Monday, September 15, 2008


Mohammed Naushad Khan was a cut above the rest when he was crowned Vodafone Hibiscus King two Saturdays ago.

Putting aside his handsome crown, Mohammed decided to cook one of his specialties lamb in special sauce. The final year dental student at the Fiji School of Medicine was up for the challenge when approached to whip up something fit for a king. His ideal recipe is not only nutritious garnished with greens but it is something any one can try.

Keeping the budget low, Mohammed said he learnt first-hand the basics of cooking while helping his mother, Radha Khan prepare family meals.

"Mostly I just help around in the kitchen but when my mother saw I had an interest in cooking too, she taught me how to make various Indian dishes," he said. "I can also cook Chinese dishes including chicken chow-mein, fried rice and deep fried chicken.

"My favourite dish is chicken curry with dhal, rice and potato salad. "The recipe I cooked today is a dish I picked up from my brother when I was living with him in Suva. It is fairly easy to cook and does not take up a lot of preparation time.

"The good thing is the recipe is modifiable and other ingredients including vegetables like carrots can be added to give it a more nutritious taste." Mohammed said the lamb in special sauce goes well with rice, dalo or cassava.

The middle child in a family of three, Mohammed said the secret to making a tasty dish is in having confidence in trying out new ideas and recipes. "The best thing about cooking is coming up with anything you want and not being afraid to try out something new."

The 24-year old is originally from Delailabasa in Labasa and wanted to become a pilot when he was younger.

Lamb in special sauce

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves: Four people
1kg boneless lamb
Soya bean oil
One clove garlic crushed
Crushed ginger
1.5 onions chopped
Soya sauce
5 tbsp tomato sauce


* Marinate boneless lamb with some crushed garlic, a little ginger and soya sauce. Leave to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes;
* Heat a little oil in a pan and add chopped onions. Fry until golden brown and add leftover garlic and ginger;
* Fry until golden brown and add marinated lamb. Stir and leave until lamb is almost cooked;
* Add salt to taste and add tomato sauce. Leave to simmer until lamb is cooked; and
* Serve with rice or dalo and garnish with lettuce and cucumber.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Her job is something right out of a CSI: Miami series but Elizabeth Peters (pictured) is more than just a forensics officer with the Fiji Police Force. Born and bred in Suva, Elizabeth never thought she would join the police force let alone the forensics science department.

The eldest of four, Elizabeth hails from Naisogovau in Tailevu. Her father John is a taxi proprietor while her mother Sera was a housewife. Thinking along the lines of being a doctor or lawyer, Elizabeth is a forensic biologist with a passion for the job.

"Like a normal Fiji kid, I was thinking of becoming a lawyer or a doctor. I had a normal upbringing in an average family," she said. "My dad used to work as a mechanic and both my parents worked hard to provide and put us through school.

"I attended primary and secondary school at Nabua before getting a scholarship to study at the University of Flinders in South Australia. "It was a whole new experience for me especially fresh out of high school into university."

She spent three years in Australia completing a bachelor in technology majoring in forensic and analytical chemistry.

Time away from home in another country meant a new life altogether. Sharing a house with four other scholarship recipients in the Land Down Under, Elizabeth learned to be independent. "It was a big difference and at first a bit difficult especially stepping out of Suva and being exposed to the bright lights in Australia.

"Being away from home was a major trial on independence and the four of us learned to cook, clean and shoulder responsibilities. "We had a lot of challenges but in the end we were just experiencing life.

"After I graduated, I came back to Fiji and joined the police force in 2001 as a special constable.
"Some of the things we learned at University were not required when I joined the force so it was more of a hands-on experience."

In 2004, Elizabeth went back to Australia to complete a post graduate diploma in DNA analysis at the same university. She returned to join the forensic science department assisting detectives and investigators with major crime scenes.

Apart from limited resources and finance, Elizabeth said one of the challenges of her profession is working on DNA legislations that set a platform and boundaries. "These are in terms of DNA analysis, uplifting of samples from suspects, accused, volunteers and maintaining a DNA database to name a few.

"The implementation has taken some time to complete owing to the lack of resources but validation should be accomplished in the very near future. "When this happens, it should be exciting as analysis along with a DNA legislation will assist in investigations allowing for prompt results as compared to when samples are sent overseas."

She said anyone could become a forensic biologist if they put their mind and heart to the task. Elizabeth enjoys the work she does and finds the profession very satisfying knowing she has helped detectives take a step further to finding the truth about a crime. Her advice for those thinking of joining the field is to work hard and be committed.

"Be sincere in all that you do and be inspired. Work on your aspirations and have a mentor. "Have some form of responsibility but know that not everybody's cut out for academic or school work.

"If you have a passion to do something then go for it. You can make a career out of anything.
"Regardless of your background, you can make a difference and contribute something positive back to society.
"Remember, anything is possible."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 8, 2008


LOSING an arm in a tragic accident has not stopped Josua Reece from carrying on with his life.

The 37-year-old was selling pot plants and ferns at his stall outside the Suva Civic Centre hall when The Fiji Times caught up with him.

Born and bred in Naivimagimagi on Kadavu, Josua grew up in a farming community. His parents John and Senitiki Reece were farmers.
The youngest of three, Josua never thought about what he wanted to do in life. On Kadavu life centred around farming and during the school holidays, household chores.

"We leased in Naivimagimagi and even though my parents were farmers, the returns were not that good," Josua said. "I was the kind to go with the flow and I took life as it came. "Our income was not that much but my parents still managed to provide for us.

"All of us used to help out as much as we could with the farming at home." Josua attended primary and secondary school on Kadavu. As a student, he walked to school every day to save money. When he reached secondary school level, he stayed at a boarding school and after completing Form 6, he started looking for work to help support his family.

"I started looking for a job straight after high school. The first job I found was at a garment factory," he said. "I worked in the bulk section and at the time I was earning enough to get by.

"Like single youths at the time, I was into other distractions like drinking and smoking. "Shortly after, I applied for a job with Turtle Island Resort. "The pay was a bit better and I was a diver, mostly involved in water sports for tourists. "Diving is not easy but I learned when I was on Kadavu.

"For me, the challenging part of diving is during shark feeding time." Josua said he would take some of the tourist divers to underwater caves and near aircraft and ship crash sites. He was earning a good income and made a lot of friends. At the same time, he was honing his diving skills and learning new skills in the hospitality industry. However, it all came to a crashing end for Josua when he fell 150 feet while parasailing.

"I lost the nerves in my left arm," he said. "I took a tourist out for parasailing and as we went higher, the winds that day were very strong. "The rope from the boat snapped and luckily the tourist was still strapped onto the parachute so she was all right. "I had nothing tied to me.
"It was a free fall from 150 feet.

"I fell on my left arm. If I had fallen on my chest I would have died. "It was a very hard time in my life, especially when I was in hospital with no feeling in my left arm. "I thought that was the end of my life because I lost my left arm. "There was a point in my life when I felt there was no hope for the future." Josua said he coped with his mother by his side.

As time passed, he began to heal and his perspective on life changed when he married Alumeci Koroi and had two children. "I had a family and I wasn't going to let one arm hold me back from giving my children a good life," he said.

"So I moved on with life and decided to do something useful, "It was very hard to find a job but my in-laws pushed me to start selling flowers and plants. "At first I thought it was something for women and girls but then I realised as long as it brought home an income and put food on the table, this was something I wanted to do.

"I am grateful still that I am able to do something to keep my family going. I have been doing this for more than four years now and I learned a lot from this job.

"Sometimes, I would ask the other ladies for help about what sort of plants and flowers I had and they were very helpful." His advice to young people is to stop mucking around and find something useful and productive to do.

Josua said losing a limb is not the end of the world. His determination to live life for his family is enough to make anyone appreciate the passion this man has to make the most of life.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


TWO YEARS ago Leo Vucu, 17, then a Form Four student of Tabia Sanatan College outside Labasa felt despair when he received his Fiji Junior Certificate Examination results.

He had barely passed, had failed most of his subjects with the exception of woodwork, his favourite. "I felt so sad because I had achieved a very low C grade and knew I would have difficulties getting enrolled in Form Five," Mr Vucu said.

"I had tried so hard, studied so hard but still when I saw my marks I was shocked and didn't know what else I could do to improve," he added. "I was particularly unhappy knowing I could be a high school dropout and that embarrassed me. Kids can be pretty cruel in school so all these thoughts went through my mind when I saw my results."

But Mr Vucu, who thought of re-sitting Form Four, had an even bigger problem to consider. "I no longer had the interest to study the same subjects. The only subject keeping me in school was woodwork," he said.

"I totally felt nothing for Maths, Accounting or Agriculture and struggled with English yet at the same time I did not want to turn out a failure in life. I wanted to succeed, earn an income and become something in life," Mr Vucu said. At his wits end, the realisation that his passion for woodwork could very well make his future dawned on Mr Vucu.

"I love using my hands in creating things, turning plain pieces of wood into something of value so I decided not to waste any more time in high school and start working using my talent," he said.
Two years after that day, the young Rotuman proudly marched up the school ground at the Montfort Technical Institute in Savusavu in front of a huge crowd of students and parents as his name was called out to receive the Baton of Honour at the school's pass out parade.

"I faced my fear and shame of being a high school dropout, enrolled at Montfort and I am now completing my second year in a three year Certificate in Cabinet Making and Upholstery course," he said. "I am studying what I love doing and later on I intend to start my own business once I find the right amount of capital," he added. But studying woodwork comes at a price.

"Being a boarder is no easy feat. We do a lot of hard work like weeding and planting root crops," he said. "I remember my very first day at school and we had to weed a big dalo and cassava plantation from about 8.30am to 1pm. By 10.30am I had basically given up because I was so tired and the sun was so hot," he said.

"I think I even cried and all I wanted to do was go back home and then one of the senior boys told me 'sa sega ga ni rawa lesu i vale."

"But strangely those words made me determined to succeed and here I am now doing just that. I have one year to go and even though I did drop out of school, it was only to do something that I believe will prepare me for an even better future."
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 18, 2008


FINDING out about her Fijian heritage is one of the reasons Aurelia Ledua Ritova-Huffer is in Fiji. Aurelia, 23, was born and bred in Suva but has been living with her family in Germany.

She is of German and Fijian decent. Her mother Sulueti Ritova is from Lakeba in Lau while her father is German. Returning to her maternal roots after 14 years, Aurelia is in the country with her mother and younger sister.
Her father Dr Henning Huffer is a lawyer by profession and wrote a book in German about the mutiny on the Bounty.

He worked on producing a film about the mutiny and it was during his research and documentation of the event in Fiji that he met and married Sulueti. Her mother had a role in the film and is now sales manager at an oriental store in Stuttgart, Germany.

Commonly called by her second name in Fiji, Aurelia is second in a family of four girls. Although she wanted to be a lot of things when she was younger, Aurelia set her sights on being a journalist. "I grew up in Lami and since we went to Germany in 1990, I have been travelling back and forth.

"I am here on holiday with my mum and younger sister and I hope to find out more about my Fijian heritage, especially the language and culture," she said. "I can speak a little Fijian but I understand more than I speak. "I attended the Holy Trinity kindergarten and then went to International School in Suva.

"We moved to Germany where I attended an European school at Karlsruhe. "It is a school for children whose parents work for the European Union. "It is something similar to International except those from outside had to pay a little more than the locals."

Aurelia completed her secondary education in 2003 and worked as a trainee producer for German music television conducting interviews and learning to produce music programs. "In high school, I was the only one in my class with Fijian heritage. "My best friend happened to be half Samoan so we were the only Pacific Islanders.

"At university, I am the only part-Fijian and it is something I am proud of. "Suva has changed a lot from the last time I was here. "It is more advanced than before and there are shopping malls."

Aurelia said the challenges of working in the media industry taught her a lot in terms of being efficient, productive and most importantly a confident, independent individual. With determination tucked up her sleeves, Aurelia continued her tertiary education at the University of Heidelberg, one of Germany's prestigious and oldest universities.

"I am completing my degree in llanguage and linguistics, majoring in English. "Higher education in Germany is not expensive. "I also work for a professor in the linguistic department at school.
"I help her with research on different dialects and language. "So while I am here, I want to learn as much as I can about the way Fiji-English is spoken and taught.

"One thing I notice is the difference in cultures, German and Fijian. "Here, everything is more relaxed. "In Germany, the life is fast-paced and modern." She said families in Fiji were very close-knit with the inclusion of extended families.

Unlike Fiji, most families in Germany were nuclear families and only on certain occasions such as weddings or funerals did the family members get together and meet. Despite this, Aurelia believes she has the best of both cultures and is proud to be exposed to the different backgrounds.

Her desire to discover this side of her life is an inspiration for many part-Fijians. Aurelia might be 23 years old and still in school but she has this indescribable desire to bring out the best of her cultural heritage both German and Fijian.

"My advice for young people is to stay in school and if you have fun be sure to get your priorities right. "Balance fun and school, think of the future and work hard to achieve your aim in life."

Aurelia will leave the country at the end of the month but has her eyes set on returning to Fiji after she graduates from university next year.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, August 14, 2008


At his village, they affectionately call him the joka ni pulu. It could be translated as 'master of the bullocks'.

Savirio Toloi, 15, only smiles when he hears that name and coaxes his cows on, dragging a roughly hewn cart loaded with bags of copra. The dried copra bags were headed for the riverbanks, about two miles from the village where they would be loaded onto outboard powered boats headed for the market.

Savirio provides a crucial service for the copra farmers at Naduru Village and Valetokani settlement in the jungles of the Dogotuki District in Vanua Levu.

From morning till dusk, he carts cargo, to and from the riverbanks to the village and settlement, an important task in the absence of a proper road. He kept to himself, shyly avoiding our visiting party but when I did talk to him he relates a cruel twist of fate that changed his life.

Last year Savirio was in Class Eight, had passed his exams and looked forward to a new school year as a Form Three student with new friends to make and new things to learn. However, just a few weeks before school early this year, he woke up with an immense ear ache. Things seemed to go downhill from then on for this teenager.

A day later doctors discovered a boil in his ear, gave him an injection but the next day he was partially paralysed. "I couldn't walk or talk and I was just so scared I would die. I didn't know what was happening to me. The left side of my body was paralysed. All I did was cry," Savirio relates.

His mother, Ilisapeci Damiano sits close by listening to her son relate the frightful events that unfolded early this year. "He was in and out of hospital. He was even admitted at the Suva hospital. They all said he had been given the wrong medication. He couldn't go to school so we decided not to enroll him for the new school year. I think that disappointed him the most," Mrs Damiano said.

When Savirio finished his last day at the hospital, he came home shy and withdrawn. "Most times he didn't want people around him. He stayed indoors a lot because he was ashamed of the way the left side of his lip drooped from the paralysis. He couldn't speak properly," Mrs Damiano said.

"He didn't want to go to school after that because he feared the students would bully him, and tease him so he decided to spend this year at home." As the days grew into months, Savirio's health improved.

Over time, exercise and a healthy diet strengthened his limbs and the paralysis wore off. "Now my lips seem to pull to the left side but although I am sad and angry this happened to me, that I had to leave school, hope never left me. Deep within I wanted to get better and I did everything I could," he said.

While at home, the teenager helped out his parents who are copra and yaqona farmers. "Early in the morning I plant cassava, go out to fetch copra and help my parents with all household chores. But the best thing I like doing is carting cargo to the river bank. I enjoy walking the cows and bullocks," he said.

Although his life has been struck by tragedy, Savirio plans to resume school next year. "I'm just taking time off to recover. I want to go back to school next year because that is a way out of the hard life that we live out here in the village. Yes, you are right that my life has been struck by tragedy but I think that I have learnt a great lesson. Now that I have been at home, I now realise just how tough life can be for my parents as farmers so I want something different.
More than ever now I value education and how important it is. I even miss it. "That's why I am looking forward to next year."
Adpted fom Fijitimes Online

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I had the opportunity last week to watch a moving and thought-provoking performance. No, not the "Sorry I confused you by switching cars on the way to the office;" or "Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not resigning," performance.

The performance I refer to had amateur performers. And they didn't change their tune even once until the song was over.

I am of course referring to the Suva Secondary Schools Music Festival, held at what I've always known to be the National Gymnasium (not that I've ever seen a gymnastic performance there) which is today almost the ignored older brother (or sister) of the larger Dome/Arena of Sports City in Suva.

As an International School student, I remember performing many a strange display of contemporary dance at this venue; or sitting high up in the back (in theatre-speak those seats are often referred to as the "God's") trying luck on whichever poor girl was the object of my obsession at the time.

More recently I remember being a ring-announcer to one of those boxing nights when "Joy-the-leaving-on-a-Jetplane" never showed up. "Let's get ready to rumble!" Or maybe not, as the case was.

I was fortunate to get tickets for the family to watch the Wednesday night performance of some 400 young people from schools of the greater-Suva area as well as the Pasifika Voices, wonderful Taiko drummers and of course the arrangement and conducting of among others, the very talented and humble (as only the son of a Samoan talatala can be) Iglese Ete.

For those who never got to watch Malaga: The Journey, or attend the USP's graduation day, it was wonderful to see an actual musical maestro (as opposed to the 7s rugby one we know and love) in action.

Choreographed movements and song seamlessly flowed to "inspire" at least one member of the audience, who emailed me later.

Some wanted more well most wanted more music but one or two wanted more out of the show; but my own experience was sublime, disrupted only by my dear children, who wanted first to go up to the stage and sing, then go up and dance, then go up and play the drums, then go up and conduct.

Their mother who is visiting George Bush's relatives (oh sorry ... it's only in the Pacific that everyone is related) in the United States (actually on a wonderful history workshop facilitated by the US Embassy here), missed out on the show and the joy of having two children wanting you to carry them and sit on your shoulders, or go to the toilet (not to be confused with the other BOG next door), when your favourite song is about to be sung. Ah the joys of parenthood!

The coming together of rival schools to sing duets of appropriately titled songs got me thinking that instead of all this money being spent on councils to weave better mats could be equally (or better your choice, this article is democratic) spent on putting together a Choir for Singing about a Better Fiji.

Of course those singing about a new day (no offence but I prefer the Stevie J. Heatley version) could be in the back up choir as could all the former, or in-limbo members of parliament and former or current members of the military-inspired Cabinet.

There'd even be enough room for the military council and the rest of the other councils.

However the stars of the night would be the duet singers. Here a couple of suggestions for songs:

- Let it Flow (originally sung by Toni Braxton) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Water Bottlers;

- Message in a Bottle (originally sung by The Police) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Cabinet;

- Get Back to Where You Don't Belong (originally sung by The Beatles) Evan Hannah, Russell Hunter and Viliame Naupoto (okay that's a trio)

- Ain't No Sunshine (when He's gone) (originally sung by Bill Withers/covered by Skee) "Frank Bainimarama and Parmesh Chand;

- What's Going On (originally sung by Marvin Gaye) Neumi Leweni and Daryl Tarte

- How Can We Be Lovers If We Can't Be Friends? (originally sung by Michael Bolton) Frank Bainimarama and Laisenia Qarase;

- Another Brick in the Wall (originally sung by Pink Floyd) John Samy and the TASS singers; and

- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (sung by UB40) Tukana Bovoro and Taito Waradi.

Next week: "Heroes and Villains."

Have a week blessed with Love, Light and Peace!l Reverend Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and in no way represent the opinion of the College or the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.

Adated from Fijitimes Online