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Rotuma Investments Limited

Note from Alan & Jan (24 October 2003): When we were in Fiji in June 2003 we learned that a company, Rotuma Investments Limited, had been formed to develop projects on behalf of the Rotuman people. We were curious about the goals of the company as well as its structure and submitted to its Board of Directors a set of questions with the understanding that their answers would be posted on this website. The Board's answers to our questions are below. The Directors have told us that the Board would be happy to provide additional details or to clarify any issues relating to the Company.

At the time of our inquiry the composition of the Board was as follows:

Paul Manueli, Chair
John Tevita, Secretary and Managing Director
Kafoa Muaror (legal counsel)
Sakaraia Tuilakepa (accountant)
Terence Erasito (engineer)
Victor Fatiaki (shipping)
Dr. John Fatiaki
Gagaj Maraf Solomone (Rotuma Council)
Visanti Makrava (Rotuma Council)
Marieta Rigamoto was attending meetings as an observer

From the Board of Rotuma Investments Limited (24 October 2003)

Questions and Answers about Rotuma Investments Limited

1. What is Rotuma Investments Limited?

RIL is a corporate entity that was duly registered on 20 July 2001 with the Registrar of Companies. Ninety-nine percent of RIL is owned by the Council of Rotuma; the additional one percent is held in trust by the Chairman of the Council.

2. Why was the Company formed?

The Company was formed on behalf of the Council as a vehicle for carefully considering viable commercial projects/ventures for the benefit of the Rotuman people.

3. What are the purposes of the Company?

Through its directors RIL will consider various investment options in the areas of properties, shipping, retail outlets, agricultural, and fishing projects. The Company operates on a commercial basis and will develop business or investment projects that of economic and social benefit to the Rotuman people collectively.

4. How is Rotuma Investments different from the Seven District Organization?

RIL is a business venture for the Rotuman people that operates on a commercial basis whereas the Seven District Organization is a Committee comprising of representatives from each of the seven districts in Suva that is responsible for the welfare of the Rotuman communities living in Suva. To maintain the link between RIL and the Committee, the Chairman of the Seven District Committee attends RIL Board meetings as an observer.

5. Who runs the Company? How is it organized?

The Company is currently managed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Council of Rotuma. The Board regularly meets every two to three weeks to discuss and decide on company matters.

6. How much are the Directors paid?

The Directors are not paid any money for their services and time to the Company. Since May this year, the Secretary is paid a monthly allowance because of the volume of work required.

7. Are there any projects in the works?

The first project to be undertaken by the Company is a proposed office complex on the island to accommodate all the branches of government ministries/departments that are based in Rotuma. The planning and designs for the office complex have been completed and construction is expected to start soon. The building should be completed by the end of the year.

8. Where is the money coming from to fund this project?

The Company has applied for a loan from the Fiji Development Board to finance this office complex in Rotuma. This loan will be serviced from the rent due from the complex. The Company earlier received from Government through the Council a grant of $100,000, which has been deposited with the bank as its working capital.

9. What long-term plans does the Company have?

At part of its long-term plans, the Company is looking at developing properties in Suva for office accommodation either on its own or in partnership with other provinces. The Company is aware of the need for a retail outlet in Rotuma to provide regular and reasonably priced goods for the people. It has therefore started discussions with one of the main retail supermarkets here in Suva. Shipping services to and from the island are also under consideration and a sub-committee consisting of representatives from the Company and the Seven Districts Committee is working on the subject.

From Captain Fuata Pene Jione (26 October 2003)

In the last two years that I have spent in Fiji and Rotuma I have observed that the services provided by Government for the Rotuman people and the Rotuma Council have deteriorated.

Main roads

The roads in Rotuma are worse than they have ever been in the past. Big craters are found everywhere around the island after periods of heavy rain. Government officials have made many promises to upgrade and improve the roads, but to date nothing has been done. This despite three visits in one year by top officials of the Government.

In 2001, as a private operator in Rotuma, I purchased equipment to have on hire for road maintenance to the tune of $150,000, at the request of the Public Works Department in Suva. Prior to this, the Government of Fiji had been lobbying the Rotuma Island Council to provide machinery on hire to Government for such purpose. Sadly, the proposal was turned down by the Rotuma Island Council. When this project came about Rotuma Investment Limited was in its infant stage; unfortunately the Council Chairman was given the authority to stop the project. This was revealed to me by way of correspondence from the Ministry of Works and the Rotuman Representative in Government. The Government of Fiji does not have the financial means to properly maintain the roadwork machinery and equipment that are needed to keep the roads on Rotuma in good condition.

Ever since I was a kid I have always been fascinated with the shipping of goods to and from Fiji in those old old decrepit seagoing vessels that take two to three days to get to Rotuma and three to four days to unload and load. It made me determined to pursue a maritime career and to return one day to Rotuma in order to improve these services.

In 2001, after supposedly getting the Public Works contract off the ground, I wrote to the Rotuma Island Council and put forward a proposal to inject $100,000 of my own money to start up a shipping service to Rotuma in partnership with the Rotuma Island Council (the Government), the seven districts of Rotuma, and other interested Rotumans who would like to participate. I put a lot of research into it, and with my extensive experience in maritime affairs and some liquid assets to inject into such a project, I submitted a copy of my proposal to Rotuma Investment Ltd. The project was turned down by Rotuma Investment Limited without proper consultation. I was told by one of the Board members that he did not consider it a viable project and that the Board has accepted his assessment.

Rotuma Schools

The principal of Rotuma High School, John Tanu, was transferred to Fiji in a move I believe is detrimental to the development of the High School. Tanu ran the school very efficiently.


There were reports this year that the hospital in Rotuma was unable to run its generator because the fuel was not paid for. It is interesting that Mobil has a depot in Rotuma and yet the Government station cannot purchase fuel directly from a local supplier who needs the business to continue to survive in Rotuma.

In my own assessment of Rotuma’s future I have the following to say:

To begin with, history plays an important role in charting anyone's future.

In commercial terms, one must look at business ventures that will have a sustainable market for Rotuma. Copra has been the major export item for Rotuma and this was very well managed by the Rotuma Cooperative Association under the directorship of the late Wilson Inia. I can remember as a kid from a big family that our income was sufficient to get by in those days. With my father working when vessels arrived at Rotuma the income and goods paid for services were quite adequate. At the end of the year every copra supplier got a bonus share from RCA that was enough to buy clothes and school uniforms, and to meet Christmas festival needs. Following Wilson Inia’s death the co-operative faded away to nothing.

Raho Enterprise then took over and attempted to woo customers, but this venture collapsed when the National Bank of Fiji collapsed.

Today we see the emergence of the Rotuma Council venturing into business with public money. The idea behind it is no different to what has been carried out in the past. My thoughts on this are as follows:

1. I believe that in business no one should work for nothing, including RIL’s directors and the Council of Rotuma. For a business to succeed it must properly account for
the man hours put into the planning, project, and operational phases.

2. Starting a business with a high debt/equity ratio is risky to say the least.

3. The directors meeting to run the firm is not enough. For any company to succeed it needs to put in hundreds of man hours day in day out.

I think neither foreign investors nor any Rotuman can be successful in helping the people of Rotuma because the current leadership in Fiji and Rotuma are only doing things for political gain and not for the long-term future of a self-reliant Rotuma. In the last twelve months the government vessel has travelled three times to Rotuma at a total cost of $100,000, all for political gain while burdening the poor people who gather each time to entertain visiting government officials.

My passion to bring about change in Rotuma has burned out as a result of the thwarting of my good intentions and the financial losses I suffered, but I wish the people behind Rotuma Investment Ltd well in their efforts to bring about something good for the people of Rotuma.

Captain Fuata Pene Jione
Kumul Marine Terminal
Papua New Guinea

From Foraete Epinisi Jione (13 November 2003)

I would like to first acknowledge the contributions of Captain Fuata Jione of 23rd October and his good intentions to bring about changes to the people of Rotuma. It is a pity that such good deeds and offers of assistance are simply ignored and brought to a disappointing and sad ending for him. However, I think the once retired good captain is only to blame himself for his inability to work with the leaders in the community and also Government due to certain remarks in the past that I am reliably told has offended and insulted those people. I believe that any potential foreign investor, or any Rotuman for that matter, must work together with the people in authority as it is all part of the necessary mechanisms to enable a successful establishment. I am pleased to note that Captain Jione has accepted the fact that it is the Chairman of the Rotuma Council that stopped his project and not his own family that stuffed it up.

Main Roads

I have noted during my recent visits that the roads in Rotuma are not really that bad, although conditions worsen when there is a heavy downpour of rain on the island. I remember meeting a New Zealander who worked for Highway Stabilisers; he briefed us on one of their road upgrading projects in Tuvalu in which cement and lime, together with sand, was mixed and used to seal the road. I believe that such a project can work in Rotuma. It might reduce the need to use heavy machinery to grade and level our volcanic rocky roads. We have an abundance of sand in Islepi and I think that all that needs to be done is to place a thick cover from such mixture over the road with allowance for suitable drainage. I have no doubt that it is a cost effective project that would suit the island.

Rotuma Investment Limited

I think credit must be given to the people who are working for such an establishment and giving up their limited time and resources. I urge the Rotuman community to support Rotuma Investment Limited and pray that the Board members will uphold the principles of good governance.

Government Trips to Rotuma

I am pleased to note that the Government has not completely forgotten us as shown by their frequent visits to Rotuma. I also note that such visits come with some Government assistance and not solely for political gains etc. There has been some notable assistance for our village in Itu’muta, such the community hall and the rural electrification which was made possible with the help of Government. I believe that there are further projects in the pipeline for Itu’muta, such as to repair the water catchment. I therefore urge Captain Jione to be realistic and visit the island again, to fix the family problems and not simply hurl criticisms at every opportunity. I have noted comments from the Prime Minister that the Government cannot please everyone; therefore we should appreciate every opportunity that comes our way and not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

God bless Rotuma and its people.

Foraete Epinisi Jione
Fiji Islands

From Jo Susau (16 November 2003)

This is just a remark concerning the postings of Foraete Epinisi Jione (13 November 2003) and Captain Fuata Pene Jione (26 October 2003). Firstly I am a part Rotuman and I have been there quite a few times now, so I hope that you don't mind me commenting on your separate views. Captain Fuata Pene Jione has taken a chunky bite out of the problems concerning Rotuma, with which I agree, and Foraete Epinisi Jione has, although with good intentions, turned right around and bit him. You both, as do all Rotumans, want a better future for Rotuma and her people. But that isn't going to happen, as F. E. Jione mentioned, unless we work together and try to understand each other. Instead of biting each others’ backs, just scratch it. I scratch your back, you scratch my back. And I have to disagree with you, F.P. Jione, about one thing. "When a flame dies from each burning twig of a fire, it will slowly but eventually kill it." One should never lose their burning flame for their homeland, for it is what keeps the homeland burning strong. Well, now you must be wondering what will I ever contribute to the island. Well, I am currently a biomed student, and hopefully when I graduate I will return to Rotuma to help it in one form or another.

Jo Susau

From Foraete Epinisi Jione (18 November 2003)

This is a follow-up to my letter of 13 November 2003, and also in response to Jo Susau’s latest contribution. I was compelled to bite Captain Jione because I felt that he was being ungrateful and insensitive, especially toward Government’s efforts to serve and assist the people of Rotuma. Such irresponsible comments on sensitive matters of national concern can seriously affect Government’s commitment to the people of Rotuma. I think Captain Jione should be grateful, as it was the assistance of Government in the past that enabled him to advance his career and interests overseas. Therefore he should give credit where credit is due. In fact things are really not that bad on the island; there has been some notable and progressive developments in Rotuma just recently.

I agree with Captain Jione that history plays an important role in charting anyone’s future, especially with regard to our homeland. However, we must not allow ourselves to dwell on the past or to cry over spilled milk. We must put our differences aside and work together for our own benefit. We must also be passionate and sincere in all our efforts to help out, and we do so with a genuine desire in our hearts to see it through.

I therefore urge Captain Jione to refrain from making such comments that can mislead and deceive the public—especially Rotumans who live abroad. It is very important that our comments and criticisms on matters of interest to Rotuma be done in a constructive and respectful manner so that we do not offend anyone, especially Government. They have been trying to do so much with a very limited budget.

Foraete Epinisi Jione
Fiji Islands

From Captain Fuata Pene Jione (19 November 2003)

Firstly, not many Rotumans will put their hard earned money where their mouth is.

Secondly, The people of Rotuma, the leaders, and any prospective investor must not be caught up with emotional issues and ignore the realities of life and the plight of the people of Rotuma because that is where Rotuma will remain, and you and I will continually hear cries of poverty and suffering.

Why do I have so much to say even though I can do very little to help the plight of the people of Rotuma?

Developments for the People of Rotuma

The wharf at Oinafa
Millions of dollars have been wasted, yet it is a maritime disaster waiting to happen. There were some concerned individuals who earlier this year raised the prospect of an individual being killed during Ro/Ro vessel movement at the Oinafa wharf. It is also a natural disaster for the foreshores of Oinafa, which require further government investment to contain erosion.

Telecommunications system
Whilst it is state of the art network it is too expensive for the ordinary Rotuman.

Community halls for each district
These have been an expensive exercise for the communities and also for the Government. According to my calculation it costs over $100,000 dollars to construct, let alone maintenance costs in the future. The original hall at Itu’muta was demolished and another is nearing completion. I find it hard to find see such buildings as of value to the ordinary Rotuman other than a meeting place or a nightclub venue.

Water supply
A central water supply system was commissioned where users have to pay. My sources say that payments for services are inadequate, which is the direct result of a poor and inconsistent water supply. The water catchment at Itu’muta that once operated efficiently somehow went out of service. Another project of importance goes unattended and remains a landmark.

A bank that was established in the mid eighties disappeared when the National Bank of Fiji collapsed.

Copra drying facilities
Since RCA collapsed a lot of the fixtures for drying copra were left to the mercy of mother nature. New copra drying facilities were funded by Government assistance and you will find today a lot are again being left at the mercy of mother nature.

Schools in Rotuma
Today many schools are closed down due to lack of children attending school. The dropout rate in schools is very high. In my time dropping out at school was not on. The community leaders and the Government officials enforced compulsory schooling up to age 16 years. Today you will find youths dropping out at school from the primary stage and not being able to find employment or develop the land to generate an income.

The feeder roads to access copra plantations inland were kept clean and cleared for trucks to access and collect copra. Today you will see bushland only metres from residential areas.

New office complex at Ahau for Rotuma Investment
What is wrong with reparing those beautiful colonial homes which are of importance to Rotuma’s history rather than building high rise complexes. Any new building needs to be maintained; otherwise it becomes an eyesore.

Seawall at Pepjei
Another underplanned project, now wasted away by forces of nature. Such large amounts of money should have been properly planned to meet its target.

My development project, submissions, and financial investment in Rotuma were an attempt to correct some of the mistakes made in the past. Having said that, it is imperative that responsibility and commitment is sought from the people of Rotuma and its leaders. In fact it was suggested to me by prominent members of the Rotuma Council that I provide financial incentives for the seven chiefs of Rotuma and/or apologise in order to have such projects proceed in Rotuma. That is what put me off, because you must sweat first before you will see the fruits of your hard work. Today you will not see Fuata Jione hanging around.

Anywhere you mix with people there are certain things that will be said that you and I will not like or agree with, and quite often the truth hurts.

The main issue facing Rotuma today is the lack of development projects that will enhance or improve the disposable income of ordinary Rotumans on the island. If you look at the projects above, none of them is meeting that target. The demands from Rotuma to the outside world will continue unless projects intended to benefit ordinary Rotumans are well balanced.

This year, in recognition of the assistance of the Government of Fiji towards my professional career, I applied to become the Head of the Maritime School in Fiji to bring it up to international standards, even on a salary that will not meet my personal needs. This never materialised, and now I am enjoying the best employment opportunity in my maritime career in another developing country (PNG) with conditions of work and pay that Fiji cannot afford.

I do not mean to offend any individual or organisation, but I am proud to place on record the facts. Any good leader will take note and do the right thing for the poor ordinary people who put them into Government or a position of leadership in the community.

As for retirement, when one opportunity closes another chapter in my life opens up. I am not in the business of “you scratch my back and I scratch your back.” My motto for success goes like this: "If it does not add value get rid of it."

Capt Fuata Jione.

From Foraete Jione (21 November 2003)

This is in reply to some of the issues highlighted in Captain Jiones latest commetns of 19 November 2003.

The wharf at Oinafa and Pepjei sea-wall:
I disagree with Captain Jione’s remarks about these two projects. In fact I was part of the PWD team in Rotuma that worked on these projects during its construction phase. In regards to the wharf, I was reliably informed by the team leader that it involves several phases and work can only be done on the availability of projected funds.

a. The first phase, as we have all seen during visits to Rotuma, was completed around March of 2003.

b. The second phase of the project was to build a wave breaker (sea-wall) alongside the landing ramp to extend further to the open ocean to provide some form of shelter and relief when ships are at anchor. I think part of the wharf project was still to be completed and on hold because of the urgent need to construct a temporary sea-wall at Pepjei to help ease the problem there.

Although these projects are not completed to Captain Jione’s expectation one must remember that Government is indeed trying the best it can to address the plight of the poor Rotumans on the island. Secondly, we are not the only ones in need of attention here in Fiji. This same PWD team was also needed at Koro and Taveuni to work on similar projects that requires Government assistance.

The decision to build the wharf at Oinafa was not entirely the Government’s. I think it was decided by the leaders of Rotuma during the time RCA was in operation as simply a matter of convenience, and to commercially support the Co-op (reduce cartage and storage costs). I was told that to shift the facility elsewhere would be a costly exercise and the only solution is to make minor adjustments and improvements to the existing facility as we have noted recently. I therefore suggest that Government consider putting up the second phase to help alleviate the problems.

I understand that there was a near accident last year as a result of bad weather conditions. I have no maritime experience, but I think every sea captain will agree with me that if one encounters such risky situations, they should always regard the safety of passengers and that of the ship by not taking risks, while seeking safe alternative arrangements. We have no control over mother nature; however, we can avoid such accidents from happening since such weather conditions do not happen every day throughout the entire year.

In fact the wharf facility itself is really not the only issue. We should also look at the ships that are now servicing Rotuma. These ships are merely designed for stern ramping as compared to the ones in the olden days that berth alongside with built in facilities to handle cargo. I think the problem can be rectified by either completing the second phase, as explained earlier, or by installing a permanent crane at the wharf so that ships can berth alongside the wharf, which would be much safer during unfavourable conditions.

However, there is a major issue that we all have to seriously consider today, and that is global warming and the effects of a rising sea-level. I believe that this is fast becoming a major problem, especially in the Pacific region. The dangerous effects of global warming and rising sea level is now evident in Tuvalu and other low-lying islands. I have no doubt that it is a major contributing factor to the on-going problems at Oinafa and Pepjei. I once jokingly told some of the villages (Pepjei) during a grog session that they should start thinking seriously about moving further inland or have PWD re-direct the main road away from the shoreline. I believe that moving these villages (Pepjei & Tuakoi) further inland is the only solution, because the sea level will continue to rise. No amount of tough or solid sea wall structure can protect or withstand this man made natural disaster. This is a major disaster that is not entirely the fault of Government, but it is important for us Rotumans to take the initiative and help out.

Telecommunication System:
I agree that such a network is indeed expensive to use. However, we have seen a vast improvement from the system we had in the past. I think we need use common sense here by simply using it only when necessary, thus avoiding the high costs. The reason for installing such a network was due to the fact that Rotuma was too isolated from the major centres and satellite communication is regarded as the favoured option.

Water Supply:
The problems regarding the water systems were solved during the presence of a Government team from Mineral Resources last year. However, there are reports that the water level in the catchment area is decreasing and I suspect it is related to the effects of global warming and the El Niño phenomena. These disasters have a serious effect on the water levels, and we are noticing longer periods of drought/dryness and fewer heavy rainfalls in Rotuma. This is the reason why the water catchment in Itu’muta was going to be activated--because we cannot rely entirely on the major sources. I think this issue was addressed in Parliament by the Minister for Works on his latest visit to Rotuma this year. In fact, he praised the Rotuman people on the island for helping out and taking initiatives by using sea water as an alternative for bathing during times of water shortage.

Recommended Solution: I believe we must consider installing de-salination plants in Rotuma as an alternative solution to the on-going problem. I have also noticed on my recent visits to Rotuma that the underground wells are beginning to taste salty as a result of the alleged rise in sea level. The other problem, I believe, is the non payment of water bills in Rotuma. There have been reports that a substantial amount is owing on unpaid bills. I think it is very important for Rotumans to contribute by paying bills, because it is needed to cover fuel and maintenance costs to keep the system running. If the Government decides to come down hard on unpaid bills, it will only hurt the poor innocent Rotumans on the island. These poor people have enjoyed and benefited from Governments assistance and generosity over the years so please lets not take that away.

I hope my contribution to this discussion makes sense and contributes to the benefit of Rotuma. The problems and concerns on the island are not simply an opportunity for us to criticise, but for us to work together by sharing our views and ideas in resolving them.

Foraete Jione.

From Makarite Torike Wong (25 November 2003)

It is with great interest that I read the articles on the Rotuman Website’s Forum pages and Bulletin Board. I have to say I feel sad that as a Rotuman born in Fiji who migrated overseas in 1990, I have made so few contributions to my people on the island and in Fiji. I guess the only thing I can do is to help students in my line of work who wish to pursue careers in accounting and finance here in Sydney.

On a recent trip to Fiji I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with the accountant on the Board of Rotuma Investments Limited and to learn (from other Rotumans in Suva) just how much my husband's best friend has done for the Rotuman community. I wish to applaud his efforts and those of the Board members who have given up their time to pursue this business venture. It is so nice to see Rotumans in their various professional capacities come together to give something back to the community.

I would also like to say that if there is anything I can do to contribute to my fellow Rotumans on the Board, I am willing to be of assistance. I know God will richly bless everyone who has had very good intentions towards our people wherever we may be. So may we all go forward in peace and harmony.

Kind Regards to All

Makarite Torike Wong

From Henry Enasio (13 December 2003)

One of the things that I passionately do on a weekly basis is access this website to read about what's happening back home and in our Rotuma-wide community. I have done this since Alan and Jan set up the website but have refrained from commenting on some of the very topical issues that are dear to my heart until this.

Education has been a marvel that opened our eyes to a lot of things, especially the standard of living in the Western World. Those of us who have travelled or left Rotuma to live in Fiji and overseas will understand the metamorphosis we went through when we embraced different life styles. It was an astronomical change to accomplish, but like everyone else we are not satisfied and aspired for more for ourselves and our children, as in Maslow's pyramid of self actualisation. Suffice to say that some Rotumans do really well at accomplishing this, and good luck to them. However, those of us who have experienced the good life tend to conveniently forget or ignore the financial constraints and economy to scale that confronts Rotuma.

Thus my great curiosity and interest in Rotuma Investments Limited, which I believe will be beneficial to Rotuma and the community. Their aims and purposes are good, and with proper execution we'll see great things happen in the near future. I know all the Board Members and they come with a lot experience and a wealth of business acumen to offer the community. Why not give them a chance and harness that experience to set up a business, either alone or in tandem with them?

The record in Rotuma of how to run a successful business is pathetic. It is needless for me to name all the failed businesses in Rotuma, but the lesson is that there is a need for assistance and good advice, which Rotuma Investments Limited can provide. Without good advice, assistance, and direction, it's going to be very difficult, and a struggle, for most aspiring business owners who might be setting up shop for the first time.

Allow me to briefly share two stories in support of my interest in Rotuma Investments Limited:

1. My childhood mate's father, Mr Amrit Lal, was a very good businessman, but he lost most of his fortune in Rotuma. I vividly remember his parting words when the family left Rotuma to settle in Nadi: "Rotumans like to tinau but don't like to repay their tinau."

2. Fuata mentioned the Rotuma Cooperative Association. Its success basically rested with the dynamics and business acumen of the late Senator Wilson Inia. His foresight and astute business mind saw the growth and expansion of the RCA, which forced The Morris Hedstrom and Burns Phillip to close doors in Rotuma. Senator Inia was tough on tinau and taught that a business is a separate entity from the owner. Thus for a business to be successful in Rotuma, the owner and all the kainaga can not be mixed up with it. Otherwise it is a recipe for failure. This wisdom of this advice is very evident when you work for a company or for someone else. The habit of far te and tinau makes it difficult to conform with this good advice about tinau, for fear of being ostracised by the kainaga and friends. It's cruel but true that people only want to know you when you have money or something they want. Its a very sorrowful sight when I see kainaga and friends flee the owners of these failed businesses without hesitation or a second thought. Hence the reason why I believe that aspiring business owners will need Rotuma Investments Limited to avoid some of the obvious and historical pitfalls.

I have read Fuata and Forate's comments and though they have interesting and opposing views, the crux of the matter is the welfare of Rotuma and the community. It is interesting and quite heartening to read their concerns and to realise that what they said was in an effort to help develop Rotuma. Thus I see a great future for Rotuma, but it will only happen if we can work together as one. When this ingredient of unity is available, greater things will happen. We'll see improvements, upgrades to infrastructure, and some of the things these two gentlemen have been discussing.

Financial assistance is available for Rotumans from overseas aid for community projects. Affluent countries are obligated under the UN Chart to provide overseas aid to the poorer and less affluent countries for community projects. Such assistance is available, but it needs to be applied for; the Council and Rotuma Investments Limited can help facilitate the process.
Let us work in unison with the Council and Rotuma Investments Limited to scale the heights for the development and the betterment of Rotuma.

Alalum 'e Kesmas ta ma Fa Fo'ou ta

Henry Enasio
Sydney Australia

From Tevita Katafono (15 December 2003)

Noa’ia to all Rotumans

Interesting to me was the rather heated debate witnessed lately on this site with regard to the so-called development of our island and its people. I can’t help but suspect that the combatants, if you may, are somehow related and hence the underlying emotions, but nevertheless I find merit in the subject matter and some of the arguments.

It seems to me that there is an overwhelming desire by the younger Rotumans especially, to give back to Rotuma what they believe they owe to their place of origin and their people. This probably stems from our cultural practice of reciprocity and the pride within each of us to lift all our fellow Rotumans to our perceived level of good living. These are very educated young Rotumans, perhaps trained overseas, and bringing with them different viewpoints and goals, adhering to new principles and ideals. There are those who are like rugby spectators, full of expert advise but never willing to take part, and others who charge into the field beaming with their youthful enthusiasm and high ideals, only to be disappointed with life’s reality on the island. Then there are the very few who actually back the rhetoric with their "own hard cash," as Cpt. F.J put it and I applaud these few.

I think it is important to remember that when one’s personal financial well-being is at stake then naturally you should expect that he/she would step on a few toes along the way. I can empathise with Cpt. F.J having to manoeuvre his way through the politics of the island’s Council, a battle it seems he was never destined to win. I am not ignorant of the fact that Cpt. F.J himself would have a small profit had he won the contract to build and maintain the roads in the island, and deservedly so; after all, it was his initiative and cash. There seems to be no shortage of others who propose to do good for Rotuma using Government grants, but they have little to show for it, in some cases nothing.

The question that should be asked is whether a review of the system of decision making in our Council is needed. It would help if there were more transparency and public debate, with all vested interests identified and heard, before important decisions are made that will cost a substantial amount of money. I agree with some of the reservations expressed by F.I.J. about certain protocols one is expected to observe when dealing with the leaders of the Council--a degree of humility and patience that may help one’s cause. This is the island way: the gentle-gentle approach--yes sir, three bags full sir--but ever so pressing your point forward. Unfortunately, this island approach can be discouraging to commercial realists, but I urge the likes of Cpt. F.J.-- those who have entrepreneurial skills and capital--not to give up on the good people of Rotuma.

In all the years while I grew up in Rotuma I would describe the conditions of our main road as fair at best. Perhaps fair is a bit generous, depending on the time of the year, for as we who have lived in the island know, after heavy rains there were serious craters in the roads. These craters would exist till the PWD repaired them with compacted sand, an endless resource, and just as well for we all know (including the good people in PWD), that its only good till the next downpour. Futile, some may protest, a waste of public money, but as far as I am concerned its done the job thusfar. Yes, I agree that a better method of repair should be implemented. However, I would argue that in the list of priority projects concerning the island, education and health are by far the most important, with transportation to Fiji a close third.

There seems to be issues regarding the safety of the wharf. This I believe is a high cost item, money that's diverted from the endless list of must do things in the island. Given Rotuma’s aging population, coupled with a changing lifestyle, it would be prudent to start investing a great proportion of government grants in our hospital. Its upgrading and proper staffing are well overdue. There is a direct relationship between lifestyle trends and health. Currently there is an increase in cases of diabetes, heart-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, and liver-related diseases. This is a health trend not unique to our island, but prevalent in all South Pacific islands. It is a serious issue amongst Polynesians living in the cities of New Zealand. New Zealand is a far cry from our humble island, but if you had lived in Rotuma in the 70’s and you returned today, you would no doubt witness a big change in the daily diet, which now consists mainly of over-the-counter foods, not the infamous fast foods of the city, but the processed, low grade imported canned foods and frozen high fat content "lamb"--more like mutton disguised as lamb. These consumer habits are not entirely wrong (after all, why can’t they eat what they want, why not indeed), but I believe there should be public awareness and education regarding the consequences of the over dependence on processed foods.

Another worrying trend I observed in my last visit was the over-consumption of kava. In almost all the functions I attended during my visit there was always that ubiquitous kava bowl presided over by a group of young and old men alike, most of whom have had one too many bowls of kava, displaying all the symptoms of substance abuse. Most alarming was the young age of some of these boys, as young as 15 yrs, a very early age to embark on a fruitless pastime of self-destruction. Now if I can be excused for over-simplifying the situation to make a point, if our youth are indulging in kava and our ever increasing aging population is dependent on processed foods, then there will be some serious health issues to be dealt with in the future. Of course its not all gloom and doom in the island, and I may be condescending in my views, but most would agree that over consumption of anything is not good.

There is an underlying factor in these trends in lifestyle and I believe it may have something to do with the increasing level of remittances flowing into the island from Fiji and overseas. This is another fine example of our cultural practice of reciprocity, caring for parents and family back in the island. This is something we all have taken part in. I have no doubt that the disposable income of the average family in Rotuma today is at least three times that of a family in the 70s, for as Rotumans are achieving higher levels of education they are getting better paid jobs and are sending larger amounts of money to their families back in the island. There is also the fact that more Rotumans are living overseas who, due to far better opportunities and wages, are able to send substantial financial assistance back home. Is this a bad thing? Of course not; how else can we provide assistance to our loved ones. We are in fact contributing in a small way to this remittance-propped economy, helping the small businesses on the island, generating income for a few. Its inevitable that lifestyles will change when disposable income increases accompanied by an aging population and the increasing availability of over-the-counter foods. I believe we just have to ride this tide of change, adapt as best we can, be aware of its shortfalls, and capitalise on the positives. Rotumans must look ahead, and think of the consequences of decisions we make today that will come to bear in 20 years and beyond.

I was privileged to have lived in the island during a period of great social and cultural change, a transitional period when Rotumans made a leap towards modernisation. The first aeroplane landed on the island--a New Zealand Air Force passenger plane--on what was a semi-completed airstrip. Every man and his dog was there to witness this momentous occasion, and as I joined the rest of the crowd, pushing my way forward to touch the plane. I knew then that we Rotumans had entered the real world. The installation of water pumping stations in the island was another big change to the island. Not only were we saved from those prolonged droughts, but we now had running water for showers, indoor washing facilities, and flush toilets, luxuries until then only available in Fiji. Later in the 80’s electricity was almost commonplace through community run generators, illuminating homes and powering washing machines, refrigerators, and the odd video player. Now we have direct phone lines to the outside world and within the island, and we no longer have to worry about fuel shortages, thanks to the fuel depot at Motusa.

My point is this: we are by no stretch of the imagination underprivileged. We have it good in comparison to some Fijian villages, and we are leap years ahead of most third world communities. We should be mindful of the fact that we share the same pot of gold with the rest of our fellow citizens in Fiji, so we must be selective in our demands and exercise good judgment. In all these years of great change, our hospital has not undergone any decent upgrading. The residing doctors are under constant pressure because of the total dependence on them without a relief system of doctors from Fiji. Can we perhaps sacrifice a modern administration building for a decent hospital? I know that there is a valid argument that this building when completed will generate income, and fair enough; maybe then we can collect this income and spend it on our hospital. Sadly, issues concerning health and education generally fall into the “too hard” basket, unless there is some political gain, like during an election campaign. I have always believed in the notion that affairs in Rotuma are best run by those who are living there, so I guess I belong to that group I earlier categorised as the “expert rugby spectators.” But it is also true that without spectators there is no game!

Tevita Katafono
Sydney, Australia

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