Fidschi: Suliana Siwatibau

My faith is my support. I believe in the goodness of people and of the universe: if we want to achieve peace and harmonious relations, we have no choice but to be good to each other.

— Suliana Siwatibau

Fiji biologist Suliana Siwatibau (63) works for peace and ecological justice. Her training in genetics helped in the struggle against nuclear colonialism in the Pacific. She co-founded the Against Testing on Moruroa (ATOM) Committee and co-wrote a church-sponsored primer on the dangers of radiation. She advocated for political equality and petitioned for a return to democracy after the military coup in May 1987. After 15 years of promoting alternative energy, resource management, and participatory community development regionally, she is developing a model of organic farming in Fiji.

"My involvement in public life began in the 1960s, before Fiji’s independence in 1970. I was teaching at Adi Cakobau School (ACS) and was involved with the Young Women’s Christian Association's Public Affairs Committee. My first foray into the public arena happened when a British Labor Government representative visited Fiji to find out what people's feelings and opinions were about independence. She asked for a meeting of women and we went along, a group of young Fijian women. We sat right at the back. A lot of older women, and women chiefs, were there. We listened to the British woman talk about countries which were independent and as soon as she had finished speaking, I jumped up to speak and others in our group followed. I said it was about time we were independent. I also talked about the different races in Fiji and said we should all be equal: we should have common roll for voting. Then another Fijian woman stood up and said we should abolish the Council of Chiefs. The next day, we featured in the papers and of course, there was a big furore. The Fijian chiefs were very upset. One of them rang the ACS Principal to complain, and the newspaper rang me up and asked if I had said that we should abolish the Council of Chiefs. I replied that a friend of mine had said that, but that I agreed with her. Of course that became another news story. One day, as I walked past the market, a whole group of Fijian men hurled abuses and threw some rotten tomatoes at me. I thought, "That's alright, there will be opposition." I expected it. It did not unnerve me. How do I explain the views I expressed? I had just come back from Auckland University where I had been active in the Student Christian Movement (SCM). The SCM was a very good training ground for analysis on issues of justice."

Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS) Habitat for Humanity Transparency International