Letters To The Editor, Janunary 10, 2015

Vaniqi tribute Dr Sushil K. Sharma, Lautoka Manasa Vaniqi was bigger than life itself. He was a polite, friendly and a forthright man. He always spoke openly, eloquently, truthfully, with
10 Jan 2015 12:32

Vaniqi tribute

Dr Sushil K. Sharma, Lautoka

Manasa Vaniqi was bigger than life itself. He was a polite, friendly and a forthright man. He always spoke openly, eloquently, truthfully, with vigour and an open mind. He was a very jovial and approachable man, down to earth and humble.

After my first meeting we became good friends. I met him a number of times, the first when I was advising his National Disaster management team in Suva, as the Manager of the Climate, Special Services and Research Division, Fiji Meteorological Service, during the two back to back dry 2009-2011 seasons that the nation was experiencing.

He was very well respected and regarded by his staff. He sat quietly through the entire discussion, amongst about 50 stakeholder staff members, and listened intently to all the presentations including that of mine, and at the end of my presentation called all the stakeholders present to attention, and in one simple sentence summarised my findings, adding that: “This drought is part of the natural variability within the earth’s climate system”.

I was pleasantly surprised and also elated at his complex meteorological understanding and the quick grasp of the technical nature of the discussions that was taking place. As I was from the sugarcane growing area of the Western Division, someone asked me to give a brief outline of what I personally thought of the sugar industry and the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

I gave my penny’s worth, and gave a 20-minute informal impromptu debrief of my thoughts. These were mainly the negatives of the industry which was literally on its knees. There was pin- drop silence and people with open mouths gaping at me; only for me to realise after I had finished, that Manasa was also the PS of Sugar.

To every ones laughter at the end, Vaniqi came to me, and asked me to sit next to him and confided that he agreed with all that I had said and that he also had some sugarcane interests in Sigatoka. We thus became even closer.

We talked on the phone a number of times and then on at least two occasions I met him personally in his office in the Sugar Building, Lautoka Waterfront, where he was based as the PS Sugar.

He was a simple man with very good work habbits and always busy with some aspect of his official PS work, in between taking phone calls from stakeholders, his church and family commitments.

On this particular day, when I dropped in on a late Friday, he was quickly attending to a number of chores in between counting the money in his wallet.

He was on his way to make a major contribution that both he and a small group of individuals were doing to help erect a new church building in the village –I gather was in Dreketi, Wailevu in Cakaudrove.

He was also a family man and loved his children and wife. He often discussed his concerns about his daughter who was at the FNU Namaka Campus. Unknown to me at first, she was right in my class where I was the Associate Professor of Meteorology and the head of the Meteorology Department.

Not many people are available in Fiji who would be able to replicate Vaniqi and the way he approached the sugar industry. No one can fill his shoes and the bigger than life personality and the humble father-like qualities that he had.

Previously, the industry was rife with stakeholder animosity, distrust, open warfare and politics, strikes, and an inability of stakeholders to talk face to face on many fronts. Manasa led the way in “uniting” the disparate groups, fostering good attitudes, re-building trust and respect, and eased tensions, ensuring that work progressed faster and more efficiently.

With his lovely open, easy going style of communication with the Sugar Cane Growers Council, the Fiji Sugar Corporation, the Sugar Tribunal, the farmers, and land owners, including the Minister of Sugar Mr. Bainimarama –he definitely was a brilliant co-ordinator and certainly uplifted the profile and visibility of the industry.

We the people of Fiji, take this opportunity to convey our deepest sympathy to his family, on the passing of an icon and a son of Fiji –a true humble and free spirit, who meant good to all in the community and loved his country, as a true patriot, and died working tirelessly, in our nation’s interest.

Rest in peace comrade. We will surely miss you!

Sports industry

Waisale Ramoce, Suva

2015 would be another great sporting year for this nation if all is taken care of from the onset.

The latest inclusions to join top rugby clubs in France are Edward Sawailau and Pio Muarua who are both products of the Deans Trophy competition. What is yet to be revealed is the increasing flow of our local sportsmen and women who have also secured contracts without being highlighted in the media!

While this speaks much of the raw talents and athleticism of our local players, one still cannot comprehend the strategies that are in place at the Rugby House to harness such local talents! I am guessing that in a few more years’ time, almost every village in this country will have at least a player or two earning their names in international sporting fraternities! If the international sporting bodies are recognizing our local talents then too bad, our local sporting fraternities have been in the dark all this while.

Simply put, this nation has got to tackle sports as a competitive industry and not merely a ministry that recognises the development of sports for a nation!

The blue collar and office jobs may have had its share in the market, but the sporting industry will be a force to reckon in our nation’s economic growth if given the attention it deserves!-

May 2015 be a great sporting year!


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