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From Fuata Jione in Australia (1 May 1999)

Developing Rotuma

Before I start I will introduce myself. I was born in Itu'muta, Rotuma in 1960. My parents are Tiu Jione and Sulu, who passed away 18 months ago. I was educated at Motusa primary and Malhaha high school till 1976, then completed high school at Queen Victoria School 1977/78. In 1979 I attended USP. I qualified with a Ship's Captain's Certificate from the Australian Maritime College and have worked in the Australian Maritime Industry since 1980. I've achieved a personal goal to become a Master of a vessel in Australia. My last visit to Rotuma was in 1998/1999 during Christmas for a period of 4 days.

I have been very interested to read about Rotuman news for sometime. I would like to share some thoughts about the affairs of Rotuman people living in Fiji and Rotuma. Here are some comments:

The election issues show people are very divided in their efforts to represent Rotuma in a cohesive way and provide future direction. Whilst it is always healthy to have different opinions, to undermine the very principle of helping each other is destined to failure. Rotuma can do without the divisions I have seen and heard over the last decade and more so in the recent election news. The local issues in Rotuma, especially internal squabbles in the districts, are getting out of hand. Unless the people in Rotuma clean up their acts those people vying for bigger things in the political arena have no hope of progressing Rotuma from its current sorry state of affairs. I say this because when the Rotuma Cooperative Association was up and running it was run by the people of Rotuma and it was a very good example of how people can work together in a business sense. Today companies that neglect the importance of their people around the world are carrying heavy losses. Our problem in Rotuma today, I believe, is that we are very good leaders--very visionary--but we are hopelessly bad managers. People in Rotuma will have to start from basics again. I noticed that community work to improve roads has disappeared and everyone is waiting for the PWD or someone else to do the work. Simple things to improve standards in Rotuma can be done with very little or no capital outlays at all. People in Rotuma are creating this scenario of poverty, neglecting their duty of care, and expecting Rotumans and people outside to help.

I am trying to work out what is really motivating our people in Fiji and Rotuma to be so divisive on one easy issue--to help Rotuma and its people. Having grown up in Rotuma and now a very successful individual in Australia these issues worry me because I myself want to put something back to Rotuma. However, I am having second thoughts now as I feel there are a lot of issues to resolve. I am looking at issues of health and transport. Australia can contribute a lot to the Rotuman people in the area of health. For example, direct links between a private a hospital in Australia and the hospital in Rotuma is a viable option.

My views about developing Rotuma:

I do not believe that major developments in Rotuma is the way to go. Rotuma is too small and any major development cannot be sustained without significant population growth. But population growth will lead to major damage to the natural environment. The Rotuman Council's decision to ban tourism is not only sensible but very responsible. Wherever there is tourism crime has increased. Money as a prime motivator is a failure because it contradicts traditional values. The culture and the skills to live off the land are fading away slowly. I say this because my observation is that people in Rotuma are now becoming too dependent on money for their own survival.

Rotuma certainly needs development in education and health. Diabetes and heart disease seem to be widespread and the way people live and eat in Rotuma now is a major contributing factor.

Rotumans in Fiji should be encouraged to develop business opportunities in Fiji because Fiji is a developing western society and provides employment for Rotumans. We Rotumans have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a group and ask ourselves what has changed over the years and how we have managed to respond to changes. I do not think people are adjusting to change very well because in many ways I see the divisions among Rotumans stemming from old beliefs our forefathers had during their days of internal warring and cannibalism. We Rotumans have to distinguish between modern western values and traditional values. It appears that Rotumans in Rotuma and Fiji are steering aimlessly and without control of their destiny. I say this with a vision to ensure that the Rotuman people understand some very fundamental problems to be dealt with first. One example is that Rotuma once had only seven chiefs; now some sections have established other chiefs. Secondly, the Methodist church groups in Rotuma have shown cracks in their organisation and now split into two groups.

Development of a transport service between Rotuma and Fiji via sea and air should be set up by Rotuman corporations, preferably with an existing business organisation to reduce running costs from the use of the already established infrastructure. An aeroplane and a suitably sized vessel can be purchased and joint leases with either Air Pacific or Blue Lagoon cruises or Marine Pacific can be established to spread the cost of operations. I say this because I know there are a lot of influential Rotumans flying aeroplanes for Air Pacific and lots of marine management expertise in Fiji.

A united front is the only way to influence changes for the benefit of all Rotumans. We Rotumans are such a diverse group of people and I am sure one day our vision for Rotuma will come as one; however, we cannot ignore changes that are within our control and management. Once this is achieved the big picture will become clearer for all Rotumans and believe me it can be done only by the power of the people. Today in Kosovo and other parts of the world the power of the people is a typical example of the consequences of deep divisions in the community.

I apologise if some sections of this transcript may offend some Rotumans. However, as long as we keep the communication lines open in an honest forum our vision for Rotuma is achievable. I believe big projects can only be achieved by the people and I invite your comments here.

From Fereti, le' fa on Furisau ma Misini (19 July 2000)

I'm deeply moved on such insight and honesty that only a truly concerned Rotuman, with genuine love for his homeland, has for his island and people. I would just like to add, whatever it's worth may be, an experience I witnessed as a participant in the fundraising for the hospital in Kadavu many years ago, in Vancouver, B.C.

There were dances and 'kati' where the people and friends of Fiji donated time and money for the support of the project. Kadavu now benefits from the dream and hardwork of the few that made it possible. Maybe we ought to stop thinking about how to solicit goods and services from others but more in the line of what can we do about it as a people, for our island.

I am sorry if it offends anyone but I, personally, don't believe in handouts. It is very Rotuman to be proud to say, "We earned it. I would like to solicit any ideas from the creative minds of all you noble Rotumans, and Henry of course, on this issue.

From HF Thompson (26 May 2003)

On the issues raised on the News Page about the hospital, high school, and PWD

The lack of funding from the Ministry of Education, the PWD doing its own thing, and the need for upgrading and renovating the old hospital are three of the most important problems facing the people on Rotuma, and every Rotuman should be paying close attention.

The high school is where our future lies. Those youngsters are the ones who will take care of the island when we are gone. They are our legacy. So, every avenue should be explored to make sure that the high school has every thing they need. It’s a top priority. The hospital is another top priority. It’s the only place sick people can go for treatment on the island.

The Rotuma Council should be doing a whole lot more instead of depending on outsiders and Fijians to take charge of Rotuma. Rotumans should be taking care of the problems in Rotuma. It’s your island, so take charge. Why did you tear down the old buildings for new ones? The high school and the hospital should be the top priorities, not new office buildings so the council can make money. Is the Rotuma Council going to guarantee that they won't be concentrating on making money and not losing focus on their priorities?

I know that there are lots of Rotuman communities all over the world who have been raising money to support projects on the island. The seven districts have representatives and should put some effort into raising funds for the high school and the hospital. Do not wait for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. Rotumans have little power and not much say in these Departments. Non-Rotumans are in positions of authority and it seems like they give you the run around and excuses. These are Rotuman problems and Rotumans should stop sitting back waiting for miracles to happen. Thousands and thousands of dollars are being raised by these districts; try and put some into the high school and hospital.

The problem with Rotuma now is that people want life to be like in other countries, but Rotuma is only a small island. Life should be simple there. People are not working on their lands anymore and want things the easy way. Work your land and you won't go hungry. We are a very lucky people.

From Margaret Enasio in Sydney, Australia (1 June 2003)

Visanti Makrava, the Chairman of Rotuma Council and Dr Ane Atalifo have done well to highlight some of the relevant and critical issues relating to the development and betterment of Rotuma. These have been a long time coming and are well overdue. These problems shouldn't have been allowed in the first instance to fester for years, as with the high school and the hospital, before they were publicly aired in the media.

With the issues now public, the onus must rest with the duly elected Member of Parliament and Senator for Rotuma to champion the cause and pursue solutions with the Fiji Government. The elected representatives of Rotuma must not shirk their responsibilities of advocacy of Rotuman issues in Parliament. Being vocal and strong in their representation will ensure that action will be taken on the above issues. Rotuma has the same right and entitlement to funding allocations as any other place in Fiji.

We all know that Rotuma is being disadvantaged by its isolated location. I'm of the opinion that the MP and Senator for Rotuma should reside in Rotuma to get a feel for and an understanding of the life and needs on the island. Our folks living in Fiji have been adequately catered for by the Parliamentarians of the various areas they reside inand have not had to worry about the predicaments facing Rotuma.

Learn from history and let bygones be bygones; a full cooperative effort between the Council and our Representatives is now needed to further Rotuma's development. Otherwise progress will be impeded and we'll see the recurrence of the same or similar issues time and time again.

Given its isolation, Rotuma's earning capabilities are limited. The Council's plans for copra will go a long way to assist our folks in Rotuma and the planned rental property to be built will surely supplement the Council's finances to further subsidise future projects in Rotuma. These make economical sense and the Council should continue to pursue the issues.

From Louise Riedel in Perth, Western Australia (5 June 2003)

I read about the trouble they have in trying to get funding for Rotuma Hospital and I wonder if all of us Rotumans around the world could help. I am just thinking that if we all send $50.00 or $100.00 each from wherever we are, like in Australia, then maybe we can help to ungrade our hospital in 'Ahau.

Our people in Rotuma must have a hospital and I think we can all help.

Hanisiof & God Bless.

From Sarah Mellado in Perth, Western Australia (18 March 2004)

I remember back in the 70s when I was last in Rotuma, there wasn't much politics as there seems to be now.  This is my first visit back to the island and I am appalled at the number of unresolved issues concerning this little 'emrald in the sun'. 
After reading the various issues, one question springs to mind: what's happened to the hard working Rotumans I grew to think we were?  There was a time when our people lived happily without electricity and flushing cisterns, and computers!
Please don't get me wrong, I am not saying to keep Rotuma in the dark ages, what I am saying is that we can update our way of life without sacrificing our way of life.  If there is a growing wasteland from the tourists, the community should rally together to create a dumping ground or tell the tourists to take their rubbish home with them - learn from Singapore! And if no one wants to listen, then it starts with one person!  Dig and bury and get angry!  No wonder the flies and mossies abound! 
Do people back home still fish and plant for food?  If so, why this talk of relying on handouts?  I don't remember Rotuma needing so much from outsiders when I was there.  Is it becoming too hard to be self-sufficient?  If so, why?  I know that in places like China, by trying so hard to keep up with western culture, the old way of living has gone but nothing has taken its place and so the people are slowly dying of hunger and the cold.  We are lucky in Rotuma as we have an abundance of good weather and fertile soil, so forgive me for being ignorant but I'm unclear on what the problem seems to be.
Another thought I had was if we could sponsor a child - a bit like they do for children in third-world countries.  This should free up the educational expense at least?
It's been a while since I've been home, but I will never forget where I've come from!  I just want an opportunity to give back.

From Henry Enasio in Sydney, Australia (17 April 2004)

Since the 1970s the life style we knew on Rotuma and people's expectations have changed. The shift is toward Western culture as a result of education, travel, books, the media etc., and aspirations are for more and for one’s own self-actualisation. In some instances it's for the best, but the drift has resulted in Rotumans losing sight of the traditions, culture, and lifestyle we once knew.

Rotumans are better educated and children are being taught to ask questions about issues, enabling them to become politically involved. Such an ethos is good if it assists the leaders in their decision making, but not if it is causes friction in the community.

With the ever increasing pressure for change around us, it's not a sin to ask for dues and entitlements in funding that legitimately belongs to Rotuma. Also there's nothing wrong in asking for assistance from family and friends who can afford it and are willing to help if asked--as the saying goes, ask and you will receive.

However, having said this, I perceive some important changes in Rotuma. The Council is leading the way with initiatives and projects. Rotuma has to allow development, but we have to tread carefully and not disturb or dramatically alter the way of life on the island. There has to be a balance and a cautious approach to the development of Rotuma in order for it to benefit the islanders. Fortunately, this is what the Council seems to be doing. For some, progress may be too gradual and slow, but one has to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.

Just as in the poem, Rotuma Hanua Aier 'Ontou, I miss the island and everything about it and hope that through development things will be better for our folks back home.

From Alan Peacock in Christchurch, New Zealand (28 March 2007)

I'm lucky with my business in that it's extremely interesting and mentally very rewarding. Our company looks at problem situations to come up with solutions. It's about the application of simple ideas to bring about positive outcomes.

I researched Rotuma before visiting our family on the island in June 2005. There I saw first hand, the issues that people discuss in your Forum. Issues like poor diet, high cost of imported food, lack of employment opportunities and the lack of money coming into Rotuma for development. I learned that tourism, for Rotuma, may not be welcomed as many Rotumans believe it would change the island too much. I found out the reason Rotumans eat so much imported, canned Tuna is because they lack the means to catch their own fish ( outside the lagoon ). I snorkelled in the lagoon and was appalled by the lack of fish so abundant in the other islands in the pacific where I've visited.

In June of last year I contacted Senator John Fatiaki with a proposal that I had been thinking about. I had learned that Air Chathams, under contract to Air Fiji, were over-flying the island when carting fish out of Funafiti. I had suggested to them, that if fish was available, would they be able to collect it from Rotuma and carry it to Fiji for sale or export. Their reply was positive, so I contacted the good Senator and we discussed my proposal:

  • That five aluminium alloy pontoon boats be provided to set up the nucleas of a short range fishing fleet. These boats would come complete with main and auxillary engines, radios, safety equipment and either long-line or crayfishing set ups.

  • The purchase of a freezer/cooler truck for around-island (local) sales.

  • The building of a coolstore/fish processing/ retail facility.

  • The supply of generator/ice making faciilties for the coolstore.

  • Building a bio-fuel facility to power the generator/ice plant

This business would, I suggested, be owned by the Rotuma Council, who could take out a commercial loan for the purchase of the equipment. Funding doesn't appear to be an issue as the economics seem to stack up. Much of the funding, if a feasibility study was positive, could probably be sourced by aid agenices

The air freight cost indicated to us is $3 per kg - based on 3 tonnes a a weekly flight. The fish, to get the best price, needs to be no older than two days, but should return ( for Pakapaka ) around $6 per kg . That means this company could be potentially earning up to $6,000 per week after decuting freight costs. Lobster or Crayfish might give an even better return. Based on 5 boats and a processing facility it would directly create up to 20 jobs, putting $2000 a week into the cashflow on the island. More jobs would be created with the bio-fuel plant. Surplus profits, after paying off the loan, could be split 50/50 - half to add to the fleet and facilities, the other half to go into upgrading the island infrastructure.

To get any exports off the island would need either an improvement to the airfield or the purchase of a suitable boat. Airfreight offers the best return ( best price for fresh chilled fish ). I held discussions were held with Villiame Leqa, when he was Chair of the AFL Board, about when the work on the Rotuma Airfield might take place. The geotechnical study has been completed, but funding is an issue to carry out the remedial work to upgrade the airport to an all-weather capacity. A figure of FJ$5 million was mentioned to repair and seal the runway, less to put in back to crsuhed coral.

The response to the concept from Jioji Konrote, Viliame Leqa and Jone Kubuabola was, like John's, extremely supportive - these guys can see a positive future for Rotuma.

Senator Fatiaki suggested writing Terms of Reference for a consultancy study to look at the viability of this project. This could be funded via the Forum. He delivered to ToR to an official of Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September 2006, and was told it was just a rubber stamping exercise before this would be presented to the Forum. This still hasn't happened. Whether that is through laziness or incompetence or jealousy that someone was trying to help the Rotuman people, the ToR has not yet reached the Forum.

I travelled to Fiji for discussions on this project in November, to meet a team of people keen to try to get this off the ground. The enthusiasm was certainly there, but like many things, getting action is far harder than talking about an idea. Which is a great pity.

A successful study would be essential to securing funding, but more importantly it would catalyse what work needed to be done in order to get small scale in-shore fishery projects like this, up and running. This has ramifications far wider than just for Rotuma. The Senator had an idea of declaring an "Indigeonous Fishery Zone" perhaps 30km or 50km wide around Rotuma in which only Rotuman fishermen could fish - not even J/V boats would be allowed. The biomass created in such an area would be far more than what would be taken out each week, so this zone could be seen as a vital tool to re-populate the over-fished resources of the South Pacific. I took this idea to Greenpeace and they were extremely supportive. John's idea could be the single best initiative ever suggested to assist the region. This man should get a knighthood! What an ecological visionary!

Policing of such areas would require a major upgrade in Airborne Fishery Surveillance, but that's another project we're working on.

The Rotuma model could be extended to pehaps another 10 islands in Fiji's group, to the Solomans, Vanuatu, Tonga and perhaps Tuvalu. Sustainable inshore fisheries could create great wealth for the islands of the pacific. If you don't believe that, read Thomas Freidman's Book on Globalisation "The Lexus and the Olive Tree' where he quotes the Tokyo Fish Market as being a tourist drawcard where "Giant South Pacific Tuna are being auctioned for up to US$50,000 per Fish". ( An aside - the "Gift" of FJ$35 million in sports facilities for the Fiji 2004 South Pacific Games was, I understand, in return for 10 years access to fishing in Fiji's ( and Rotuman) waters - yet FJ$35 million if divided into Tuna at US$50,00 each works out to be only 428 fish - makes you wonder doesn't it).

Much work has already been done - boat types investigated, building concept plans drawn to enable costing of a coolstore/processing/retail facility, finance options investigated to fund the idea. It needs discussing at Rotuma Council level as the island needs to own the concept, before any further work is done. If the island wants this concept, by all mean we're happy to carry on the work.

But at the moment the proposal has stagnated. John has told me of his intention to purchase some small boats and a freezer truck to at least provide a source of fish for the island, however while this may improve diets on the island, it will do little to earn cash reserves. It will however, be able to provide concrete evidence of the sustainability of the fishery and John is to be commended on taking action.

Since November I've been looking at other options of moving the fish and have located a 20 metre catamaran in NZ that is for sale, is built for extreme conditions, caters for 8 overnight and 30 by day and has a service speed of 30 knots. If a hi-ab crane was added to the back deck, such a boat could easily serve the island. The cost is $550,000 - which sounds a lot, but is it beyond the reach of Rotuma to purchase such a vessel?? Not really. If this inshore fishery could be established, the boat would drop the fish freight costs to around $0.50c per kg. Take 3 tonnes of fish, getting average $5.00 per kg ( as it would be older when getting to market) = $15,000, less costs of boat fuels, wages etc - be generous and say this came to $5000 a week - that would leave Rotuma with $10,000 a week. Total investment to set up such a fishery and buy the boat would be around a $1,000,000 Dollars, yet you could potentially pay that back in a little over 2 years, even without any overseas aid funds? How can that not be worth exploring? So why is the ToR still on the desk at MoFA?

The result could be a decent, Rotuman-owned Shipping service, plenty of jobs created, and a sustainable cashflow for the Rotuma Council to administer - if the island wants it? Much work still needs to be done but the potential is there. No one can say that Rotuma lacks the resources - what is needed is a key, and the will to unlock them.

in conclusion, I've carried out the work so far out of a wish to help the lot of the Rotuman people. I have had wonderful support for Senator John Fatiaki and Minister Jioji Konrote and for that assistance and encouragement I am extremely grateful.

My business card shows our company acts as "Export Catalysts". We're happy to come up with ideas and show how things could be, but it's up to the Rotuman people to want this project.

From Ms. Fakraufon (31 March 2007)

My advice to Mr. Peacock is to stop meddling in Rotuma's affairs. You have big plans for the people of Rotuma and you say you want to help them, but I only see exploitation.

You characterize people in Rotuma as poor, but the big problem facing people on the island is that they are too dependent on relatives overseas and outsiders for handouts. They have forgotten all about what God has given them--the land and the sea. If you look at the rest of the world, there is no place like Rotuma. Let's keep it that way. People in Rotuma need to start paying close attention and asking questions about what the Council is up to and holding them accountable.

Rotuma is a paradise of an island, a homeland that we can visit without having to worry about anything. My hope is for the people to stand firm in rejecting tourism. I also hope they say no to your ideas and that Mr. Fatiaki and Mr. Konrote will think really hard before committing any of the island's precious resources to a scheme like the one proposed by Mr. Peacock.

We can lose our natural resources if we are not careful. Rotumans need to wake up and realize that everything needed for a fulfilling life is right there. People on the island should stop telling themselves that they need the outside world to show them how to live. Rotumans who live abroad, when they come to visit, need to leave their luxurious lifestyles back in their adopted countries. When visiting the island, don't expect it to change to accommodate your urban lifestyle. Be thankful and grateful for a place to call your own and really mean it.

Mr. Peacock, I can only say that I don't think my ancestors would be very pleased with your ideas. To my fellow Rotumans, I say that we must be wary of outsiders who offer to help us with self-serving schemes, and we should protect what is rightfully ours by every means possible.

Ms. Fakraufon

From Alan Peacock in Christchurch, New Zealand (2 March 2007)

Since Ms. Fakraufon doesn't know me, it seems rather presumptuous of her to claim that the ideas I put forward to assist the people of Rotuma are self-serving. I have family who are Rotuman, and if I have ideas that I think will improve conditions for those who live on the island, why shouldn't I be allowed to express them?

Does she have any idea how many people who live on Rotuma have diabetes resulting from a poor diet? Does she really applaud the lack of funding that results in people having to put up with bad roads, a lack of regular supply vessels, and an airfield that is often unusable? Does she mean to deny people on Rotuma the opportunity to better their lifestyle?

In the real world in which we live, people and administrations  cannot live without an income. The good lady is right when she states there is nowhere on earth like Rotuma, and surely that should be cherished and supported. I, too, hope Rotuma doesn't go down a road that relies on tourism, but all the modern services the island gets via Fiji have to be funded from somewhere. Would she have the people of Rotuma live without electricity, fuel, modern appliances, prompt and effective health care and quality education for Rotuma's children? If she doesn't want Rotumans who live away from the island to help fund these, where does she expect the funding to come from?

Ms. Fakraufon says the people forget what God has given them in the land and the sea. All I am suggesting is that the people of Rotuma, not some foreign companies, should be harvesting those resources and putting the earnings back into supporting the island. Surely she'd agree that this would reduce the reliance on family overseas, which she says is a issue. I've yet to see on these pages anyone else come up with a better idea to make the island self-sufficient for those things that aren't supplied by God, the land or the sea.

I still have sitting here at work an oxygen resuscitation kit that I have been given as a donation for the island of Rotuma. Given that the Fiji Govt wanted me to pay duty of the last $3000 worth of signs that my wife and I donated to the Rotuma hospital, I asked, a year and a half ago, for someone in Rotuma to write to the Fiji Ministry of Health to get a letter excusing duty on this oxygen kit and the other medical supplies I have gathered for the hospital. Perhaps Ms. Fakraufon would care to see if she can get through the red tape in Suva to get the duty rebated, or perhaps she has a better idea on how to gather real assistance for the island and see it distributed.

Self-serving? Many people complain about what is wrong; to me, the proof of concern is what someone is prepared to do about it.

From Pasirio Kitione in Suva (20 April 2007)

Maybe if the forum readers knew Mr. Peacock and his association to the island, things would be much easier to understand. In his first letter he said that there are few fish in the lagoons, but then proposes to operate a fisheries business? The LajeRotuma initiative group may be able to comment on this. Peacock's business plans look big scale; how long before all the lobster, tuna and reef fish become but a story to tell the young of tomorrow?

In regards to poor diets and associated diseases, there is a definite need to train and persuade the people to look after food sources, to correctly harvest and prepare 'balanced diet' meals and to explore and adopt initiatives to sustain the supply and expand the variety of fruit and vegetable sources. This should be the responsibility of the council, assisted by the agriculture, health and education ministry representatives. Directives should go from the council to the chiefs and then to ho'aga to kaunohoga.

The ran papai at Elsio that was buried so Rotuma can have an airstrip is an irreplaceable food source loss to the people of Malha'a. Why was it not shifted further inland to save this food source? Is this the price for economic development and progress?  Plane fare tickets are as high as the flight routes to and from the island. A Rotuman was among the first locals to acquire a foreign going masters merchant navy certificate and many others followed as navigators and engineers yet the island still hasn't a boat of its own.

I believe that the idea of empowering the people to earn is a grand one. The commercial aspect of harvesting must be understood, including the fact that resources are not inexhaustible.   Training is needed so that business is operated within the resource capabilities of the island's system. From copra to cocoa and vanilla, none has remained a reliable revenue source. When I buy 12 coconuts from the market here in Suva for $4 I think of how hard it is to fill a basket of copra for about $2. If the transportation issue can be sorted out, developing and harvesting from the land and sea will provide a sure alternative to the big city, an education and the overcrowded suburbs of a foreign land. One would be able to stay on the island after secondary school to tend the land, to fish and to earn   money from organic produce and fresh seafood sold in the international market. There's a catch though --the international market will demand international standards from producers. If Samoan bananas can be marketed in New Zealand and Tahitian vanilla beans sold to the world, why can't we have a piece of the action as well?

Let the island be the unique holiday destination to its people, let conservation be about what to do at village and family levels, managing waste, protecting the environment and managing harvests. Tour operators will want the sandy beaches for their customers; they will snorkel, scuba dive, trek and produce visible and invisible waste. Tourism will require people to work every day, even Sunday. Tourism will bring strangers and then more strangers. Let the tourists be sons, daughters, families and friends of Rotuma.    

From Monifa Fiu in Suva (20 April 2007)

It is interesting to note that much of the Rotuma development discussion centres around exploratory issues LajeRotuma (LRI) discusses in its environmental awareness/education as well as research/ outreach initiative on Rotuma, and yet LRI is not mentioned. This could mean 1) LRI is not effective in presenting its work to the public. Please note that LRI recently updated its webpage (thanks to Alan and Jan) and its reports have been placed online. LRI may not be messaging its work strongly enough to other stakeholder groups other than the island community.  2) LRI is not effectively showcasing its efforts and how the wider Rotuman community could utilise updated information collected by the team to enhance its understanding of Rotuma today. Since its inception in 2002 from an environmental awareness and education outreach initiative carried out by a group of young people, LajeRotuma has evolved into a multi-disciplinary, integrated approach in its vision and goal to enhance islanders' understanding of their island environment for better mangement of its natural resources. This is an outcome of lessons learnt during its past four years of experience through trial and error with and interacting with our own kinsmen. 
In other words, LRI has collected a lot of baseline information necessary for any potential user interested in Rotuma's development. The baseline information we have produced includes: a socio-economic survey conducted in 2003-2004; community natural resource management workshops conducted between 2002-2005 in Savlei, Juju, Pepjei, Motusa, Tuakoi; the status of coral reef monitoring (and linked inshore fisheries potential) annually 2002, 2004, 2006.
It is near the end of Phase 2 for LajeRotuma and its outreach message in primary schools and communities on Rotuma remains strong despite persisting challenges such as the eyesore of the grounded vessel at Oinafa wharf!

So I would encourage considering LajeRotuma as an essential group that could provide baseline information which can prove useful for anyone exploring development options in Rotuma. Considering the current economic climate in the world, I believe Rotuma has potential for development; however, we must sustainably manage our island's ecological, environmental and cultural heritage. The question of how is what most of us involved in LajeRotuma Initiative strive to understand including how to  mainstream this thinking down to the village level, so that it is reflected in planning activities and LRI's outreach program on Rotuma. 
Monifa Fiu ( LajeRotuma contact)

From Pasirio Kitione in Nadera, Suva

It seems that the concerns of the common people are insignificant and go unheeded when politicians and bureaucrats implement strategic plans to assist rural communities. Is damage to fruit trees (many were cut down), mahogany and sa'aga — plants that have sustained the people of Hapmak — the price for a high voltage line above their heads till the end of days? What happened to that underground line, the result of the back-breaking work of digging done by the males of the communities? A work that many involved in were proud of, in that unlike Suva and the big cities, there were no dangerous live lines exposed for people to worry about. Why was the community ignored and not involved in the discussion of such an important issue? Why is the decision of overhead powerlines made by just the community and government department leaders? Why should the people keep quiet, shut up and allow such ill-informed, economic based and non-inclusive decisions to be implemented? Why should the people allow their lives and that of future generations to be subjected to a safety risk that can be addressed and prevented today? Why can’t the interest, safety and well-being of the community take precedence over all else?     

From Pasirio Kitione in Nadera, Suva (7 November 2010)

When the airstrip was completed, a board was put up at the end of the runway with 1400 meters painted in red on it. The people of Elsio lost the lag hanue, access to a well (they say it draws the cleanest and sweetest fresh water and that the village of Malha'a drink from). Daily after school chores of feeding the pigs and gathering firewood also included the occasional footrace across the gravel strip from the airport landcruiser; as youngsters we thought it was daring and great fun.

Thirty-one years on and the news of another 20 meters for the airstrip together with the ten or so meters cleared for the power poles makes news, sad news. The questions are many. Why the extra 40 metres? Why the power poles? Why an international airport? Why the name Bainimarama? Why are the buses rusting and rotting away? Why the buried wells? There maybe a simple reason for it all; the people want what 'others' have—development, market access and opportunity. The government in its quest to make sense and reason of her loans and taxes, provides the funding and pushes the social and economic benefits that such projects will create, In return it requires land—land that Rotuma does not have, especially 'Elsio.

What is of little value will be of no great loss. Derek Derenalagi, the Brittish army soldier from Nawaka on Close Up tonight (11/7), tells of how 'he values life now'. Rotuma and her people need a Derek-like leader to protect her interests, heritage and natural beauty. With the rate of progress and priorities on the island today, we are fast catching up to some of our Pacific neighbours; we will also have contaminated lagoons and dying coral reefs (if it's not happening already) because of the rubbish created from business—how it is disposed—and the push for diesel fuel generation. The trade-offs are immense and controversial: jet engines and little land, businesses and bigger landfills, fluorescent lights and shadeless open roads, and a foreign named facilityforeign funded in your own 'foreign' home island.

From Yvonne Aitu SuniaMafileo in Manteca, California (8 November 2010)

Pasirio Kitione has made a realistic, genuine point of what will happen to our island Rotuma and her future developments if Rotumans themselves do not speak up. And of course, like any other activity, the actual "doing" part of this will determine our ocean, water management, pollution, cultural development, language and other developments. The day has arrived (or passed) that the members of the Rotuma Island Council need to weigh the possibilities of what kinds of progress Rotuma will deem acceptable. Like Pasirio mentioned, with the onset of gasoline generators, the islanders want progress (just like how the rest of us enjoy our lives in very modern facilities at the expense of this planet)… they want electricity and other services permanently! Sadly, the idea that "what's over there" is always better - it's not! You're thinking: easy for me to say, right!? Welcome to life's paradoxes!

Imagine the idea of an "International Airport." It is such an enthralling concept for your typical villager - how about that: Rotuma will be accessible to the world! And will the Rotuma Island Council name every new development after the investor? Outrageous as it may seem, but Rotuman chiefs are only doing what the rest of the world is doing - money talks, as your kau iomag kau might say.

The Rotuma Island Council must not be aware of the number of Rotumans in Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada who certainly have sent sufficient remittances back to Rotuma. Perhaps the idea of collaboration (inclusion of Rotumans globally) can be introduced to the Rotuma Island Council so as to make adequate use of the Internet, which is available to the island - want the modern times? let's Skype! I don't know that if I were to return to Rotuma and to offer what assistance I may have to our elders if they would be willing to even lend me their time. I could easily be written off as a "child" and one who has been gone too long to know traditional Rotuman customs and etiquette. But just like Pasirio said, this could easily happen, soon, ". . . jet engines and little land, businesses and bigger landfills, fluorescent lights and shadeless open roads, and a foreign named facility foreign funded in your own 'foreign' home island!"

From Pasepa Hiagi Emosi from Solmena, Malhaha (9 December 2010)

Gou fup se Rotuma ma gou kat mao'akia ra 'os Otmote Rotuma. 'Is alalum pau 'is leum e Rotuma po e tela'a ma tonu ia te fuamomou. Is kat vara 'e ta teet. 'is kat a'foira ta le'et 'ea ia noh sog, ne ta te raksa' ne 'is a'foi soksok 'e Fiti ma Hanua helava sokoen e Rotuma.

'Is kat rae'era alalum rourout gagaja na se 'is kamatama e kamataga ma hele'umea se on 'i'i. 'Is kat noh fea ra, 'is noh 'oaf'oaf pau 'e 'os hanua. Gagaja na se'os pear lelei rourout la 'is la hao te ma 'es'ao'ek a'lelei.

Te'et gou rae, 'e av hete moea Mor ta ti' fuamomou famori pak (pack) mori ma na se Fiti ma tog'ak, vohiag ne moea morta hele'um se 'on 'i'i 'ae kat raera ta mor fuamomout 'e 'os Otmote Rotuma. Mori la' la ofien.

Figalelei, gou 'inea te ma'oi pau 'is pa'es la fu'ak (upgrade) se 'os Otmote ka kop la 'inea on lelei ma on raksa' ne te'e. Mone (Money)ma noh lelei ia teet is kop la a'hae a'totoak ma haifaegag se'. Te ma'oi 'is po la re la po selen se os otmote Rotuma ka kat mane'ak ra 'os hanua ma nohnoho.

E av het RCA ta fu 'e Rotuma gou 'inea gou le' rak het 'e avheta'ag. Famori noh lelei pau, Haharagi kat la' ti' ra se Fiti po 'e iris garue e RCA ta. Gou kel se fup haharag ta keleag lelei pau ka manea' sor pau. E av ne Kesmas (Christmas) ta ho' ma famori la' se RCA ta la tikoia 'oris vaevae fup ta (Dividend from the shares). Rotuma keleag lelei, ka hoi e haharag keleag lelei (fa ma haina).

A'haet leum se gou kepoi ka 'is hugag'esea la saea ta koroat fak se RCA ta ma rak'ak te(train) se 'os haharag ne otmote Rotuma la garue'ak business ta. Re fakma se re het Wilson Inia re se 'is famor Rotuma.

Gou inea kat 'es ta le'et ne noh e Rotuma e av het RCA ta fu e la 'ea ne ia kat (benefit)ra 'e koroa ta. Famor 'atakoa rae 'on lelei ma 'on 'es'ao se Otmote Rotuma.

Te'is a'hae het gou rak'akiof la hoiasoag se 'os Otmota.

From Henry Enasio in Ahau, Rotuma (7 January 2011) ‘Ut‘akia Rotuma Download PDF

From Henry Enasio in Suva (28 May 2012) Ways To Fund Rotuma's Development Projects Download PDF


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