Dr James Fong, Vasiti Soko – Our Top Two of The Year

Congratulatioins to Vasiti Soko and Dr James Fong ... 2021 Fiji Sun People of the Year.
02 Jan 2022 13:18
Dr James Fong, Vasiti Soko – Our Top Two of The Year
2021 Fiji Sun People of the Year…… Director for National Disaster Management Office Vasiti Soko and Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong.

In the midst of chaos, they were the voice of reason.

Their friendly yet confident demeanour comforted Fijians in the middle of crisis.

They are Vasiti Soko, the Director for Na­tional Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Dr James Fong, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Medical Ser­vices.

They are the Fiji Sun’s People of the Year 2021.



Medical professionals have described him as a man with a deeply embedded passion for the job. Dr James Fong became a household name.

He has been the face and the voice of the country’s COVID-19 battle in what has been termed by medical per­sonnels as one of the most chal­lenging years for Fiji’s health system.

His line minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete has described him as an intelligent and well-read individ­ual, someone who is always keen to know more.

Originally from Nabubu Village in Namuka, Macuata with maternal links to Dogotuki, Macu­ata in Vanua Levu, Dr Fong said though 2021 has been a difficult year, it had been illu­minating at the same time.

“The team has had to rediscover and sustain a stronger and more func­tional public health capabil­ity that allows rapid, timely and propor­tionate imple­mentation of escalated public measures,” Dr Fong said.

“The medical team and all those who have stepped forward to the frontline have been tire­less and patient during this difficult time.

“Despite occasional setbacks, our data indi­cate that many lives were saved and much suf­fering prevented.”

He said the whole team has weathered criti­cism of the best and worst kind; they have ac­cepted praises with grace and the occasional shortcomings have been more than compen­sated for by their tireless and patient effort.

“At a personal level, I have had no chance to do anything but to push forward. Moments of self-doubt have been mitigated by family sup­port. My wife, my son and family have been my backbone and my inspiration,” Dr Fong said.

“I have to make special mention of the back­end front liners who made it work for all of us; the drivers, the corporate staff, the logistic teams, the warehouse team, the RFMF per­sonnel, the volunteers, including all public servants from other government ministries and agencies who were part of the integrated government approach conducting outreach work across Fiji.”


Ms Soko has seen the worst of cyclones but the 37-year-old Natokalau, Matuku, Lau na­tive believes that resilience always wins.

She said noticing the resilience of vulner­able Fijians after a disaster drove her and her team to do the work that they do.

For her and her team, they spend hours working trying to assure Fijians af­fected by natural disasters that ‘everything will be okay’.

“Since my time here, I’m al­ways humbled and grateful for the strong foundation of resilience that we have. I’ve seen the worst of cyclones, but resilience always wins,” she said.

She said in the course of a natural disaster, there were times where she had little to no sleep at all in do­ing her work.

“Sometimes a bite of biscuit is what fuels me for the whole day dur­ing an emergency situation. It is usu­ally meetings after meetings to better co­ordinate our response efforts during disaster operations.

“I have been here since 2019 and no experience is dull. We are 24/7 on the move in prep­ositioning our plans and materials to better manage disasters. It is exciting and very rewarding to be work­ing in a place where you take ‘hope’ down to the community level when there is little to no hope at all. It is an honour to serve the people of Fiji.”

Earlier in 2021, she was awarded the Wom­en’s International Network for Disaster Risk Reduction (WIN DRR) Leadership Award.

She had to compete with nine finalists who were women leaders in their own work from Pakistan, Philippines, India, Japan and Bang­ladesh.

“The fact that I got the award shows the great support system that I have. The God I serve is great and it is through His grace and mercy that I’m able to do the work that I do now,” she said.

“I would like to thank my husband and four children, my father for being there for us, es­pecially for me after my mother passed away recently. Upon receiving the award, I had dedi­cated it to my late mother, Adi Letila Soko.

“It was because of her strong resilience to defying odds and breaking glass ceilings that I’m able to groom myself into the woman that I am today.”

Her message going into the New Year is: “Never give up. If you need a break, take it. But never give up what you have set to achieve in the New Year. With God everything is pos­sible, but you need to work on faith so stay fo­cused on the goal and remain positive.”


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