To home page

To contents

To Contents

To Culture

To culture

Send responses to this essay to Rotuman Forum for posting. Please include your full name and current home city.

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.

Send responses to this essay to Rotuman Forum for posting. Please include your full name and current home city.

To home page

To contents

To Contents

To Culture

To culture