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Education ministry supports
the work of Fiji Arts Council
The Ministry of Education, National Heritage, Culture & Arts, Youth & Sports, supports the work of the Fiji Arts Council as it holds its Inaugural Heritage Art Exhibition at Sukuna Park in Suva this week.

The Fiji Arts Council is a non-government organisation (NGO) that has worked closely with the Ministry over the years. The Council has played a significant role in the development and preservation of the various forms of art in Fiji. Importantly, the Council identifies and nurtures local artists which to a large extent ensures the preservation and survival of our cultural heritage.

The exhibition provides the ideal opportunity for artists to exhibit their work like weaving, masi-making, pottery & ceramics, carving, adornment and textiles. At the same time, the artists gain recognition. Opportunities to make a living in the art world are numerous and the initial step is participation in exhibitions like this.

In this regard, the Ministry of Education encourages artists to join the Fiji Arts Council to enhance their talents and gain recognition moreover, a few of our local artists are now internationally recognised and their works of art command a high price in the art market.

Fiji’s artists represent the wealth of resources available locally for economic growth.

To bring about that growth, the industry needs assistance.

The Ministry calls on the support and commitment of corporate organisations, business communities, NGOs and the public at large to assist the Fiji Arts Council in reviving the art industry.

Members of the public are encouraged to visit the exhibition this week, as there is much to be gained from viewing the creative products of our local artists.

State Solicitor and DPP represent Fiji at Regional
mState Solicitor, Mr Luke Daunivalu and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Josaia Naigulevu recently returned from attending the inaugural meeting of the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network (PILON) held in the Cook Islands.

Mr Daunivalu was nominated by the Attorney General’s Chambers to be its representative at that regional law officers’ meeting.

“As it was also the first time I was attending this regional law officers’ forum, the experience was not only exciting and beneficial but I was also pleased with the outcomes and direction in which PILON was heading,” Mr Daunivalu said.

He said in addition to the normal updating by member countries of the various legal developments in their respective jurisdictions over the past 12 months, there was a healthy exchange of views on the various aspects of PILON geared towards advancing member country interests.

“As a departure from past trends in PILOM (Pacific Islands Legal Officers’ Meeting), this year saw a new focus on thematic issues and significantly less time was allocated for country reports. Indeed, the main objective for this year’s meeting was to discuss and agree upon the ground rules and the Charter establishing PILON,” Mr Daunivalu said.

It was also agreed at the meeting that the PILON Secretariat would be based temporarily at the Forum Secretariat in Suva.

The meeting, held from 5 to 10 December in Rarotonga, was attended by nine countries: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It was chaired by the Solicitor General of the Crown Law Office of the Cook Islands, Mike Mitchell.
Further pay cut on civil servants explored - Bune
A further pay cut on civil servants will be explored after a recent High court decision ruled against a cabinet decision to reduce the retirement age from 60 to 55 years.

Minister for Public Service, Public Enterprises and Public Sector Reform, Poseci Bune said the court decision will now affect the restoration of the remaining four percent which will now have to be staggered for an even longer period.

“Yes, we will have to review the pay restoration now and it is quite possible that we would have to look at a further reduction in the salaries of civil servants, said Mr Bune.

Asked on whether a figure has been worked out, Mr Bune said, no decision has been reached yet but it can only be ascertained once the Interim Government exhausts the appeal process on the retirement age decision.

On whether the decision will now affect the Interim Government’s cost cutting exercise worth at an estimated $100 million, he said, the matter will now have to be revisited again.

“I had indicated almost $100 million would have been saved since we could recruit more teacher graduates at base level. With 600 teachers retiring, we could have accommodated a large number of them from the teacher college who have been waiting to enter the service for the last three years,” he said.

Mr Bune said, the Public Service Commission will now have to go back to the drawing board and look at other ways of cost cutting measures and this will be relayed to the permanent secretaries meeting later today.

Asked on whether further talks on the retirement age could be revisited by the State with the union bodies, he replied, the issue was thoroughly discussed and agreed to by the two parties.

“We had decided to stagger the implementation of the 55 compulsory age limit and this process was going to begin in 2009 for those who are aged 55 years and those between 55 and 60 years should start from now and 2009,” said Mr Bune.

Mr Bune then denied that the Interim Government was receiving bad legal advice for settling legal disputes.

“No, I don’t think so. This is not the first time the government had lowered the retirement age from 60 to 55 years. It was implemented in 1987 and I believed it was accepted then. But, I thought that a high court decision upholding a Suva City Council officer being legitimately retired at 55 years, would have set a precedent for the court ruling on the retirement age issue. But, sadly, this was not to be,” said Mr Bune.
Team to assess Rotuma as port of entry
An investigation into the feasibility of declaring Rotuma port-of-entry status will be carried out on the island by a Government task force later this week.

The task force has been convened by the Office of the Prime Minister which has responsibility for the Rotuma Act.

The task force will be looking at Rotuma’s existing infrastructure such as the wharf, airport and roading network and see how these can be facilitated for the island’s port-of-entry requirements.

The task force is expected assess work plans and requirements and submit proposals for upgrading works that may be required.

A proposal to declare port-of-entry for Rotuma is expected to improve the island’s economy through the facilitation of direct trading links within the region and internationally as well.

The task force comprises representatives of various Government ministries and departments and includes officers from Fiji Ports Corporation Limited, the Civil Aviation Authority, Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority and the Council of Rotuma.

The task force departed for Rotuma today on board the Government vessel Iloilovatu and is led by the Commissioner Eastern, Mr Tomasi Tui.
Tourism Industry forges ahead
Despite the many challenges faced in the tourism sector at the beginning of this year, there has been an impressive concerted effort by both government and the industry to gradually restore tourism to normal levels says Interim Tourism Minister Bernadette Rounds Ganilau.

Mrs Ganilau made the comments while giving the opening address at the opening of the Levuka Fiji Day celebrations where she was the chief guest.

She said the tireless efforts of the Tourism Action Group and the Fiji Visitors Bureau in rejuvenating Fiji’s image as a safe and secure destination are extremely commendable.

However what was more astounding was the quite determination and persistence by most tourism operators in moving ahead despite the uncertainty in visitor levels.

“To this end, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to each tourism operator for their continued faith and belief in Fiji.”

“To date the, the success of the tourism industry is where it is today as a result of the collective passion and dedication by these individuals,” she said.
Plans for Levuka to become a World Heritage Site
The Department of Culture and Heritage of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs, Heritage, Provincial Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs, has taken on the primary responsibility for completing the process to nominate Levuka to the World Heritage List, according to Interim Tourism Minister Bernadette Rounds Ganilau.

Mrs Ganilau made the comments at the opening of the Levuka Fiji Day celebrations at Nasau Park in Levuka.

She said tourism as the fastest growing industry in the region relies to a large extent on cultural heritage for its lifeblood.

She added that tourism could create its own decline if both the natural and constructed heritage is not respected adding tourism must fit the physical and cultural landscape of which it is a part, complementing the character and sense of place of the local community.

"To disregard these can have substantial social, cultural and environmental consequences,” she said.

Levuka Town with its fine legacy of old colonial buildings and visually dramatic settings, is undoubtedly one of Fiji's finest cultural landscapes.

The Nomination Document is expected to be completed by early 2009, for submission to the World Heritage Centre (WHC), after which it is expected that the WHC will vote on whether to add Levuka to the World Heritage List in the middle of 2010.

She says that despite the various difficulties, there has been considerable progress towards World Heritage Listing this year.

According to Mrs Ganilau, the Director of the UNESCO WHC, Mr Francesco Bandarin who visited Fiji in July was impressed with the potential of Levuka to become a World Heritage Site, adding that Mr Bandarin committed the WHC to provide ongoing assistance to help get Levuka onto the World Heritage List.

"The success of this visit was largely due to the extremely warm welcome accorded to him by the people of Ovalau and the commitment and enthusiasm they showed to the protection of their heritage, particularly the members of the Levuka Heritage Committee," she added.
Fiji community in San Francisco welcomes PM
The Fiji Community in San Francisco welcomed the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama with a traditional ceremony and later on hosted him and his delegation for dinner. More than 100 people attended the function.

Commodore Bainimarama addressed the gathering, providing an update on the progress being made in moving Fiji forward.

He also explained the reasons for actions of 5th December and sought understanding and support of the Fiji Community in United States as the Interim Government embarks on implementation of policies and programmes to build a better Fiji.

In the questions and answer session which followed, the Fiji Community encouraged the Prime Minister to continue with reforms being implemented for better public service delivery, revival of agriculture, and improvements in investment climate and infrastructure, improvements in the law and order situation and the decisions being made to remove various discriminatory policies to create a more inclusive, progressive and united Fiji.

The Prime Minister meets the Fiji community in Los Angeles today. He will meet the business community comprising largely US investors over a dinner tomorrow before returning to Fiji.
Fiji committed to................
Fiji committed to attaining baby friendly status in Paci

Fiji is aiming to become the first ever Baby Friendly country in the Pacific Region because it is promoting and advocating breastfeeding for all babies in the country.

And to ensure that Fiji attains this status in the world today, the Ministry of Health’s Breastfeeding Committees in respective divisional hospitals and health centres are moving ahead with major promotional drives at community level to achieve further reduction in neo-natal and child deaths by encouraging breastfeeding.

Minister for Health Dr Jona B Senilagakali has told participants during discussions on “Maternal and Child Health” at the 58th Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Meeting in Jeju, Korea this week that Fiji was committed to attaining the standing.

“As we all know, the World Breastfeeding Week is traditionally celebrated in the first week of August every year,” he said. “On a related activity, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is also promoted and advocated alongside breastfeeding. Fiji supports both concepts and is appreciative of the support given by WHO and UNICEF.”

Fiji has 21 designated maternity hospitals in the country.

“After World Breastfeeding Week last month, Fiji has a total of 17 hospital designated or re-assessed and re-awarded the Baby Friendly Hospital status by WHO and UNICEF,” Dr Senilagakali said.

“With only 3 hospitals left to meet the criteria of recognition, Fiji is working very hard to have these 3 hospitals assessed and designated Baby Friendly Hospitals.

The three remaining hospitals are Rotuma, Lomaloma and Lakeba while Vunidawa Hospital gets its Award at the end of the month to make it 18th.

“With all maternity hospitals designated Baby Friendly, Fiji hopes to be designated the 1st Baby Friendly Country in our region.”

Permanent Secretary Dr Lepani Waqatakirewa had stated when he launched the National Immunisation and World Breastfeeding Weeks early this month that Fiji was committed to follow all of the WHO/UNICEF International Assessment criteria.

“We are aiming to have Fiji declared as a Baby-Friendly Island Country – the first in the world, as only four more hospitals remain to be assessed and declared Baby-Friendly in the next couple of years.”

“Having commended ourselves for achieving this status so far, once again we neither must rest on our laurels,” he added. “Fiji needs to put in major efforts into the promotion of exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months, the timely introduction of adequate nutritious and safe complementary foods from six months, together with continued breast-feeding up to two years or beyond.”

“Our Ministry’s aim is to increase the exclusive breast-feeding rates to 60-percent initially and then to at least 80-percent within the MOH Strategic Plan target,” Dr Waqatakirewa said.

Dr Senilagakali and Dr Waqatakirewa are attending the Regional Meeting in Korea this week, which ends on Friday.
Fiji Disaster Awareness
Disaster Awareness Week to feature nationwide activities

The National Disaster Awareness Week scheduled for September 24-28th, 2007 will be observed nationwide with activities conducted at all levels with particular attention on vulnerable communities, hazard prone areas and communities affected by recent disasters including Labasa and Vaturova in the Northern Division, which were devastated by the February flood this year.

Apart from natural disasters, the programme will also feature man made hazards including fire, disposal of hazardous material, oil spills and environmental issues like climate change which was quite evident in the weather phenomenon prevailing in the country earlier in the year that resulted in the devastating flood in the Northern Division.

A major highlight of the programme will feature a national operational exercise to be conducted in all major centres including Suva, Lautoka and Labasa focusing on earthquake, tsunami and fire. Key response agencies will participate in the exercise, which will involve search and rescue, evacuation and other related activities.

Apart from the Preparedness Committee, three working groups looking at media, education and programme have been set up to develop, coordinate and implement activities planned for the Week.

The programme will feature displays by the various agencies, distribution of awareness material, media programmes, drama groups, puppet shows and demonstration of smoke house, Special programmes are being prepared for school children.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Fijian Affairs, Provincial Development & Multi Ethnic Affairs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau will officially launch the 2007 National Disaster Awareness Week publicity campaign on Monday September 17th at the Ministry of Provincial Development board room, Knollys Street Suva at 10am.

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