Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It was August 8 and her eyes sparkled like the blue ocean in the distance.
The Marama Na Buli Raviravi was happy and it was not because the Olympic Games had opened in its brilliant splendour half across the globe in China.

I met up with Adi Salote Ramatai, 96, (pictured) as she sat in her wheelchair atop a hillside having an eagle's eye view of the Integrated Port Development at Wairiki in Bua. The day was special indeed for Adi Salote for the $15million pine chip mill was being commissioned ushering in a new era of development for her province.

"I have waited a long time for this day, to see something big happening for my province, my people at Wairiki and it is emotional indeed for me today," her voice trembled with emotion.

"From the time I was a little girl to now, this is the first time I have seen something big happening for Bua. The only other big thing was when they made the road from Labasa to Nabouwalu. I remember I used to stand by the roadside and watch and wonder where that road would take me.

"Today I wonder about the future and can see a change for the better for my province. Many of the younger generation have left in search of jobs in towns and cities, and some have just left because it is so hard living in Bua because the infrastructure is not that good.

"Many want a better standard of living, they want electricity and proper water supply and that's why they have left their vanua. I really can't blame them." Her voice was a mere a whisper as she struggled to speak while the thick red cardigan she wore seemed out of place in the brilliant midday sun.

"I don't have much longer; while my life declines it thrills me that my province is finally getting developed. It used to hurt me that so much development used to go to the other two provinces Macuata and Cakaudrove but maybe the winds of change are now blowing through Bua," she added.

The machines from the pine chip mill and the port that stretched out to sea gleamed in the sunlight almost an indication of the bright future ahead. With the commissioning of the pine chip mill, logging is set to begin in earnest with landowners participating fully in logging pine, receiving stumpage and lease money all to the value of not less then $10m annually.

Infrastructural changes to road, water supply and electricity are some of the flow on effects of the integrated port development. Adi Salote is the traditional ruler of the area where the Wairiki port is located. Growing up at Nabouwalu Village back in the 1920's was one largely dedicated to service.

"As a young girl growing up in a chiefly family I had my obligations to meet. I never went to school until I was 17. That's the age when I started learning the alphabet and counting and I remember I was so excited when I could say the ABC right through to Z," she recounted.

"Life was also different then. Girls never went out anywhere, but stayed home a lot learning household chores, cooking and sewing. Those are the things that I love to do when I can. "But girls are different nowadays. They are out there competing with men in the workplace and they are tougher in a way. But I don't want to focus on that."

Adi Salote said the best change she wants to remember and live for is the development changes that will happen in Bua. "It's been so long but I'm glad it has begun. It's time for the new Bua."
Adapted from Fijitimes Online