Anger Over Kepa Snub

Ro Teimumu Kepa has been caught in the middle of a bitter row between two rival Fijian indigenous advocacy groups in the United States.   There was no welcoming group
20 May 2016 12:56
Anger Over Kepa Snub
Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa

Ro Teimumu Kepa has been caught in the middle of a bitter row between two rival Fijian indigenous advocacy groups in the United States.


There was no welcoming group when she arrived at Los Angeles Airport. She was to continue to New York for an indigenous conference there. But she stayed in LA.


The US rival groups are the Fiji Native Tribal Congress (FNTC) of which she is a founder and the Fiji Indigenous People’s Foundation (FIPF).


She was invited by FNTC in the US to attend a United Nations indigenous conference.


But when she arrived in LA, after a long flight from Nadi, Auckland then to Los Angeles, no one was waiting for her. She exited the terminal and waited outside. She was approached by security officers if there was any problem. She told them that she was supposed to be picked up.


They asked her if she knew anyone in LA and she said she had a cousin whom the officers contacted. She was later picked up by her cousin. It was discovered that organisers of her trip had called another woman only one hour before the flight arrived to pick her up but the woman was already at work and could not make it.

Hurt by the way she was treated, she refused to proceed to New York for the indigenous conference. It is understood she was also feeling unwell.

The snub against Ro Teimumu has angered her traditional spokesperson Jese Sikivou in Suva. It has also offended many who respect her not only as Opposition Leader but also as Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi (Paramount chief of Burebasaga Confederacy). There was concern about her health too because she was over 70.

Mr Sikivou posted this on his Facebook page: “I was shocked to hear the Gone Marama Bale (GMB) was not feeling well because of waiting in the cold with no one to meet her on arrival and convey the next steps of her travel.

“Then when I saw her travel was intended for after midnight on Sunday, when she arrived Friday midday I was wondering how they thought she was to be looked after. Au qai raica tale na Nodra (I look at her) air itinerary I really hit the roof. They must have chosen the cheapest possible airfare, three sectors, all economy almost 15 hours of travel coast to coast. No meal allowance, no baggage allowance as she was connecting from an international flight. Then none of them got in touch to ask about her welfare.

“I found their attitude arrogant and disrespectful. From jump there was no Suva Nadi ticket and that is when that fish started to stink for me. They could not even spell the GMB’s name correctly. In their sense of self-importance they have chosen to forget they are dealing with the Paramount Chief of the Burebasaga Confederacy.”

No comment could be obtained from FNTC. Adi Asenaca Caucau of FIPF, a Cabinet minister in Laisenia Qarase’s SDL government with Ro Teimumu, said on Facebook she was appalled by the way Ro Teimumu was treated.

She claimed they were not informed of Ro Teimumu’s itinerary “even though we have been asking.”

“We were looking forward to meeting GMB in NewYork!

Adi Asenaca, Ratu Isireli Vesikula (who writes a column for the Fiji Times weekly iTaukei newspaper Nai Lalakai) and Nemani Ramasei represented PIPF in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.”

The FNTC group was led by SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula. It said it had delivered a letter from Ro Teimumu.

The group was due to submit to the International Labour Organisation a “request by Fijis High Chiefs to the ILO Council to convene a Commission Of Inquiry to investigate Fijis Breaches of ILO169 by terminating the GCC, removing our name, taking over control of our native land etc.”

Ro Teimumu should have been there.

Some SODELPA supporters in the US said the way she was treated had dampened the spirit of the indigenous conference.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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