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

Making a Pacific mark

IN December we highlighted the achievements of Fiji’s national rugby sevens coach and named him Pacific Person of the Year. A few weeks later Ryan was honoured with the Rugby Union Writers’ Club award in England. While England head coach Eddie Jones won the Rugby Union Writers’ Club Pat Marshall Memorial Award, which is given to the sport’s personality of the year, Ryan received the Special Award.

This after coaching Fiji to its first Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016. The award is not given out every year, only if considered appropriate. Last month we brought to you the achievements of two extraordinary Pacific men who have dared to stand up for what they believe in despite overwhelming odds. Papua New Guinea Provincial Governor, Gary Juffa, and former Fiji Television CEO, Geoffrey Smith, are leading lights in their communities and throughout the region.

This month Juffa once again highlighted corrupt practices which have become all-too common in his homeland and there is no sign he will back down from the crusade.

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Walk the talk

THIS year Fiji will chair the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change – COP 23 in Bonn, Germany. It is an event which is currently being touted as a major achievement for Fijian Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama, and an opportunity for the Pacific community.

That it may well be. Just as former Kiribati President Anote Tong was a champion for the battle against sea level rise, so has Bainimarama taken up the climate change mantle. While the annual COP meetings are important gatherings at which critical issues to the survival of the planet are discussed, it is important that our leaders not forget the urgent work which remains at home.

The reduction of use of fossil fuels must begin with the region’s leaders and the collective government machinery of our island nations. If Pacific leaders are serious about reducing fossil fuel use, they will immediately address the size and number of vehicles used in their daily motorcades.

The bigger the vehicle, the more fuel it consumes. Our leaders – in government, the Civil Service, commerce and churches – use some of the biggest cars, an obvious sign of their status. It is to them that the community looks for an example. The region must show the world real options for making reductions in the use of fossil fuels and mitigating against climate change.

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A call to renewal

A TERRIBLE, unjust system – indentured labour – was ended in Fiji 100 years ago this month. Known as girmit, the practice of recruiting labourers in India to work for a pittance on farms in Fiji lasted an agonising 37 years.

Some of those labourers were tricked into making the voyage, others left India in search of a better life or to escape family or societal demands and pressues. When indenture finally ended, the girmit and their descendants often found that despite their massive contributions to agriculture, commerce and education, they lived in a land in which they were not always made to feel welcome.

Despite the words of inclusivity and the apparent national propensity towards multi-culturalism, the events of 1987 and 2000 showed that these were mere platitudes. It is important for Fijians – which is what Fiji’s people are called post the 2006 coup - why the Indian community has been treated this way when it has done so much to contribute to the development of Fiji as a nation.

Some will argue that the worrying then continues to this day despite Constitutional change, a common name and the one person-one vote electoral system.

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Life with cancer

THROUGHOUT the Pacific cancer has infiltrated the lives of our people at every strata of society. In Fiji, prostate cancer is an emerging new killer threatening men, families the workforce and the economy. Among women, cervical cancer is the most common killer of women in many of the region’s countries. With increased medical services, greater awareness through radio broadcasts, newspapers, public advocacy and social media there should be a corresponding decline in cancer.

At the very least there should be an increased reporting of this killer which has started to rip precious loved ones from families and stripped industry of its most productive people.

Fijians have flocked to a pool at Natadradave, Dawasamu, Tailevu from where there a reports that people have been healed by life-giving water flowing from the hills above the village. Some claim to have been healed. We cannot offer scientific proof for or against the healing powers of the waters of Natadradave. But the fact is that throughout the region the spirituality of our people makes them rush to any source of healing – water, herbs, traditional healers or evangelists.

For those struck by lifealtering diseases will do anything for the chance to live another day. A final roll of the dice is all they seek.

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A call to action

DIABETES is perhaps the greatest growing threat to regional health and productivity. More people suffer from diabetes than those infected by the HIV virus or who suffer from full-blown AIDS. It is likely that due to unhealthy eating habits diabetes and its related diseases will continue to be a greater threat to HIV-AIDS.

The growing awareness of the dangers of unsafe sex, contaminated transfusions or the sharing of needles has sparked an urgency in many members of the community. Awareness has become such that even the nation’s sex workers insist that their clients use condoms. Everyone knows exactly how HIVAIDS is spread. The message of this debilitating infection is so obvious that it develops fearfulness. And because sex is not something that happens in public, there is a measure of control in the spread of the HIV virus. Diabetes, on the other hand, is linked closely to diet and other eating habits.

For many people there is a certain comfort in eating, drinking and cooking or other activities associated with food. In some cases people are more susceptible to diabetes because of their genetic makeup. These patients are unable to control the production of insulin and have a greater risk of developing this potentially dangerous disease.

Diabetes can lead to renal disease in which the victim’s kidneys can no longer perform their normal functions. High blood pressure and heart disease have also been linked to diabetes and in extreme cases patients have been known to suffer from a combination of these illnesses.

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