Feb 26, 2017 Last Updated 12:56 AM, Feb 15, 2017

Rabuka ready for big race

Loyalty pledge by MPs

WITH around 12 months before the next election in Fiji, former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka has consolidated the support of the current parliamentarians of the main Social Democratic Liberal Party. Of the 15 sitting MPs, all but two – Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, and suspended Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu – have applied to contest the polls under the SODELPA banner.

Ro Teimumu is being courted by Hope, a party formed by dissident members of the SODELPA working committee including activist Pita Waqavonovono, politician Mick Beddoes and former journalist Jese Sikivou.

In the 2014 election, Kepa polled the second highest number of votes with 49,485, second only to 2006 coup leader, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama on 202,459. She galvanised the mainly conservative, indigenous and far right support from those who opposed Bainimarama. Much of her support – however – came from Lau Province at the behest of her nephews and nieces once former civil servant, Anare Jale, was ruled out of the running by the Elections Office. Whether she will be able to maintain that support on her own in a new political entity is rather unlikely.

Kepa may retain voter support from the confederacy of Burebasaga, over which she is traditional leader. But her subjects including MPs from Kadavu, Nadroga and even the Tui Namosi, Ro Suliano Matanitobua, have already signed up with SODELPA. Twice in the past, commoner Rabuka has stood against the traditional chiefly establishment and won. 

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Lamb to the slaughter

FijI TV discards CEO

WHEN Fiji Television Limited CEO, Geoffrey Smith, finally steps down this month, he will put to rest one of the media industry’s worst-kept secrets. Appointed to replace Tevita Gonelevu in July 2015, Smith was ostensibly tasked to oversee the gutting of the company to a point where it would become no threat to the state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

The post of CEO of one of Fiji’s most promising companies was a poisoned chalice for Smith from the very beginning. Ever since the company refused to bend to the pressures of Fiji’s unelected interim administration under RearAdmiral Frank Bainimarama and later his Fiji First government, the knives have been out. First to go was investment specialist Mesake Nawari, recruited from Fijian Holdings Limited to understudy Canadian Ken Clark and eased out of the company by sustained political and military pressure.

Nawari drew the ire of the interim government when he continued to allow his news service to operate independently and openly challenge policies of Bainimara’s administration. That began on December 6 when the station did not produce its nightly news bulletin – the first time since its inception in 1991 – in protest against military censorship.

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Coach inspires the nation

WITH the world now his oyster, former Fijian sevens coach Ben Ryan has more opportunities than he can shake a stick at. Movie deals, speaking tours, a book and now the possibility of a Super Rugby franchise. Even the New York Knicks basketball team wanted Ryan after the Olympics Rugby Sevens victory – what better way to inspire a side than through the coach of a tiny nation which defied all odds to snatch gold at the biggest spectacle on Earth?

“The New York Knicks players knew about Fiji sevens, they’d watched it in the locker room and were amazed with the athleticism of our boys and the similarities of the offloading and passing in basketball,” Ryan told the South China Morning Post. While many coaches looked at the Olympics as an assignment, for Ryan it was a time to learn. “At the Olympics there’s coaches there that have huge experience at world level from different sports and I just wanted to gain as much information and suck them dry of their knowledge, and I’ve continued to do that,” he said.

“There’s things you take and you plagiarise. Whatever it is, there’s things basketball teams might do around their offence or defence or their yoga or meditation that the Knicks are doing.....

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Danger lies within

VANUATU has always taken great pride in the varieties of kava cultivated locally. As long ago as 2002 the International Kava Executive Council was formed and Vanuatu saw fit to start to introduce quality controls on the production of kava for local consumption and for export. Furthermore a Kava Act was drawn up in this country which possessed 82 of the varieties (29 considered consumable and 10 the 'noble' varieties.) In contrast to our 82, Fiji has 12, Tonga 6 and Samoa 8 varieties. So Ni-Vanuatu pride in its home-grown euphoric was unbounded, and Ni-Vanuatu travelling to regional meetings were often asked to provide the kava for the celebrations.

But then recently to have the Fiji Sun reporting at the time of the Fiji Parliament engaging itself in debate, for a Kava Bill 2016, that the Fiji Standing Committee chair on Natural Resources stated "Whatever yaqona that goes out of Fiji should be Fiji kava because of the quality and the standard; we don't want to export substandard commodities."

Well, this did not go down well in Vanuatu. Okay, certain European countries banned kava. Kava has never been consumed in Europe. Furthermore they use the word to designate extracts produced in Europe from imported dried parts of the plant. Once it is dried, however, there is no way to tell if it is truly piper methysticum or not. 

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The FUTURE of kava

Yoshida looks to Ovalau as market key

OVALAU, Fiji (Invictus News Service) – In the sleepy little town of Ovalau, once capital of Fiji and a pivotal Pacific port, an ancient crop is emerging as a potential game changer for island economies. Kava as it is known across the region is being processed in a small factory just metres from the oldest hotel in the region and turned into a drink consumed in bars as far away as the United States.

The Yoshida family – of Japanese heritage – owns the hotel and its scion, Zane, is the brains behind Taki Mai, a line of kava products in powder and drink form. Already Yoshida has influenced changes in Fiji’s kava industry which have seen several regional countries work together to seek endorsement of the Quality Standard of Kava from the Rome-based Codex Commission of the Food and Agriculture Authority.

The endorsement will open up billions of dollars in possible export revenue for Pacific countries – especially Fiji and Vanuatu who currently lead exports and are collaborating on a common standard for growers and exporters. Yoshida knows it may take some time for endorsement – insiders say four years at the most – and that the industry must take advantage of the delay to standardise processes.

“As you know in Fiji, we are now working towards the implementation of our own kava standard and quality manual and finalisation of the Kava Bill,” Yoshida said. “The key is to now ensure we develop a sustainable platform to cater for the rapidly growing demand for kava and then it is upwards and onwards for the kava industry.”

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