Oct 18, 2017 Last Updated 12:43 AM, Oct 5, 2017

Whispers

Missing cash

WHERE is the $515,000 given by Methodist people from Fiji who now live in New Zealand for the construction of a new home for the head of the church? At the recent Methodist Church in Fiji annual conference, New Zealand observers raised the prickly question and received no satisfactory response from the leadership. Even though the church treasurer has stepped down and will shortly return to the ministry, that fact remains that there is only $35,000 of the original amount donated by New Zealand Fijians in the church coffers. And the home which was to have been built at Davuilevu, Nausori, remains but a bundle of drawings on an architect’s table.

University plans

WHERE is the head of the regional institution who wants to build a university before his retirement? The aged cleric has already convinced his board to amend the retirement age to allow him to stay on. And this only after first removing faculty members in his age group. Now the prospective vice-chancellor is believed to be out of the country on sabbatical as he tries to convince funders and church leaders to fund a new university in the Fijian capital, Suva. But word is that church leaders have had enough and are now ready to concentrate on their own educational institutions.

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Whispers

Leading diplomat

FIJIAN diplomat Amena Yauvoli is the toast of the regional diplomatic community. Not only is he Director-General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Yauvoli is also Fiji’s climate change expert. That means he is on loan from the MSG to Fiji as part of regional cooperation ahead of the COP23 meeting in Germany later this year. Ironical that Fiji would depend on this senior civil servant who was removed at the height of the 2006 coup by the man who now cannot do without him. And, for the record, Yauvoli was removed three times by the Fijian Government and returned each time for love of country.

Missing wallet

WHICH regional diplomat had a big night on the town with colleagues in a French territory and lost his belongings in the process? After kava and cocktails the diplomatic party continued through several clubs until the wee hours. The regional diplomat in question was not seen the next day and most assumed he was a bit worse for wear after painting the town red. It later transpired that in the process of meeting the locals, the aforementioned diplomat had lost his special passport, a wallet and other miscellaneous items.

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Whispers

Double standards

INTERESTING to note that there is a huge campaign in Fiji for the second year running to conserve stocks of the kawakawa (grouper) which is under threat, The country’s first citizen – President, Major-General Jioji Konrote – is the patron of the programme which calls on citizens to refrain from catching, selling or eating the fish during specified times of the year. It’s somewhat unnerving that while one arm of the state has mounted a campaign to protect the fish, another is selling the kawakawa and advertising the fact on social media. Perhaps eyes will be averted to the sales because the campaign is voluntary and will not become law until 2018?

Immobile officers

TRAVEL into some of the more remote areas of Fiji and government officers have been severely hampered in delivering their services to the public because of a lack of vehicles. In the provinces of Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata, officers at remote posts often have to wait up to two weeks for access to a pool vehicle to visit up to 1000 farmers on corrugated roads hours apart. Public service vehicles are often available just once a day in these areas. Yet, late last month farmers and agriculture officers watched in awe as up to 60 Government vehicles stirred up the dust along infrequently accessed public roads as officials accompanied Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama on his most recent constituency visit.

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Whispers

Student Death

ABSOLUTE silence in Fiji’s media over the death of a PNG student at a local boarding school. The senior student at the Roman Catholic Saint John’s College died of a pulmonary haemorrhage (bleeding in the lungs) which could have been caused by one of many illnesses including dengue fever. Parents and former students rushed to the aid of the school to repatriate the body of the student and provide financial support for his family. Yet there was nary a word on the incident in the local papers or on radio and television. Even the Education Ministry and police were surprisingly quiet. Perhaps it was a matter of protecting Fiji’s business of educating regional students at its schools. 

School hiccups

SO Fiji’s Education Ministry still can’t get its act together when it comes to arranging national assessment for school children. The Literacy and Numeracy Assessment planned for the second term was moved suddenly, leaving many parents and students unaware, Righteous indignation spewed forth on social media as irate parents vented their frustration on teachers and ministry officials. The assessment had initially replaced annual examinations which determined the suitability of candidates for the next level of schooling. But in Fiji – where no student who fails can be deprived of forward movement – the education system has numerous quirks. Sudden movement of dates for exams and analysis is just one of them.

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Whispers

Not good enough

SO, even the deputy head of a regional agency is not good enough for the Australian aid facility which will administer assistance to programmes in the education, health and development sectors in a number of regional countries. News is that the woman – highly respected and qualified – was one of the reasons an Australian company won the bid to administer the disbursement of aid. But when that news reached Australia’s Suva offices there were immediate efforts to sabotage the appointment. Now the news is that the best candidate is out of the running and the high commission staff are promoting themselves to vacant positions in the facility. Which, of course, calls into question the entire selection and tender process.

Money matters

STILL on the Australians, remember the staffer in Whispers last month from their Suva post who disappeared with visa payments for a prominent boys’ school? The matter came to light after the principal complained to authorities. Apparently the woman was escorted in handcuffs from the building after it was established that she had indeed taken money and promised to arrange travel documentation for the boys. The incident points to the fact that people in Fiji still think they can circumvent the visa process system using the people they know. When will this end?

 

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