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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:
Questions and Answers about Rotuma Investments Limited
1. What is Rotuma Investments Limited?
2. Why was the Company formed?
3. What are the purposes of the Company?
4. How is Rotuma Investments different from the Seven District Organization?
5. Who runs the Company? How is it organized?
6. How much are the Directors paid?
7. Are there any projects in the works?
8. Where is the money coming from to fund this project?
9. What long-term plans does the Company have?
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.
In my own assessment of Rotuma’s future I have the following to say:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Firstly, not many Rotumans will put
their hard earned money where their mouth is.
Developments for the People of Rotuma
The wharf at Oinafa
This is in reply to some of the issues highlighted
in Captain Jiones latest commetns of 19 November 2003.
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
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.
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
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?
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
Alalum 'e Kesmas ta ma Fa Fo'ou ta
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!
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