Why? Weightlifting Fiji Explains

  Weightlifting Fiji has confirmed yesterday that they have not received the original boycott letter from the Levuka Weightlifting Club. WF general secretary Ritesh Ratiram said they were disappointed with
26 May 2018 10:00
Why? Weightlifting Fiji Explains
Hossein Tavakoli


Weightlifting Fiji has confirmed yesterday that they have not received the original boycott letter from the Levuka Weightlifting Club.

WF general secretary Ritesh Ratiram said they were disappointed with the approach taken by the club.

He indicated that WF vice-president Makitalena Cikaitoga had delivered the letter to the media while they have yet to receive their copy.

“We cannot comprehend the decision of the athletes and officials of Levuka Weightlifting Club to boycott the Oceania Championships, citing reasons of the non-selection of local coaches and hiring of an international coach,” he said.

“The reason of this non-comprehension is that three of the officials from LWC who signed the boycott letter are also members of the WF’s executive board.”

These officials, Ratiram says, along with Joe Vueti attended the executive board meetings.

“Vueti attends as an observer, given his national development officer role. They also attended the annual general meetings in 2017 and 2018 where the issue of the recruitment of an international coach has been discussed at length. Records of these discussions have been minuted and circulated to FASANOC and the Fiji National Sports Commission and the WF board members.

“We advised the whole board of the new coach at the AGM on April 29, 2018. No objections or negative comments were raised during the meeting regarding the appointment.”



In the boycott letter, the LWC stated that Vueti and Peni Tawai had been deliberately omitted from the WF team set-up for the 2018 Oceania Championships.

Ratiram said this was correct and this was for the following reasons.

“First, Joe (Vueti) is now the Oceania development officer employed by Paul Coffa and the Oceania Weightlifting Federation. Joe had specifically advised the president that he is not available to take the Fiji team to the 2018 Oceania Championships, as he will be fulfilling his Oceania development officer role at the championships.”

Ratiram said Tawai has not been on WF’s national coaching duties since 2013.

“The president was keen to have him included in the Pacific Mini Games team for Vanuatu. However, based upon the advice received from Vueti, Tawai was not appointed but instead Julia Timi from Levuka was included as assistant coach. Peni’s name was never brought up as an option by any board member including the four board members from Levuka, at the executive board meeting which considered the appointment of team officials for Noumea.”

WF has indicated that they have Mesake Raiviu, Maria Liku and Timi as their assistant development officers who are going to be considered for the 2018 Oceania Championships, as part of their development.



“No club or federation should ever compromise their athletes by depriving them of the opportunity to attend major international competitions.

“What is worrying is that, LWC is using young athletes, who have only recently been introduced to the sport and would not know any better, to support the boycott,” Ratiram pointed out.

He said that two young LWC athletes Maria Mareta and Sofia Kinikinilau have a chance to qualify and represent Fiji to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The WF has reiterated that boycotting the 2018 Oceania Championships, means the athletes and officials will likely face disciplinary action.



WF has stated the decision of recruiting the international coach was made by the board during meetings extended over a year. This is reflected in the 2016 annual report, strategic plans, various executive board meeting papers and again at this year’s AGM and executive board meeting on April 29.

Ratiram said in 2016, the offer was made by the Commission but WF was reluctant to make an appointment because it felt that the time was not right to start implementing a full performance programme in Suva.

However, he says, in February- April, last year when Apolonia Vaivai and Manueli Tiko relocated to Suva permanently made them rethink the opportunity and approached the Commission to initiate the recruitment process.

The job was first advertised in May 2017.

Ratiram said in January, this year Vaivai and Tulo when told about the recruitment of an international coach, demonstrated their enthusiasm and excitement.

“The president (Atma Maharaj) even took the liberty to brief Paul Coffa, of the recruitment of the international coach, during the Australian Open in February 2018 in the presence of Vueti.

“Claims that only Coffa and Vueti have been responsible for the performance of successful athletes is not the full story. Della and Henry Elder were also instrumental in Apolonia’s development.”

Ratiram said the WF community should be grateful that it has secured the services of a successful coach like Hossein Tavakoli, a 2000 Olympic gold medallist.

“The coach is keen to get moving and take Fiji Weightlifting to a completely new level.”

WF said that Vueti was advised of the appointment at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as soon as the coach’s work permit was approved on April 12.

“This was then discussed at the Games Village with the athlese and coaches in the presence of the chef de mission and Team Fiji general managers.”



WF stated that under the presidency of Atma Maharaj all issues are discussed and there is no stifling of contributions by any member. Decisions are made after consideration of all viewpoints.

Ratiram said WF is hopeful that good sense would prevail and the athletes and officials of LWC will;

  • Unconditionally withdraw their boycott stance and agree to participate in the Oceania Championships
  • Fully participate in the approved WF activities and programmes by allowing the elite athletes to train with the head coach in a positive and enthusiastic manner
  • Attendance at the emergency board meeting set for tomorrow in Suva for which a notice has gone to all executives, life members and national selectors.

“We would prefer to engage in honest dialogue directly with all parties and not through the media,” he added.


Edited by Leone  Cabenatabua



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