Letters to the Editor | Saturday, November 11, 2023

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Minister for Women, Children; Social Protection – Lynda Tabuya was chief guest at the Vanualevu Sanstan Diwali Celebration held at Subrail Park on Saturday. Picture: Ministry of Women, Children & Social Protection

Diwali – the festival of lights!

One can’t really celebrate Diwali simply by lighting oil lamps in the house, but the real essence is to shine with the radiance of knowledge, so that we can illuminate the path of many others in life.

This is the real significance of Diwali, known to Hindus as the festival of Lights.

During this Diwali, there should be a feeling of lightness, love, peace, and happiness within us.

Diwali is an occasion that fills our hearts with joy and brings loved ones closer.

It is important that we spread love, happiness, and warmth.

Diwali is the festival of lights — the festival of joy, prosperity, knowledge, and wisdom, as light represents many things.

A physical lamp is just a symbol.

We represent the real lamp, and we must be lit up, vibrant, smiling, joyful, and full of energy.

Hence, I wish readers a Diwali filled with love.

May this Diwali bring you good fortune, health, and countless blessings.

May the glow of diyas illuminate your life with endless joy and prosperity.

May your life be filled with prosperity and your heart with contentment.

Diwali is the perfect time to create beautiful memories with your loved ones.

Cherish every moment- it might not come back!

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

Drug abuse

Almost every day, we come across news reports or television broadcasts detailing arrests related to the possession or cultivation of marijuana and methamphetamine.

The persistent issue of glue sniffing further compounds the concerns about the direction our society is heading.

It prompts us to ponder the effectiveness of our discussions on drug awareness.

Despite ongoing campaigns to educate the public about the detrimental effects of drugs, it appears that the efforts invested in this endeavour are yielding little result.

Instances of drug abuse continue to escalate.

This raises the question of whether we will ever succeed in putting an end to the cultivation and abuse of drugs.

In contemplating this disconcerting trend, it becomes crucial for us to reassess our approach to drug awareness.

Perhaps there is a need for more targeted and innovative strategies to address the root causes of drug-related issues in our society.

It is incumbent upon us to foster a collective commitment to creating a healthier, more informed community.

SANJEET PRASAD, Mani Rd, Bulileka, Labasa

Show of humility

USP vice-chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia is truly a remarkable man of greater distinction, higher morals and a tremendous character.

Even after the then FijiFirst government “rudely” extracted him and his spouse, from the privacy and sanctity of their USP home at midnight; high-speed escort to Nadi Airport and deported him, he showed exemplary humility.

A huge guiding lesson to all better people. Former FijiFirst minister, Dr Mahendra Reddy today finds himself employed by USP.

What a remarkable story of true greatness in a professor and vice-chancellor at USP.

This true story cannot be easily matched. (A good Hollywood script can unfold).

Ronnie Chang, Martintar, Nadi

No experts

RN (FT 9/11) may have spotted many experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this column.

I have seen none.

Anywhere for that matter since the origin of this conflict.

If experts on this matter existed, this conflict would have ceased to exist ages ago.

Mohammed Imraz Janif, Natabua, Lautoka

Pension issue

In his 2023-24 national budget address to parliament in June, Hon Professor Biman Prasad had denounced the abrupt reduction of monthly FNPF pensions to existing pensioners as part of pensions reforms in 2012 as illegal and unethical.

For more than 11 years pensioners have been awaiting the satisfactory resolution of the action.

All legal redress was blocked by a decree proscribing taking the matter to any court of law.

Prof Prasad’s condemnation of the illegal and unethical action which seriously harmed retired workers and pensioners provided a glimmer of hope for them.

Apparently, any effort to redress the issue requires the amendment to the FNPF Act of 2011.

The question is do pensioners have to wait another year for the matter to be finally settled.

The number of affected pensioners in 2021 was 3000 of whom 1500 are still alive.

Another year’s wait will see this number further decline without seeing justice done.

Vijay Naidu, Suva

No pop, pop

It appears that Rajend and Nishant are engaged in a war of their own.

Let’s hope that this war remains limited to the LTE column and doesn’t escalate into a more serious matter.

I strongly discourage any consideration of resorting to “pop, pop” to settle differences.

Wishing both of you peace and happiness in the days ahead.

Happy Diwali to both Rajend and Nishant.

SANJEET PRASAD, Mani Rd, Bulileka, Labasa

Cashless society

I fully support Geoffrey Chand’s request to Professor Biman Prasad to rethink about the cashless society ideas.

Every Saturday, as I select my plates of fresh vegetables, I am acutely aware that we need to be able to use cash.

I have failed to cope with a mobile phone so my access to cash is via the “hole in the wall”.

I rely for small notes and coins on the kind cashier in the supermarket who gives me change for a $100 note for a purchase of items costing less than a total of $14.

Tessa Mackenzie, Suva

Diwali lunch

I feel that the Acting PM should have hosted this kind of lunch for some poor who are struggling to feed themselves.

There are some very poor communities in our country.

Rather than feeding these rich parliamentarians I feel it should be given to the poor.

Poor decision making.

Paras Naidu, Lautoka

Zombies around

Having read and seen it all about the effects of drugs and the families affected, I have the feeling that some times in the future there will Zombies roaming around the nation.

Having said that, it is highly likely that there will be a generation of idiots around Fiji’s populous.

Jioji O. Toronibau, Navetau, Tunuloa

God’s plan

“You will hear of wars and rumours of war.”

That is not new in God’s plan.

The Old Testament is filled with stories of war, year in, year out.

People getting killed by the thousands.

God told them total annihilation.

We should not bite the hand that feeds us.

Any ways thanks to the RFMF for training our youths.. the PWD can help too.

Joe Matatolu, Waila 3A

Worthy opinion

I think Nishant Singh exaggerates when he says my letters to The Fiji Times are worth 2 cents (FT 10/11).

I think they are worth a whole lot less!

Rajend Naidu, Sydney, Australia

Power of resilience

Resilience is a complex mechanism

We have the ability to develop and nurture resilience

Through sustained endurance, tolerance and patience

Strengthen the capacity to face ups and downs in life

With determination and strong will

To withstand the adversities of life

The power of resilience resides

In our strength to bounce back

From the challenges of life

This act of bouncing back demonstrates

The power of resilience of humans, animals, plants and nature

Humans have the inner capacity to suffer agony

With tolerance, forbearance, acceptance and resilience

Develop courage, stamina and optimism

Rise to tackle rigours of life

Being resilient does not mean that one

Doesn’t experience stress, emotional upheaval and suffering

Resilience engages one to use the ability

To work through emotional pain and suffering

Resilience is important because it helps people

Communities, and systems to thrive

In the face of hardships and misfortunes

To manage stress and uncertainty

Real resilience is tested in traumatic events

Once such event was COVID-19 which played havoc with human lives

Across the globe, so many lives were lost

And cremations and burials were unceremoniously conducted

In the midst of uncertainty, conflict and loss

We may find inspiration in the words and deeds of others

This helps us to rediscover and redefine hope and resilience

To bounce back to life to move forward

When despair and disappointment assail us

We turn to the cousin of hope, which is resilience

Trusting ourselves when all humans doubt us

Defying ourselves by getting back again and again

We are tested everyday

Often tempted to throw away

Resilience shall keep our minds at bay Knowing that you are forever blessed

Resilience is a certain toughness In one’s mental and emotional outlook

A capacity to pick oneself up when life throws

At us tribulations and we carry on regardless

Resilience symbolises optimism and determination

Instilling the power to plod on.

Bhagwanji Bhindi, Laucala Beach Estate, Nasinu

Remembrance Day

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we should pause and reflect on, what the brave and the fallen had done.

They made the ultimate sacrifice, by paying the final price, with their precious lives, the freedom that we have today.

T’was in the field of Flanders, in that land so faraway, the brave and fallen gave their lives, so that we can have ours today.

Others have also fought for peace, in other conflicts and theatres of war overseas.

We should always remember all of them, every day and not only in November.

At the going down of the setting sun and at the haunting sound of the Last Post, we shall remember all of them, our brave and fallen heroes, those men and women, who lie in marked and unmarked graves in many cemeteries.

Let’s all pause to remember them.

Lest we forget!

Edward Blakelock, Admiral Circle, Pacific Harbour

Viljoen speaks out

I have been reading, with a lot of interest, the opinions shared by Fiji Airways CEO and managing director Andre Viljoen via The Fiji Times.

I thank The Fiji Times for giving Mr Viljoen space.

Mr Viljoen shared some interesting news related to the performance of the airline during the pandemic and the challenges faced to survive.

I vividly remember the “dark days” during the COVID-19 pandemic and how our national airline struggled when airports were closed, and the tourism market was down.

It was a painful ordeal as the staff was sent home.

However, under Mr Viljoen’s leadership, Fiji Airways survived and is doing well in the market despite competition.

Thank you Mr Viljoen for coming out clean!

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

The poor in Fiji

Please allow me to respond to Ronnie Chang’s letter entitled ‘Poverty is real’ (FT 9/11) and the ‘Street Talk’ survey on ‘What should be done to help those living in poverty?’ (FT 6/11).

Ronnie makes several valid points regarding the struggle by those who are impoverished to put food on the table, engaging in all sorts of activities to earn money, and the wasted expenditure on transportation to the Nadi Hospital to discover the unavailability of health services.

Besides the cost of living, toing and froing to access government services add to the burden of pensioners, low-income earners, and the poor.

Behind the counter public servants can be unmindful of the struggles of the poor and disadvantaged.

The six persons interviewed in ‘Street Talk’ provide cogent responses.

Their suggestions to help the poor include job creation, increased social welfare allowances, small business opportunities, reducing prices of items, affordable services, tax exemption, wage increase and lower food prices.

These are all valid suggestions for the diverse group of people who are living below the poverty line or close to it.

According to the Micro-trend website Fiji’s poverty rate was 52.60 per cent in 2019, (in contrast to the World Bank figure of 24 per cent.

The former uses a poverty head count of $US5.50 ($F12.52) a day while the World Bank used $F2179 (per capita and annually?) as the poverty line.

Fiji is classified as an upper middle income country where the World Bank international poverty line in 2022 was said to be $US6.85 ($F15.60) per head in 2017 prices which would mean that the poverty rate will be closer to the over 50 per cent suggested by Micro-trend.

As someone has stated we could argue till the cows come home about poverty measures and the number of our people living below the poverty line.

But as Ronnie Chang has pointed out, poverty in Fiji is very real.

Those who are poor are a very diverse group of people.

Past research has shown that the largest proportion comprises the working poor.

These are people who hold full-time jobs but do not earn enough to provide for themselves and their families.

Then, there are those who are able bodied who are looking for employment and livelihood opportunities — the unemployed.

Unemployed women and youth, and former prisoners fall into this category.

There are those who fall into short-term poverty because of illness, injury, and loss of employment but who can be assisted out of poverty.

Another large group of the poor are those living and rural and remote areas who require a range of support.

Among the poor are those with disability who can work but do not have employment opportunities and there are severely disabled persons whose impairment makes them incapable of work who require constant support.

Discrimination against minorities including LGBTQI can be a significant factor in their impoverishment.

There are the chronically poor, the elderly with no income, and woe be it if they do not have the support of family and neighbours.

Those who suffer from debilitating illness and disability can be in chronic poverty.

In a number of situation these traits may be combined in the one person, being elderly or age related, disabled and chronically sick with little or no family support.

It is a fact that the increasing cost of living affect low-income earners and those with fixed income and the poor the most.

It is also a fact that current social protection provision is minimal but helpful to some extent.

It falls short in providing adequate support.

It is clear that one size does not fit all in poverty alleviation and reduction measures.

Professor Vijay Naidu, Suva

Tabuya welcomes critics

MINISTER for Women Lynda Tabuya has invited her critics and those who are not happy with her performance to share a cup of tea with her and discuss their issues.

This shows that she has an “open door” policy which is a key aspect of a democratic society.

Ms Tabuya shared that she was aware of criticisms directed towards her performance and that she was always open to feedback from the public in a bid to help improve her.

Ms Tabuya has set the benchmark, inviting her critics to visit her and express their opinions and views.

I guess this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Good call, madam!

Ms Tabuya also challenged businesses to redesign workplaces and make them family-friendly (FT: 09/11).

I believe this is an excellent call, as it will promote a harmonious and healthy working relationship and environment.

Her call for workplaces to set up childcare facilities to help working mothers must be taken in a positive way, as it will help mothers feel productive and be in a healthy working environment.

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

Improvement needed

I think it is pretty hard for an outsider to locate the public washroom in Nadi Town because of no clear signage and location.

One is at the bus station, two in the Nadi Market and the last one is situated below the Nadi Town Council office.

These existing facilities are not far apart and cover just one section of the town.

Their standard and how well they are maintained and kept needs no elaboration.

I think the time has really come for the municipal council to raise the standard of its services which at the moment I think is pathetic.

The condition of our town and the amenities it has are falling down as days pass by.

Any new addition will be miraculous but at least the maintenance can be done without too much pain.

I believe the acting CEO will on his return make an effort to change the way things are currently done.

Sad to say that under your command the ship is not sailing in the right direction.

Suresh Chand, Nadi

Minimum wage

THE proposal for a minimum wage of $5 per hour is a farce and a facade of the present and previous governments to stay popular among the poor electorate.

The Government needs to also understand the practice on the ground and the various conditions of employment and consider this when reviewing minimum wages.

If you increase wages, employees suffer reduced hours from many unscrupulous employers so, at the end of the week, an increased wage rate does not put a cent extra in the pockets.

Any wage increase should ensure that the working hours are not reduced.

I say enforcement of labour laws is greatly lacking and the ministry responsible should take offending employers to task.

Ajai Kumar, Nadi

Vital link

IT’S encouraging for students from primary schools to follow up on news by Assistant Agriculture Minister Tomasi Tunabuna that there is a vital link between education and agriculture (FT 5/11).

As we recall our early school days we had many awareness programs on this school gardening, the young farmers’ show, and Fiji food day with various themes like, “food from the jungle”.

Prioritise developments with land for our livelihood.

Agriculture – the backbone of Fiji.

Tahir Ali, Hamilton, New Zealand

Drug lords

With the continuous discussions regarding drugs in Fiji and now being told white drugs are everywhere, surely we should be having drug lords in Fiji.

Mohammed Imraz Janif, Natabua, Lautoka

Engineer in the making

I loved the piece titled ‘Engineer in the making’ which was shared by the People column (08/11).

The piece focused on the story of Sharvesh Sharma who expressed his excitement and appreciation about the Fiji National University’s open day.

According to Sharma, the FNU’s open day was a game changer for him.

He commended the FNU team for answering all his questions, saying that the trip to FNU was amazing.

Sharma, who is interested in studying the civil engineering program at FNU’s College of Engineering, Science and Technology (CEST), shared that his parents were his pillars of support and inspiration.

He gave them credit for helping him turn his dreams into reality.

He had a powerful message for the young, “Education is a powerful tool in today’s world.

It can be used to change the world, invent new technology, help in the fight against climate change, and assist other people in their growth.

It is the foundation upon which we build our lives and the bridge to a brighter, more meaningful existence, where we see our dreams turn into reality.”

Sharma is an inspiration to the young.

I wish him all the best in his undertaking!

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

Marijuana for money

The Fiji Times headline “Marijuana — easy money, more farmers plant cannabis than dalo, cassava” — (FT 7/11) echoes influential messages to those who are aspiring to take up farming for their livelihood traditionally.

The agromarketing North manager Ratu Nemia Leve clarifies that people should understand the difference between growing medicinal cannabis and other drugs.

I strongly believe there should be a strict legislation to monitor this quick, rich trade to alleviate poverty for our survival.

Fiji needs healthy farmers.

We need quick cash crop like cassava and dalo, not cannabis and drugs for untimely deaths.

Vinaka The Fiji Times, for such publications as the media has an important role to play.

“No one wakes up one day and decides they want to become a drug dealer or they want to be a stuck-up kid. Those decisions are made after a series of events have happened in one’s life.” — Michael K Williams.

Tahir Ali, Hamilton, New Zealand

Ministerial travel

Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad justifies the huge ministerial travel by comparing it with that incurred by the FijiFirst government.

So FFP is his benchmark and as long as the coalition stays below them in such matters, they feel good!

If this is how the coalition will benchmark its performance, I am afraid we all should be seriously worried about the governance in the country.

I believe it is revealing that this amount is over and above those funded by development partners and countries which invite ministers at their own cost.

There is also the promise by Australia to fund PMs and ministers of key countries to the next COP.

We all know that Australia funded the Fijian presidency of COP23.

I hope that the minister realises that the so-called assistance for travel for minsters is counted as part of their aid budget.

So when countries reveal their support for developing countries in various platforms, eg., OECD analysis etc, this is part of their financial contributions in support of individual countries.

Australia counts its support to Fiji’s COP presidency as its climate change financial support to Fiji.

Perhaps the minister should also consider what if these millions of travel funds were diverted for the real needs of people in communities, to lift them out of poverty, assist with education, health, infrastructure etc.

By the way do these travel funds also include the allowances and per diems which the ministers harvest?

Altauf Chand, Minto, NSW, Australia


This has no significance with Deepawali.

This is just a waste of money.

We are going through difficult times.

The prices of goods are so high.

Our Government should think correctly about what is right and what is wrong.

I feel this is direct burning of money.

A firecracker worth $10 lasts less than a minute, what is the point?

I was in a supermarket and a small boy was crying out for firecrackers and the mother was trying to tell the boy that she had not bought the necessary goods.

This firecracker business should stop.

We are making rich business people richer.

Paras Naidu, Lautoka

Paris quest!

I extend my best wishes to the Saiasi Fuli-coached Fijiana 7s team which is taking part in the Oceania Rugby 7s Championship in Brisbane.

For Fuli and the Fijiana, the championship is integral as they aim to secure qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Fijiana created history during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as they reached the semi-final, going down 22-17 to the Black Ferns in extra time.

Vasiti Solikoviti’s scintillating tries will never be forgotten, neither top try-scorer Reapi Ulunisau’s try that took the game into sudden-death extra-time.

The Black Ferns went onto beat France 26-12 to settle for gold.

The Fijiana won bronze after beating Great Britain 21-12.

I’m confident that the Fijiana’s unwavering efforts and preparation to qualify for next year’s Olympics will be rewarded.

The girls are carrying a rugby-crazy nation’s dreams and aspirations.

Tovolea mada Fijiana!

I also wish Ben Gollings and our warriors all the best.

The boys played Niue and the All Blacks 7s yesterday and will play the Oceania 7s team and Aussies today.

They must play their hearts out to win the Oceania 7s Championship – a win is long overdue!

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

Celebrating Diwali

Let’s celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights with prayers, blessings and treats in whatever situations we face in this world full of crisis, not forgetting our loved ones no longer with us with prayers.

We are all Fijians in diverse, plural, multicultural and multi-religious society, mostly celebrating with neighbours, friends and our loved ones as we feel bonded with unity for onward march together.

God bless our beloved nation.

Buying presents or other items before Diwali works well with our careful budgeting for our wellbeing, wishes and blessings.

Any religious festival celebrated with an open heart is spiritually blessed and rewarding.

However, at times it can get out of hand, and turn disastrous, stressful and expensive.

God also listens to our silent prayers.

Celebrations in the spirit of Diwali by sharing sweets and visits with sweet relationships is always good.

In this festival, we have the messages of moral values with hard work from the early stages to discipline ourselves to clean our souls and body.

This is to be maintained throughout.

Diwali taught me discipline on cleanliness as we believe.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Happy Diwali!

Tahir Ali, Hamilton, New Zealand

City decoration

Lautoka City Council is not decorating our city with Diwali and Christmas lights as they usually did in yesteryears!

Is it the money, EFL bill or is it that some people stole all those rope lights from the former councilors time?

Geoffrey Chand, Lautoka