Fiji’s small knit aviation community was engulfed in grief and lots of sadness early in the month when a trainee pilot and her instructor died in a plane crash in Fiji’s north. Just like the death of pilot David Tong who in January lost his life when his small plane crash in rugged mountainous terrain in Papua New Guinea, rescue arrived too late for young Merelesita Lutu and flying instructor Iliesa Tawalo.
As a New Zealand expert arrives to begin an investigation into the tragedy, I am reminded of two equally harrowing episodes involving domestic aviation. The first was taking one of the most terrifying plane rides of my entire life from the capital Suva in a small plane in 2016 bound for a remote island in Fiji’s eastern region as part of a documentary I was producing for the US Embassy.
Nothing could be seen out of the plane’s windows during the entire 60 minute flight and for the whole time, both pilots had their hands firmly on the plane equipment. They say the weather on that day was somewhat similar to the day the small Cessna plane of which Lutu and Tawalo were in went down.
The rain was relentless and thunderstorms could be heard. The kind of weather that should see one holed up in the warmth of a blanket at home instead of being contained in a small metal machine flying hundreds of metres up in the sky. The other incident in 2010 involved another small plane though a bit bigger than a Cessna aircraft. It was a Twin Otter belonging to Pacific Sun, forerunner of what’s Fiji Link today.
About five minutes away from landing at Nadi Airport, the plane flew through dark, ominous black cloud formations. The plane was struck by lightning seconds later and it dropped. Fortunately for the passengers, the crew led by a woman captain from Tonga recovered from the shock, stabilised the plane and with its instruments knocked out by lightning, flew the aircraft out towards the sea off the city of Lautoka.
Using their own visions, they safely landed the plane some 10 to 20 minutes later at Nadi. This incident forced the airline to ensure that all its planes are fitted with weather radar equipment. It’s a real tragedy when lives of our aviators are lost but such incidents will continue to be isolated and far between it is hoped, and that it ought not take away the respect and admiration we have for these bunch of brave professionals who skilfully deliver us to our destinations safe and sound day in and day out.
Peter O’Neil, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea assumes the chairmanship of the sub-regional bloc the Melanesian Spearhead Group this month when he hosts the long delayed summit of MSG leaders in Port Moresby. He takes over from his next-door neighbour, Rick Houenipwela, Prime Minister of Solomon islands, although bulk of the work of MSG was done by the man Houenipwela replaced during a confidence motion vote last November in Solomon Islands parliament, Manasseh Sogavare.
Mr O’Neil has a lot of work to do. He would need to start by impressing on his Melanesian leaders the need to re-commit to the ideals and aspirations of the MSG. They have to show that commitment by attending the MSG Leaders Summit. Its not good enough to send a cabinet minister or diplomat instead. Funding and Indonesia are going to be the other key challenges for the new MSG chair. If MSG members are not willing to give more money to fund the work of the secretariat, then the regional bloc will have to secure alternative funding options.
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IT’s our first edition again for yet another new year and to say that the days are just flying by is fast becoming an understatement.
First things first, vinaka, thank you all our avid readers for your trust and your business. April this year would mark our fourth year as the new owners of this publication that has stayed true to its selfappointed but welcome role of being the true and bold witness and reflector of all the businesses of the islands for over four decades now.
We have a lot of plans for 2018. Our list of things to do is as long as the year would be and most of them are, I’m afraid to admit, carried over from the previous 12 months. Foremost is widening the option of the medium you receive your own copy of the magazine.
Very soon, we are going to offer the emagazine facility, utilising our widely used www.islandsbusiness.com We have just increased the capacity of our Internet server to allow for this capability and we are now working with our local bank to finalise online payment requirements.
The most immediate advantage of introducing electronic magazine is obvious – Islands Business will be able to widen its availability almost immediately. The other wonderful attraction of course is the luxury of reading your monthly copy at the first day of each month, irrespective of whether you live in Suva or in New York! Having said all that, we are of course mindful that a segment of our readership prefers to read a hardcopy version of the magazine.
Be assured that we have no intention of stopping printing at all. In fact we are currently reviewing this particular aspect of our business with the aim of ensuring its continuation.
2018 should also see us venture into new business with some exciting new partners both in Fiji and across the islands of the Pacific and again, in doing so, we are grateful and indebted to you all for your continuing support and patronage.
WITH Fiji’s hosting of COP23 in Germany last month, I invited a Pacific negotiator to give me her take on the climate change talks and her views are republished below. “THE COP in Bonn appeared to be two meetings held in parallel with little connection between the two.
There was the Bula zone where the rule book for the Paris Agreement was being negotiated and the Bonn zone where various side events, talks, displays, dancing and kava drinking took place. Most of the so called accomplishments were undertaken in the Bonn zone.
Sadly, the engagement of the Fijian Presidency in the hard negotiations in the Bula Zone was very limited and poorly directed. The great expectations that this would be a Small Island States COP were never realised. Despite efforts to identify key SIDS outcomes at the Pacific Climate Champions meeting in Suva in July, many of these issues were pushed in to the background.
THE story of the people of Vunidogoloa in Cakaudrove, Northern Fiji, cannot remain untold. Until now, many individuals, organisations and governments have put themselves forward as the saviours of this community, the first in Fiji to be relocated due to climate change. But the painful truth is that the people of Vunidogoloa have been left largely to their own devices to deal with a calamity of proportions their forefathers could not have imagined.
An entire village has been uprooted from the land it has occupied for generations. A whole community has moved from subsistence fishing to agriculture because it has no option. And a generation has ripped thousands of cubic metres of timber from native forests in order to build homes which will withstand the ravages of time and the force of nature. When and as required, village elders are paraded before visiting dignitaries to tell the supposed success story of their relocation with the help of the organs of state. Nothing could be further from the truth.