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This page is for posting information about Rotuman communities anywhere in the world. If you have news about past or upcoming events, or happenings of special interest to members of the Rotuman community, please send the information via email to <ahoward@hawaii.edu> for posting. Postings can be either in Rotuman or English. We also invite commentaries about news stories. Sports news can be found at http://www.rotuma.net/sports/ Announcements of births, marriages, graduations and other life events can be found at http://www.rotuma.net/life_events

The News

From Radio New Zealand (19 March 2019)

Rotumans pay tribute to victims of Christchurch shootings

Rotumans in Auckland have remembered the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attacks by planting flowers at the Masjid E Umar Mosque in the suburb of Mt Roskill.

The island community have been shocked and saddened by the shootings which killed 50 people and injured another 50 naccording to Auckland Rotuman Fellowship group leader Faga Fasala.

It is their duty to respect and stand with the rest of New Zealand and send a message to our Muslim brothers and sisters that they are not alone during "these darkest of days" said Mr Fasala.

"It's symbolic of the love, the care that we have for one another, especially living here in Aotearoa," he said.

"We believe that whatever happens to anyone, it is duly our respect and our love for other people for us to show the importance of - especially - life."

The Rotuman community will return to the mosque, said Mr Fasala, to plant more flowers.

He said there had been overwhelming support from people in Auckland bringing flowers and praying at the mosque.

Mr Fasala said a resident of Mt Roskill was touched by the group's gesture and she had volunteered to bring a plaque to place among the flowers.

"When such events like the attacks in Christchurch occur, it is only right that those of us left behind come together to show support to the victims and their families," he said.

"It's a tragedy that has no place in New Zealand or anywhere in the world."

Mr Fasala said the senseless taking of innocent lives should not be condoned by anyone or any community.

He added people who bring terror on others must be dealt with severely by the authorities.


From Radio New Zealand (12 March 2019)

Call for Rotumans in NZ to start teaching language in homes

Rotumans living in New Zealand have been urged to work together to save their language which is spoken on the northernmost island of Fiji.

With their culture listed as vulnerable by the United Nation's UNESCO agency, the community launched language classes over the weekend.

Rotuman language teacher Fesaitu Solomone said the New Zealand Rotuman community planned to work closely with the Pacific Education Centre to develop programmes.

But Ms Solomone said to save the language it must first be taught in the homes.

"We the Rotuman people really need to take ownership as I said to the group at the launch. That we are the owners of our language. That's our identity. So we need to take advantage of that and teach the language. And the first place we all learn language with our own mother tongue is actually from the home," she said.

Fesaitu Solomone helped the PEC launch the Rotuma language teaching and Pasifika education programme in 2017.

Ms Solomone said the second launch of the language classes will be held in Hamilton this Saturday.

The group is also preparing for Rotuma Day celebrations from May 12 to19 this year.

Fesaitu Solomone
Fesaitu Solomone


From Fiji Sun (10 March 2019)

President Inspires Rotumans

By Deptfo News

President Jioji Konrote concluded his week-long official visit of his home island, Rotuma, but not
before re-iterating and inspiring Rotumans to lead a healthy lifestyle and take care of the environment.

While visiting the Christ the King Primary School in Sumi on Rotuma, President Konrote planted 30 more trees with the teachers and students as part of the 4 Million Tree in 4 Years campaign.

President Konrote enlightened the students on the importance of sustainably managing their
environment.
"Because of climate change we are having a lot of problems like soil erosion, coral bleach, and changing weather pattern," he said.

"In my capacity as the President I am also championing the fight against NCO."

"For your information Fiji tops the world as one of the country with the highest rate of
diabetes and other NCO-related ailments.

"This is nothing to be proud about," President Konrote said.

"As parents, you need to feed your children with the right food to avoid having diabetes. Stop giving them genetically modified foods.

"It is alarming that in the world today, in every six seconds someone dies from
diabetes.

"Government has been advocating the Fijians to become productive citizens. However, NCO related ailments also affects productivity."

John Tami, a well-known retired secondary school teacher, who is assisting the management of Christ the King Primary School in Rotuma, praised President Konrote for his wisdom and inspiration.

"To be visited by the President of Fiji is a very special day for all of us.

"The President is the most distinguished and most decorated Rotuman," Mr Tami said.

"The fact that His Excellency grew up in Rotuma makes us even more proud. And I hope that our young ones that are growing up will be inspired and aspire for greater things.

"We are thankful for your noble advice on NCO and living a healthy life. And making us aware of the negative impacts of climate change on Rotuma. We can see coastal erosions first hand.

"We can feel the rise in temperatures. Our corals have bleached.

"And I am very happy that the President has highlighted simple practical ways that cost us nothing but will empower us to actually do something, instead ofjust waiting for Government assistance." Mr Tami said.

'Things like eating nutritious food, in Rotuma food and fruits are in abundance.

"It is for us to actually change our mindset and follow the whole idea of wellness.

"I would like to thank you for your humility, for your integrity, for your simplicity, for your dedication and for your love and concern for the nation and especially for those of us who are in Rotuma," Mr Tami said.


From Fiji Times Online (9 March 2019)

President Konrote ends Rotuma trip

By Felix Chaudhary

PRESIDENT Jioji Konrote concluded his week-long trip to Rotuma by planting trees and advocating people to live healthier lifestyles and to take care of their pristine environment.

During a visit to Christ the King Primary School in Sumi, Mr Konrote planted 30 trees as part of Government’s 4 million trees in 4 years campaign.

He reminded students of the importance of sustainable environmental practices.

“Because of climate change we are having a lot of problems like soil erosion, coral bleaches and changing weather patterns,” he said.

“In my capacity as the President, I am also championing the fight against NCDs.

“For your information, Fiji tops the world as one of the countries with the highest rate of diabetes and other NCDs related ailments.

“This is nothing to be proud about.”

Mr Konrote urged parents to feed children the right food to avoid them developing diabetes.

“Stop giving them genetically modified foods.

“It is alarming that in the world today, in every six seconds someone dies from diabetes.

“Government has been advocating for Fijians to become productive citizens.

“However, NCDs related ailments also affect productivity.”

Retired teacher and prominent Rotuman, John Tami, acknowledged Mr Konrote for visiting the school.

He said climate change and NCDs were two major issues in Rotuma.

Mr Tami said coastal erosion, temperature increase and coral bleaching were major issues.

Konrotes with School Children


From Fiji Times Online (9 March 2019)

Rotumans express pride for their son

By Rohit Deo

PRESIDENT Jioji Konrote had a special meeting with the Rotuma Island Council which was attended by seven chiefs from seven districts this week.

The seven chiefs of Rotuma acknowledged the achievements of one of their own sons in a traditional ceremony on the island.

During the meeting, Rotuma Island Council acting chairman Gagaj Kauseraf thanked President Konrote for making Rotuma proud, and for being appointed Head of State for a second term.

“Sir, the chiefs of Rotuma wish to extend to you their deepest appreciation for being appointed the Head of our Nation, the first Rotuman native to hold such a high and noble position and we are so proud of you,” Gagaj Kaseraf said.

“We are preparing our traditional ceremony to honour you as a sign of our appreciation as one of Rotuma’s most successful sons. May God keep you in good health as you carry on your work in the highest office of the land,” said Gagaj Kaseraf.

President Konrote told the chiefs of Rotuma that it was a humbling experience for both him and the First Lady to be accorded a traditional ceremony of appreciation.


From Fiji Times Online (8 March 2019)

'I am here to serve and not to be served'

PRESIDENT Jioji Konrote says his dedication is towards serving the people of his nation.

This was his sentiment while speaking to students of Motusa Primary School in Rotuma during the planting of trees as part of the ‘4 million trees in 4 years’ campaign.

“I am here to serve and not to be served.

“I look forward to continue to serve our own people until the end of my term. When I took over the appointment as your President a few years ago, I reminded Government, the Vanua and the church that as President I am the chief servant of this nation,” Mr Konrote said.

“That’s probably why God did not allow me to come back to Rotuma after my service in the Fiji Military Forces. God had other plans for me and here I am serving my fellow Fijians with a purpose.”

More than one hundred students and their teachers welcomed the President and the First Lady with a devotion and hymn before the President embarked in planting of trees in the school compound with the joyful participation of the students of Motusa Primary School.

Sarote Konrote planting tree at Motusa School


From Fiji Times Online (7 March 2019)

Konrote raises awareness on environment preservation

By Rohit Deo

“DO whatever little we can do individually to make this planet beautiful”

These were the words of President Jioji Konrote who is utilising his tour of Rotuma to raise awareness on the importance of environment preservation and more importantly on the impacts of climate change.

“Fiji as the immediate past President of COP23 strongly lobbied for preservation of land and sea resources. Don’t forget God gave us a beautiful world but unfortunately human beings continue to destroy nature” Mr Konrote said.

Mr Konrote says planting 4 million trees in 4 years is Fiji’s significant contribution towards the betterment of our ‘Mother Nature’ and our future generations.

“The way we farm, the way we interact with the land, the way we fish in the ocean. And because of that, the world is becoming very dirty. We’ve spoilt a lot of good things.”

Mr Konrote planted trees at Rotuma High School as well as Motusa Primary School during his tour.

Jioje and Sarote Konrote seated on apei


From Fiji Times Online (6 March 2019)

Learn to be obedient, Rotuma prefects told

By Talebula Kate

YOU have got to learn to be obedient. Obedient starts within a home, you are going to be our leaders of tomorrow

President Jioji Konrote said this while officiating at the Rotuma High School prefects’ investiture ceremony yesterday.

The young leaders got to learn a lesson or two about leadership from Mr Konrote reminded students to continue challenging their limits, be innovative, visionary and have the courage to stand for what is right.

“You are the team leaders for these young boys and girls. I congratulate you all. Now let me remind you that leadership is all about serving. Leadership is the ability to get people what you want them to do. And they will only do that if they have trust and confidence in you,” Mr Konrote said.

Konrote also reflected his days as a school prefect and now as the Head of State to communicate some valuable lessons to some 36 students of Rotuma High School.

“Your appointment as prefects comes with a lot of responsibilities, and you must undertake these responsibilities with courage, tenacity, righteousness and humility.”

Jonrote with RHS prefect


From Fiji Sun (6 March 2019)

Govt Workers on Rotuma Praised

By Department of Information

President Major General (Ret'd) Jioji Konrote was impressed with the development works on Rotuma.

On the fourth day of his tour, President Konrote visited the various Government facilities and met civil servants working on these projects on the island.

After inspecting the military parade by the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Engineers, President Konrote toured the Rotuma Hospital which is currently under construction.

Once completed, the new hospital will uplift the standard of medical services delivered on the island.

President Konrote also visited the Rotuma Power House, the Biosecurity office, the Rotuma Virgin Coconut Oil factory, as well as patients at the temporary hospital who are currently being accommodated at the Rotuma Island Council building.

"I am here to visit you in my capacity as your President of the nation and I am here to tell you that the Fijian Government has very inclusive development strategies. No Fijian will be left behind in our socio-economic policies and plans," President Konrote said.

President Konrote thanked the civil servants of Rotuma for their hard work and commitment towards the development on the island.

"I would like to thank those of you who have left your families and lovedones back on the mainland, Viti Levu or Vanua Levu. Ispeak from experience; let me tell you something, it's not easy to leave your loved ones and to go away:'

"I bring no special gift to thank you individually but with the greetings of the Honorable Prime Minister, the Government and the people of Fiji to commend you for your hard work.

"Some of you have been here for years. The engineers I've been told that after five months they need to head back home. But for civil servants, government officials and NGOs who are based here in Rotuma, it's going to take a long time before you are heading back home."

"I would like to say how pleased I am to fly all the way from Nadi within an hour and a half to touch down at the newly-renovated Rotuma Airport. For those ofwho are familiar with the sea voyage, a journey to Rotuma could be a daunting task.

"It's through your hard work and commitment that all these developments are happening."

Konrote with military engineers


From Radio New Zealand (5 March 2019)

Rotumans urged to take up tree planting

Fiji's President Jioji Konrote says the planting of trees is everyone's responsibilty to improve the country's future.

Mr Konrote and his wife Sarote are on a tour of their island home, Rotuma, to promote his initiative to plant four million trees in four years.

Launched in Suva last month, Mr Konrote said the Tree Planting Initiative will benefit communities that rely on the forestry sector.

Mr Konrote said he also hopes that women, youth, schools and villagers will plant fruit trees, ornament trees, and trees for timber to non-wood species and mangroves.

The Konrotes also visited Rotuma's senior citizens and attended a church service led by the women of Motusa District.

Konrote at tree planting
Photo: Fiji Government


From Fiji Times Online (5 March 2019)

President visits government facilities on Rotuma

By Talebula Kate

PRESIDENT Jioji Konrote visited the various government facilities and met civil servants working on these projects on the island of Rotuma during his fourth day of tour on the island.

Mr Konrote who was impressed with the development works on Rotuma inspected a military parade by the RFMF engineers before touring the Rotuma Hospital which is currently under construction.

Once completed, the new hospital will uplift the standard of medical services delivered on the island.

Mr Konrote also visited the Rotuma Power House, the Biosecurity office and the Rotuma Virgin Coconut Oil factory.

After-which he visited patients at the temporary hospital at the Rotuma Island Council building.

"I am here to visit you in my capacity as Your President of the nation and I am here to tell you that the Fiji Government has very inclusive development strategies. No Fijian will be left behind in our socio-economic policies and plans," Mr Konrote said.

Konrote at Rotuma Hospital Construction site


From Fiji Times Online (3 March 2019)

President visits senior citizens in Rotuma

By Talebula Kate

THE Fijian Government has implemented a number of programs that are geared towards the welfare of our elderly citizens.

President Jioji Konrote said this during his second day of tour on his home island of Rotuma.

Mr Konrote and the First Lady, Sarote Konrote paid them a surprise visit to the senior citizens on island, a promise Mr Konorte made to himself before leaving for Rotuma to pay respect to those who had dedicated their lives for the betterment of the island and the country.

"It has been an honor to visit the senior citizens of Rotuma especially when I have been away from my Island home, serving our beloved nation as Your Head of State"

"Although the main aim of my tour is to continue advocating on the planting of 4 million trees in 4 years Initiative, which I launched last month, it is also a good opportunity to visit our senior citizens on the island, to seek their blessings and include them in our noble journey," said Mr Konrote said.

Mr Konrote accompanied by Mrs Konrote visited several senior citizens on Rotuma one of whom was 79-year-old Susana Makrava who is the widow of the late Visanti Makrava, the former General Manager of the then National Bank of Fiji.

Mrs Makrava's excitement as well as emotions could not be hidden as Mr Konrote and his wife arrived at her double storey home in the District of Oinafa.

"Your Excellency, and your wife Sarote, I am deeply touched by your visit today. I never thought of hosting the country's President and the First Lady at my residence. Thank you very much for caring for senior citizens like me, May God Almighty bless both of you with longer life. It is my prayer that God will take care of you and your team," Mrs Makrava said.

Mr and Mrs Konrote were also invited to Sabbath gathering by the Senior Pastor of the Motusa Seventh Day Adventist Church in Rotuma, Pastor Melisa Vakaloloma.

President Konrote with Elderly Rotuman

President Jioji Konrote, First Lady, Sarote Konrote with 79-year-old Susana Makrava who is the widow of the late Visanti Makrava and a senior police officer. Picture: SUPPLIED


From Indian Newslink (1 March 2019)

Rotuma Language classes in Auckland

Supplied Content

The Rotuman Community in Auckland has announced commencement of Rotuman Language Classes, marking the ‘International Mother Language Day,’ observed throughout the world on February 21, 2019 as a United Nations approved programme.

Organised by the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Group Incorporated (ARFGI), the endangered Rotuman language is being taught by elders and qualified teachers.

Chairperson Faga Fasala said, “We took the initiative using our own funds and resources, to move things forward and help save our unique language.”

The Language Classes, which are free, open to everyone including Non-Rotumans will be held every Saturday from 6 pm at the Fickling Convention Centre in Three Kings, Mount Albert Road, Auckland.

“Language is what makes us who we are and is part of our culture and identity. It is our duty to preserve this invaluable taonga,” Mr Fasala said.

ARFGI is also hosting the ‘Rotuman Language Week 2019 in Auckland from May 12 to May 19, 2019.

About Rotumans

Rotuman people are a separate ethnic group with their own distinct language, culture and identity, and originate from the Polynesian Island of Rotuma.

Rotuma consists of the island of Rotuma and its nearby islets and is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 500 kms north of Fiji, and 500 kms west of Wallis & Futuna.

The British annexed Rotuma on May 13, 1881 (‘Rotuma Day’).  Although a nation by itself, Rotuma is currently administered by Fiji as a dependency.

Endangered Language 

The Rotuman language is currently listed on the UNESCO List of Endangered Languages as “Vulnerable.”

Rotuma is described as ‘Untouched Paradise’ with some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful beaches.

For information, please contact AREFGI President George Nonu on 021-08792415 or Deputy Secretary Jioji Vai on 021-02782216. Email:  info@rotuma.website


From Fiji Sun (1 March 2019)

The Late Colonel Paul Fanifau Manueli Contributed a Lot to Our Nation

Paul Manueli's Funeral

By Rosi Doviverata

The late Colonel Paul Fanifau Manueli was described by many as a gentleman, a visionary and one who contributed selflessly to the nation. He was from Noa'tau District in Rotuma. He was 85 years old.

In fact, he was also a Colonel of the Regiment - a title only bestowed upon distinguished officers.

As such the Republic of Fiji Military Forces will today fire 15 blank rounds from a IDS pound artillery weapon during the funeral at Lovonilase Cemetery. The late Colonel Manueli was the first local Commander of the then Royal Fiji Military Forces. He was said to be the chief architect of the peacekeeping initiative mooted by the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Along with his senior officers within the RFMF, they put in motion a plan that resulted in Fijian soldiers taking part in peacekeeping missions around the world. It enabled Fiji to realise a dream that finally became a reality in 1978. Colonel Manueli was also instrumental in the formation
of the Navy and the RFMF Engineers.

Apart from his distinguished military career, Colonel Manueli also thrived as a business leader.

He was General Manager of the Suva-based British Petroleum in the South Pacific. He also served on a number of boards.

In 1988, Colonel Manueli was appointed to chair the Constitution Review
Commission.

Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka in his tribute said it was an honour and privilege to work with Colonel Manueli as Finance Minister from 1992-1996. He became Minister for Home Affairs and Justice from -1999.

He was also instrumental in the Joint Parliamentary Sector Committee UPSC) that implemented the 1996 Reeves Constitution Review Commission Report resulting in the 1997 Constitution which restored Fiji back into the fold of the international community.

The late Colonel Manueli was visionary, and had the interest of all people in Fiji. He was brilliant in business and had an instinct for financial management ad strategic planning.

He lived an exemplary life and contributed selflessly for the national interest. He has left behind a legacy that is hard to match.


From Fiji Sun (27 February 2019)

Tributes Pour in for Late Colonel Paul Manueli

By Ashna Kumar

Tributes began pouring in yesterday for the late Colonel Paul Fanifau Manueli, the first
local Commander of the then Royal Fiji Military Forces.

The Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto, who
led the tributes, said Colonel Manueli saw many firsts during his tenure as Commander RFMF.

Colonel Manueli had served as Commander RFMF from 1974 to 1979 and subsequently became a successful businessman and politician.

He had served as a Cabinet minister in Sitiveni Rabuka Government.

He was Rotuma's representative to the Great Council ofChiefs, which was abolished in 2012.

Colonel Manueli, 85, was from Noa'tau District in Rotuma.

He died because of a short illness at his residence in Namadi Heights, Suva last Saturday.

He is survived by his wife Lydia, son Peter, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Commander Naupoto said Colonel Manueli saw the formation of the Navy, the RFMF Engineers and also propelled RFMF into the international peacekeeping under the United Nations.

When Commander Naupoto joined the Military, Colonel Manueli had retired.

He said he would never forget the first time he met him.

"I was still a student at Queen Victoria School and 1accompanied our English teacher Mr Shackleton, a retired Australian colonel, on his trip to Suva.

I was to pick up our film reels for that weekend.

"As we were walking past the old DC Southern building near the bus stand, Colonel Manueli who was in uniform and standing there looked towards us, came to attention and saluted.

"They shook hands with my English teacher and I was introduced to Colonel Manueli and then my English teacher told me later that he was Colonel Manueli's instructor when he was at the Australian Military College.

That shows the character of Colonel Manueli."

Colonel Manueli's granddaughter Farah Manueli said her grandfather was the most regal man she had known.

Colonel Manueli will be accorded a full military funeral on Friday.

After the funeral service at Churchward Chapel, Rewa St, the military will march with the cortege through Suva City to Walu Bay and Suva Cemetery, for the burial.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

See also Letters to the Fiji Sun


From Alan Howard (23 February 2019)

Young Paul Manueli
D.O. Paul Manueli at Ahau in 1960

Jan and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Colonel Paul Manueli. Paul was the District Officer in Rotuma for the second half of my field work there in 1960. I found him to be a man of the utmost integrity and fairness in his dealings with the many issues that confronted a District Officer at that time. We became close friends as ping-pong playing members of the Ahau Sports Club.

We kept in touch over the years and visited with him on our last two trips to Fiji, in 2012 and 2017. His stories about his career were captivating, especially his account of his confrontation with a bull elephant in Malaysia. The elephant picked him up with its trunk and hurled him to the ground and threatened to stomp him, but finally backed off, leaving Paul with a back injury that plagued him for the rest of his life.

His service to his country, as a military and political leader, were exemplary. He was a source of pride for all Rotumans and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Lydia.

Recent photo of Paul and wife Lydia
Recent Photo of Paul and wife Lydia at home in Suva            
photo courtesy of John Taito



From Community Scoop (21 February 2019)

Rotuman Community marks International Mother Language Day

Press Release – Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Group

The United Nations celebrates International Mother Language Day today, 21 February. Rotuman Community marks International Mother Language Day by announcing Language Classes

21 February 2019
‘OTOU FÄEAG TA : RAKOA . ‘INEA’IA . MAÜR’AKIA
MY LANGUAGE : LEARN IT . KNOW IT . LIVE IT
The United Nations celebrates International Mother Language Day today, 21 February.

The Rotuman Community in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand is marking the day by announcing the commencement of its Rotuman Language Classes.

Organised by the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Group Incorporated (ARFGI), the unique and endangered Rotuman language is being taught by Elders and qualified teachers.

Chairperson Mr Faga Fasala said, “We took the initiative using our own funds and resources, to move things forward and help save our unique language”.

The Language Classes, which are free, are open to everyone and not just Rotumans, and held every Saturday from 6pm at the Fickling Centre in Three Kings, Auckland.

“Language is what makes us who we are, and is part of our culture and identity”, Mr Fasala said, “And it is our duty to preserve this invaluable taonga”.

The Group is also hosting the Rotuman Langauge Week 2019 in Auckland from 12th to 19th May of this year.

Rotuman people are a separate ethnic group with their own distinct language, culture and identity, and originate from the Polynesian Island of Rotuma.

Rotuma consists of the island of Rotuma and its nearby islets, and is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 500 kms north of Fiji, and 500 kms west of Wallis & Futuna.

Rotuma was annexed by the British on 13 May 1881 (‘Rotuma Day’). Although Rotuma is its own nation, it is currently administered by Fiji as a dependency.

The Rotuman language is currently listed on the UNESCO List of Endangered Languages as “Vulnerable”.

Rotuma is described as an ‘untouched paradise’ with some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful beaches.


From Fiji Times Online (20 February 2019)

Rotuma women’s club expose talents

THE Suva Rotuman Women Club will be using the Central Division craft show to expose the talents of their women in the group.

Lusie Managreve who spoke on behalf of the group said the show was also a learning curve for them.

“Our main actually is to help improve our products and talents. This is to also help our women to better work in whichever field they specialise in,” Ms Managreve said.

“The show will also help the women get news ideas in making things.”

She said the club had now been running for more than 10 years.

“We have continuously come for this craft show and most of our products are done from the masi, vau and the voivoi leaves.”

The craft show ends tomorrow.

Women's club


From Fiji Sun (14 February 2019)

Obituary: Old Fijian Warrior Fades Away

In August 1953, at the age pf 18 years, Mesu answered the call of the Fijian colonial government for young men to enlist in the Army so as to go and fight the communist terrorists in Malaya.

By Rsesa Walu Bay, Suva

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away is a familiar line taken from a popular song sung by British soldiers during World War 1. It is a line that aptly describes an old Fijian soldier who passed away on January 21, 2019.

Mesulania Varea Solomone, known simply as 'Mesu' was born on September 5, 1935, in the village of Elsio in the Malha'a district of Rotuma. It was the district that Raho, the founding ancestor of Rotuma, settled in thousands of years ago.

In August 1953, at the age of 18 years, Mesu answered the call of the Fijian colonial government for young men to enlist in the Army so as to go and light the communist terrorists in Malaya.

The Communists in Malaya

The terrorists in Malaya were drawn mainly from sections of the ethnic Chinese population in Malaya. Although they controlled the economy and business they were never really integrated into the national life of Malaya.

In 1929, they formed the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) which aimed to overthrow the British coionial administration and replace it with communist rule. The MCP formed a military arm which they called the Malayan Races Liberation
Army (MRLA).

At its peak, the MRLA was estimated to be about 8000 strong. They set up training camps in the jungles of Malaya and engaged in murder, extortion and sabotage against the civilian population.

The level of disorder in Malaya became so bad that on June 18,1948, the British enacted emergency powers calling on the military to assist in restoring law and order.

Britain drew on military forces from throughout the British Bmpire to defeat the communist insurgency in Malaya. Fiji provided a battalion, IFIR (1st Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment) of approximately 800 men to engage in operations against the terrorists.

'Hunt and Kill'

The battalion commenced operations in Malaya in June 1952. It was led initially by Lieutenant Colonel Ron Tinker, a New Zealand Special Forces Officer. Tinker was a no-nonsense hard task master who demanded very high standards from his men .

He defined the Fiji Battalion's mission in Malaya in very simplistic terms that the Fijian soldier understood; "Hunt and Kill" .

It became the battalion's motto in Malaya and described the way they operated there.

The Fijian battalion mounted small patrols deep into the Malayan jungle where they flushed out the terrorists and exterminated them like termites. A number of female terrorists were also eliminated by the Fijians in their campaign.

Mesu was part of reinforcements who were posted for active service with IFIR in Malaya on May 1,1954. He was initially posted to 'D' Company which was made up of men from Lau, Lomaiviti, Kadavu and Rotuma.

Mesu was later posted to 'A' Company, which comprised men from the tribally-connected provinces of Tailevu, Naitasiri and Rewa. It was with 'A' Company that he served until the battalion returned to Fiji in June 1956.

When it was time to return home after two years fighting, the story goes that the men from 'A' Company set about convincing the young and unmarried Mesulama that upon his return to Fiji they will find him a strong and sturdy wife from Tailevu.

She would be able to chop down a large tree for firewood in the morning and in the afternoon of the same day, clear the side of a mountain and plant a hectare of taro.

And before the sun rose the next day, disappear into the jungle with her nets to catch freshwater prawns for his dinner, which she would lovingly cook in coconut milk infused with coriander and lemon zest, topped with finely chopped red chillies to excite the palate.

In addition to all these menial chores, she would happily bear him fifteen sons for the village rugby team! She was everything a man could wish for in a wife, they said.

Mesu returned with the Fiji Battalion that disembarked in Suva on June 18,1956 and transferred to the regular force of the Fiji Military Forces.

He specialised as a weapons instructor following training with the New Zealand Army. It was in this instructional role that many young Fijian recruits who are now leaders in government and in their respective communities came in contact
with Mesulama.

Unlike other Army instructors who were very direct with an 'in-your-face' style, Mesu was the opposite. He was polite, respectful and encouraging; almost padre-like in his dealings with his men. His style resonated with many and left a lasting impression with them. He was a good role model.

Middle East Peacekeeping Service

Mesu served with the Fijian Battalion in Lebanon from 28 April 1979 to 1 August 1980 where he held the position of Senior Weapons Instructor.

It was an intensely active and demanding time for the Fiji battalion. There were frequent skirmishes with local armed elements, often with deadly results.

In late August 1979, Fijian soldiers at a checkpoint in Al Bazuriah shot dead the local leader of the Communist Party in South Lebanon.

Fijian positions at Al Bazuriah where the killing occurred soon came under attack.

Armoured vehicles from the Senegalese battalion were deployed in support of the Fijians there who were under the command of Major Epeli Ganilau. Near Qana, another Fijian position commanded by Second Lieutenant Penioni Jikoiono
came under attack from about 80 to 100 armed elements.

Private Seruidakuwaqa from Savusavu was shot in the thigh by an attacker who managed to breach the Fijian defences. Another Fijian soldier turned and shot the attacker dead.

As the attack on Jikoiono's position intensified, Fijbatt machine guns from the Fijian Battalion HQ position in Qana commenced supporting fire to jikoiono's position.

The General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs) were mounted in a sustained fire (SF) role.

The Fijian machine gunners used tracer rounds, which ignited in its trajectory so as to allow fire to be adjusted.

The Fijian battalion commander at Qana exercised tight control over the situation. He read every move of the battle unfolding below hiin and personally directed and adjusted the fire of the machine guns so as to lay down a curtain of fire in front of Jikoiono's position to deter the attackers.

Mesu manned one of the machine guns that was closest to the attackers. He could hear them shouting to each other. Unfortunately, several of the attackers ran into this defensive curtain of fire and were either killed or wounded.

Complicating the situation, Dutch (Netherlands) armoured vehicles sent to reinforce Jikoiono also came under fire from the attackers.

The Dutch Lieutenant commanding the armoured vehicles was shot though the spine and slumped forward on the turret of his vehicle. Dutch soldiers disembarked and took cover behind their vehicles. They were pinned down by the attackers who were swarming towards them with guns blazing.

To save the Dutch, Fijibatt machine guns were ordered to switch their fire to cover the Dutch. Several armed elements attacking the Dutch were cut down by the covering fire from Fijian machine guns.

The attackers then withdrew. The Fijian action that day saved the Dutch from further casualties.

In his book (Mission with UNIFIL; An African Soldier's Rellections) the UNIFIL Force Commander, Major General Emmanuel Erskine of Ghana, devotes a whole chapter to this battle fought by the Fiji Battalion. He argues that the Fijian
actions '... illustrate the practical interpretation and application of the use of force in self defence by UNIFIL'.

The sad sequel to all these events occurred four days later on August 24,1979 when armed elements ambushed a Fijian motorised patrol killing three Fijian soldiers and wounding four others.

One of those wounded in the ambush was Driver Apirato, also from Rotuma. With three Fijian soldiers dead and another four wounded, it was indeed a very sad day for Fiji.

Sadly, the Dutch officer who tried to help the Fijians later died of his wounds.

Mesu again deployed for peacekeeping service with the MFO in the Egyptian Sinai from May I984 to May 1985. He was commissioned to the rank of Captain in October 1988 and in 1989 was promoted to the rank of Major to command RFMF
units based in Nausori.

He retired in August 1992 after almos t40 years of service. In recognition of his loyal service Mesu was awarded the insignia of the Member of the British Empire (Military Division), MBE (Mil).

Mesulama passed away on January 21, 2019 and his remains were cremated. He is survived by his wile Varea Tivao and
three children. It was a life well lived.

In passing, Mesulama joins the long list of the descendants of the warrior-chief Raho who have served Fiji well in times of peace and war.

Lieutenant Colonel Isireii Dugu, who had undertaken recruit training under Mesulama in the late I960's and served with him in Lebanon and Fiji, summed up Mesulama in this way

"The late Major Mesulama was a professional soldier who was dedicated, honest and committed to his calling. He served with honour and dignity and set an outstanding example to his juniors".

18799 Major Mesulama Varea Solomone, MBE (Mil), 1935-2019. Thank you for your service, sir. May you rest in peace.

Source: RSESA Walu Bay

Mesulama's obituary


From Fiji Sun (9 February 2019)

Top Leaders Bank on Dream, Hard Work

"I am happy that my teachers had faith in me and I would also like to thank my parents for giving me the confidence to take up this challenge," Bezalel Singh

By Neelam Prasad, Suva

Bezalel Singh

Becoming head boy of Nehru Primary School was Bezalel Singh's dream from day one.

The 13-year old said he was always keen on becoming the head boy and hopes to live up to his teachers' expectations.

The school welcomed it's student body during the prefects induction ceremony yesterday.

Bezalel lives in Toorak, Suva, and aspires to study medicine in the future.

"I am happy that my teachers had faith in me and I would also like to thank my parents for giving me the confidence to take up this challenge," he said.

Maxine Antonio has been the class captain for a number of yers before earning her place as head girl.

The teenager from Itumuta, Rotuma, said her journey had been a challenging one.

"It was difficult at times, but I believe in hard work and that kept me going," she said.

"I am glad I had not given up before and that's the lesson I can take from this entire experience."

Edited by Percy Kean


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