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2013 high achievers

December 31
09:53 2013

By MAIKA BOLATIKI

What a year for Fiji. So many achievements in so many areas.
Here – in alphabetical order – is our list of 10 high achievers we believe deserve special mention amongst the many who did good works.

Minister for Women Dr Jiko Luveni.

1. CHERYL BROWN and MERE TORA

Our constantly working Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has built a very successful team – both at home and in the missions abroad. Ratu Inoke, backed strongly by Peter Thomson (United Nations) and Amena Yauvoli (Permanent Secretary), leads a formidable combination.
Nothing epitomises these efforts of Foreign Affairs more than the work of two smart and special women working in especially demanding environments.
Cheryl Brown-Irava (acting head of mission in Canberra) and Mere Tora (acting head of mission in Wellington) have held the line, so to speak, amidst the stand offs with Australia and New Zealand. They have done so despite having to work with limited resources because of this.
They have stayed in their posts and constantly promoted Fiji plus the Government’s reforms. They have done so despite hostility and intimidation attempts by the anti-brigades in Australia and New Zealand.
Ms Brown-Irava has also given Fiji a positive profile through her community work outside the demanding diplomatic circumstances.
Fiji’s ‘Iron Lady’ in Wellington, Ms Tora has likewise been working tirelessly to promote that Fiji has political stability and that the ‘Roadmap to Democracy’ has led to political and socio-economic reforms.
She too has been involved in community work. Through her own initiative, she bought books at garage sales and school fairs all year long and donated them to local schools during her visits home. Now a whole group in Wellington is involved in supporting Buying Books for Fiji.

2. DR JIKO LUVENI

This former dentist with a long record in public health has now carved out a new role promoting better lives for women.
Dr Luveni, from the village of Nukuni on the island of Ono-i-Lau, is the Minister for Social Welfare, Women, and Poverty Alleviation. She was amongst the hardest working members of the Bainimarama Government in 2013.
She has been constantly active promoting Government’s commitment to empowering women and improving the lives of women throughout the country.
She has also been at the forefront of raising awareness of the Zero Tolerance Violence Free Community Campaign.
She has at the same time championed the construction of Women Resource Centres around the country. These are aimed at providing rural women space to enhance their different skills at the same time improving their standards of living through self-employment.

3. AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM

Where do you start when you look at the many achievements of Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum?
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is a driving force in many areas in the Government, pushing along reforms and modernising the way Fiji works and lives.
But in 2013 it was his role as Minister Responsible for the Elections which was especially significant.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has once again proved the sideline prophets of doom wrong. Election planning is moving along quite smoothly, thank you. Nowhere is this more evident than in the registration of voters, or in the Constitution.
Same time Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has been achieving successes across a wide range of other areas. Just two of them are the two Ts: telecommunications development and more recently trade. Here he stood up to the manipulative ways of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the domineering attitudes of the European Union trying to impose their Economic Partnership Agreement on Pacific Islanders.
The Attorney-General is an achiever across many portfolios. He is also one of the strongest supporters of Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

4. ADI SIVIA QORO

Adi Sivia Qoro, from Viwa in Yasawa, is not a totally new face in politics. But as president of the People’s Democratic Party she this year helped set new directions.
This is a new party with a new outlook for the new Fiji. It refused to become involved with the so-called United Front for a Democratic Fiji, the umbrella body including the opposition National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party and the Social Democratic Liberal Party.
In 2006 the well qualified Adi Sivia had served as the Minister for Commerce and the Minister for Industry in the multiparty cabinet of Laisenia Qarase.
Now as a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party, she said believed in its values and principles. It has not always been easy. Divisions in the party between the eager newcomers and the old guard “union” elements have had to be handled.
But as 2013 ends, the party is still alive and well – and bringing fresh new attitudes to politics, and extending its outreach.
Adi Sivia has played a large part in achieving that. And in bringing a new attitude and voice to party politics.

5. REPUBLIC OF FIJI MILITARY FORCES

This was a notable year for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, at home and abroad.
At home the Army Engineers continued to work in rural development throughout the country.
Roads, schools, homes, health centres? You name the needs in rural areas and the chances are the engineers were out there working.
Not only were they building. They were also developing skills and work ethics by including young people in the communities they were helping.
Abroad, the reputation of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces grew as other nations fled.
The new deployment to the troubled Golan Heights was an immediate success. It followed the continuing success of Fijian forces in other troubled places. It also showed Fiji once again as a good international citizen.

6. REVEREND TUIKILAKILA WAQAIRATU

Since his election as President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu has led the Church to a new beginning.
Under his leadership he has put together a new church plan to be launched in the year ahead.
He mended the differences between the Government and the Church and under his leadership the church is now apolitical.
He has not been afraid to make tough decisions. One is the ban on yaqona consumption on Sunday for church members. Another new change to be put in place is a campaign against smoking.
More changes will soon be in place and he has warned that some may not sit well with the more traditional ministers and elders.

7. WAISALE SEREVI

The legend continues to grow. As 7s rugby maestro Waisale Serevi puts his playing days behind him, he is pioneering new fields.
Mr Serevi is now becoming a brand, the first Fijian rugby man to make that transition from player.
Serevi Rugby is emerging as both an international clothing brand and an academy in the United States of America.
Highlight of 2013: Mr Serevi was inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame – the first Fijian to receive the honour. Fittingly, the presentation took place at the Hong Kong Sevens in which Mr Serevi was so long a towering figure.
He was hailed especially for winning the hearts of fans around the world with his exciting and entertaining style of play.
Not bad for a boy from Qarani, Gau; from humble beginnings.

8 KANTILAL TAPPOO

Kantilal Tappoo is the executive chairman of the Tappoo Group, already one of success stories of Fijian businesses and still growing.
What about 2013? Not content to rest on its laurels after the successful opening of TappooCity, its spectacular six-storey shopping mall in the heart of downtown Suva, Mr Tappoo and the rest of the family pushed ahead in 2013.
Most notable: The ground breaking ceremony for the $30 million TappooCity Lautoka project. But that’s not all. The group, under Mr Tappoo’s leadership, was at the same time expanding further in areas as diverse as automotive sales, soft drinks and travel.
This is definitely a growing and diversified national conglomerate.
It still maintains its headquarters beside the river in Sigatoka, where the family business began in a small wooden store. The loyalty the Tappoo Group shows to Sigatoka is characterised by the commitment it shows to Fiji – and investment in Fiji.

9. CHANDU UMARIA

Suva is looking much better as the year ends. Put that down to the city’s special administrator Chandu Umaria. He has been hands on revamping and rejuvenating the city.
The latest is Suva’s newest landmark, My Suva Picnic Park.
Another is the upgrading of Terry Walk in the heart of downtown Suva.
Coming up: More developments to make the capital better. Mr Umaria’s energy is legendary.

10. TONY WHITTON

Tony Whitton, of Nadi, shows the way for locals in our growing tourism sector and helps lead the way for Fiji. 2013 illustrated this.
The son of tourism pioneers Roy and Rose “Rosie” Whitton has built strongly on his parents’ legacy, with the Rosie Group.
This is illustrated by the way the Rosie Group continues to pioneer and develop inbound tourism from emerging markets such as China and Russia. Rosie leads the way here, notably expanding in Russia this year.
Mr Whitton and Rosie also showed the way this year as they bounced back from direct hits on their Likuliku Lagoon and Malolo Island Resorts by Cyclone Evan.
Not only  were these award-winning resorts rebuilt and reopened. They were developed even further, setting standards all of Fiji can be proud of. They showed you don’t necessarily have to be an international hotel brand to be the best.

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