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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 9) – Villagers of an outer island have been without groceries and fuel for the past two months because of irregular boat services by government vessels in Fiji.

Islanders on Ono-i-Lau yesterday expressed concern that no government ships had visited their shores for months, causing shortage of necessities on the island.

[PIR editor’s note: Ono-I-Lau is part of the Lau Group in the eastern region of Fiji.]

Nukuni villager Tomasi Waqabaca said villagers had to find their own way to transport groceries and fuel to the island from Suva.

"Most of us get our supply over by arranging with friends or organizations coming to the island in chartered trips," Mr. Waqabaca said. "If there are no such trips, we go without the supply and most nights we move and sleep in the dark because there is no kerosene to light our lamps."

With chartered ships, Mr. Waqabaca said chances of replenishing supplies remained slim.

"Only when there is space, then our stock can be put on the ship and brought to the island,'' he said. "Otherwise, we will have to wait for another day when there is space on another ship. And that all depends on luck."

The situation has affected students in the village who have had their studies restricted.

"As soon as they come back from school, they do their homework and begin studies right away before night falls. As soon as it gets dark, they really can't do much because the village is completely dark," Mr. Waqabaca said.

He said with the Christmas season approaching, it was only right for the Government to address the problem because many people planned to travel to and from the island.

"It is a busy period for many of us Christians and if nothing is done about it now, we will all be stuck on the island and won't be able to spend time with our families," he said.

Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation chief executive Buatoka Vuetasau said complaints by the islanders were genuine as other islanders of Lau face the same problem.

"But they are not isolated and arrangements for the shipping franchise is being handled by the Fiji Shipping Corporation," Mr. Vuetasau said.

Corporation chief executive Waqa Ledua said boats had been servicing the island since October and he saw no reason for the complaints.

November 10, 2005

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