In­dige­nous Group’s Split Big Let­down for Ro Tei­mumu

Fiji Sun - - Election Countdown 2018 - by Ne­mani De­laibatiki Feed­back: ne­­laibatiki@fi­

Ro Tei­mumu Kepa trav­els fre­quently to the United States be­cause she has a big fan base there.

It’s also the hub of ad­vo­cacy for Fi­jian in­dige­nous group rights and in­ter­ests.

Pre­vi­ously, she used to get a warm wel­come, met at the air­port and given a tra­di­tional wel­come cer­e­mony.

This time it was dif­fer­ent. When she ar­rived at Los An­ge­les Air­port af­ter a long flight from Nadi to Auck­land then to LA, no one was wait­ing for her. She is no or­di­nary Fi­jian. She is the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion and Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi (Paramount Chief of Bure­basaga). The no show at the air­port by of­fi­cials of the Fiji Na­tive Tribal Congress which in­vited her in­di­cates an or­gan­i­sa­tion in dis­ar­ray.

It was in­sult­ing and a hu­mil­i­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for a high chief like Ro Tei­mumu, one of the FNTC founders. What was go­ing on in their minds when they booked the cheap­est econ­omy seat on her con­nect­ing flight to New York where she was sched­uled for more meet­ings.

The coast to coast flight pro­vided no meals and no bag­gage al­lowance for a long haul flight which took 15 hours. Then to make mat­ters worse, she was sup­posed to fly in a plane that stops at var­i­ous cities be­fore New York, mean­ing she would be in the plane for hours. When FNTC was set up years ago to fight for so­called group rights of the

iTaukei, Ro Tei­mumu was one of its faces. The Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu, SODELPA pres­i­dent and sus­pended MP, was also one of them. They still are but oth­ers have now taken over on the front­line.

The ri­val Fiji In­dige­nous Peo­ple’s Foun­da­tion was formed later and ap­pears to have over­shad­owed FNTC. The ri­valry has be­come so bit­ter now as re­flected in a Face­book post from Adi Ase­naca Cau­cau. She has warned peo­ple from work­ing with two FNTC of­fi­cials. Adi Ase­naca was a Cabi­net min­is­ter in Laise­nia Qarase’s SDL gov­ern­ment.

It is un­der­stood that the bat­tle is over fund­ing that they re­ceive from var­i­ous sources to con­duct their cam­paign. Pre­vi­ously when they started they de­pended on fundrais­ing but that had placed pres­sure on peo­ple. Adi Ase­naca has urged peo­ple to work with FIPF.

“We are or­ga­nized, trusted, ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive with strong lead­er­ship and in­tegrity,” she said. The FNTC and FIPF are fight­ing on two dif­fer­ent fronts for the same cause at the United Na­tions agen­cies and fo­rums. This has come at the ex­pense of Ro Tei­mumu in this re­cent trip. FIPF also wanted to host Ro Tei­mumu but her itin­er­ary was kept away from it by FNTC, claims Adi Ase­naca. Ro Tei­mumu had been ad­vised not to go on this trip be­cause of the un­cer­tainty of the ar­range­ments. But she ig­nored it be­cause of her pas­sion for the cause and her gen­uine de­sire to en­cour­age the ad­vo­cacy groups. Ro Tei­mumu will now have to think again be­fore she says yes to an­other in­vi­ta­tion. They have used her to prop up their US agenda and raise pro­file of their cam­paign to se­cure fund­ing. Ro Tei­mumu would love to see just one united group. It would strengthen their cause.

The split is a big let­down for her.

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