Rabi Elects New Council Appeared 2nd December '96

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Rabi Elects New Council


by Jo Nata on Rabi

The following article appeared in the 'Fiji Times' page 3, 2nd December, 1996 

Former Permanent Secretary for Primary Industries John Teaiwa left is congratulated after his win in
 elections on Saturday

Picture: Jo Nata

RABI Islanders elected a totally new council of leaders at the weekend. The first elected council, after almost five years of Government - imposed administration, is a mixture of youth and experience and a clear indication by the descendants of the settlers of Banaba (Ocean Island) that they want changes.

Among the new faces in the council is the former Permanent Secretary for Primary Industries, John Teaiwa. The Government, dissolved the last elected council in February 1992 and appointed Bill Cruickshank as chief administrator. This followed allegations of mismanagement and months of unrest which led to a riot on the island in December 1991. The community also voted in its first woman councillor since the resettlement in 1945. She is Makin Karoro a former school teacher who won the elder’s seat in Tabwewa.

Only three members of the Rabi Island council of leaders from 1992 contested the weekend election. They were soundly beaten.

"I think the people of Rabi are eager for change," said Mr. Teaiwa who won from Tabiang Village as an elder.

"The people have spoken and I do not think they want people who messed thins up to come back. We bring in fresh air," he said.

"They (the people) may be expecting a lot but that is the type of challenges we are looking forward to."

Two members from the dissolved council, Tekaie Tabuariki and Teiatake Teai, are from Mr. Teaiwa's Tabiang Village. They could get only 15 and eight votes respectively form the 263 on the roll.

The seats were won by Mr. Teaiwa (115 votes) and former bank officer Bauro Kabure (118 votes).

The third member from the dissolved council, Teekana Timion, polled only 51 votes of a possible 379 from Buakonikai Village.

The new full council members are John Teaiwa and Bauro Kabure (Tabiang), Makin Karoro and Iakopa Karutaake (Tabwewa), Burangke (Frank) Christopher and Teatu Moutu (Uma), and Bureia Fiamalosi and Tebaruru Baoa (Buakonikai).

The election was significant in several ways. It was the first election under the new amendments to the Banaban Settlement Act which, among other things, allows only indigenous Banabans to vote.

Indigenous Banabans are described as direct descendants of the original settlers of Banaba. Previously, non-Banaban spouses of Rabi Islanders living on the island could vote.

Also significant is that the nine-seat council is made up of four elders and four general members.

The four districts of Tabwewa, Uma ,Tabiang and Buakonikai have an elder and a general member.

It is also the first time under the changes in the law that the islanders will go back to the polls to elect a council chairman.

The chairman will be elected this week.

Previously, the council elected its own chairman. The candidate who polled the third highest number of votes in the chairman’s village automatically becomes a council member.

A notable feature of the new council is the absence of the Rotan family of Buakonikai. The Rotans have had a hold on the island’s rule over the last 50 years.

Reverend Tebuke Rotan, who was instrumental in the fight against the British Phosphate Commission and council chairman for many years, did not contest.

"We are not very popular on the island", said Reverend Rotan’s younger brother Tekoti.

"Both my brother and I are not standing to allow the people to make their choice. The Rotan family have been leading for the 50 years we have been on Rabi."

Tekoti Rotan, who was chairman of the now defunct Rabi Holdings Limited, was installed as chairman of the Rabi Island Council of Elders by the Cruickshank administration.

The chairman of the dissolved council, Reverend Terubea Rongorongo is studying law in Vanuatu and could not contest.

The only other member of the dissolved council was Henry Spring who did not seek re-election.

"It is a good team," said Mr. Teaiwa.

"It should be able to provide clear leadership with some foresight. This is the first time we are having a woman member. It is very encouraging."


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