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Lest We Forget

by Henry Enasio

Every year on 13 May, we Rotumans celebrate the Cession of Rotuma to Great Britain in 1881. Many news articles are written and broadcasts made about the different celebrations that occur in Fiji and other parts of the world, and of the entertainment and sumptuous feasts consumed. We do this in remembrance of a lot of things but (I guess) in particular, the foresight and wisdom of our chiefs who ceded the sovereignty of Rotuma to Queen Victoria to allow her Majesty to extend her protection over Rotuma. 

Like most celebrations, we tend to enjoy ourselves so much that we overlook the historic meaning of that auspicious occasion and what it encapsulates for us Rotumans, including the benefits we now enjoy. Occasionally we need to be reminded of that to enable us to foster that understanding in the minds of our children and future generations.

At Motusa, and in front of the council building at Ahau, the names of all of our chiefs are listed from that historic day. These are enshrined in stone for subsequent generations, lest they forget them.

Likewise, we should also take notice of those Rotumans who have distinguished themselves in various occupations and disciplines, and who have contributed to the promotion of our community and the development of Rotuma, lest we also forget them.

I think it’s imperative for our collective historical consciousness to construct a list of such esteemed individuals. Such a list will enable us to remember our most accomplished Rotumans, and it will provide a set of role models for the younger generation to emulate.

After reflecting on this issue, I composed a preliminary list based on two criteria: (1) those who were pioneers in their field (limited to the first four achievers), and (2) those whose achievements are well known (at least to me). Since some individuals achieved in more than one area their names are listed more than once.

I invite others to reflect on this issue and to add others worthy of recognition to my list.

1. Academics    

  • Dr Jimione Samisoni MD - First Rotuman PhD Medicine
  • Dr Peter Mario - Doctor of Business Administration
  • Professor Hiagi Wesley - PhD Education
  • Professor Vilsoni Hereniko - PhD English Literature

2. Arts

  • Konusi Aisake - Wood carving & promotion of the art overseas
  • Professor Vilsoni Hereniko - First Rotuman film maker (The Land Has Eyes)

3. Authors

  • Anselmo Fatiaki
  • Elisapeti Inia

4. Aviation

  • Capt Kava Konrote - First Rotuman aeroplane & jet pilot
  • Patrick Varea - First Rotuman helicopter pilot

5. Business

  • Capt Victor Fatiaki - First Rotuman to manage an international salvage company (Marine Pacific)
  • Col Paul Manueli - First Rotuman to manage an international conglomerate (Mobil Oil)
  • Dr Peter Mario - First Rotuman to manage Fiji Reinsurance & Unit Trust of Fiji
  • Senator Wilson Inia - Rotuma Cooperative Association

6. Civil Service

  • Josefa Rigamoto - Assisted Sir Lala Sukuna to register the Fijian landowners (NLTB)
  • Maj Gen George Konrote - First Rotuman to become the Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs & Fiji Ambassador to Australia
  • Rigamoto Taito - First Rotuman to become the Permanent Secretary of Finance
  • Timote Rupeni - First Rotuman Director of Lands Department

7. Education

  • Isimeli Konrote - First Rotuman to be the Principal of Suva Grammar School
  • Mamao Managreve - First Rotuman to achieve a Master of Arts degree
  • Senator Wilson Inia - JP, OBE for Distinguish Service & longest serving Principal of Rotuma High School
  •  Susau Managreve - First Rotuman to be the Principal of Marist Brothers High School

8. Dental

  • Dr Fiu Atalifo - Director & Lecturer of Dental Services
  • Sapeta Atalifo
  • Susau Herman

9. Law

  • Daniel Fatiaki - Chief Justice of Fiji & First Rotuman to be qualified as a lawyer
  • John Semesi - DPP Lawyer & second Rotuman to be qualified as a lawyer
  • Sosefo Inoke   - Third Rotuman to be qualified as a lawyer & author of the Rotuman Constitutional Submission
  • Walter Rigamoto - Director of Election & First Rotuman to be Ombudsman

10. Company Heads or CEOs of Large Corporations in Fiji (that are successful)

  • Dr Peter Mario - Fiji Reinsurance & Unit Trust of Fiji
  • Capt Victor Fatiaki - Marine Pacific
  • Col Paul Manueli - Mobil Oil
  • Senator Wilson Inia - Rotuma Cooperative Association

11. Mariners

  • Capt Joe Aisea - First Rotuman Director of Marines
  • Capt Voi Fimone - First Rotuman to be qualified in England as a Foreign Going Master
  • Capt Fuata Jione - First Rotuman to be qualified in Australia as a Foreign Going Master
  • Capt Victor Fatiaki - First Rotuman to be qualified as a Tugboat Salvage Operator & Foreign Going Master  

12. Medicine

  • Dr Aisea Erasito - First Rotuman to be appointed Medical Officer Eastern
  • Dr Faga Panapasa - First Rotuman to be the Superintendent of the Tamavua Leprosy Hospital
  • Dr Jimione Samisoni - First Rotuman to be the Principal of The Fiji School of Medicine
  • Dr Tukaha Mua - First Rotuman to be an anesthetist

13. Military

  • Col Paul Manueli - First local Commander Fiji Military Forces
  • Maj Gen George Konrote - Chief of Staff, ADC to Governor General & UNIFIL Commander in Lebanon
  • Mark Vaurasi - First Rotuman Armory & NZ SAS Officer
  • Roger Afrete - British SAS Officer

14. Music

  • Aisea Nakaora - First recorded artist with a steel guitar
  • Harry Tivaknoa - most popular young artist 
  • Reauas Pepatu Paka - Composer of Resemose, Suamea 'e vaka, Rakitefurisea ma 'Eatoso & Tafag ma Te'isi
  • Rejieli Paulo - International opera singer   

15. Nursing

  • Sr Fanifau Tokroa - DPO Eastern
  • Sr Farapapau Urvaru - First Rotuman Sister to assist with the operations in the theatres
  • Sr Jane Erasito - Sister in charge of psychiatric unit
  • Sr Jane Gibson - First overseas graduate

16. Politics

  • Marieta Rigamoto - First Rotuman woman MP elected
  • Col Paul Manueli - First Rotuman MP appointed after the coups & Min of Finance
  • Wilson Inia - First Senator elected
  • Kamoe Petero - Second Senator elected

17. Property Millionaires

  •     Akanisi Manueli
  •     Akanisi Newell
  •     Maggie Lemeki
  •     Tafa Fatiaki

18. Orators (Best impromptus Speakers)

  •     Gagaj Ferei Lino - Tuakoi, Itu'ti'u
  •     Foraete Elaisa - Maftoa, Itu'muta
  •     Gagaj Tuipeua Savike - Malhaha
  •     Senator Wilson Inia - Noa'tau & Saolei, Itu'ti'u

19. Religion

  • Rev George Nakaora - First Rotuman President of the Methodist Church of Fiji
  • Dr Rev Jione Langi - Second Rotuman President of the Methodist Church of Fiji
  • Dr Rev Feasaitu Marseu - Methodist Minister
  • Father Aleksio Kitolelei - First Rotuman anointed Catholic priest

20. Sports

  • Frank Atu - First Rotuman to become the middleweight & heavyweight boxing champion of Fiji & the South Pacific
  • Petueli Atalifo - First Rotuman to become Mr Fiji in body building
  • Gagaj Sau Langfatmaro - First non-Japanese Professor of Martial Arts   

21. Workers

  • Gagaj Riamkau - Planter & harvester of the biggest yam ever grown in Rotuma
  • Gagaj Taksas - Only Rotuman that was able to cut a ton of copra in a day (for Gagaj Varomua of Malhaha)
  • Lili Raki - The fastest copra cutter in Rotuma
  • Mangrave Rosa - Planter & harvester of biggest taro ever grown in Rotuma

I list these especially the younger generation so that they shall remember these worthy Rotumans who can be good role models for them to emulate for their own future development.

Submitted 13 September 2004

The first Rotuman to join the Marine Commandos was Roger Wale Afreti.

The first Rotuman/Fijian to join the British Special Air Service Regiment was
Kauata Vamarasi Marafono MBE.

Submitted by Hawah Marafono, 18 September 2004

I just thought I'd add these two people to the first Rotuman list . . .

1) Dr. Sela Panapasa - First Rotuman female to earn a Ph.D. -- from Brown University in Providence Rhode Island (in sociology).

2) Erone Tomasi -- First and only Rotuman/Fijian to join the US Army Special Forces.

Submitted by Sefo Avaiki, 23 September 2004

If you really want to list who was first for this and that, you need to go way, way back.  Many Rotumans have achieved goals in life that were a first at the time.

Submitted by Mary Zemanek,  5 October 2004

There have been many Rotumans who were first in something, and it is good to know who they are. My suggestion is that a date (or the year) of their accomplishment be included if possible. I understand that it might be hard to remember the first Rotuman to achieve in every area, or the date of their accomplishments, but listing the date would avoid confusion with regard to who was the first.

Submitted by Layne Lilino, 5 October 2004

Although Henry has entered Elizabeth Inia, one of our most esteemed elders, as an author, and although that is indeed something she has done, was she not also the first Rotuman woman to work as a teacher? [Yes, indeed she was! A.H.]

Submitted by Matt Bray, 11 October 2004

I totally concur with Layne Lilino and others who have responded and hope to be able to produce a dated list in the future.

Submitted by Henry Enasio, 23 October 2004

I wish to add to Enasio's List in Medicine. These graduates were the Rotuman pioneer doctors of the first half of the Twentieth Century :

  • 1912  Jotama  Tigarea
  • 1918  George  Tigarea
  • 1926  Toni     Fatiaki
  • 1934  Ieni  Semantafa
  • 1936  Wilisoni T Fonmoa
  • 1936  Aisea M Erasito
  • 1940  Wilisoni F Tigarea
  • 1948  Faga  Panapasa
  • 1950  Fatiaki  Taukave

Graduates of the Medical School known as :

Suva Medical School 1888 - 1927
Central Medical School 1928 - 1960
Fiji School Of Medicine  1961 -

The above list is by no means exhaustive but is nevertheless a humble effort to pay tribute to those early pioneers in Medicine who have contributed so much to Rotuma's Development.

Source: FSM, Suva.

Submitted by Rupeti P Mua, 17 November 2004

For a tribute to Rotumans who have contributed so much to Fiji see High Commissioner Jioje Konrote's Rotuma Day Speech at the National Stadium in Suva, 14 May 2005.


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