Crews Miss Engineer Tikowalega

Crews of the Government vessel, Motor Landing Craft (MLC) Vunilagi missed their engineer Mr Malakai Tikowalega who was found dead on the boat one hour before it berthed at the
31 Aug 2016 14:01
Crews Miss Engineer Tikowalega
Government Shipping Services staff and the late Malakai Tikowalega’s family at Nasinu Cementry. Photos: GSS

Crews of the Government vessel, Motor Landing Craft (MLC) Vunilagi missed their engineer Mr Malakai Tikowalega who was found dead on the boat one hour before it berthed at the Natovi Jetty on August 19.

The MLC Vunilagi was coming from Cakaumomo reef, between Nairai and Batiki, where a new lighthouse was constructed.

Mr Tikowalega was one of the 14 crew members of the vessel with 16 officials from the Divisional Engineer Central Eastern (DECE) who were engaged in the construction of a light house at Cakaumomo reef.

Originally from Mavana village in Vanuabalavu, Mr Tikowalega was found dead by the crews inside the vessel.

The late Tikowalega’s wife, 48-year-old widow Sainimilika Baleilami Tikowalega said she had a talk with her husband around 7am on that Friday before he passed away.

She said her husband called just to say good morning to all family members. “That was the last time I heard of my husband’s voice,” she said.

He assured us she said that he would call again.

She said she was looking forward to receive his call again but he did not.

According to Mrs Tikowalega she was still waiting for the call when staff from the Government Shipping Services (GSS) came to their home that same evening to relay the sad news of her beloved husband’s death.

“I was really shocked and cried out loudly to relieve my pain.”

She said they had planned for what they would do after his retirement.

“He always plans ahead.”

She said that something that he always reminded her of was not to hate anyone.

Mrs Tikowalega said she always boasted to her neighbours that she was a lucky wife because her husband never slapped or punched her.

She said most of the time her husband was away at sea, and the usually sorted things out over the telephone.

They had eight children and he always provided their children what they wanted.

“He can’t say NO to our children when they needed something, and I am the only one who always got angry on him.”

She said it would take time for her and her eight children to recover from their loss.

“Now every morning when we wake up, we will look at his photo and feel that he is still alive.”

For their future she said they had to move on from where he had left them.

At the moment three of their children are working, one in the village and four still in school.

“I will not move back I will carry on from where my husband has left. I will stand up and I will focus in looking after my children and those still in school and support them in their studies.”

She acknowledged GSS staffs and other families who had supported and stood beside them during their loss.

Her advice seafarer’s wife- “be steady and ready when this kind of things happened”.

“No one can run away from this, it’s painful but that’s all about life. Focus on your children”

GSS Fleet Superintendent Ratu Iliesa Raketekete said Mr Tikowalega was a man full of humor and was well liked by his workmates.

“We always called him Tiko,” he said.

Mr Raketekete said Mr Tiko was a funny and happy man.

“He loves socializing with other people and was always calm.”

He said it was very hard to see Mr Tiko to get angry or to hate someone at work.

“Tiko was a man full of love.”

Mr Raketekete said when Tiko was at work he only spoke the Lauan dialect to every person he talked to.

“We have lost a good friend and a work mate and we missed him so much”

Mr Tikowalega was employed by GSS as a greaser in 1990.

In 2005 he further his studies at Fiji Maritime Academy doing his Class 5 engineering course and worked has a motor mechanic at GSS.

In 2013 during the GSS Job Evaluation Exercise (JEE), he was posted as an Engineer Room Watch until he died.

He worked in many of the government vessels in Fiji since he started with GSS. These included the vessels; Dausoko, Raiyawa, Golea, Vasua, Katavatu, Vatulawa and Vunilagi.

Some of these government vessels were no longer available whereas some were still operating today.

Last week Friday (August 26) GSS and Ministry of Work and Transport (MOIT) went for their reguregu at Tikowalega’s residence in Valenicina, Lami.

He was laid to rest last Saturday at the Nasinu Cemetery after the funeral service at Valecina Methodist Church, Lami.

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