Naisoro’s classification 4Continued on page 20
Sereima was hanging by strapping much like a seatbelt.
The clothes Sereima was wearing when she was last seen were heavily soiled with mud and hidden under a pile of clothes in the outside laundry.
A kitchen knife from the house was stuck on the branch from which Sereima was hanging.
Apart from the ladder, all the other items were taken by police. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
COVER 3Continued from page 20
of suicide, Repúblika has learnt that Sereima’s name does not appear in the police statistics for suicide in 2007, indicating the case may not have yet been officially closed. The difficulty in getting a copy of the post-mortem also points to an open case. Repúblika asked Naisoro how the family could get a copy of it and she replied the report “can be obtained from Totogo police station with the crime unit.” There could be several explanations for what happened to Sereima. Firstly, it could truly have been a suicidal hanging, caused by some undetected emotional trauma. A second scenario was that she had hanged herself after the trauma of a sexual assault by one or more persons. The most plausible to Sereima’s family is that it was a homicidal hanging, most likely by one person, and probably after an assault on her. Did she pay the price because of a feud among her family and others? A blanket of silence had descended on the village when the family tried to get to the bottom of what happened to Sereima.
Several questions loom large when considering all the facts and the scenario appears quite sophisticated for a young teen. 4 Why would Sereima need a ladder to reach the branch of a relatively short tree on which she regularly play? The metal ladder has also been established to have been quite heavy for a child to lift. 4 How would a 13-year-old have thought of using strapping and where had she got it from? 4 If she had run away from home for two nights and was intent on committing suicide, why had she chosen to come back and do it just outside her house? 4 What did she need a knife for and why was it on the branch from which she was hanging? 4 Why would she have gone to the trouble of changing her dirty clothes and why was it so muddy? These are questions a police investigation should have already answered. The key to this case hinges on viewing the post-mortem report and the outcome of any police investigation. Both
Luck strikes twice!
of these have remained elusive. And the bureaucracy of state institutions have helped keep it that way. Of the many somewhat eloquent letters that Rabo had written over these five years is one dated 23 May 2008 to the DPP’s office in Nausori. It succinctly sums up how the family feels about the case. “If we can find concrete evidence in the (pathologist’s) report, then it would be an ideal place to start collecting witnesses statements. Our request is probably too big of a thing to ask but we are certain it is most probably the closest we can get to the heart of the case and in that sense rest our curious conscience. If that is so then we believe good old time will heal our wounds.” If Sereima did meet her end at the hands of somebody else, she deserves justice – even more so on the fifth anniversary of her death. And if she really did take her own life, her family must be told how that conclusion was reached so they can bring closure to a painful R period of their lives. n ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ASENA CAMAIVUNA
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In search of a father
Fiji’s Catholics have waited four years for a successor to Archbishop of Suva Petero Mataca, the head of the Fiji church. Netani Rika asks Mataca about his thoughts on the process and examines the promising candidates
By NETANI RIKA email@example.com
ll Petero Mataca wants to do is kick off his shoes, board a boat for the Yasawas and fit in some fishing. At 79, the prelate of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Suva has waited four years for the naming of a replacement to head the 76,500-strong church – Fiji’s second largest Christian denomination. And there is no telling when Pope Benedict XVI, head of the largest Christian church in the world, will announce a successor to Archbishop Mataca. 22
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“Hopefully the announcement will come before the end of this year,” Mataca said in an interview with Repúblika last month. “I’m due to ordain four new priests at the end of this year. Next year when the next lot of priests is ordained I hope the ordination will be carried out by my successor.” On a recent trip to the Vatican, Mataca raised the issue of a new archbishop with the church hierarchy and left satisfied that the process is nearing its end. Last month Archbishop Charles Balvo – the apostolic nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to Fiji – visited from New
Zealand and is understood to have had discussions with leaders of the Catholic religious communities on candidates to head the church in Fiji. This would be one of the final steps towards finding a replacement for Mataca. Mataca was elevated archbishop in 1976, the first local to lead the church established in Fiji by a group of French Marist priests in 1863. He resigned 33 years later as dictated by the church at the age of 75. From that moment Fiji’s Catholics have continued to pray for a new archbishop. The wheels of the Roman Catholic September 2012
NETANI RIKA/INVICTUS PICTURES
Loy Chong has written extensively and Church – an institution steeped in tra- some fault found in the candidate. Mataca cannot say who he has nomi- is considered to be the perfect choice for dition and ceremony – are not known to nated but investigations show that the a multiracial church. rotate with great speed. Second on the list is Fr Rafaele QaloCanon law – the legislation which list has most likely been narrowed down guides the church – dictates that three to Father Rafaele Qalovi, Father Peter vi, a teacher by profession, well liked candidates be identified to replace a re- Loy Chong and, possibly, Monsignor for his humility and strong traditional values and respected for the time he has Eremodo Muavesi. tiring archbishop. These three men, all locals, will be spent working with the Marist Society When Mataca retired in 2009 he submitted a list of suggested candidates tested against the requisites of canon in the Vatican. From Tokou on Ovalau, Qalovi’s disto lead the church. This list went to the law before one can be elevated to the advantage is that he has been plagued position of Archbishop of Suva. Archbishop Balvo in Wellington. by illness in recent years, With this list and undergoing surgery in after consultation with India to replace a kidney priests and lay memand treat coronary disbers of the Catholic ease. Church in Fiji, Balvo It is difficult to disreviewed the backcount the possibility that ground of each candiMonsignor Eremodo date before sending a Muavesi, Vicar-General final list of three canin the Diocese of Mondidates, known as a tego Bay, Jamaica, may turnus, to the Vatican. be appointed. As part of the backHe is, after all, the ground review, priests highest ranking Fijian and lay members of priest in the Roman the church were asked church. their views on the Ultimately the despiritual life and leadcision will be made ership qualities of the in Rome and then the candidates. Catholics of Fiji will be This final list was forced to live with the then submitted to the edict. Congregation of BishWhat appears unops which selects one likely is that Pope Beneof the three names dict XVI will appoint to recommend to the someone from outside Pope. If the names are Going fishing Outgoing Archbishop of Suva Petero Mataca awaits his successor. Fiji to lead the flock. rejected by the VatiEarlier this year Facan, the process must ther Paul Donaghue was start afresh. By law an archbishop must be pious, appointed from Fiji to head the Diocese In the case of Fiji, two rounds of consultations have been held by the papal outstanding in solid faith, possess good of the Cook Islands. Mataca says in not so many words morals, piety, a zeal for souls, and other nuncio. But canon law also dictates that qualities, including a good reputation. that Fiji – after 36 years under the leadwhile the Pope is guided by the Congre- He is to be at least 35 years old and must ership of a local bishop – would be best gation of Bishops, he may exercise his have been a priest for at least five years. served by one of its own. He is not alone in this view with own judgement – guided by the Holy The archbishop must possess a doctorSpirit – and select an Archbishop from ate, or a pontifical licentiate degree, in priests and members of the congregasacred scripture, theology, or canon law. tion opposed to leadership from outside outside the turnus. The Roman Catholic Church con- Failing this, he must be an expert in at Fiji. This is likely due to the fact that it took the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji ducts its selection activities in a high least one of these fields. 113 years to appoint a local bishop. level of confidentiality to ensure that Now that the church is in the hands the process does not cause rifts within Among the worthy Of the candidates, Fr Peter Loy of a local, there is definite reluctance to the membership and is not open to petty politicking and cannot be hijacked Chong, who is studying at the Jesuit return to the ways of the past. In 1844 Bishop Bataillon traveled or manipulated by people with ulterior School of Theology at the University of Santa Clara, appears to be the front- from Wallis and Futuna with Fathers motives. The high level of confidentiality also runner as far as academic qualifications Roulleaux and Bréhéret, Brother Annet, and two catechists from Wallis, Pako protects the integrity of all priests be- are concerned. From Korovou, he is the product of and Apolonia. cause people might think that those who were not selected but had been under a family of Chinese descent, with his 4Continued on page 25 consideration were excluded through mother being from Nataleira, Tailevu. September 2012
republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
THE CANDIDATES Netani Rika examines the three priests who are frontrunners for the post of Catholic Archbishop of Suva
Father Rafaele Qalovi
SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
Fr Peter Loy Chong
Monsignor Eremodo Muavesi
Father Peter Loy Chong
Fr Rafaele Qalovi Monsignor SM Eremodo Muavesi ORIGINALLY from Tokou on Ovalau, Rafaele Qalovi is a teacher by profession and has been a priest for 29 years. His most recent posting was vicar provincial of the Society of Marist in the province of Oceania but based in the Vatican. Prior to his posting in the Vatican, Fr Qalovi was principal of St John’s College, Cawaci, where he had been educated in 1975 before gaining a degree at the University of the South Pacific. He also holds a degree in theology from the Pacific Regional Seminary. Soft-spoken and jovial, this Marist priest is well-liked by students and parishioners and would be likely to lead the church on a path of mission through education. As a student at Cawaci, Rafaele Qalovi was so popular that when he was expelled from the institution, students went on strike in protest against the decision. He is the oldest of the likely candidates for archbishop and is respected by parishioners and the clergy alike. However, Fr Qalovi has been plagued of late by ill health and has undergone major surgery in India for a kidney transplant and a heart by-pass operation. 24
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A FORMER soldier, Eremodo Muavesi is vicar-general of the Diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica and is the second Fijian – after Archbishop Mataca – to be bestowed this honorific title. Based at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Jamaica, Monsignor Muavesi has been on loan from Fiji for over 10 years. Extremely popular among members of his flock, this priest is considered an outside bet but has expressed interest in serving the Archdiocese of Suva. Originally from Rewa, Monsignor Muavesi joined the Republic of Fiji Military Forces after leaving Marist Brothers High School, Suva and served on peacekeeping missions in Lebanon and the Sinai before joining the Pacific Regional Seminary. Although the outside choice, his advantage is being arguably the highest ranking Fijian priest in the Catholic church after Archbishop Mataca. Older Catholics will remember that Mataca was given the title monsignor prior to his appointment as Archbishop of Suva. A diocesan priest for close to 20 years, Monsignor Muavesi’s advantage is that he has worked for a decade in a country where Catholics are in the minority and the church faces competition for membership from new Christian denominations.
THE youngest but most likely candidate for Archbishop of Suva, Fr Peter Loy Chong is of Chinese descent with maternal links to Nataleira in northern Tailevu. Most of his recent years have been spent at the Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University where he is writing a doctoral thesis in the area of sacred theology. Prior to leaving for the US, Fr Loy served in parishes around the country before taking up a teaching position at the Pacific Regional Seminary, Suva. Considered to be a philosopher, this priest is expected to take the church on a path towards deep thought and reflection, focusing on healing and reconciliation of social, moral and theological issues. He is also likely to encourage the clergy to write and preach on topics which affect the people – land, culture, multi-ethnicity and the need for tolerance. Educated at Natovi Catholic Primary School and St John’s College, Cawaci, Fr Loy Chong will only be 50 years old if he is elevated to the post of Archbishop of Suva. A double degree holder, Fr Loy Chong also holds a degree from the Urbaniana Pontifical University in Rome. He is seen – because of his mixed ethnicity – as the perfect choice for a multiracial church and is viewed by many as Archbishop Mataca’s nominee to lead Fiji’s Catholics into the future. Fr Loy Chong’s advantage will be the fact that he is a diocesan priest, belonging to the local diocese with loyalty to the archbishop. Religious priests such as those of the Marist, Columban and Vincentian orders are often seen as being from outside the local church with loyalties first to their community. September 2012
Fathers of the faithful
NETANI RIKA/INVICTUS PICTURES
Art and soul A stained glass window at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Suva. 3Continued from page 23
With a group of four Fijians whom they met in Tonga, these men set up the first Catholic mission nine years after the arrival of the first Methodist missionaries. Despite their zeal the mission ended in 1855 after more than a decade of hardship, trials and opposition. That opposition came mostly from the Methodist missions but this must be taken in the context of the Methodist missionaries being English while the Catholic priests were French. Eventually the Catholic mission station at Rotuma was abandoned in 1853 while Levuka closed in 1855. Bréhéret returned in 1863 to resume the mission but it would take 76 years before the first local priest, Father Tito Daurewa, was ordained. It would be many years before the church took on a truly local face. “When I became bishop there were 10 local priests – now we have more than 100,” Mataca said. “The church is bigger, stronger and my successor will have a quality church, quality priests and quality people as members.” Mataca believes the church is in a strong position with a steadily growing congregation, schools and churches around the country and candidates for September 2012
the priesthood enrolled at the seminary. He’s confident that the new Archbishop of Suva will be well qualified, experienced and have the assistance and support of good members of the church. Next year the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva turns 150 and will ordain four new priests. Mataca hopes that those priests will be ordained by his successor. If that happens, Mataca will most likely be on a boat sailing for his home village of Vuaki in Yasawa. It will be the end of a journey which began more than 100 years ago when Mataca’s father, Gabirieli, left Vuaki for the catechist training centre at Cawaci, setting his son on the path to priesthood. Asked what he would do upon retirement, there was a wry smile before he responded with a chuckle: “Fishing. I want to go fishing.” Perhaps an apt conclusion to a life of Christian service for someone named after St Peter, Jesus Christ’s leading disciple and a fisherman by R trade. n Netani Rika is an editor emeritus of The Fiji Times. He is an award-winning journalist with 24 years of writing experience for local and international newspapers.
HE first head of the Roman Catholic church in Fiji was the Marist priest, Father JeanBaptiste Bréhéret with his base at Cawaci on Ovalau. Appointed by Rome in 1863, Bréhéret was a Prefect Apostolic, a title given to priests in charge of missionary work in an area which has not been sufficiently developed to be recognised as a diocese. Upon his death, the prefecture was assigned to Julien Vidal who was consecrated as Bishop and appointed Vicar-Apostolic of Fiji in 1887 as the church began to see an increase in members and the stability of parishes and schools. Bishop Charles-Joseph Nicolas took over in 1922 upon Vidal’s death and was Vicar-Apostolic until he died in 1941 and the reins of the church passed into the hands of Bishop Victor Foley. In 1966 the church in Fiji became a diocese with Foley becoming the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Suva. By now the Catholic church in Fiji had schools and parishes in Fiji spanning from Lakeba in the East to Yasawa in the West, Rotuma in the North and Kadavu in the South. Archbishop George Pearce – the last Marist priest to control the church in Fiji – replaced Foley in 1967 and under his watch diocesan priest, Father Petero Mataca, became monsignor and titular bishop in preparation for his elevation as the first local head of the Catholic faithful. One of Pearce’s final acts was the opening of the Church of the Holy Eucharist in Laucala Bay. Less than two kilometres away his designated replacement actively pursued the creation of the Church of Saint Pius X in Raiwaqa. Archbishop Mataca became auxiliary Bishop in 1974 and on 4 October 1976 was consecrated Archbishop of Suva. He resigned in 2009 but must hold the post until a successor is named. n NETANI RIKA
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at the crossroads
he title of Taniela Tabu’s autobiography Fiji: Heaven on Earth presents a challenge to the serious-minded reader to put aside the long-established, if oft-ignored, notion that you can’t judge a book by its cover. It invites the discerning reader, it seems to this writer, to suspend judgment on so bold a description of this island home of ours as “heaven on earth”. And choosing so fantastic an epithet to put Fiji on a glorified pedestal, Tabu makes you wonder if, as a 67year-old former civil servant, former trade unionist and former hardliner lay preacher of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma, he had somehow become a travel writer holding forth on a holiday dream island; a person who can’t seem to be able to talk of holiday destinations without resorting to mind-blogging superlatives. Or, maybe, Tabu has been appointed head of a new tourism body, or some quick-fix new creation whose task is to re-energise the promotion of Fiji as a tourist destination second to none in the South Pacific, if not the whole world. 28
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By MOSESE VELIA
Once a firebrand nationalist, Taniela Tabu reflects on his past and why he’s had a change of heart Fiji: Heaven on Earth, like most catchy promo inventions built on bubble spin and pop psychology, has a useby date. It will come and go like “Fiji: The Way the World Should Be” if this earlier invention has not already expired. When people wise up to the reality behind an overblown catch-all tag, that’s it: the name just evaporates into thin air, its time and purpose for existence wiped out of our collective memory – internet or no internet. Or, has Tabu become scatter-brained
like many of us in our retirement, as with diminished powers, prospects of our being reduced to a vegetable state or a social outcast become all too real? No, not Tabu; not just yet perhaps. No-one can predict, though, how much longer he will remain the active and sharp-eyed go-getter that he still is today. Granted, he’s a bit slower on the uptake than previously, but his memory is still good enough to recall in detail things that he did 40 or even 50 years ago. Unlike some of his fellow civil servant retirees. Tabu has not yet lost the urge to live. They, on the other hand, have either lost it or are closer to doing so. They’ve lost that single-mindedness and that cool, urbane air of confidence that one associates with high-flying senior civil servants in full control of everything going on under them. Presidents and cabinet ministers occasionally found them indispensable in their prime, especially in times of crisis. Now, sadly, they’ve given up the struggle without a whimper, it seems, and they’ve just crawled into a corner and waited to die. September 2012
RICARDO MORRIS/CLIPPING: FIJI TIMES
That was then Taniela Tabu espouses his views on the so-called Sunday ban in a Fiji Times clipping from the mid 1990s.
In a brief interview that he gave me at his home in Nasinu, when he received the final draft of his book, I asked him about giving up the fight to go on. His answer? He’d rather quote from a poem by a favourite poet of his, he says: Death Be Not Proud. “Remember him?” Tabu asked. “Donne,” I said. “God’s gift to England and the world!” “Yes, of course: John Donne,” he said with a lop-sided grin. The grin, I thought, looked as if he wanted to share some confidence, manto-man, with the late Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London who, as a young man, was an incorrigible womaniser in pursuit of a broad education across Europe. That was long before Donne left the Catholic Church to be ordained into the Church of England. And here’s what, I thought, Tabu could be sharing with his soul-mate: “Yes, Reverend Donne. I, too, lived it up like mad in my younger days, with women and booze and whatnot. And I’m just beginning to see the light like you did.” He then picked up a well-thumbed September 2012
book from a corner table in his study. The book contained some of the 17th century English poet’s works. He quickly flicked through the pages looking for Donne’s ringing defiance of Death. On finding what he wanted he smiled to himself then, briefly closing his eyes, stood up ram-rod straight, squared his shoulders and read Death Be Not Proud aloud. He read the sonnet in a pronounced local accent. And his reading was strangely compelling. This local accent is known to some as “Kaiviti accent” because, even though it has a heavy Fijianlanguage influence through stress and intonation, it is used freely and effectively among all our races here. Some former Fiji residents who’ve settled abroad proudly call themselves “Kaiviti” when they meet their friends and relatives from home and prove that they are “Kaiviti dina” by confidently taking part in conversations in our local brand of rainbow English with its special “Kaiviti accent”. Tabu was in his element, as an actor, when he used the accent to give life to
his reading of Donne’s gem of a poet. No wonder, I thought, Tabu had played the title role in the Queen Victoria School production of Henry V in 1964 which, for a school production of a Shakespearean masterpiece, was not too bad. “When Death comes, it comes,” he said after reading the poem, his voice back to normal pitch and modulation again. “But don’t invite him into your house.” “Never!” I said, giving a poor imitation of the dramatic stage voice he had smoothly assumed in his stylish rendition of Donne’s poem. “Amen Jesus!” he said. “And amen to Donne,” I said. We both burst into laughter as we instinctively recognised the gulf between our “amens”. He had clearly intended his “amen” to reveal Jesus Christ as the divine and indestructible source of all that’s great, good and beautiful. And mine? It was a somewhat irreverent salute, focused as it is on a mere mortal. Donne, rather than Christ Almighty. 4Continued on page 30 republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
INTERVIEW 3Continued from page 29
Nevertheless mine was a genuine salute to an incomparable creative spirit of the Elizabethan age.
n reading the book, I at first did so just to pass the time and to indulge Tabu a little, but later, as I got the feel for the rather loose, episodic and idiosyncratic style, I began to take greater interest in it. The story is rather disjointed, with gaps and unexplained appearances and exits of certain figures and this might irk some fussy readers who want nothing but continuity, logic and completeness in the treatment of ideas, events and themes of the story. But lack of technical finesse aside, the book is held together by Tabu’s character, his actions and ideas, especially for a reader interested in Tabu’s spiritual development and his struggle to lead a meaningful existence as a Christian. He was a working Christian with a family to provide for soon after he began his career in the civil service in 1965. And so, given his weaknesses and shortcomings, including a craving for alcohol and drinking parties and womanising, it wasn’t long before he found himself in difficult and embarrassing situations that threatened disaster. These dark patches included drunken binges with workmates that led a couple of times to near-fatal road accidents. It is ironic that these close-calls with death, perhaps more than anything else in the book, are at the core of his spiritual awakening along with similar lifetransforming experiences that he had. They confirm for him, he says, his belief as a Christian: that, as in Donne’s poem, death is only a temporary sleep that must soon end as he sees hope in salvation and immortality through an embrace of God, Christ and the Resurrection. And the deeper his awareness and appreciation of the roots of his faith became, he says, the more he realised the need for him to reach out to others of different religious, political and philosophical persuasions in a multiracial polyglot society like ours. Communities and individuals in such a society, he says, must work together and not in opposition to each other to solve their problems and achieve common goals. They can let difficult issues be for a while then, “in good time and God willing”, they can reach mutually beneficial agreements on contentious matters. 30
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This is now Taniela Tabu at his Nakasi home breaks out into a rare smile. “You’ll hardly catch me smiling in photographs,” he quipped when this shot was taken. “This is the new Tabu.”
They can then all move forward as one. In this way, Tabu says, the nation can work together towards a more united and inclusive multiracial society where everyone – of whatever colour or creed – is assured that his or her rights and freedoms are protected. That made me sit up as it suggests a radical transformation in Tabu, the nationalist leader often derided by detractors of the Taukei movement as a racist revolutionary. Is this for real or is it just talk? I had to put this question to him: Has he undergone a fundamental transformation in his political thinking and is his current political baggage such that he can reach out to others, especially politicians of other communities, to help move the country forward? “Yes, I believe I have changed,” he said. “And I can now reach out to others like I explained in a spirit of honest cooperation and give-and-take to build a better Fiji,” he said. “If by political baggage you mean: do I have a political party and other resources to mount a credible opposition to what the military-led
government is doing? No, I don’t have! What’s the point? Let me be very clear on this: There’s no better time than now to make sweeping changes to the constitution.”
he government, I said, already has groups working at bringing about a constitution to form a radically new government, one that can better deal with the country’s perennial problems. Why can’t he and others like him not included in the government’s constitutional review, find out what they can do to facilitate a successful completion of the review? “Good question,” he said. “We certainly should support such a goal.” He then referred me to the final draft of his book where he makes the case that he has abandoned his extremist nationalistic ideas of decades ago. We face seemingly intractable issues, he says, including poverty, crime, corruption and racial discrimination. “These, in my view, are simply negative aspects of a system of government September 2012
that’s out of touch and out of control,” he says. “That’s why I fully support the move to find a new constitution to fix it.” “Your proposal for constitutional reform lacks hard specifics,” I said. “What system of government, for instance, do you advocate? Is it a democratic one where, in a general election, the people can freely and fairly elect their representatives to Parliament to form a government that’s answerable to them? Or is it something else, a form of benign dictatorship perhaps, a regime that can govern effectively with an iron fist and deal successfully with these key issues at the same time?” “Remember Serevi and his champion Sevens World Cup team of 1997?” he asked. “Yes they defeated South Africa in the Cup final in Hong Kong,” I said. “On that big day, they had written on their jerseys a biblical message that with Jesus Christ on your side, you can overcome any adversary. That’s the heart of the message: Without Christ we can’t September 2012
get anywhere with our new constitution in Fiji. Without Christ we are nothing.” That had me stumped. I couldn’t quite see how exactly you can compare winning the Sevens World Cup to giving legitimacy to a written constitution, let alone winning a general election under it. On matters of faith, it seems, it’s best to steer clear of final answers in discussions. On the issue of redemption in life’s struggle, Tabu is alone, on his own. He is not on a Mission Impossible but something that can only be judged by him on a personal quest with God. God’s demands on him to live a moral and upright life often drives him to near-distraction. The act of carrying on the struggle, despite repeated reversals and humbling failures and his continuing tearful and remorseful prayers for guidance and mercy to God every time he stumbles has a redeeming quality about it. When he recounts these episodes of his wayward ways and pitiful failures you begin to see him not as a cardboard character that he was sometimes depicted in the media in his heyday, but as a more rounded, pitiable character. Yes, warts and all, he is a character you could relate to, someone you could point to and say, “But for the grace of God, that’s me!” Tabu springs out of the pages of his Heaven on Earth as a strong-willed and rather self-opinionated character not afraid to mix it with others whom he saw as obstacles to progress, peace and harmony in his earthly paradise. He was therefore a rather abrasive man often embroiled in disputes, sometimes leading to violence, pain and suffering to friends, foes and loved ones alike. The book may be long on emotion and short on logical argument. What if Tabu, on almost all the issues that he raises in his autobiography, deliberately chooses the language of emotion, of the heart, to communicate with, rather than that of the mind, of cold hard logic and inescapable conclusions of structured arguments? And he raises quite a few of these issues: from freedom of speech to good governance, from indigenous land rights to climate change and bio-degradation, from school exams to joblessness and juvenile delinquency, from the legacy of the late revered statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna to why QVS must make fundamental changes in aims, purpose and direction to survive in today’s fast-
changing world, from mental illness to tolerance and discrimination, and from eco-tourism to constitutional reform. I put the question to him on his choice of writing techniques and his answer was illuminating: “Was it a deliberate choice of yours to express yourself on these burning issues the way you do – with such passion and emotion?” “Absolutely deliberate! I had no other choice,” he said. “What do you mean by no other choice?” “I mean, as Jesus Christ says in the Good Book, there is a time and purpose for everything under Heaven: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to cry and, of course, a time to call a dog a dog and a pig a pig. And not to be apologetic about it. If you must shout it from the rooftops to shame the culprits, why not?” “That might simply drive those you’re trying to win over to your side into the arms of the enemy,” I said. “Maybe. But it’s not a loss to us if the two, the deserter from God’s army and the enemy, Satan, embrace each other because they are sure to come to a sticky end together sooner or later.” “What about those you say are chosen to speak to lost souls like your deserter and bring them back to the fold. Couldn’t these chosen few be…?” “What about them?” Tabu cut in. “God has chosen them for this special role and endowed them with gifts that set them apart to glorify him as ordained servants.” “As ordained servants?” “Yes, as ordained servants.” “And you are one of those chosen to lead the flock as an ordained servant?” “Yes,” Tabu replied in an intense undertone pregnant with meaning. Not an impatient reply. Not an angry one, but one transported and aglow with conviction. “Anymore questions?” he asked. “None,” I said and thought it best to end the interview right there. I had thought of asking him about the meaning of an “ordained servant”. Or was it an ordained priest? I wasn’t sure. My theology clearly needed touching up. Tabu seemed well versed on his. We could try to put the record straight later or to give it a more balanced and complete perspective … if time and purpose R permit. n Mosese Velia is a former editor of the Fiji Times and deputy editor of the Daily Post. This article was first published as a foreword in Taniela Tabu’s autobiography Heaven on Earth. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
The reluctant politician How a Fijian became only the second woman elected to national leadership in the Solomon Islands and what it means for that country
From KOROI HAWKINS in Honiara
n 34 years of independence, only one woman had managed to break through the male-dominated domain of the Solomon Islands national parliament. It was to be another 23 years after the first woman parliamentarian was elected that another would emerge. On 1 August 2012, a Fijian-born woman became only the second woman elected to the country’s law-making body, drawing praise – and some raised eyebrows – in the country and across the region. Vika Koto Lusibaea, the wife of a former militia commander and government minister Jimmy ‘Rasta’ Lusibaea, won a byelection for the North Malaita seat vacated by her husband after his conviction for assault in late 2010. Her rise from consort to lawmaker has happened in an era of change for the Solomon Islands, but Lusibaea readily admits she was a reluctant politician, only agreeing to contest the byelection after all options had been considered for a candidate to continue her husband’s political and developmental 32
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aspirations. It even took a call from the rural people of North Malaita to finally convince her. “When Jimmy first approached me with the idea I said ‘no, absolutely not’,” she told Repúblika in an exclusive interview. “You know how strong the cultural beliefs of the North Malaitan people are and how they believe men are more important than women. I am a woman and I do not feel fit to lead.” But it is a testament to her husband’s influence among constituents that Vika Lusibaea, who hails from Lau, won a landslide victory over nine men. She polled 2802 votes – 1901 more than her closest rival Fredrick Kwanairara; her tally was also almost half of the total votes cast. “People were jumping all over and around me and congratulating me but I was dazed thinking to myself ‘have I really won?’” Lusibaea acknowledges standing on behalf of her husband who was disqualified from contesting the byelections. “My theme during my campaign was to just continue from where he stopped because he was only in power for eight months. I only came in so he could continue all the work being. I am just there
so we have someone sitting in the chair in order for us to have access to the funding and the projects. Everything else is the same.” Lusibaea will sit with 49 men in parliament representing the interests of the estimated 552,000 people who make up the archipelago. “I am ready for my first day in parliament, ready to be sworn in and I will be one of the backbenchers in the current National Coalition for Rural Advancement Government, NCRA,” she says. She follows in the footsteps of Hildah Kari who made history in 1989 when she became the first woman elected in a byelection for North East Guadalcanal. Kari served until 1993 when she was returned to parliament, this time in the East Central Guadalcanal seat. She went on to serve two terms in the seat before finally being defeated in 2001. In her time in politics Kari served as the minister of forests and conservation and was also the women’s minister. By the beginning of 2012 more than two decades had passed and not a single woman had been able to repeat Kari’s feat. The lack of success among female candidates spawned talks of reserve September 2012
At the top Vika Lusibaea outside the National Parliament of the Solomons Islands after her election in August.
seats for women in parliament at the next general election in 2014, something also being talked about in neighbouring Papua New Guinea. But then just as these talks were gaining momentum, three women were elected to parliament in PNG’s recent general election and in the Solomon Islands, Vika Lusibaea. There are marked differences between Kari and Lusibaea’s victories – the only similarity is that they were both elected in a byelection. The most significant difference between the two women is the motive behind their campaigns. Hildah Kari was an independent politician acting on her own conscience. Her supporters put her up for candidacy, and she campaigned and won on her own merit. Vika Lusibaea, on the other hand, is a reluctant political actor. Her husband Jimmy explained he had the backing of his community to put her up for election. “We sent a person home to the September 2012
constituency to do some research. We asked the chiefs, church leaders and community leaders what they thought if we fielded Vika as our candidate,” Jimmy Lusibaea told Repúblika. “They all agreed; they said if Jimmy is disqualified then we want Vika to contest.” It was then Lusibaea realised she would have to stand: “When I heard about the response back home I thought to myself maybe these people really do want me to stand because I am the only one who, once elected, will continue with the programmes (started by Jimmy). If another man is elected he might decide to do his own thing and refuse to listen to the wishes of the people and by then we would not be able to do anything about it because he would have the power. So I agreed to contest.” The second difference between Lusibaea and Hilda Kari is the cultural contexts. Hilda Kari contested constituencies in Guadalcanal, a largely matrilineal society where women are recognised as having power over the land
and where the differences in equality between men and woman are comparatively balanced for Melanesia. In Vika’s case she contested the constituency of North Malaita, a patrilineal society proud of its unofficial status as the custodians of the belief that men and woman have very specific roles in society. Says Jimmy Lusibaea: “When we went home, I already knew how I had to speak to the people there. Because Tobaita, the name of our region itself, means men are bigger or more important than women and this is the mentality of us Tobaitans. I told them three things: first, that the Westminster system of government is a foreign concept with a woman, Queen Elizabeth, at its head. It is not a cultural entity otherwise I would not be putting Vika forward as a candidate. Secondly, I told them we need Vika to be elected in order for our work and the programmes we started 4Continued on page 34 republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
RAMSI PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Pushing against the glass ceiling Royal
Solomon Islands Police Force female officers march down the main street of Honiara on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2010. With the arrival of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to help rebuild institutions and infrastructure following the civil war from 1999-2003, more women have been encouraged to take up non-traditional jobs such as those in the police force.
Building peace Since the ethnic tensions ended in 2003, Solomon Islanders have been working to heal the wounds both physical and emotional - of a traumatic period in the country’s history.
3Continued from page 33
to continue, and finally I challenged them to make history by becoming the first constituency in Malaita province to elect a woman to parliament.” The third detail of difference is the women’s origins. Hildah Kari is a Solomon Islander by birth whereas Lusibaea is a naturalised citizen of Solomon Islands. Interestingly her husband explains that North Malaitan culture renders this a nonissue. “This detail in Tobaitans’ culture was not a big issue. In Tobaitan culture it is a strong belief that when a girl marries she goes to her husband’s side, she must stay there and die there. This is the purpose of the bride price system. So in Vika’s case although she is originally Fijian it is not an issue because they believe she will live and die as a woman from Tobaita,” says Jimmy. So what does all this mean in the bigger scheme of things? For Solomon Islanders there are huge implications. A woman being elected to parliament from within such a male-dominated society, even at the behest of her husband, has
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set the wheels turning in the minds of other less radical constituencies and come 2014 will breathe new life into the hopes and dreams of aspiring women leaders. On a regional and international level, the waves felt within the country will no doubt be weaker. The willing cooperation and acceptance by Lusibaea of her figurehead status does not fall in line with the feminist ideals of women’s movements who, while being among the first to congratulate Lusibaea, will certainly find her voluntary surrendering of her newly acquired powers a difficult concept to rationalise and reconcile with their own perceptions of gender equality. And for the people of North Malaita it is time to individually assess their norms and values and the way that they relate to the modern world with some already embracing the new order while others still standing firmly on the R foundations of their cultural heritage.
n Koroi Hawkins is a freelance journalist based in Honiara. Repúblika agreed to withhold a description of the Lusibaeas’ background to secure exclusive access to them in future editions. September 2012
The coming of age Politika with AMAN RAVINDRA-SINGH republikamagazine.com/opinion/politika
olitical immaturity has for much of Fiji’s contemporary history featured prominently in Fijian politics. For the record the term “Fijian” used here describes Fiji citizens of all ethnic groups who make up this unique country. One strong point you need to also note is that the truth will be the most prominent feature of this column, Politika. Nations advance on the strength of their political maturity and this has been witnessed around the globe. A nation in which political institutions are strong will also experience development, growth and stability compared to a nation where political institutions are weak or in chaos. A key to gauge political maturity in any nation is to see how political parties fare within that society. The politics and political parties will grow from strength to strength and politicians become more transparent and accountable to voters and the wider community. In Fiji, unfortunately, we have not had the opportunity to grow politically nor have the people seen or experienced political maturity. Instead we have been caught up in petty politics which includes traditional and playground squabbles. We have been too caught up with the negatives and one-dimensional issues. Even when something was a nonissue, politicians have made it an issue to further their own selfish agendas. Indigenous land, despite being protected in this nation’s various constitutions, has always been made a thorny issue. Politicians have thrived on the opportunity to create fear and division amongst ethnic groups by spreading lies that the majority ethnic group – the Taukei – were being deprived of their land. This was the case in the lead up to the 1987 coups, the 2000 coup and in the years before 2006. Fiji would have been better placed today if our politicians had the national interest at heart and genuinely wanted to create a better Fiji. It would have been so much more effective at the national
level if politicians were able to spread wisdom instead of stupidity, calm instead of unrest and peace instead of fear. This would in turn reflect on the national mood and trickle down to the street level where we everyday people meet, greet and exchange information. If political leaders were really concerned about nation-building, I am certain that nothing would have stopped them from putting forward a united front and dealing with the fears that existed within Fiji’s various ethnic groups in the past. Imagine listening to leaders from different political parties sitting at the one table and addressing the nation on issues of national interest. Whatever the issues were, our politicians in the past could have addressed the nation and dealt with things in a positive manner. As we all know too well this was not to be and after some rumbling on the streets, a democratically elected government was overthrown in this nation’s first military coup on 14 May 1987. The issue of indigenous land could have been put to rest after the April 1987 elections if politicians had shown maturity and had the national interest at heart. Tension in the nation could have been removed if politicians from the two main parties had addressed the issue head-on and simply explained that land was protected by the supreme law of the land and ownership could not be removed by one person or at the stroke of a pen. However this was not to be and the rest, as they say, is history. Today we as a nation still suffer the repercussion of the events that unfolded 25 years ago. Thugs and terrorists who were behind the 1987 coups continue to roam freely and have been glorified over the years. The same can be said about the events that led to the upheavals of 2000. This was all created by politicians and in the end it was the ordinary people who suffered. Imagine the happiness we all would have felt if politicians got together and worked out a solution leading up to the unrest in 2000. We never got to see that day. Instead all we saw, heard and experienced was the constant fear campaign. We saw the tension this created and the bloodshed that resulted. Conflicts can be solved by dialogue
and this has happened for centuries. Speaking of dialogue, it was a national shame when the leaders of the country’s two main political parties – Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua’s Laisenia Qarase and Fiji Labour Party’s Mahendra Chaudhry – refused to speak to each other when they were in the driving seat before December 2006. We needed a professor from Hawaii to get these two men to speak to each other during the so-called talanoa series. What good came out of those talks is anyone’s guess but now these two men want to work with each other and are on talking terms. The irony is we needed them to speak with each other then when the national interest was at stake. Some say they are working in the national interest now but I strongly disagree. They are now on talking terms because it is in their interest to do so and they need each other more than ever. All they displayed in the past was how selfish, inconsiderate and immature they were and only worked for their own personal interests and agendas which included flaming land issues. When leaders are irresponsible, the people of a nation suffer and that is exactly what I witnessed during those turbulent political years before the 2006 takeover which has since halted politics. The people need to demand transparency and accountability from the next generation of politicians in Fiji. We as a nation must have dialogue and a conversation on issues and matters of national interest. This would be the beginning of the coming of age. If we leave the national interest to be sorted out by immature and self-serving politicians then our problems of the past will continue to haunt us. Unless we are able to feel united as a nation we will never be able to progress beyond the petty and negative politics R that we have experienced so far. n Aman Ravindra-Singh is a barrister and lecturer in law. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of his current employers. You can contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Tonga after King George
TELESIA ADAMS/TAIMI MEDIA NETWORK
His was the shortest reign in the Tupou dynasty, but the late King George Tupou V has bequeathed his kingdom a lasting legacy
From KALAFI MOALA in Nuku’alofa republikamagazine.com/dispatch
here was a general understanding among locals when King George Tupou V took over the throne of the Kingdom of Tonga; he would bring about significant changes to the political structure, but that his reign would not be as long as his predecessor, who ruled for 41 years. Taufa’ahau Tupou IV had the opportunity to bring about the political reform that was needed in the only remaining monarchy in the Pacific, but he did not do it. He may have passed on the task to his successor, the late King George Tupou V, who became the architect of a reform process for a democratically elected government that was implemented in the parliamentary election of 2010. There are those who believe that the late king may have taken credit for something that was inevitable due to the long and demanding campaign by a resilient pro-democracy movement for over 20 years. But the fact is, if the monarch did not consent to back dem36
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Final journey King George Tupou V’s casket is carried out of the royal palace in Nuku’alofa during his funeral in March.
ocratic reform, it would not have taken place. There would have to have been a revolutionary uprising in the kingdom to dethrone him, and change the Constitution without monarchial consent. And that was most unlikely. There is one thing, though, that gives evidence to the sincerity and responsibility of King George in overseeing democratic reform in Tonga. Back in 1975, long before there was talk of a pro-democracy movement, he initiated government action to explore the possibility of democratic reform, basically that every member of Parliament would be elected, and that the monarch would give up his powers to appoint the executive government. What this meant was that he was forward thinking; that one day sooner or later, Tonga would have to deal with the issue of a system of governance that was increasingly needed to be changed or at least adapted to fit with the times. In 2005 he was instrumental in persuading his father, Tupou IV, to appoint
his friend Dr Feleti Sevele to government as a minister, and then later as the Prime Minister. The Sevele government was different from previous governments in Tonga, in that the king appointed the ministers of the cabinet based on the recommendations of Dr Sevele, the prime minister. Future governments under the reform agenda would follow this model, only that the prime minister would be elected by the elected members of parliament, and the prime minister once elected would then appoint his ministers to cabinet. Sevele’s appointment then, and the way he worked closely with the king was in a sense a progressive preview of what the democratically elected government would look like. Remember that Sevele was one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement, and was only marginalised by them when he was appointed to cabinet. Instead of rejoicing that one of their own was now in the highest posiSeptember 2012
DISPATCH tion of government, they rejected him. They also did not see the intention of the king, that Sevele would become the executor of the reform that was to occur in Tonga. he political miscalculation by the pro-democracy leaders, and their ambitious leap to “take over” governing of the country resulted in the 2006 riots for which some of the leaders were responsible despite their acquittal in their jury trials. The actions of the pro-democracy movement, led by ‘Akilisi Pohiva and his cronies, only proved that what they were after was a system that would propel them to power, and their agenda for the nation was centered on themselves and not on the people of Tonga. This is despite the repeated rhetoric that this was “the will of the people” and whatever they were doing was for the “good of the people.” If the pro-democracy-led riots were aimed at destabilising the government, and creating a crisis in the nation that required the forcing of the king’s hand to appoint them as government, then they were hugely mistaken. The government consolidated its stand that reform would be brought about peacefully and lawfully; and that the patience, wisdom, and benevolent intention of King George Tupou V was made more apparent. The real test of good and strong leadership is in times of national crisis. The riots of 2006 were not only unexpected; the nation was shocked that such outrage and destruction could have happened in Tonga. It stamped a black mark in the history of a nation that was generally peaceful and wise in the running of its affairs. The king’s response and the government’s as well, demonstrated the maturity and stability of Tonga’s leadership. King George V was more determined to bring about reform not by coercion or by political pressure but by peaceful consultation and consensus. His wisdom was more apparent now that he did not react with force but persisted in overseeing a reform that allowed greater participation by the people in the rule of the country. Much media coverage of King George focused on his alleged eccentricities and his taste for foreign things – such as the elaborate customes and cars – but few dealt with the depth of his intelligence and vision, both politically and eco-
Official Royal Photo BY Greg Gorman
Regal reformer The late George Tupou V. nomically, to move Tonga forward. Many people in Tonga (and abroad) were pleasantly surprised with the late king’s performance during the five years of his reign. When he died, the grief expressed during the mourning period were evident everywhere. His reign was cut short, but the significant things he had put in place for the wellbeing of Tonga became the roadmap for the future. His initiatives concerning renewable energy, telecommunications, closer ties with Asia, especially China, and a host of other developmental projects, endeared him to the heart of a nation searching for long-term solutions to its felt needs. Now that he is gone, and that his legacy is often compared to his great, great grandfather, King George Tupou I, the founder of modern Tonga, and the great reformer of the 1830s-1880s, his successor King Tupou VI has large shoes to fill. Toward to end of his reign, King George became a popular king who was loved by the people, even those who had previously criticised him. A king who had won the people’s heart is usually a hard act to follow. That is what King Tupou VI would have to put up with. When the current king was Prime Minister he was not popular due to a number of failed initiatives, which were not necessarily of his making. The most publicised failure was that of the Royal Tongan Airlines. He was replaced and rumours raged that a fall-out had occurred between him and his brother, the late king. It seems time and maturity may have brought healing, and King Tupou VI has started out well, continuing to be supportive of the pathway his late brother
created for the nation, a pathway of reform that has more promises of an outcome of wellbeing for Tonga, than what may really be taking place. That the future for Tonga is not fixed is a comfortable notion, meaning that King Tupou VI, the government, and the people of Tonga have the opportunity to change what needs to be changed to create the kind of future Tongans would want. The challenges of a flat economy and not much cash flow resources outside remittances and foreign aid to bring about continuing survival, let alone development, is very real indeed. Another huge challenge lies ofcourse in a very infant and fragile democracy that will continue to confront the traditional governance structures and culture with new ideologies and a thrust of pragmatism that may not necessarily be culturally relevant. King Tupou may not be a visionary thinker like his late brother, but he is nevertheless a highly educated man with a disciplined military background that may propel him to be more pragmatic and swift in his decision-making. King Tupou is also a respected churchman, being a Methodist laypreacher, and his queen is also an active Methodist and a leader among women. This may help bring them much closer to the people. There is one thing for sure that King Tupou VI will not be, and that is, he is not as aloof or even elitist as his late brother, and so may be more mindful of how traditional Tongan community is affected by government policies. King Tupou VI as Crown Prince of Tonga was based in Canberra in the past five years as Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia. These years as Tonga’s top diplomat overseas gave him the experience that he needs in foreign relations, something that was a natural to his late brother. But the opportunities that are before King Tupou are more than what King George had. He has the formidable task of leading a nation not just towards a cohesive structure of constitutional democracy but also to practice democratic principles in their daily lives and their collective relations. The wealth, health, and social harmony of the island kingdom may deR pend on it. n Kalafi Moala is a veteran Tongan publisher and managing director of Taimi Media Network. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
PNG back from the brink tional Alliance Party did not win their seats. This leaves me with little choice but to accept defeat as the leader of the National Alliance Party,” he lamented. Despite the party’s woeful performance, the veteran MP moved quickly to join forces with O’Neill. Consequently two members of his party – Pruaitch (forest and climate change) and Jim Simatab (correctional services) – were part of the 33-member cabinet that was sworn into office, confirming that the NA and its former leader had moved on from the crisis.
A successful general election has settled the political crisis for now but voters are dismayed that O’Neill swiftly jumped into bed with archrival Somare’s party
Not cosy PM elect Peter O’Neill. From ALEXANDER RHEENEY in Port Moresby republikamagazine.com/dispatch
t has been a tumultuous 12 months for Papua New Guinea. The period of turmoil began with the veteran politician Sir Michael Somare’s toppled as prime minister, his reinstatement by the supreme court and the refusal by the O’Neill government to recognise that judgment. This triggered a failed army mutiny, the politicisation of the PNG police force and a politician’s storming of the supreme court on the pretext of “arresting” the chief justice. When Papua New Guineans went to the polls in June they did so in the hope that their right to democratically elect their 111 politicians would bring to an end a political crisis that came close to choking their nation. Sir Michael’s archrival Peter O’Neill emerged victorious to form government with – though not surprising for PNG political observers – Sir Michael at his side as a coalition partner. Papua New Guineans took to social media to express outrage at the political marriage and question whether this regime really represented a government chosen by the people. Despite the criticism O’Neill declared: “We’ve got experience and also youth and talent. Very experienced Papua New Guineans are now taking up positions as ministers of this govern38
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ment. Therefore I am very certain that they will perform to the expectations of our people.” Prior to that PNG commentators and foreign governments were worried the skirmish between Sir Michael and O’Neill and his former deputy Belden Namah could disrupt polling, but the three-month-long general election appeared to be the perfect antidote for the political crisis. Initially Sir Michael boldly declared in the lead-up to the election that his National Alliance Party (NA) would “correct” the various breaches of the Constitution by the O’Neill regime when it formed government after election. “As the leader of the party going into the elections, I rigorously campaigned with my team to ensure that the type of violations and breaches to the constitution that began with my unconstitutional removal on 2 August 2011 are corrected and never happen again in the future of this country,” Sir Michael said. However he conceded defeat at the conclusion of polling after his party was decimated, compelling him to hand the baton to deputy party leader Patrick Pruaitch (Momase). “As the results of the elections emerge, I now accept that the people have spoken and many of the members of parliament and candidates of the Na-
Bigger government’s no guarantee for stability ut how safe is the O’Neill government from a vote of no confidence after O’Neill – an MP from PNG’s resource-rich Southern Highlands province – beat flamboyant and controversial former deputy Belden Namah to the top job, consigning the former army intelligence officer to the opposition? To appreciate the complexity of the issues O’Neill has to contend with, one must look at the performance of Sir Michael and the success he has had in keeping together a major coalition government comprising over 80 politicians. When the veteran MP was re-elected PM five years ago, 86 members of parliament backed him. Fast forward to 2012 and O’Neill returns with the same number of MPs from the polls like NA did back then (when 27 party-endorsed candidates were elected to PNG’s parliament). The only difference this time is in the vote for the PM position when O’Neill secured 94 votes compared to Sir Michael’s 86 in the last parliament. With a political career spanning 44-plus years, Sir Michael as a political maestro knew the solution to his quest to remain in power and maintain the support of his anxious coalition partners was to legislate to increase the size of cabinet which he did in November 2007. With cabinet increased from 27 to 34, it opened the prospect for coalition partners to share in the spoils of government and not be wooed by an opposition keen on a vote of no confidence.
All coalition partners in the Somare government appeared content but it was within the core of the ruling party where grumbling could be heard. With the NA-led government marching towards an unprecedented 10 years in office – the first time a PNG government served a consecutive full term – and Sir Michael about to make his exit from politics, there was disquiet amongst the party faithful on the lack of a succession plan. The promtion of Sam Abal – who was not a deputy party leader – to deputy PM by Sir Michael in December 2010 at the expense of the party’s deputy leader Don Polye (Highlands) set the NA on a path to self-destruction. Other nonparty-related events also quickened the NA’s demise. This included Sir Michael being charged with misconduct (attracting a two-week suspension from office) and his hospitalisation in Singapore for heart surgery. The surgery became a four-month stay outside PNG and the lack of a nurtured successor to hold the fort in the absence of the party’s ailing leader became apparent, when Abal (who was now Acting PM) sacked cabinet colleagues Polye (foreign affairs and trade) and William Duma (petroleum and energy) in June 2011 in a bid to put himself in the box seat to succeed Sir Michael. On 2 August 2011 Duma seconded the election of O’Neill as prime minister after he was nominated by then Opposition leader Belden Namah despite the protests of pro-Somare MPs including Abal. Not surprisingly, Polye played a key behind-the-scenes role in plotting the downfall of a government led by his own party, which by that time had split into two factions with the old guard sticking with PNG’s founding PM. O’Neill’s elevation to head of government was followed by the announcement of populist policies such as free education, a free medical care scheme and the establishment of an anti-corruption crack team Task Force Sweep whose investigations led to the arrest and charging of high profile Papua New Guineans. Rising cost of living, inaccessibility to basic education and health care and increasing corruption within government agencies made him look good in the eyes of ordinary Papua New Guineans. However in December 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that O’Neill’s election was unconstitutional, as there was no vacancy in the office of the prime September 2012
Treva Braun/Commonwealth Secretariat
Real change or campaign chat? A betel nut seller in PNG’s Hela province sits in front of a campaign banner during the general election in June. minister and consequently reinstated Sir Michael. O’Neill, in an attempt to use parliament to ‘correct’ any anomalies in the court’s judgment, convened parliament and was re-elected PM after the court handed down its ruling. The clashing opinions of PNG’s two arms of government – the legislature and the judiciary – that ‘legitimised’ either the O’Neill or the Somare governments triggered a wave of events that came close to bringing this Pacific nation to its knees. These included a failed mutiny by pro-Somare soldiers, the politicisation of the PNG police and Namah’s storming of the Supreme Court precinct with policemen to arrest Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia. Is it a government by the people? ’Neill went on the campaign trail vowing to continue the policies he introduced in his brief 10 months in power while his rival Sir Michael, who was ‘dismissed’ as an MP by the O’Neill government-dominated parliament last December, vowed to right the wrongs of his predecessor. After a three-monthlong election, O’Neill emerged the victor. Returning 27 MPs endorsed by his People’s National Congress Party (PNC), he was invited by the Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio to form government. Reconciliation and a push to bury the past appear to be factors in determining the composition of O’Neill’s cabinet. Former Somare cabinet ministers Pruaitch and John Pundari (environment and conservation) find themselves back in the government’s governing council. However there are concerns O’Neill and his PNC betrayed the trust of the nation by teaming up with Somare-aligned
ministers, who oversaw some of the Somare government’s most controversial policies during their tenure in power. These include the Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs), which has reportedly seen over 5 million hectares (12.35m acres) of land in PNG illegally taken over by business interests – often without the approval of the traditional landowners. Pruaitch was the forest minister when the SABL got the nod. The others include the granting of a mining licence to Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals to undertake the world’s first seabed mining venture Solwara 1 Project in PNG’s Bismarck Sea despite growing community and international concern, and the approval granted to Chinese miner Ramu Nickel to dump its waste off the coast of Madang province. Pundari was the minister for mining when Ramu Nickel was given the green light to dump its tailings into the sea off the coast of Madang. Papua New Guineans are hoping the election of three women MPs, Delilah Gore, Loujaya Toni and Julie Soso, gives them the opportunity to push for the promotion of more community-focused legislation in PNG’s highest law-making body. The country marks 37 years of independence this month, but in the past 12 years, its parliament has lost its integrity, thanks to the increasing powers of successive executive governments, which have seen them use parliament as a rubber stamp to pass dubious legislation in breach of its own mandate to make laws that benefit and prosper R Papua New Guineans. n Alexander Rheeney is a blogger and freelance journalist based in Kokopo, East New Britain province. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
P U B L I C S TAT E M E N T
NGOs concerned about Constitution-making process 9th August 2012
e are active non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for whom democracy and the rule of law are important to advance our aims. We have noted with interest the announcements of the Constitution Commission on Friday 3 August. However, we have some concerns about this process. Our concerns centre on four things: 1. the legitimacy of the constitution-making process set out in the two Fiji Constitutional Process Decrees (Nos 57 and 58) and its ability to deliver a fair and independent outcome to the people of Fiji 2. the “non-negotiable principles” that the State says the new Constitution must contain 3. the immunity provisions demanded by the State 4. the environment that restricts full participation and debate in a constitution-making process, in particular the continuing restrictive atmosphere in which the independent news media must operate. It is important to us that the constitution-making process be credible and legitimate. As NGOs, we are experienced and knowledgeable in our respective fields. What we do and say about the process may influence others. We want to be clear with the people of Fiji on whether this is a good process or a flawed one. 1. Process The process for making the constitution is important. If there is a poor process, there will certainly be a poor outcome. The process must be independent and free of control from people with an interest in the outcome. This includes members of the current government. In 2006 Commodore Bainimarama promised that he would appoint an interim government whose members would not participate in future elections. Elections are now promised for 2014. However Commodore Bainimarama has not ruled himself out of those elections, nor have other members of his government. Therefore the State should not have any control over the constitutional process. We do not think it is right that the Prime Minister should have the power to appoint all the members of the Constituent Assembly. The State should only be able to tell us now how many people will be in the CA and how they will be selected. The State must allow the CA to be comprised of persons who truly represent Fiji’s people, not those who are hand-picked by the State. Until we know more about how the CA is to be made up, we cannot tell whether the CA will be a legitimate body representing all the people of Fiji, or just a rubber stamp. 2. “Non-negotiable principles” The State has said that the constitution must contain matters that are “not negotiable.” These include: r r r r r r
a common and equal citizenry a secular state the removal of systemic corruption an independent judiciary elimination of discrimination good and transparent governance
r r r r r
social justice one person, one vote, one value the elimination of ethnic voting proportional representation; and a voting age of 18.
Many of these principles (or aspirations) are laudable and we agree with them. But there are two problems with this approach. The first problem is with the State presenting them as “not negotiable.” It is not for the State to tell the people what the constitution must contain. Some of the “non-negotiables” are matters for the people to decide, not for the State to dictate. For example, we as NGOs may agree with the State about the way in which we should all vote, and the age at which we should vote. However, we must allow those who disagree with us to be heard and to have their views taken into account. 40
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T H I S I S A PA I D A D V E R T I S E M E N T The second problem is that there are many important principles that the State has not included in its “non-negotiable principles.” These include freedom of expression and association, full access to courts and tribunals, rights of workers and other matters which are restricted now. The Media Decree, the Public Order Amendment Decree, the Essential National Industries Decree and the many laws which prevent citizens from going to court to challenge State decisions are not democratic. Under any truly democratic constitution, these laws will have to be significantly changed. The State needs to assure Fiji’s people that it is committed to amending these laws to align them with basic human rights. 3. Immunity The new constitution-making laws require the new Constitution to have all manner of immunities for members of the current government. This is something to be debated and discussed. We believe that some immunity may be inevitable, particularly for the events of December 2006. But should the military’s government have continuing immunities after the 2006 coup? For example, it promised to be a transparent and accountable government. So should its members have immunity if they are later accused of corruption or abuse of office while they were in power? What immunities are given to members of the current government should be openly discussed, in a way that will encourage an atmosphere of justice, forgiveness and reconciliation between all sectors of the community. 4. The environment for constitution making It is common knowledge that the media, though it is not directly censored, operates under pressure from the authorities. For example, Fiji Television Limited, whose television licence expired after 12 years, has only been given a six-month licence on renewal. This looks like a “good behaviour bond” for Fiji TV, not a licence. It is also common knowledge that some media organisations have been put under direct personal pressure from people in the highest levels of the State. The independent media are not confident to report fully and openly many things that are occurring or the things that the State’s critics are saying. This situation is going to be difficult to improve. At the very least, there must be a strong statement of assurance from Commodore Bainimarama which guarantees freedom to the media, including the right to criticise his government and publish others’ criticisms of his government. The suspension of the permit requirements under the Public Order Act is only temporary. Why is this so? Why should the State continue to restrict citizens’ right to meet after the constitutional process is over? After all, if we have a truly democratic constitution at the end of this, any law unreasonably restricting people’s rights to meet will be invalid. If the State simply ended these restrictive laws now, it would receive credit for its efforts towards ensuring a truly democratic outcome in 2014. Conclusion These are some of the initial concerns we have about the constitutional process. Unless they are addressed, the constitution-making process risks becoming a mere rubber stamp. That would not be a fair or legitimate process to allow the people of Fiji to make their own constitution. Our people deserve better than this. We request the State to consider and address each of our concerns. This will help persuade us and our members that it has a legitimate process for creating a new constitution so that Fiji can truly move forward. Signed: femLINKPACIFIC Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Fiji Women’s Rights Movement September 2012
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salon Cultural stimulus for the curious mind
Making it in Fiji
beautiful because it is a dyed fabric and the ink sits in the fabric. It’s soft and comfortable,” he email@example.com says. “I can’t get that sort of printing I do in Fiji. fter five years of designing the popular [With pigment printing, the ink sits on the fabFiji Market fashion line for Tappoo, Rob- ric.] By the time I get the printing done overseas ert Kennedy has launched a new, self- and get it made up here, it is still cheaper to get backed range. it all done there and brought here.” Tattoo Pasifika, featuring an elegant muuSo why take a risk and produce the new range muu design with original prints inspired by here? Despite the higher cost of production and Pacific tattoos debuted at the 11th Festival of Pa- limited printing capacity, Kennedy believes that cific Arts in Honiara in July. making it locally could be an advantage. It is the Korotogo-based designer’s first foray “That Fijian Made, Fiji brand has really got into local production. (His Fiji Market line for some value,” he says, adding one of the criticisms Tappoo is produced in Bali.) levelled at his Fiji Market line is that it’s proWhile not quite duced abroad (even a household name though designers (yet) in the way Tiki and brands takTogs was in its heying manufacturing day, Kennedy may where it is cheaper well be the most is standard practice successful Fijian deworldwide). signer to emerge in Whether Fiji recent times. consumers are Through a liwilling to shell out censing deal with more at retail for the Fijian departlocally-produced ment store chain, he clothes remains to has grown Fiji Marbe seen. For now, ket from a few sulu Kennedy is able to and kaftan designs offer comparative in 2008 to the fully- Frontlines of Fiji fashion Designer Robert Kennedy, left; prices by selling difledged fashion line model Akanisi Bulai, centre, in a Tattoo Pasifika muumuu; rectly to customers it is today featuring and designer Aisea Konrote at the 11th Festival of Pacific through his Robert men’s, women’s and Arts in Honiara in July. Kennedy Design accessories collecFiji Facebook page, tions. with plans to set And yet his decision to first manufacture up a website for international orders. He has offshore before venturing into local production also participated in the weekly Saturday Fashspeaks volumes of the state of Fiji’s fashion in- ion Market at De Vos on the Park (formerly JJ’s dustry, which remains detached from the coun- on the Park) in Suva, where designers sell their try’s more established garment industry. wares directly to the public. Kennedy looked to Bali for his Fiji Market Of his Tattoo Pasifika range, Kennedy line due to lower production costs and the avail- says: “I think it is very much the same idea ability of dye printing, which produces remark- as Tiki Togs, just very much a nice qualably different results to the pigment printing ity, home grown, Pacific style, simple range.” that’s more readily available locally. Up next, he is quite literally taking the show on “It’s quite a complicated process because the road as one of four Fiji designers showing they mix up the colour and it is not necessarily at a Pasifika Fashion Show in London in early the colour they put on the fabric because then October. they boil the fabric and then the colour comes “That’s my ultimate aim - to get this offshore, out. No one does that in Fiji but the results are to sell it overseas. That is what I want to do.” R R By RAJAN SAMI
RAJAN SAMI/BORDER: ROBERT KENNEDY
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Photo: Rajan Sami
September 2012 2012 September
Ili’s on a roll
hen Vodafone Make It Count winner Ilisavani Cava travelled to Australia for a holiday in May, he came across the auditioning for X Factor Australia. By a stroke of luck he managed to get the last audition number on the second day he went and would eventually be one of 16,000 people who auditioned. Impressed with his singing, the judges let him progress to bootcamp in June even though he was not an Australian resident. In letting the 19-year-old Naivilaca, Rewa native through the producers had encouraged him to apply for permanent residency visa which he did. At bootcamp he made it into the top 40, but just before the audition for a top 25 spot, he was asked about his papers. He still hadn’t received news so he was told there was no point continuing because finalists had to have residency. Just a month later he received his PR visa. Despite the X Factor failure, the PR has come as a big boost and he has firm plans for what he will achieve over the next half-decade. n Visit Ilisavani’s “Next year it will be fan page @ a new start, with new facebook.com/IlisavaniCava goals and with nothing stopping me now,” he tells Salon. He says he will take every opportunity that comes his way. “In five years I see myself as a platinum recording artist here in Australia and (I will be) bringing my parents and two brothers to live with me.”
n RICARDO MORRIS
4 Royal Suva Yacht Club, Walu Bay 4 Opens Tue-Fri 8am-9pm, Weekends 9am-9pm (Closed Mondays) 4 Main $12-$20 Dessert $5-10 4 Cards EFT 4 Chef Tracy Powell 4 Tel: +679.3560682
racy Powell is back in town and with a new eatery. Well, the eatery isn’t exactly new, more like Powell and business partner Lara Chung are the latest in line to run The Galley, the tiny restaurant with marina views at the Royal Suva Yacht Club (RSYC) at Walu Bay. Can Powell and Chung succeed where many others have failed? Only time will tell but the early buzz is good. As is the food. At a weekday dinner in early August with a couple of friends, I had a delicious Thai beef curry, served with a side of eggplant, pumpkin and green pea curry and cumin spiced rice ($18). The tiramisu that followed ($7.50) was a sinful treat - my food sensitivities (gluten and lactose) be damned. Smitten, I returned the next day with work colleagues for lunch. Having been forewarned that it gets busy during the day, we arrived a little before 1pm and managed to secure a table. From the blackboard specials, I chose a crunchy chicken salad made with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sun-dried tomatoes and roast vegetables, served with a pawpaw seed dressing ($12.50). Both meals hit the trifecta of price, serving size and taste. Powell is well known for her pies and pastries - a reputation she built by supplying cafes in Suva while running the catering company Fortitude out of the old Coconut Frond building on Holland St back in the day. Regional stints followed: she managed the well-regarded Beachside Brasserie in Port Moresby for a while, then helped design menus at Honiara’s Airport Hotel. Now back in Suva, she and Chung hope to turn the Galley into a destination for foodies, with plans to bring in guest chefs to cook for regulars. In the meantime, the fixed menu features standard pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, pies) while nightly themed dinners mix things up (Thai, Mexican, Italian). Powell and Chung are off to an encouraging start. Open since July, the Galley is drawing a mixed, albeit well-to-do, crowd. And the good news is that non-RSYC members can breeze through to the restaurant. n RAJAN SAMI
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Sir Moti Tikaram was at times the target of resentment but he never retaliated or let his dignity slip
By NAZHAT SHAMEEM
ir Moti Tikaram was a judge of the old school. He became a lawyer when there were few local lawyers, and became a member of the Bench when there were few local magistrates and judges. He wrote sound judgments which are still relied on by judges and magistrates in Fiji’s courts. He was a supportive colleague and a loyal judicial officer. He rose to the judicial heights of becoming Fiji’s first Ombudsman, of being the President of the Court of Appeal, and of becoming Resident Judge of the Supreme Court. He was a true patriot, believing that service as a judge was and is, one the best ways to serve one’s country. His decisions on rights of appeal without leave, bail applications, and interlocutory appeals are still cited today in our courts. As a person, Sir Moti was a loyal friend with a mischievous sense of humour. A favourite choice as an after-dinner speaker, his target of choice was the legal profession. He was never short of a joke about lawyers, yet he never laughed at people; only at fictitious lawyers and judges. He was never unkind, and he
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THE FIJI TIMES
The gentle judge No hard feelings The late Sir Moti Tikaram, centre, with then Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga, right, and his successor Daniel Fatiaki at an opening session of Parliament in the early 2000s.
never failed to get a laugh even when all the dinner guests were inebriated. When he had retired from the Bench, he continued to be interested in the decisions of the courts, often asking me for copies of the latest judgments. He would read them, and then analyse them for his friends, gently pointing out what he considered to be errors in reasoning. He never lost his interest in all things legal and judicial. He was invited to all judicial functions and receptions, and he always attended. His sense of mischief endured after he left the Bench. So did his love for a good gossip! We had weekly lunches at the Holiday Inn after his retirement, and I was expected to deliver on the latest judicial gossip. What made this challenging was the fact that he was partially deaf in one ear. Our discussions were usually audible to everyone else at the Holiday Inn! In 1987, when Fiji lost its judiciary after the military coup, he and Sir Timoci Tuivaga agreed to re-establish the judiciary, a decision for which both were criticised at the time. However, starting with no judges at all, they recruited from the local Bar and from the
Sri Lankan judiciary, to create a judicial structure for the people of Fiji. Discussing it with me many years later, he said that the decision to serve as a judge after a military takeover was made because the existence of a judiciary was necessary to keep the executive in check, and to provide justice for ordinary people. The judiciary grew, and after the passing of the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions, became the source of important human rights decisions. Relying on decisions of other courts in the common law world, the Court of Appeal, which Sir Moti led, delivered judgments on the rights of accused persons to a lawyer, on equality of arms, on the abolition of the corroboration rule, and on unreasonable delay in criminal proceedings. Sir Moti was the local face amongst the expatriate judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. He was respected and thought of with great affection by his brother judges. His relationship with the Bar was also based on mutual respect. He was unfailingly courteous to the Bar, and was gentle with new and inexperienced counsel. In return, he received the respect and affection of the legal profession. At his September 2012
The chief justice who was only allowed to act By RICARDO MORRIS
f he had sat on the bench in a different milieu, the late Sir Moti Tikaram would no doubt have risen to the top of Fiji’s judiciary. Despite his record of achieving many “firsts” – he was the first local magistrate, judge, ombudsman and acting chief justice – he was never given the substantive chief justice post, a victim of the racial discrimination that pervaded his era. Sir Moti once quipped to his elder son Anil: “The government should give me an Oscar.” When the younger Moti asked why, the judge answered, “Because I’ve acted in so many positions.” And that would be the closest Sir Moti came to hinting at his hurt at being passed over for the chief justice position every time he had a chance. He had acted as CJ 20 times in his career and was nominated for the vice presidency by Sitiveni Rabuka but the move was blocked by the (late) Great Council of Chiefs. “I can say the desire not to be jealous
funeral, the Law Society was well represented, as were former and current judiciaries. Of course, a judge is never loved by everyone. The nature of the judicial job includes the necessity of finding against litigants and lawyers. Judiciaries are also power structures, with power centred around the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal. It is inevitable that with power comes resentment towards those who are seen as powerful. Thus Sir Moti had experiences with being the target of resentment. He never retaliated. Nor did he let his dignity slip. He never forgot that a judge is never off duty. In the end, when he was very ill, what concerned him the most was the loss of dignity which comes with ill health. Yet he did not lose his dignity. To the end, Sir Moti remained the person he always was: a judge, a friend, a faithful and loyal colleague, and a Fijian with a deep love R for his country. n Nazhat Shameem is a former Director of Public Prosecutions, former High Court judge and runs the legal consultancy LawFiji. September 2012
of other people’s success plays a big part in being a successful person and also being able to laugh at jokes,” Sir Moti told the Fiji Times in a 2009 interview. When he passed away on 17 May at 87, the Lami boy left a legacy that was as big as his personality. He was a visionary who practised non-discrimination on ethnic grounds way ahead of his time. An avid sports supporter, he was president of the Fiji Football Association from 1959-60 and backed moves to get the Fiji Indian Football Association to drop the reference to ethnicity. In 1960 he also became the first nonwhite member of the Fiji Club. The year before he had been the first local person appointed temporarily as a stipendiary magistrate and in 1961 he was appointed substantively. Sir Moti, who never drank, took up membership on the principle that nobody should be barred on ethnic grounds. Anil would later ask his father why he maintained membership and he replied, “Well, I pay my subs so people like you can become members.”
SIR MOTI: WORLD OF MANY FIRSTS 4 First local person to act as Supreme (now High) Court judge in 1967. Confirmed 1969 4 Fiji’s first ombudsman, 1972 4 First local appointed chairman of a Royal Commission of Inquiry 4 First Fijian elected commissioner of theInternational Commission of Jurists, 1985-1990 4 First person appointed full-time resident justice of appeal, 1988 4 First local president of the Court of Appeal, 1994 4 Appointed judge Supreme Court, 2000; retired 2002 4 First honorary life member of the Fiji Law Society, 2005 4 Fiji Independence Medal, 1970 4 KBE (knighthood), 1980 4 Companion of the Order of Fiji, 1996 4 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, India, 2007
n Next month in Repúblika A tribute to tourism industry pioneer Dick Smith
“In that sense Dad was very good. He was very level-headed and expected everyone to be treated equally,” Tikaram, who is also a laywer, told Repúblika. Chief Justice Anthony Gates, in a tribute to Sir Moti, said “he gave his unquestioned and unwavering support to the judiciary as an institution, and not to personalities.” Sir Moti initially studied journalism in New Zealand but switched thinking he would better serve his country as a lawyer. He had a meticulous legal mind and would, behind the scenes, check the facts in some of the cases before him. Tikaram remembers driving with his father one night to Shalimar Street in Suva to the location of a murder for which the accused was on trial in Sir Moti’s court. In the dark they made measurements at the crime scene to answer some question that was on the judge’s mind. Sir Moti was appointed Fiji’s ombudsman in 1972 and at his retirement from that post in 1987, he was the world’s longest serving national ombudsman. A clear thinker, he developed a system of record-keeping and filing during his tenure which is today used in other ombudsman’s offices around the world. Sir Moti’s wife died in 1981 the year after he was knighted, but Tikaram says his father never had a significant other after that. His career was his life. And indeed, one thing that surprised Tikaram about his father was how wellconnected he was, on first-name basis with judges, actors, presidents and prime ministers worldwide. In December 2011, he developed a cold that wouldn’t go away and was admitted in hospital for several days. When he returned home he fell and broke his hip, leading to a partial hip replacement early this year at Suva Private Hospital. His movement was limited after the surgery but his faculties remained sharp. In the hours before he died he asked his son if he could straighten the frames on the wall in front of his bed because they looked off kilter to him. Anil Tikaram, his sister, daughter and niece were there at Sir Moti’s Knolly Street flat when he took his last breath. And so were the two people who helped him live an independent life to the end – his house R help Loata and driver Atama. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
Getting the balance right Tuna Talk with SAVE WAQAINABETE firstname.lastname@example.org
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Gerick Bergsma 2010/Marine Photobank
iji’s tuna industry is once again embroiled in a debate to determine the annual fishing licence cap. There’s been a call for a reduction in the number of licences the government grants because of fears of the economic repercussions and the impact on the development and sustainability of the industry if too many are issued. Within the industry are two factions – the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) and Fiji Offshore Fisheries Association (FOFA). They have rallied their respective weaponry to push for a reassessment of the economic yield model being used to determine license numbers. There are two contradictory models when it comes to finalising the licence cap: marine biologists advocate the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), while economists support the maximum economic yield (MEY). There’s no doubt that the tuna industry is a lucrative one. In 2010, Fiji earned around $160m from tuna. In a series of articles in Repúblika, I will be outlining the issues the industry faces and some of the ways it can be resolved – beginning with the control management tool called the annual licensing cap (ALC). To understand the mechanics of the ALC is to recognise the parameters of its application which is within Fiji’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers some 1.2m square kilometres. Tuna fishers are estimated to have exploited and extracted tuna stocks totalling 144,285 metric tonnes since 1989 with market value (based on the current values) of more than $1 billion over the past two decades: $422m of albacore tuna, $178m big eye tuna and $410m yellow fin tuna. These values represent Fiji’s entitlement of resources under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) III which entered
Call it the blues Bluefin tuna are a species of special concern due to overfishing worldwide. into force in 1994. Fiji has had fluctuations in its ALC in the past decade ranging from 60 to an all-time high allocation of 103 in 2002. The issue of ALC is important to Fiji as it forms part of its responsibility as an archipelagic state and a contracting party to the international convention. It is interesting to view this in another dimension – the need to prudently manage our EEZ as claimed and conceded by the maritime powers to archipelagic states in their signing and becoming party to the convention. The concept of the exclusive economic zone is an essential element of the “package” of compromises and trade-offs that constitutes the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is a concept which has received rapid and widespread acceptance in state practice (despite the United States’ failure to ratify it over sea bed mining issues) and thus, is now considered to be customary international law. Furthermore, UNCLOS has also given Fiji the sovereign rights over all resources to the extent of its EEZ. Such right is claimable, which renders government responsible for diligently overseeing its exploration and exploitation. The government allocates and distrib-
utes licences for fishing activities within the EEZ in the expectation that permit recipients will utilise and manage resources carefully so returns and benefits are maximised. And this is one of the objectives in the Fiji Tuna Development and Management Plan (FTDMP) which is now under review. It aims to provide a framework to maximise the benefits and ensure the appropriate conservation and management of resources. It sets the harvest at levels that will not damage the stock and puts into practice a licensing policy that will ensure the maximum benefits from fishing are enjoyed. And it shuns disparity within the segments of the industry which can have a wider impact on the Fijian population. This is why it is important for the government to engage a comprehensive analysis of the facts and a due diligence process in deciding the ALC to ensure that the country receives the best return. The government must consider its long-term strategic plans in the context of linking the industry to its industry enhancement programmes. The necessary infrastructure to ensure sustainability and growth in business, as well September 2012
Fiji’s tuna licensing challenge
as the entrance of new players, must also be considered as the industry continues to build its base in the national economy. It also should consider the changes in economic results when interchanging possible in considering the number of licences to issue and other related factors – a game theory model. Technically, a host of issues and variables are considered before the final number is determined. Tuna is said to be a renewable resource which is a key assumption for sustainable harvest. As it is a highly migratory species (HMS) and the fact the tuna highway is being dominated by international and big maritime nations fishers, commonly known as distance waters fishing nations (DWFN), the management of stock in our waters becomes a critical issue which affects the determination of the ALC. 2011 fresh fish exports According to the latest Fiji Bureau of Statistics economic figures, the fresh fish domestic export takings recorded an alarmingly low $44m for the year January-November 2011. News reports attributed to FOFA claim the domestic export earnings for fresh fish in 2011 was around $200m. In this discussion, however, we use the statistics from our competent authority, the Bureau of Statistics, to determine that the 2011 export earnings of $44m is only 27.5 per cent of the year to date figures. Without qualifying its accuracy; the statistics will immediately trigger alarming signals with an instantaneous call for an appraisal. It is highly unlikely that qualifying September 2012
explanations would be a landslide drop in stocks (see graph) or result of strict measures of management controls employed by the state that entailed such low catch. If we were to make a quick economic assessment of the 60 Fiji licensed tuna long-line vessels with an estimated average tuna price set at $8000 per metric tonne (a very conservative level, averaging albacore of F$4300 per tonne; $12,600/t and yellow fin at F$7,300/t), the annual tonnage to equate F$44m will be 5500mt. The average annual catch (AAC) tonnage of tuna species (albacore, yellow fin and big eye) for the past 10 years is recorded in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) 2010 Year Book at around 12,479mt. As the last four years (2007-2010) are below the AAC (green straight line on graph), a lower volume in 2011 will have an undesirable impact on the annual licence cap for 2013. There must be a reduction of numbers to maintain a balance within the local industry. If we were to consider an economic explanation of this situation in the light of the fishing efforts in its relation to the total revenue, it is obvious that the decrease in total revenue can be attributed to the reduction in numbers of tuna traversing our EEZ as catches increase within the EEZ of Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, including the high-seas pocket between them. It cannot be claimed that the figure is because of increased fishing efforts because the increase in ALC was for 2012 (60 licences in 2011 and 70 this year). Furthermore, it is important to note that qualifying the export earnings fig-
ures through a thorough assessment of the source data from the exporters as to the correct value of earnings, particularly those fishery that go through the auction market, will then help us to make a correct assessment of our performance. But significantly, the graph illustrates the two trends and should show us where we stand. However, another point of interest that is likely to emerge in this regard is the government’s strategic plan for our tuna industry and whether they will maintain its current stand of long-term duration of players or introduce shortterm licences to allow new entrants into the industry. Put another way, the issue to be determined is whether we maintain the current licensed players and allow their existence in the next five to 10 years, or are we going to phase in new entrants in line with the development policies as outlined in the Strategic Priorities for Economic Development (SPED) in the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainability of Socio-Economic Development (RDSSED). The additions will have to be considered thoroughly so they are in line with the conservation and management efforts of tuna at national and regional levels. The reduction will also have an adverse impact as we have to give up committed economic participation in employment and other spin-off industries. R n Next month in Tuna Talk A bioeconomic approach to the licensing cap n Save Waqainabete is senior partner with Wenna Economic Development Opportunities Consultants Fiji. republikamagazine.com | Repúblika |
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By GARY JUFFA, MP
he race for resources by humans is driving the world ever closer to global disaster. Arrogantly inconsiderate of the plight and the rights of other life forms, humans, possibly the most intelligent and certainly the most destructive citizen of planet earth, appear to be steaming ahead with their seemingly insatiable appetite for the world’s non-renewable resources, bringing all of the world as it is known to a screeching halt, full circle, where life began with nothing left. A miniscule but powerful portion of mankind are the primary beneficiaries of the free market, executive members of Corporatedom. Yes, all bow to Corporatedom, the new empire of our time. Corporatedom is the creation of western capitalist nations who subscribed to “democracy”, now itself an effigy. Corporatedom was expected to bring about great happiness to the world. At least that’s what everyone was told by the nations promoting it. And it did: for the rich economies and the rich in all economies. Yet, happiness remained an elusive concept for much of the world’s poor populations, more evident in poor countries and less so in rich economies whose poor are kept entertained by the media, and democracy is now just a blow-up doll. Corporatedom set the pace for exploitation and rampant aggressive profiteering, making the rich gleefully richer and thus happier and the poor miserable, warring, sick, homeless and dying everywhere. The so-called civilised world subscribing to Corporatedom is very much aware of the consequences of the final march of life on Earth led by intrepid Man: Man the hero, Man the proud, Man the arrogant, Man the destructive and, at this rate, soon-to-be Man, the extinct. The facts are in the grasp of any who can obtain them, read and discern with some intelligence anywhere in the world where there is free or reasonable access to radio, television, print and other 50
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media, books and the internet. Even citizens of nations that do not allow the freedom of expression are aware. Citizens of nations that profess freedom of expression choose not to care and live blissfully in the matrix of consumerism created by Corporatedom for that very purpose, cultivating apathy. The citizens of both the controlled world, and the less regulated, saturated with varying degrees of consumerism, gather, discuss, protest and dissent – but all to no avail. They are the rats that sense a sinking ship. But there is nowhere to swim to when this ship goes down. In direct contrast to his efforts to satisfy his greed and build his profits, Man’s efforts to monitor, review and bring about changes to stop or check the destruction of the world’s ecosystems is negligible and insufficient. Man the petulant, sees no urgency to change his way. Examples abound throughout the world of the selfish actions of Man, the self-appointed owner, keeper and custodian of Planet Earth. There is the destruction of the world’s rainforests in Africa and South America, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. There is the extraction of all manner of minerals in all continents and the rampant harvesting of the world’s last wildlife source of nourishment: the sea. Now man is stepping into an area never before ventured: under the sea and beyond – to the seabed, virtually untouched, where tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust align and clasp the globe together, where the Earth’s mantle, core and inner core reside. Apparently there are valuable minerals to be found on the seabed and under it. Not surprisingly, this has attracted the attention of Corporatedom which is also researching possible mining on other planets and the Earth’s polar caps, stretching the frontiers of humanity to wherever its imagination takes it. Where does this heinous demonstration of Corporatedom’s latest act of greed and stupidity take place? In our very own home: beautiful, exotic, tropical and mysterious. PNG, population seven million and growing rapidly;
where more than 830 languages are spoken, home to the largest reserves of rainforest outside South America and saturated with mineral and energy resources. At a glance, the people of Papua New Guinea are at once residing on perhaps the richest piece of real estate and are at once some of the world’s poorest people by Western standards (US dollar per day average household income). The last known Pacific island to interact with the rest of the world insofar as Western “civilisation” is concerned, it attained “independence” on 16 September 1975 and has since deteriorated to a state of pathetic nationhood, striving to be a country but failing to care for its people or their interests adequately for the past 37 years. A nation where its people are coming to grips with globalisation while struggling to manage their tribal obligations. It is also here that Nautilus Minerals Ltd, a Canadian exploration firm, has convinced the former government that it will mine for minerals under the ocean and on the seabed of Papua New Guinea’s territorial waters, using all manner of sophisticated marine equipment, exposing the marine environment to gallons of poisonous chemicals and all this would benefit the people of PNG and its economy. Here, in PNG, without the necessary infrastructure to respond to a disaster, manmade or otherwise, we intend to delve into the very fabric and foundations of Earth itself. And what should happen should suddenly the hole-to-be in the Earth’s floor create a reaction that disturbs the Earth’s very mantle and core and, perhaps, even the inner core? Should we take the chance? Will we be happier? Will Corporatedom prevail and the miniscule percentage sip champagne in their fancy country clubs and congratulate each other on booming profits while Earth groans as its very R joints and ligaments are attacked? n Gary Juffa is the Governor of PNG’s Oro (Northern) Province. This is an edited version of an essay first published on the PNG Mine Watch website. If you would like to contribute an essay to Last Word, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org September 2012
*But facts are sacred. ~ CP Scott
Corporatedom’s pirates of the Pacific
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