Oct 21, 2019 Last Updated 2:59 AM, Oct 16, 2019

Making news in death

Obituary ROSALYN ALBANIEL EVARA 1976 - 2017

IN death, Papua New Guinea journalist, Rosalyn Evara, has shone the spotlight on an issue which often escapes notice in regional news coverage – violence against women. A victim of domestic violence for several years, this outspoken woman highlighted daily the ills of the nation and was regarded as an advocate for justice and good governance.

Evara was respected by colleagues, the public and legislators alike for her professionalism and fearless journalism which often exposed the darker side of business in PNG. Trained at the highly-recognised Divine Word University, she began her journalism career at Word Publishing before joining the Post Courier in 2002. Working through the ranks and the major news centres of Lae, Madang and Port Moresby, this promising journalist became bureau chief and later business editor at the News Limited-owned Post Courier.

At 41 when she died suddenly, Evara was on track to becoming the first female editor of one of the region’s largest and most influential newspapers. But behind the professionalism , national recognition and success lay an awful secret which many Pacific women journalists also hide. 

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A warrior falls

Tony de Brum 1945-2017

... He was a giant of history, a legend in every meaning of the word ...

AT the age of nine, Tony de Brum was fishing at sea with his grandfather when he witnessed an explosion which was the evidence of the Bravo Shot – a thermonuclear test by the United States in the Bikini Atoll.

He would later see first-hand the devastation, grief and human suffering caused by that test and man-made destruction on the environment and to human life. Born in the Ellis Islands – what is now the independent nation of Tuvalu – de Brum would later move home to the Marshall Islands and witness the destruction caused by nature through climate change.

But even climate change, he came to realise, was in essence a manifestation of human greed, lack of responsibility and absence of justice. Perhaps these two key events propelled de Brum to become a fierce advocate for the rights of Pacific islanders from the smaller states and a clarion for the region at international fora.

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THE Pacific lost an eminent figure in the creative arts, culture and fashion with the death of Samoa’s Seiuli Allan Alo Vaai (pictured). More commonly known as Allan Alo, this brilliant dancer and choreographer lost a long battle with cancer which ended in New Zealand late last month.

Despite the cancer, Alo had perhaps his most successful year in 2016, establishing the inaugural Samoa Fashion Week which placed his country’s arts and fashion firmly on the global map. The event is expected to become the launching pad for upcoming designers, artists and gave birth to a new class of aspiring Samoan models.

Like Alo, it will quite possibly become a living inspiration not only for Samoans but also the thousands of talented Pacific islanders who seek opportunities in this area. Diagnosed with Stage Four lung and brain cancer, Alo braved on, defiant and determined to realise his dream to create a space to nurture, encourage and develop the talents of Pacific people of all ages.

It is a dream which started perhaps at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Bay Campus in Suva, Fiji, where he was co-founder of the Oceania Dance Theatre.

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Ode to a Queen

Halaevalu Mata’aho Ahome’e May 1926 - February 2017

MUCH loved by her subjects, respected throughout the kingdom, Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho ‘Ahome’e was laid to rest in the Royal Tombs at Mala’ekula on March 1. The late Queen Mother bore two kings – Tupou VI and his eccentric brother, Siaosi Tupou V, who died in 2012. And she was Queen Consort of Tonga from 1965 to 2006 as wife of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV whom she married in 1947.

Tupou IV ascended the throne in 1966 after the death of his mother, Queen Salote, the previous year in Auckland, New Zealand. A quarter of a century later, Mata’aho – like her mother-in-law – went to New Zealand and succumbed to an illness which she had suffered for some time. Born the eldest daughter of ‘Ahome’e (Manu-‘o-pangai) and his wife, Heuʻifanga, Halaevalu was descended from Ma’afu – the warring prince who governed Lau and threatened to rule Fiji in the late 1800s.

As Ma’afu’s great-great-granddaughter she had blood ties to several Fijian chiefly families including those in Lakeba, Taveuni, Bau and Rewa. Those links were revived last year through the marriage of her niece, Odette ‘Ainise Kilinalivoni Tupouohomohema Taumoepeau-Tupou to Ratu Penaia Kamisese Tuivanuavou (Edward) Ganilau.

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SEVEN months after becoming the first Tongan to be inducted into New Zealand Music’s Hall of Fame, Wilfred Jeffs, who went by the stage name Bill Sevesi, passed away, aged 92,,on April 23. When the news trickled out via social media, New Zealanders and Pacific islanders both mourned and celebrated a lifetime of achievement. Known as the ‘Godfather of the Pacific’, Sevesi was a master player of the steel guitar and , who helped to popularise Hawaiian-style music in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

The Tongan-born songwriter also composed more than 200 songs over a career spanning six decades. “He was such a prolific icon,” said New Zealand member of parliament and Labour spokesperson for Pacific affairs, Su’a William Sio. “Though Tongan, we all wanted to own him. May his memory live long in the history of Pacific music.” When the annual Pacific Music Awards are held in Manukau, South Auckland on 9 June, there is no doubt Sevesi will be on the minds of everyone as a founding father for Pacific music who won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

“I was so very lucky to have known him. A true legend amongst us and one of the kindest, most positive, special people of the world,” said Pacific Music Awards event manager, Petrina TogiSa’ena. Sevesi was a stalwart of Auckland’s music scene through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as leader of his band.

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