Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Secrets of Ben Ryan's Training Success

MANY articles and news items have been written locally and globally about Fiji's rugby sevens fairytale success at the Rio Olympics 2016. In this article, I look at the "secrets of success" in the training program that resulted in Fiji's gold medal win and how we can replicate these successes to enhance learning engagements in our schools and universities. The lessons are also useful for the general public.

Banning social media during the training period
To cut out any potential distractions, former national 7s coach Ben Ryan banned mobile phones before and during tournaments but allowed players to mingle freely with each other and other athletes.
A number of higher education institutions such as USP and FNU filter out social media in IT labs during study hours to enable students to concentrate on their learning.
A nationwide survey conducted in the Central, Western and Northern divisions in October 2015 noted that 91 per cent of youths had mobile phones.
Seventy-two per cent had mobile phones with internet connections. Eighty-three per cent had Facebook accounts and 38 per cent had Twitter accounts.
Shutting out social media during school hours not only enhances concentration in studies but also encourages individuals to have more time to talk to each other at a social level thereby strengthening their interpersonal communication skills.
I have come across cases where individuals communicate with me and others through SMS, FB or Twitter even though I am just a few metres away. They think this is normal behaviour!
Ryan said it made a big difference because the players were not preoccupied with "selfies" or being stressed out with posts and messages.
The training became "a more relaxing enjoyable journey for them all, and it is remarkable how they coped with that type of pressure — they didn't ever really feel it".

Back to basics approach
Ryan had a back-to-basics approach. In a nutshell, he kept things simple. He said, "With advances in technology and knowledge, sometimes you just make things more complicated than they need to be."
He made very clear the framework they were working on and everyone from the players, the support staff and even the Fijian public were all familiar with the basic aim and training objectives.
In the education system, I see this as keeping to the basics in teaching functional literacy and numeracy skills.
At the end of the day, students need to be able to read and write and handle basic calculating competencies. It is good news that the Ministry of Education has been proactive in reading and writing assessments and looking at areas where effective interventions can be put in.
We also need to encourage a culture of reading. Many people are preoccupied with social media and do not have time to read. Two parents complained to me that their teenage children were preoccupied with reading from Wattpad.
Wattpad is an online storytelling community where users post written works such as articles, stories, fan fiction, and poems, either through the website or the mobile app. The parents' concern was that the stories were low quality. I argued that at least they were reading something. After tiring of ephemeral literature, I am sure they would graduate to quality works.
While I have spoken about the negative aspects of social media, there are also positive aspects. I was at a seminar and had quite forgotten a Bible verse. I gave the chapter and verse number and within seconds, a 15-year-old whipped out her phone and read out the verse from her online Bible.
Positive attitude
Ryan said, "We made sure we were kind to everyone and that there was a real feeling that everything was positive in the camp. They are the key messages that I think Fiji can give to other sports and other organisations."
One thing we should encourage in our universities and schools is that learning is fun. We often see some students and teachers moving with sorrowful faces but surely this mournful attitude can be tweaked with lessons that go beyond long lectures and copious notes on the blackboard to more innovative ones.
Why is a positive attitude important? Ryan says that it builds enthusiasm and confidence that individuals are winners.

Importance of local drinks
During the Fiji sevens training sessions at Pacific Harbour, Ryan got his players to drink 100 green coconuts daily. I realise that the Fijian public has a fixation for fizzy drinks and I am not helping with my weakness for Muther energy drinks.
Given Fiji's high rates of non-communicable diseases, we all need to eat locally-grown foods and drinks. Coconut water has more potassium than four bananas and hydrates the body better than plain water. It is also fat and cholesterol free. Let us take our cue from Ryan by drinking more coconut juice and local foods and encourage young learners to do so too.

There are many lessons that we can learn from our successful rugby sevens outing at the Rio Olympics 2016.
One of the most enduring ones that our young learners can learn from is the importance of humility.
This coupled with a positive attitude, a strong team spirit and the will to succeed should auger well for teachers and learners and indeed the Fijian public.
* Dr Joseph Veramu studied at USP and the London South Bank University and works as a consultant. Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

The case of fallen pastors

ALMOST every year we have cases of pastors coming before the courts usually accused of sexual impropriety. In this article, I go behind the scenes to explain why this happens and ways in which the services of those who preach can be better regulated.

It should be pointed out at the outset that the vast majority of preachers, church workers and Christian leaders do their work selflessly according to biblical teachings and are not involved in any way in anti-social behaviour.
They work in their mission fields with great integrity, compassion and honesty. It is only a handful that come before the courts.

Global scene
The scandalous behaviour of pastors is not confined to Fiji but is a worldwide phenomenon.
I googled about pastors and their scandals globally and instantly got a list of Christian icons of morality being reported shoplifting for condoms, soliciting prostitutes in red light districts, molesting minors, masturbating in public, participating in bloody sexual assaults, cruising red light districts, exposing genitals to cleaning staff, seeking male sexual services from outlets and buying ridiculously high priced goods from church offerings.
One even sent fake soil from the tomb of Jesus to church members who gave generously. There is no dirt/soil around the tomb. One would not normally associate these activities with God-fearing leaders.
Many wayward pastors, who are clearly in the wrong, have a cult-like hold on their congregations and argue that those who criticise them are agents of the devil.

Fiji situation
In Fiji it is very easy to set up a prayer group operating from one's home, which in a short time can be transformed into a home church (with the leader calling himself "Reverend" or "Bishop").
There are no shortage of people ready to attend such gatherings.
I remember about nine years ago, I had walked into an evangelical church and after a very short time I was appointed a pastor.
I did not go through any training program apart from the occasional short workshop. I also attended a number of conferences and noted that almost all other evangelical pastors were untrained.
Most of us googled our sermons. Without proper training and clear guidelines, we were susceptible to the mistakes of operating in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Model posing for this image is in no way connected with this article

The congregation received most things I said without questioning it. I remember my daughter expressing reservations on first seeing me in a suit.
She thought I looked like a gangster. My son thought I looked like a faded rap musician who belted out fertile lyrics. But to the congregation I was all this and more.
I was someone who had walked on the road to Damascus and had been changed. I remember going to the supermarket or walking the street and meeting people, many of whom were women, who treated me with so much reverence that I began to have an inflated view of myself. One women I tapped good naturedly on the shoulder as we passed each other on the shopping aisle almost fainted. To her, it was like the touch of a saint.
Congregations should be encouraged to think critically and to see if actions by pastors are in line with biblical teachings.
Early this year, a youth (he had innocent eyes and looked cherubic) at a retreat I organised showed me a text message from a pastor telling him that he had booked a hotel room for them.
The pastor was dressed formally in a suit and had delicate features that reminded me of a cute zombie.
The youth told me that he had reported this particular pastor to his parents and church leaders. The point I am trying to make is that people should also use their common sense and resist actions they know to be wrong.
There is clearly something wrong if a pastor comes over and asks to explore someone's faculties.

Transparency needed
It is important that all churches in Fiji should operate within the organisational structures of major Christian denominational groupings.
They have to be transparent in their operations. There should be standards to regulate the training of pastors, financial accountability so that church teachings do not stray from the scripture.
I believe a number of wayward pastors are from small fringe churches although some are from mainline churches. Most preach about living Holy Spirit filled lives and find that they cannot live by the principles they preach.
Their sermons tend to be based on emotions and passions without clear moral thinking and accountability.
This is where the public should be discerning and resists sexual overtures or report incidents that are clearly wrong.
* Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant and can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or twitter @VeramuJoseph.

Review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Links to Pacific islanders

Review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Links to Pacific islanders
Joseph Veramu

I enjoyed watching Valerian. Science fiction and movies with social themes does not usually generate much interest with Fiji moviegoers. They tend to patronise films with lots of aggressive actions and neurotic characters abusing each other verbally. My daughter politely but firmly declines going to sci fi movies with me because she says they look so unreal and she has difficulty enjoying herself. On the few occasions, I have taken nephews and nieces, they have spent most of their time on their phones and less time watching the screen. Valerian has all the ingredients of a blockbuster hit. So far, the film has earned $36.1 million in the US and globally it has made $65.6 million on a $177.2 million budget. That is a poor showing and it needs to pick up in the next week or two to avoid posting a box office loss.

I say that the film has the ingredients of a hit because there is a tempestuous romantic relationship between Valerian and Laureline. There are lots of deliciously grotesque villains and the action is nail biting. It also has a highly creative story line and well developed characters.

The film unfortunately has some flaws some of which are not of its making. Most of us are so used to Hollywood action romance films where the action is gritty and the main actors display a passionate friskiness or edginess. In Valerian, there are no passionate moments to endear audiences too. Whenever the tender moments come, Valerian and Laureline try to get it over as soon as possible with a peck on the cheek or a quick kiss on their upper lips. For a French based movie, they are unusually restrained with not a French kiss in sight. Perhaps they were trying to avoid a PG film rating or they were sensitive to viewers like me who have been ‘born again’ and must guard against temptations of the flesh in dark cinemas.

DeHaan’s acting is breezy as if he’s playing his character for laughs. You get the feeling that the film directors decided to do away with the Hollywood stereotype of the muscular hero. When DeHaan takes off his shirt, one gets the feeling that he loves fast foods and fizzy drinks when he’s not acting. Cara Delevingne tries too hard to be gritty but without the passion it falls flat. I am not sure whether it has to do with the way the film is shot but some of the angle shots gives her a decidedly flaring nose and the glazed eyes of an untamed wild cat. Perhaps the most exciting talent in this movie is Rihanna acting as the shapeshifting dancer, Bubble who helps Valerian rescue Laureline from a primitive tribe before she dies of a mortal wound, She encourages Valerian to woo Laureline as she has many enduring qualities.

Fijians and Pacific islanders will be intrigued with the story line which centres around genocide in the Planet Mul and the cover up by General Filitt that Laureline and Valerian uncover. We are told that in Planet Mül, a humanoid race had lived peacefully in their paradise in harmony with nature. They fished for pearls containing enormous amounts of energy, and used small animals to replicate them. Their planet was deliberately destroyed in the cross fire of two warring sides. General Filitt refers to the Muls as ‘savages.’ The people of Mul remind me of Jean-Jacques Rousseau notion of the 'Noble Savage' born with the potential for goodness. They had an "innate repugnance to see others of their kind suffer".

The Muls try to replicate their paradise on a space ship that will sail in eternal bliss in the universe. Valerian and Laureline provide them with the energy-giving pearl and a converter to enable them to escape from Alpha. The due go off to their own paradise after they admit their undying love for each other.

I know that 30 years ago Pacific academics would be offended about Europeans perpetuating the myth of the ‘noble savage’. But times have changed and it’s really cool to know that the Muls were wise, forgiving and lived in blissful harmony with nature. In these challenging times of high NCDs and pollution, it would be good to look back at our traditional wisdom to find affirmation in reducing our carbon footprints and emissions, it is really affirming to be reminded that like the Muls, we too can take action to reduce pollution and live in harmony with nature.

The trick now is to get Fijians who admittedly can't stand science fiction movies to make an exception. Go and see Valerian if only to feel inspired to take action on having healthy lifestyles and protecting our environment. And if in the unlikely situation, something ghastly was done to you, please be as forgiving as the people of Planet Mul.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Climate change narrative

THERE is a memorable picture of our prime minister sailing in a drua, a Fijian ocean-going canoe, in Suva Harbour with the leaders of two of the most climate-vulnerable Pacific nations, President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati and Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.

I have visited both Tuvalu and Kiribati and have found it to be an emotionally draining experience to view the encroaching sea come on to the atolls.
During the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event in Suva on July 3-4, Pacific leaders had spoken passionately about the importance of environmental sustainability. Fiji has offered to give permanent refuge to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu in the event that their atoll nations are submerged by the rising sea waters caused by climate change.
Suva Meeting Highlights Key Action Against Climate Change
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama sits with Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga and Kiribati President Taneti Maamau on a drua during a recent cruise of Suva Harbour. Picture: FIJI SUN

Fiji's advocacy
Fiji's presidency of COP23 on the global stage provides an empowering voice to the struggles of small island nations who face the effects of climate change on a daily basis. South Pacific nations are some of the smallest contributors to global carbon emissions, yet suffer some of the most devastating results of extreme weather condition. At the same time, our PM provides a robust voice for the 7.5 billion people who call Earth their home.
Mr Bainimarama had said, "Climate change isn't about politics. It's about our existence, our survival and saving something for our children and their children."
Mr Bainimarama's meeting with California governor Jerry Brown was an affirming process for the groundswell of support for environmental sustainability of Americans at all levels.
Our PM had said, "People of all walks of life in America have spoken very loudly, telling the world that America will continue to tackle climate change." Ten US state governors and 61 mayors of major US cities now support the COP 23 initiative.

Fiji's role
Fiji is the economic and technological hub of the Pacific and is also a conduit for sustainable development in the region. Fiji has always punched above its weight in the international arena contributing to international efforts to establish peace and security. A Fijian is also president of the UN General Assembly.
Fiji made history by becoming the first Small Island Developing State to preside over the conference of parties (COP23), the annual round of the ongoing UN climate negotiations, to be held this year in Bonn, Germany, in November this year.
The world saw that despite the devastation caused by Severe TC Winston, we were resilient. With very limited resources and the psychological setbacks we faced, we were still able to prepare a first-class rugby sevens team that won gold at the Rio Olympics.
We are building on the Paris Agreement to push for substantial cuts in the carbon emissions that are causing global warming and leading to the rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as STC Winston.
Fiji co-chaired the UN Oceans Summit with the Government of Sweden. Fiji sees its role as representing all Small Island Developing States and bringing their very special and immediate concerns for efforts to both combat and adapt to climate change before the world.
The effects of sea level rise has seen the identification of 80 villages for relocation to higher ground. Warming seas has also caused changes in fish populations and bleaching of coral reefs.

Working with industrial nations
Fiji is aware that we need to gain the agreement of the industrial nations to keep reducing their carbon emissions and lower the global temperature. The leaders of the Pacific Small Island Developing States called on the international community to take immediate and decisive action to address the underlying causes of global climate change.
One of the huge challenges faced is that US President Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. Nevertheless, the Pacific leaders had urged the US Government to reconsider its decision and to work together to pursue the opportunities that urgent climate action (laid out in the Paris Agreement) can provide.
The Pacific leaders had strongly urged the G20 group of major economies gathered in Germany last week to reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
One of the actions is aimed at holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above the pre-industrial level and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial level. The Pacific leaders recognised that in our small and vulnerable islands, climate change is happening at a faster rate than was appreciated at the time of the Paris Agreement.
It is imperative for the world to focus on the more ambitious target in the Paris Agreement of limiting warming to 1.5C.

Paris Agreement
For readers not familiar with the Paris Agreement, it is an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 153 of which have ratified it.

G20 meeting
At the G20 Summit last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that "the discussions were very difficult". Mr Trump was left isolated as every other world leader signed up to a declaration that the Paris climate agreement was irreversible.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said she was "dismayed at the US decision to pull out" of the accord and had personally urged the president to reconsider.
"I have had a number of conversations with him. What I did was encourage him to bring the United States back into the Paris agreement, and I continue to hope that's what the United States will do."
The constructive news is that despite Mr Trump's actions, 10 US state governors and 61 mayors of major cities said they "will adopt, honour, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement".
Fiji's prominence on the world stage has seen French President Macron extend an invitation to our PM to a special Paris summit of world leaders in December. France supports Fiji as it builds a grand coalition to keep the COP23 process on track.
It is also good news that Fiji will participate in a roundtable discussion featuring former US vice-president Al Gore at the Ecocity World Summit 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
Fiji's participation shows the importance of the climate change issue and its impact on Fiji and other vulnerable nations. It also provides Fiji a platform to enlighten the global community on the work it has undertaken as incoming COP23 president.
Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. He can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or Facebook or twitter https://twitter.com/VeramuJoseph.

A voice for all nations

I had not expected to receive many responses after I wrote my article on "Climate Change Narratives" a fortnight ago. Apart from local readers who sent me emails, I received two overseas media queries.

One of the recurring questions that I am regularly asked is how Fiji will effectively push the agenda on reducing global carbon emissions since President Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement. Another question I am persistently asked is China's role in Fiji and the Pacific.

Ana Erenaivalu, Zek Maqbool and Joeli Bili of YOUTHS FOR INTEGRITY campaign for a pollution free FIJI

Varying views
Having scanned a number of opinion pieces published regionally and internationally, it is important to correct a misconception. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, as president of COP23, is not just representing Fiji.
His brief is to represent the interests of the entire world. He has adopted a posture of being impartial to achieve consensus between all parties on the best way forward.
He also has a special interest in the needs of small island developing states in the Pacific and other regions. In a nutshell, he looks after the interest of small island states and also the 7.5 billion people who live on our fragile Earth.
This is by far the biggest and most important task that we have been given in almost half a century as an independent nation. Fiji was chosen in Marrakesh in November 2016 by almost 200 nations to chair COP23 because of expectations we would maintain the momentum that was set by the Paris Agreement for substantial reductions in the carbon emissions that are causing global warming.
It is expected that we would speak with conviction because of the extreme weather event we have faced such as STC Winston that devastated our nation last year.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will keep the interests of all nations, including those that are low-lying and vulnerable, at the forefront of negotiations.

Loss and damage
It is not true that there is no urgency on the "loss and damage" provisions of the Paris Agreement that would compensate states for the impact of climate change.
Leaders from the 17 Pacific Island nations that met in Fiji in June for the Pacific Islands Roundtable Summit had agreed to redouble efforts to secure agreement for a climate change compensation scheme at UN climate talks.
Discussions on an "international mechanism" under the UN's climate convention, emphasising the "existential threat" posed to Pacific Island communities would continue at the next round of international climate talks in Warsaw.
One of the challenges of President Trump reneging on the Paris Agreement is that he is expected to pull out of the $US3 billion ($F6b) pledge that Obama had initially made. Some developing countries such as Kenya and Bangladesh are not waiting for funds from wealthy states and are starting their own funds to deal with an uncertain future.

Reducing global carbon emissions
Mr Bainimarama is mindful that if we cannot gain the agreement of the industrial nations such as the US to keep reducing their carbon emissions and lower the global temperature, the consequences will be catastrophic.
As incoming COP president, he is working closely with China, India, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Australia, New Zealand and other states to keep the momentum rolling.
He is also working closely with Pacific nations, international NGOs, civil society and the private sector.

Fiji and China
Within the last week, I was contacted by two large overseas media networks who were very interested in the close relationship between Fiji and China which is predicated on social and economic factors.
China is Fiji's largest source of foreign investment and fastest growing market for Fiji tourism. The growing close relationship has also seen cultural exchanges and the sponsoring of Fiji students to take up courses in technical subjects in Chinese universities.
Fiji was the only Pacific state invited to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May 2017. Since Mr Bainimarama had assumed the presidency of COP23, he had separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.
His meeting dealt with defence and the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Fiji Ministry of Information had released the following statement in May 2017:
"President Xi has publicly committed to protect the global governance achievements contained within the Paris Agreement to curb the effects of climate change."
The Chinese Embassy in Suva Fiji had also released the following statement on 28/1/2017:
"Being a major development partner and sincere friend of Fiji, China actively promotes mutually beneficial cooperation with Fiji under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and has provided strong and firm support to Fiji's economic and social development, including to its effort to confront climate change challenges and to realise its sustainable development goals."
A number of trade and investment related memorandum of understanding and agreements were recently signed by Fiji and China after the Belt and Road Forum in May 2017. These MOUs and agreements allow for increased co-operation not just the two governments but also at the business-to-business level.

Interest of all nations
Mr Bainimarama will keep the interests of all nations, including those that are low-lying and vulnerable, at the forefront of negotiations.
There is also the need for greater engagement from the private sector, NGOs and civil society in support of Fiji's global effort to boost access to climate finance and reduce climate risks to developing economies.
Fiji will serve as the president of the COP23 negotiations in Bonn, Germany from November 6-17, making history as the first-ever small island state to hold the presidency.
* Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. He can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or Facebook or twitter https://twitter.com/VeramuJoseph
Julian: A Celebration of Diversity in the Midst of Morass

Julian Joseph sometimes likes to lie leisurely on a concrete seawall barrier and gaze out into the world. He looks out into the placid sea, the passersby and his immediate surroundings. He realizes that we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful country but there is also a curse as we pollute our environment. The endless stream of people of all ages and ethnicity who come to unwind also throw rubbish carelessly often without a second thought. The parks by Suva’s foreshore are littered with an array of rubbish from people consuming fast foods.

The City Council does it part daily to clean the mess. Sometimes volunteers carry out clean up campaigns but immediately after they have done their good deeds, the rubbish throwers come back and it reverts to its original polluted condition. Government has done its part through the plastic levy and the anti-litter legislation but the public has to do its part too. The strange thing, Julian notices is that the litterers are educated, well-to-do people who come in their flashy cars. Even if they are prayer groups speaking in the language of tongues or young lovers communicating in the language of romance, the story is the same the moment they take breaks to eat something. The food wrappings get thrown carelessly.  

As Julian looks out into the world (from where he lies leisurely) he feels a sense of regret as the pungent smell wafts from the rubbish. The wind blows the myriads of empty foods packages into the mangroves and the rustling sound of shaking leaves and flying plastic is like the faint cries of a vuvuzela trying to be celebratory but coming off as mournful.  He notices that some of the rubbish throwers look at him with contempt hoping he would fade away. Their reflections on the rubbish covered puddles of water in pot holes near Julian give them gargoyle like images. It makes them look obscene amongst the clutter of rubbish. Julian, 26, is gay and very comfortable in his own skin to discuss the trials of his young life.

He appeared in the short video that came on TV and cinemas titled, “Accept Us For Who We Are.” This videowas released by the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission to mark International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The video was aimed at raising awareness about inclusivity of the members of the LGBTIQ community. Julian was happy he could be part of a public education campaign especially targeting adults and parents to accept their children irrespective of their sexual orientation. “I was a bit nervous but spoke from the heart since it’s for a good public education cause.”

Julian admitted that members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (LGBTIQ) community came under various forms of discrimination. The public needed to accept diversity and respect everyone, irrespective of who they were. Jofiliti Veikoso a gay rights advocate said that the LGBTIQ community “thanks the Government for the recognition of SOGIE (Sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions) in our constitution that governs our nation. However, the people of Fiji need to be open minded and accept people of diverse sexuality.”

On Julian’s appearance in the video, youth leader Miliana Iga noted that, "the rest of us draw inspiration from your campaign in the fight against discrimination.”

Julian reminisces; “I realised I was different when I was a child. Throughout my life, the story has been of relatives and everyone trying to change me. I get so many negative comments and many people give me looks as if I am garbage.” He said that one of the reasons why he has posted creative images of himself on his Facebook timeline is to let people know he is gay. He has accepted his sexuality and wants understanding from everyone else. He admits that everything is fine when he meets people but the moment they find out he is gay their whole attitude changes as if they are in the presence of a polluted creation.

Julian has worked at a hotel in Taveuni, in a cinema and a fish and chips shop. He is also a peer educator on HIV-AIDs. He is looking to doing further studies to get a steady job and save money for the future. He has attended leadership workshops conducted by the Youths For Integrity network and other NGOs.

As Julian looks out to his surroundings, he hopes that people will change and not litter carelessly. He also hopes that people’s attitudes to the gay community will also change. He has a boyfriend and Julian regrets that he (boyfriend) wants to keep their relationship a secret. The sound of the waves pounding the Nasoata reef in the distance reminds Julian of their robust love. Julian wants a warm open relationship and not a secretive one hidden from the public. “I don’t know. He may be confused or perhaps the pressure of people giving hateful looks affects him. I want this to change. What’s wrong with walking the streets of Suva holding his hand? It should be cool.”

Julian gets up from the concrete seawall where he has been thinking about his life and his environment and walks resolutely to the bus stand. Change to stop pollution or attitudes on sexuality must come from within people’s hearts. Public education will help. As he walks he thinks that he has a young fruitful life ahead of him which has to be lived.
Life has to go on whether people’s attitudes change or not!
Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. 
He can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or FaceBook 

Supporting local film makers, artists and writers

Supporting local film makers, artists and writers

Joseph Veramu

There is no denying that over the years we have witnessed the immense talent and sheer creativity of student film makers who produce short films that are part of the Kula Film Awards. I have been impressed with the succinct scripts that are written, the creativity in the way films are shot from different angles and the ingenuous editing techniques. One of the positive benefits is that these films with social themes of bullying, interpersonal conflicts, climate change, for example, are extended into social media narratives.

 It is good news that under the 2017 – 2018 National Budget, Fijian youths can access $350,000 to make a movie, publish a book and engage in other forms of art. This is a great incentive to help budding film makers and writers to achieve their goals. Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said that Government was keen to support local movie producers and writers. He explained that this initiative would increase creativity for individuals who are passionate about filming movies and writing books. “We have a lot of people for example people who write novels or story books but they don’t have the initial funding to get it printed; we can help them.” He said that those wishing to explore film making could also access this fund.


VOU dance group performs internationally
Already there is buzz from young film makers thinking of developing longer works and I expect to organize a meeting later this month to discuss script writing and film making.

The rest of this article looks at the local expressive arts scene.

 Small community of dedicated artists

There is already a small community of dedicated expressive artists who produce noteworthy paintings, local apparel design and contemporary dances. There is sometimes a perception that art is not newsworthy hence the lack of publicity in the media. It does not help that artists are by nature humble, introverted and prefer to work in relative anonymity.

 It is good news that there is a new art gallery in Suva called 21K. In May it exhibited the art works of young talented painters like William Bakalevu, Mason James Lee, Waqa Vuidreketi, Anare Somumu and Josua Toganivalu. The gallery under the directorship of  William Toganivalu secured sponsorships from 3 companies and the Department of Culture, Heritage and Arts. The gallery plans a solo exhibition this month by the Gandhi of local art, Lambert Ho.

 Local companies supporting art

Local businesses can do more to promote art. Globally, art works are seen as investments and our local artists can develop truly unique Fijian styles that can compete in the global market place. These art forms can be experiment with mixed art, hand-painted fashion, sculpture and recyclable art, for example. In an interview with a local paper, Lambert Ho noted that there is potential in the art industry in Fiji for young and budding artists. “You can earn a lot of money from it, being your own boss, but you’ve got to find your own leash and you got to find your own style. Ho has also worked with the Yellow Ribbon Project to promote art therapy.

 More local companies should follow the example of the ANZ Fashion ATMs. This initiative is part of a broader partnership between ANZ and the Fashion Council of Fiji to help link local designers to business opportunities. The 6 ATM designs have featured Mr Hupfeld Hoerder a local designer of Rotuman-German decent. His designs promote a strong sense of the Pacific, incorporating culture, identity and heritage. Other ATMs have featured local artists like Samson Lee, Ilai Tokoiono, Robert Kennedy, and Epeli Tuibeqa.

 Contemporary Dance and Music Scene

Fiji is home to dance groups and bands that produce a vibrant mix of sounds and movements. The overwhelming public support of the inaugural Thurston Food and Music Festival is a positive sign that there is tremendous interest in the local music scene. It was good to see many children, youths, adults and senior citizens patronizing the event. Up and coming artists and bands that participated included Inoke Kalounisiga better known as Knox, Talei and Nem, Moana Loa, Sam Stevens, Nasio Domoni, Via Ni Tebara, Laisa Vulakoro, Seru Serevi, Drixstar, The Relativ, Tom Mawi, Inside Out and Tiki Taane. It was affirming to see 7 corporate sponsors and local media support.

 One group that participated VOU dance group has gained international prominence for taking Fiji’s rich narratives and culture to the wider world. They use live music and dance. VOU (meaning new) integrates traditional story-telling through contemporary dance and music. The group is made up of a multi cultural group of talented young people and do research to discover more about their heritage and roots. They have performed at events and festivals throughout the world including Asia and Europe

 Another Fiji based group with an international platform is Rako Pasefika. They started off as a dance group that drew attention through their high energy performances. They have branched out into fashion design, mentoring and guiding Pacific artists towards their full potential. They also provide consultancies, research and project management services. The group is led by Letila Mitchell renowned for her expertise in the Pacific creative and cultural industries.

 Local writers

Apart from the prolific internationally renowned writer Dr Satendra Nandan, the Fijian writing scene appears dormant. It is a constructive start that award winning writer Professor Subramani had plans to bring together established and budding young writers at the University of Fiji. It is quite a paradox that Fiji, the hub of the Pacific and a country with a very colorful history, has not been able to produce more writers of international standing. Two young pioneering writers who have published their works on amazon.com are the eminent journalists and diplomat Josua Tuwere and FNU Lecturer Jese Temo. Tuwere’s book written in the form of a long narrative epic poem is Selo! Selo! Selo! A Pacific Odyssey. It is the story of Saunivanua, a Fijian warrior and the history of his clan. It traces the history of his existence through tales of conflict, displacement and love. Drawing from Pacific and Christian epistemological frameworks, the poem infuses Fijian, Tongan and English concepts of journey and identity. Temo’s book of short stories and poems, Other Side of Paradise gives a glimpse into what it is like to grow up in the iTaukei culture that has produced some of the world's best combat soldiers and rugby players.

I understand that the iTaukei Trust Fund Board produces literary works in the vernacular and and I gather that the Retired Fijian Teachers Association have plans to encourage their members to produce literary works in the iTaukei language.


It appears that a lot of creative works are being produced locally. However creative artists by nature tend to be humble and shun publicity. They now need to come out of their artistic cocoons and learn to market their works. Local newspapers and TV stations should consider featuring local poems and short stories especially in the weekend editions including sections on local books, art, music reviews and interviews.