From Fijitimes Online (2 January 2003)

A Difficult Road to the top for Daniel Fatiaki

by Moira Vilsoni

Dan Fatiaki

ROTUMA just had to celebrate - even though Christmas was weeks away. The appointment of Daniel Fatiaki , one of the island's famous sons, was too much to ignore. The island chiefs invited Justice Fatiaki to Rotuma and organized a homecoming ceremony for him.

Justice Fatiaki succeeded Sir Timoci Tuivaga, Fiji's first local Chief Justice. Justice Fatiaki's success and appointment to the highest legal office in the land brought great pride to his fellow islanders.

The crowd that gathered at the Ahau Government Station witnessed for the first time the bright red judiciary robes that Justice Fatiaki would wear in office.

"For a small island like Rotuma, it is very hard for a person originally from this island to be recognized and be promoted to the highest legal office," said Rotuma Island Council Chairman Visanti Makrava.

"And we are very proud of Justice Fatiaki's achievements as he has given the small island of Rotuma a lot of publicity with his new appointment."

It was a ceremony fit for a king in its magnanimity and pomp, and the master of ceremonies described the significance of the event in his eloquent poetry.Justice Fatiaki shares the gifts of being Rotuma's "firsts" in his respective field.He has set a standard of high achievement for young Rotumans everywhere.His call to duty in the lofty office of the judiciary illustrates Rotuma's humble contributions to Fiji's development.

Justice Fatiaki, who hails from a strong Catholic background, was born in 1954 in Upu, Motusa. He dedicated his success to his late father, Anselmo Fatiaki. The senior Fatiaki was one of the first few Rotumans to graduate with a Bachelors Degree. He graduated at Atmore University in Auckland before joining the family in Suva when Justice Fatiaki was in his early years in school at the Marist Brothers Primary School, Suva Street.

"The only thing that I remember in Rotuma was during the Christmas party of my older brother - and that time I was only three years of age," Justice Fatiaki recalled.

"The children were singing this favorite nursery rhyme and I still recall the young ones all singing their lungs out as they enjoyed the spoils from their teachers."

Justice Fatiaki's father retired as a civil servant in 1976 becoming the first Rotuman Assistant Registrar at the University of the South Pacific for three years. After his retirement from USP, the senior Fatiaki and a family friend, Father Hurley, established the HART project to assist the poor and the unfortunate.

"This was one of the great principles that we have got from our father - to help the poor and the unfortunate," said Justice Fatiaki

Justice Fatiaki completed school at Marist Brothers High School from 1967 to 1970 before enrolling in the Foundation Programme at USP in 1971. After spending a year there, the young Fatiaki was awarded the Morris Hedstrom scholarship to study Law at the University of Auckland, following the footsteps of this father. In 1976, Justice Fatiaki graduated from Auckland University with a Law Degree. The following year, he was appointed barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand for two years. He then went ahead to become a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Fiji. He held the position for five years and was then appointed Commissioner for Oaths in Fiji. However, whilst working in the judiciary department, Justice Fatiaki was involved in extra-judiciary appointments. For 12 months, Justice Fatiaki was appointed Acting Chairman of the Fiji Law Reform Commission. He then moved to become a Member of the Management Team of the Asia-Pacific Advisory Forum on Judicial Education on Equality Issues.

His other extra-judicial appointments were Chairman and National Co-ordinator of the Pacific Judicial Education Programme and the Chairman of the Fiji Law Reform Commission - Reference on Corruption, Bribery and Fraud for six months.

"It was not an easy road for me and the family because there were times when I had to go away from home for a couple of months," he said.

"But it was worth the sacrifice and the problems that I encountered."

The biblical adage, As you sow so shall you reap, has never been truer.