1. FIJI OFFERS MORE FOR MSG BLOC – Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s mandate of providing assistance to the Melanesian Spearhead Group secretariat on various aspects of trade, labour, regional cooperation with law enforcement agencies and climate change has been the guide to Fiji’s contribution over the past 2 years of its MSG chairmanship.
2. TRAINS FOR TRANSPORT- Commuters in the Western Division can now look forward to a new mode of public transportation.
3. SCHOLARSHIP AWARENESS REACHES STUDENTS OF NAITASIRI – In an effort to reach out to the public at large on the scholarships available and offered at by the Public Service Commission (PSC), a team was at Lomaivuna High School on Friday (14/06), for the careers expo day.
4. CAMPAIGN GIVES VOICE TO WOMEN AND GIRLS – Safeguarding the rights and interests of women is paramount in the creation of violence free communities.
5.VILLAGERS MUST MANAGE LAND AND MARINE RESOURCES – There is an urgent need for the villagers to learn about the management of their land and marine resources says the Ministry of Fisheries.
1. FIJI OFFERS MORE FOR MSG BLOC
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s mandate of providing assistance to the Melanesian Spearhead Group secretariat on various aspects of trade, labour, regional cooperation with law enforcement agencies and climate change has been the guide to Fiji’s contribution over the past 2 years of its MSG chairmanship.
In this regard, Minister for Foreign Affairs and outgoing MSG Foreign ministers meeting chair, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola while addressing the 2013 MSG FMM currently underway in New Caledonia said that enormous achievements have been made in each of these strategic areas.
“On the political and security front, I am pleased to acknowledge that achievement has been made by our Police Commissioners in advancing the work on the Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO),” Ratu Inoke said.
“This Department once fully operational, will be responsible for overseeing the Formed Police Unit, Regional Police Academy, Humanitarian and Emergency Response Coordinating Centre and Police Cooperation.”
Ratu Inoke said it was important that MSG countries collectively realise their true potential in peace keeping operations internationally.
“Our unique customs and traditions make us effective peace keepers. We must also respond effectively in sharing information to prevent our countries against the threats of globalization and liberalization,” he said.
Other notable achievements highlighted by the outgoing FMM chair included the review of the MSG constitution in which he pointed out a number of instruments of cooperation (Custody and Maintenance of Children, Legal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments, and the MOA on Police Cooperation) that will further elevate the organization’s cooperation.
MSG Foreign ministers were also briefed on the significant progress made in fostering trade and economic cooperation.
“I am delighted that we will be considering a revised trade and economic cooperation architecture as part of the Trade Ministers Meeting Report. It signifies the continued evolution and maturity of our trade relations,” Ratu Inoke said.
This year also marks the 25th Silver Jubilee anniversary of the founding of the MSG since its establishment in 1988.
2.TRAINS FOR TRANSPORT
Commuters in the Western Division can now look forward to a new mode of public transportation.
The commuter railroad project to cost $20million will be developed through a proposed investment by the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) to use public service trains on its tramlines.
Minister for Public Utilities (Water and Energy) and Transport Timoci Lesi Natuva said Government is fully supportive of the initiative as it would mean lesser traffic jams on our roads at peak hours.
There will also be easier and faster transportation of cargo and travel because trains will provide another option for the travelling public.
“We could see a public private partnership working to benefit not only our road users but all Fijians,” he said.
“Government is very much part of this project which will see the introduction of trains,” Minister Natuva said.
Minister Natuva said Fijians not accessible to roads but live in the cane belt area will benefit.
This means people between Ra and Sigatoka can travel by road or train between centres.
FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan said they were reviewing the railways and would invest millions over the next few years in the project.
“We only use our railway during the crushing season and the other 6 months it (railway lines) is idle so we have come up with an idea to invest a little more so that we are able to get some returns from our investment,” Mr Khan said.
“At the same time provide an alternative mode of transportation for locals as well as tourists.”
“Talks with stakeholders have reached the stage where we will implement our strategy because most times our railway lines are idle and cane transportation via railway is somewhat decreased.”
The first railway lines were built in 1876 and since then have been used sorely for transportation of cane to the mills.
According to Mr Khan, the train system will begin by 2016.
Over time, the changing dynamics of the sugar industry and the increase in vehicles on Fiji’s roads has pushed the introduction travel of trains.
“We are looking at options on whether the trains will be for produce or people or both so the figure will be different for this capital investment. We expect the returns to be also massive.”
Fiji Sugarcane Growers Council acting chief executive officer Sundresh Chetty said the introduction of trains would certainly boost the transportation sector in the country.
“About 70-80 per cent of cane used to be transported via the trams in the 80s but right now it has moved on to trucks which gives another reason to use the railways for other purposes,” Mr Chetty said.
The idea has already been given the green light from Government.
“We are all for it and it would really boost our transportation sector earnings,” Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Manasa Vaniqi said.
“Villagers and communities in rural areas could use it as an alternative to busses and mini – vans,”
Special Administrators in the western division have thrown their support for the initiative
Lautoka Special Administrator Praveen Bala says the initiative has the backing of his municipality and he looked forward to the introduction of trains in Fiji.
“It is a very good idea and Lautoka is fully backing the introduction of trains,” Mr Bala said.
3. SCHOLARSHIP AWARENESS REACHES STUDENTS OF NAITASIRI
In an effort to reach out to the public at large on the scholarships available and offered at by the Public Service Commission (PSC), a team was at Lomaivuna High School on Friday (14/06), for the careers expo day.
PSC permanent secretary Parmesh Chand said that close to 400 students in the province of Naitasiri visited the PSC booth to learn more about the different scholarships offered.
“PSC is making every effort to ensure that primary and secondary school students in particular those in the rural areas, get the opportunity to know about scholarships offered at PSC,” he said.
There are altogether six scholarships being offered. These include the PSC Local, PSC Overseas, Student Loan Scheme, Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, PSC Multi Ethnic Affairs Scheme and the Scholarship Scheme for Special Children (SSSC).
Lomaivuna High School Principal, Naisa Cama Toko said that organizing the careers expo day was a historical occasion for the school.
“This is the first time that an event like this has been organized here. We had been preparing from the beginning of this year in conjunction with the Careers team at the Ministry of Education,” he said.
“I feel that is so important that children at the tender age of primary school get to choose their career path early in life so that they are focused and can work towards it.”
The PSC local scholarships caters for degree and diploma programmes of study like the Multi Ethnic Affairs and student loan scheme, however the Tertiary Education loan scheme is offered only for those studying for a degree.
The scholarship scheme for special children is offered only to students who study for a Certificate or a Trade Certificate and to those who are physically challenged and those who are socially disadvantaged. The PSC Government Overseas Scholarship this is only given to students who study for Undergraduate Degree, Postgraduate and Masters.
4. CAMPAIGN GIVES VOICE TO WOMEN AND GIRLS
Safeguarding the rights and interests of women is paramount in the creation of violence free communities.
This was unequivocally demonstrated by the village of Natalecake, which became the first community in the province of Ba to declare a violence free status.
Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni, launched the declaration program at the village, during her official tour to the western division last week.
“Natalecake is the 42nd community to have joined the zero tolerance violence free community program,” Dr Luveni said.
“The impact of the campaign has been witnessed by the women and girls who have been given a voice in their community to speak for themselves and their roles as mother, wives and daughters have been increasingly recognized.”
The minister also commended Natalecake villagers for their commitment towards the Zero Tolerance Violence Free Community Campaign.
“One of the key pillars of this campaign is one strengthening the bond between husband, wives and their children. When we have this bonding and respect, it results in happy, violent free families and communities,” she said.
Dr Luveni unveiled the billboard that signifies the strengthened partnership between government and Natalecake villagers towards eliminating violence against women and children.
While speaking about the impacts of the campaign, Mrs Luisa Marama, vice-president for Natalecake women’s group said the awareness programs has empowered their women to speak out against domestic violence.
“Before this campaign started in Natalecake, there used to be a lot of violence, women were being punched, beaten by their husbands, there were lot of unwanted pregnancies and young girls and children were also mistreated at times,” Mrs Marama said.
“Since the introduction of this campaign we have worked together with the ministry and Police and all the people in the village received training and awareness workshops on programs aimed at raising awareness on protecting women and children.”
The campaign had a huge impact on the villagers especially the women and young girls who were more empowered, responsible and developed a positive mental attitude.
Natalecake village headman Mr Meli Nalulu thanked the government for the campaign.
“Today, the people Natalecake are proud of this achievement, through the campaign we have received awareness programs that has made us realize that violence is not an acceptable behaviour and adopting this campaign is like investing into a better future for our women and girls,” Mr Naulu said.
“Social attitude perpetuates violence, it requires more than punishment of the perpetrator to change their attitude, mindsets and behaviour.
“We have learnt that domestic violence is not just hitting women but withholding money, restricting their freedom, depriving them of the relevant basic life necessities of life is also a form of domestic violence.
“Violence is like a deadly disease, if we don’t stop it will be continue to spread and damage our society.”
5. VILLAGERS MUST MANAGE LAND AND MARINE RESOURCES
There is an urgent need for the villagers to learn about the management of their land and marine resources says the Ministry of Fisheries.
At a Fisheries Biodiversity and Fish Wardens workshop last week, villagers from the district of Verata in the province of Tailevu were taken through the protection of their respective fishing areas and sustainable fishing.
Fisheries officer Jope Kavua said the four day workshop provided a learning experience for more than thirty participants from the villagers of Ucunivanua, Sawa, Kumi, Uluiloli, Naivuruvuru, Naloto and Naigani attended the workshop.
“This is the first time for a workshop of this kind to be organised in Verata. This workshop follows the Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Forests, Mr Inia Seruiratu’s visit to the area with the Commissioner Central earlier this year.
The people lacked knowledge of the fisheries activities and so the minister directed us to organise a workshop,” he said.
Twenty fish wardens were also appointed and provided certificates after the workshop. Their role is to help the villages look out for illegal fishermen in Verata.
“There are 410 qoliqoli or fishing areas in Fiji and each community has a fishing area. We have appointed some fish wardens so that they could help the Fisheries Department in looking after the fishing areas in Verata,” Mr Kavua said.
“The wardens would look out for night divers who come and fish illegally in Verata fishing areas. We want to help the villages. If people want to come and fish in Verata, they need to see the signatory of the Verata qoliqoli for permission to catch fish in Verata fishing areas. Once permission is given, nobody would be stopped.”
The participants were also advised on tilapia and seaweed farming as a means of increasing their income generation.
The workshop was closed by Commission Central Laisenia Tuitubou.