Category Archives: Fiji

Sources of Samoan Legal Terms

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Loc. c. 3412ff:

What is also intriguing about the Samoan constitutional system is that despite the absence of classical state-like political structures, the vocabulary created for concepts of modern statecraft was remarkably traditional, much more than the equivalent terms in Tongan and Fijian. For instance, the Samoan term for law is tulāfono, a concept clearly grounded in classical concepts of governance. Other terms for innovative institutions were literal translations, such as failautusi (someone doing writing or accounting) for secretary (that is, cabinet minister). Very few words, however, were direct borrowings from foreign languages comparable to Tahitian ture and basileia or Tongan lao and minisitā.

In the end, however, the Constitution failed to produce a stable government, but this was due to antagonistic foreign interests, agitation by settlers, and naval intervention. In early 1876, Steinberger was arrested and deported by a visiting British warship due to a conspiracy of the US and British consuls who objected to the premier’s pro-Samoan policies, especially his commitment to examine fraudulent land sales in the past and prevent further such sales (Gilson 1970, 321–331).

In the resulting chaos, the Ta‘imua deposed Laupepa, who then set up a rebel government. Although all parts of the Constitution were not fully in force, the Ta‘imua continued to run at least the external affairs of the government quite successfully for a while. This included sending High Chief M. K. Le Mamea on a diplomatic mission to the United States to sign a Samoan-American treaty in 1878 and concluding similar, albeit unequal, treaties with Germany and the United Kingdom in 1879. After multiple crises and hostilities between the rivaling parties, Malietoa Laupepa was restored to the throne in 1880—Mata‘afa Iosefo, another paramount title holder, serving as premier—but the government’s authority remained tenuous (Gilson 1970, 332–382; So‘o 2008, 39–41). Nonetheless, the Samoan government published a new set of laws, a copy of which was sent to the Hawaiian government (Kingdom of Sāmoa 1880).

In the absence of Steinberger or another trusted European, the position of premier was abolished and a more extensive executive cabinet created instead. By the mid-1880s, this cabinet included a failautusi sili (secretary of state), failautusi mo Sāmoa (secretary of interior, literally secretary for Sāmoa), failautusi teu tupe (secretary of treasury), failautusi o taua (secretary of war), failautusi o fanua (secretary of lands), failautusi o galuega (secretary of works), the faamasino sili (chief justice), and a failautusi faamau-upu (registrar). The American-derived terminology for these offices reflected the continuing legacy of Steinberger’s political ideas.

In Samoa, Robert Louis Stevenson was called Tusitala ‘Write-story’.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiji, Hawai'i, language, nationalism, Polynesia, Samoa, U.S.

Changing Demographics in Pacific Seafaring

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 178-180, 188:

As well as improvements in maritime education and training under IMO regulations, there has also been a veritable social revolution in Fiji. The young generation of Pacific sailors no longer seriously ascribes to the old tradition that females bring “bad luck” to a ship. Pacific women have shown considerable strength of character, as well as new professionalism, in taking charge of crews and in coping with family….

The other change in human relations in Fiji has been an amelioration within the maritime sector of the sensitive issue of race relations. The exclusion of all but indigenous Fijians from the Waterside Workers and Seamen’s Union, which was registered in 1946 with a specific racial limitation clause, continued until a rival unsegregated seamen’s union emerged in 1992. The reasons for the initial segregation are deeply embedded in colonial history. However, with the increase of Fijians as wage earners in ports and shipping, trade union exclusiveness seemed as much a matter of class as race. Ports and shipping had Fijian laborers and ratings, while Europeans and part-Europeans were officials and officers. Capital in turn came from the United Kingdom and Australasia and locally from Indo-Fijian commercial sources. The more class-conscious union organizers saw the Fijians as “workers” and the others as “bosses” who were not eligible for union membership.

The mobility of a few Fijian ratings with sufficient education to junior officer levels and the increase of indigenous Fijians serving as cadets and officers on local vessels have reduced the basis for class resentment. There are still racial problems, but younger Fijian sailors recognize the merits of Indo-Fijians as mariners. For example, the Khan family on the island of Nairai have long been regarded as good sailors, running their own cutters with Fijian officers and crew….

The global hierarchical structure is broadly 40 percent officers from countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), plus Russia, Poland, and some of the eastern European states, and most of the ratings from eastern Europe and developing countries, including some Pacific islands.

Increasingly, young men and a few women from the Pacific are moving to officer ranks on foreign-flag ships, as there is a dire shortage of officers in the developed ship-owning states. The shortage is due to both declining interest in careers at sea and the losses of trained personnel arising from demands ashore in business, technology, and administration for well-qualified mariners. One of the several advantages to Germany, for example, of recruiting lower-cost sailors in Kiribati and training some of them to officer levels is the lack of well-paid employment in islands for their skills, which would attract officers ashore. Thus there is a minimizing of wastage from manpower training investments. There are twelve maritime training institutions in the Pacific Islands. Only Fiji and Papua New Guinea provide the full range of education and training from pre-sea, rating, and officer courses to Class 1 foreign-going masters and chief engineers. Several other places offer training of ratings and/or junior officers. There is mobility in training, with concentrations for special courses under the coordination of the SPC Regional Maritime Programme….

Kiribati in 1959 (as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands crown colony, GEIC) was already supplying seafarers to the China Navigation Company of Britain. There were also crews and a few I-Kiribati nationals serving as officers, usually with European captains, on colony ships sailing on long-distance interisland routes. In terms of distance, Kiribati shipping was virtually foreign-going…. Kiribati is now the principal country in the Pacific island region for supplying seafarers.

Leave a comment

Filed under economics, education, Fiji, labor, Micronesia, Pacific, Papua New Guinea

Pacific Annexations, 1840-1906

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 140-141:

The managers of the major merchant companies based at the main entrepôts in the [Pacific] islands were often ex-sailors. Several acted as consuls for their governments and supported the companies in many ways, including evoking gunboat diplomacy. A prime example is John Bates Thurston. He served at sea in the island trades, was wrecked at Rotuma in 1865, became British consul in Fiji in 1867, was highly influential in the negotiations for the ceding of Fiji to Britain in 1874, and became governor of Fiji in 1887. The companies, the new settlers, and their sympathetic consuls pressed for annexations. The French were the first to act [but Waitangi was 1840—J.] and took Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the Tuamotus as French protectorates in 1842 and New Caledonia in 1853. These were declared colonies in 1880, and the Australs and Wallis and Futuna in 1887.

The British annexed Fiji in 1874 and established protectorates over southeast New Guinea in 1884, Gilbert and Ellice in 1892, most of the Solomons soon after, and Ocean Island in 1900. They agreed that New Zealand would exercise authority over the Kermadecs in 1887, the Tokelaus in 1889, and the Cooks and Niue in 1901. The Dutch took western New Guinea in 1848. Germany annexed northeast New Guinea in 1885, along with the Bismarck Archipelago and the northwest Solomons; took possession of most of the Carolines in 1885; and ultimately purchased Yap and other islands in the Carolines and Marianas from Spain in 1899. The Germans also acquired the Marshall Islands in 1884 and took over Nauru in 1888. Chile obtained Easter Island in 1888.

America, after its disastrous Civil War, had not recovered a significant merchant fleet and showed little inclination for acquiring Pacific territory. American guano companies had already secured legislation in 1856–1860 that allowed claims over some small Pacific islands, and the US government went on to secure others, including Baker, Jarvis, Johnson, Midway, Palmyra, and Wake. In 1893 the influential American maritime geostrategist Alfred Mahan wrote that it was “imperative to take possession, when it can be righteously done, of such maritime positions as can contribute to secure command.” In 1898, Hawai‘i was annexed (US citizenships were granted in 1900), as was eastern Samoa with Pago Pago as a main naval coaling station, while Guam was captured from Spain by the US Navy in 1898.

The Pacific was now effectively divided between several colonial powers mainly by agreements. In the final carve-up, it was confirmed that Western Samoa was a German colony separated from American Samoa in the east. In turn Germany agreed to relinquish claims for Tonga. As a result, in the closing days Tonga appeared to survive as the only independent Polynesian kingdom, although not quite. It was declared a British protectorate in 1900, and in 1905 it was decreed mandatory for the king of Tonga to take advice from the British consul on all matters of importance. Finally, in 1906 New Hebrides was divided as a condominium between Britain and France.

I’m not sure why Couper omits the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which made British subjects of the Maori. Maybe he considered both New Zealand and Australia to be colonial powers by the 1840s, even though both were earlier annexed by another colonial power. (Like the Americas, of course.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, Fiji, France, Germany, Hawai'i, Micronesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Polynesia, Spain, U.S.

Suva, Fiji, in the Wake of the 2000 Coup

From “Papua, O‘ahu, Viti Levu” by Stewart Firth, in Pacific Places, Pacific Histories ed. by Brij Lal (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 63-65:

The map of Suva, with only a few Indian names, reflects the historic alliance between the British and the Fijian chiefs in ruling Fiji and the exclusion of Indo-Fijians from the upper reaches of society for much of the colonial era. None of this might matter if it did not resonate so strikingly with contemporary developments in Fiji. The Fijian nationalist demonstrators who gathered at the Parliament on the morning of May 19, 2000, the day of George Speight‘s coup, had marched along Victoria Avenue and Ratu Sukuna Road, thoroughfares named after a queen and a chief who had little time for democracy.

To live in Suva in the year 2000 was to have a brief glimpse of the abyss of disorder into which political passions threatened to plunge the country. After the riots and looting of May 19th, shattered glass littered the streets, people fled, and buses ceased to run in a city where the bus station is normally crowded with people seeking transport all over the island of Viti Levu. Desperate shopkeepers boarded windows, covered them with heavy mesh, or dumped containers on pavements. The northern end of town resembled a war zone, and for a few days a deathly quiet replaced the normal bustle of Suva’s commercial life. A burned-out building near the post office, shown repeatedly on foreign TV, symbolized the depths to which Fiji had sunk. Yet these early days were just the beginning of a crisis that would grip the capital for the next two months, during which Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was deposed as president, the 1997 constitution was abrogated, the Parliament hosted a bizarre carnival of nationalist posturing, and the army gradually asserted sufficient control to be able to install a government to its liking. The University of the South Pacific is situated close enough to the Parliament for the gun battles of a few streets away to be heard and even felt as reverberating thumps. The vice-chancellor, Esekia Solofa, suspended classes and repatriated students from other countries, including the hapless Solomon Islanders who returned in early June to a far more serious coup in their own country.

Suva became a city of curfews, rumors, premature closings, and sudden traffic jams as people fled home on the strength of the latest disturbing report about developments. Foreign journalists, sensing the potential for drama but mostly ignorant of Fiji, poured into town booking hotel rooms and renting cars. Some soon left after an armed mob, enraged by a television interview critical of Speight, invaded Fiji TV on the night of May 28, smashed equipment, and chased journalists into the nearby Suva Centra Hotel. In the hills of Viti Levu the landowners of the catchment area of Monasavu Dam, where hydroelectricity is generated, sabotaged the turbines and seized the opportunity to demand compensation for their loss of resource. As the Fiji Electricity Authority pressed wheezing and outdated diesel generators into service to meet the shortfall, Suva was subjected to rolling blackouts, and people became used to evenings spent in the dark and workdays without power. Since Suva these days is also subject to intermittent breaks in the water supply, sometimes lasting three or four days, life in the city was not only insecure—no one knowing when Speight’s crowd of supporters might burst through the roadblocks set up around the Parliamentary area—but also inconvenient in a characteristically Third-World way. Suva was not Kisangani in the Congo or Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, prosperous towns reduced by conflict to penury, but such a fate for the city was no longer beyond imagining.

The root of the political unrest was a struggle for power between different groups of Fijians, a reprise in modern form of similar struggles that have characterized Fijian history for centuries. The Indo-Fijians, condemned to be guests in the land of their birth, were the victims not just of Fijian ethnocentrism, but also of Fijian infighting. I should have known all this, having taught Pacific history and politics for years. Why should we be surprised that a liberal, multicultural democracy is so hard to construct in a country whose traditional politics were deeply hierarchical, whose colonial masters perpetuated that hierarchy until independence, whose immigrant population was kept strictly separate during the colonial era, and whose indigenous population continues to think to a greater or lesser extent of those who live in Fiji as divided between vulagi (guests, visitors) and itaukei (hosts, owners)? As Steven Hooper has argued, “an ideology of complementarity, involving at some level the categories chiefs and people, prevails among the majority of Fijians” and still “to a large extent conditions attitudes towards and relations with those people beyond the Land, be they of Indian, European, Chinese, Banaban or other descent.” In Henry Rutz’s view, most Fijians “see themselves less as citizens of a democratic nation-state than as supporters of a local chief who holds rank in a hierarchy of chiefs from village to ‘nation.”‘ Yet the hatreds, intolerance, and disorder unleashed by Speight still came as a shock, and I was brought face-to-face with the depth of my own attachment to order, civility, tolerance, and modernity—the modernity that delivers education, health care, convenience, efficiency, and opportunity to large numbers of people in the developed countries even as it generates inequality and atomization. Fijian tradition, so easy to romanticize, turned out to be a political resource readily exploitable by ambitious politicians and, if allowed to determine events, likely to consign Fiji’s people, whatever their race, to a bleak future of stunted lives and restricted opportunities.

Having plumbed the depths through the curfews and roadblocks of 2000, Suva suddenly blossomed after the 2001 elections, which returned Fiji to a constitutional and internationally acceptable path. An energetic new Indo-Fijian mayor cleaned up the streets, planted gardens, and reconstructed footpaths. Businesses responded with a burst of refurbishment and repainting, and decorations festooned the streets as Christmas approached. This time, though, no one was under illusions about how difficult it would be to restore long-term political stability and to realize the country’s potential. Too many people, especially in the Indo-Fijian community, had had enough. In a sign of the times, scores of thousands of Fiji citizens entered the United States’ green card lottery in the hope of winning entry to a country where they would be judged on ability and hard work alone, not on race or inherited status. Nurses in Fiji’s hard-pressed hospitals queued up to take jobs somewhere else in the world, from Australia to the United Arab Emirates.

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, democracy, Fiji, migration, military, nationalism

Causative Makeovers in New Guinea Oceanic Languages, 2

In contrast to Austronesian languages almost everywhere else, the Oceanic languages on the north coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland show an unusual disinclination to make use of the morphological causative inherited from Proto-Oceanic and Proto-Austronesian. Innovative causatives derived from causative serial constructions appear to have supplanted to varying degrees the inherited prefix *pa(ka)-. Part 1 summarizes the dethroning of the inherited prefix. Part 2 (here) outlines the replacement pattern of serial causatives. Part 3 suggests reasons for preferring the serial causatives.

Serial causative reflexes in New Guinea

Over 40 years ago, Milke (1965:346–347) pointed out correspondences between certain classificatory prefixes in Gedaged and certain ones in Papuan Tip languages. Such prefixes broadly classify the manner in which a result is achieved: by beating, by grabbing, by kicking, by piercing, and so forth. He proposed that the classificatory prefixes were a morphological innovation providing evidence for a New Guinea Oceanic subgroup. He was apparently unaware of the presence of identical constructions in Manam. However, Milke was hard put to find classificatory prefixes in Huon Gulf languages. If he had been looking for main verbs rather than prefixes, he would have had better luck.

There are no classificatory prefixes in Huon Gulf languages, but there are main verbs that play roles similar to those of the prefixes. And there are result verbs or resultative particles in Huon Gulf languages whose semantics resemble those of the verbs occurring with classificatory prefixes in the verb-final languages elsewhere on the northeast coast of New Guinea. Some of the morphemes involved are cognate as well.

Proto-Oceanic (POC) *taRaq ‘to hew, chop, cut into’ is virtually ubiquitous as an initial verb in serial and compound causative constructions.

Reflexes of POC *punu ‘to strike, kill, extinguish’ are universal as resultatives in the Huon Gulf languages. However, in Kairiru the reflex of *punu appears as a manner transitive. In Gedaged, it appears as either a manner or a result verb. Reflexes of *punu turn up in result position in causative compounds in Papuan Tip languages.

Capell (1943:177) reconstructs a form *tomu ‘to cut or break off’ widely reflected in Papuan Tip languages. Its reflexes appear in result position in Misima (= Panayati), Nimowa, and Sudest; and in classificatory prefix position in Suau and Iduna. In Numbami, a Huon Gulf language, tomu is a resultative meaning ‘broken off’.

POC *kabit (PAN *kampit) ‘to hold, take, snatch, carry, gather’ is widely reflected in initial position in phrasal causative and incorporated object constructions in Huon Gulf languages. Its reflexes occur in the same position in compound causative, classificatory prefix, and incorporated-object constructions in Gedaged, in Madang Province, and in Papuan Tip languages.

Reflexes of POC *mate ‘to die’ show up in Kairiru, Manam, Gedaged, and Gitua as result verbs.

Perhaps one of the most productive manner-transitive verbs is reconstructible as *rapu meaning ‘to strike, hit, beat’. It shows up as a transitive verb in Huon Gulf serial causatives and incorporated-object constructions; as the only classificatory prefix without an independent verb counterpart in Manam; and as an almost meaningless, general causative prefix in almost every Papuan Tip language. Many of the Papuan Tip languages also show a less phonologically reduced, independent verb of a similar shape with the meaning ‘to hit’.

The innovative causative constructions—no matter whether the object noun occurs before or after the verb—thus resemble each other in the semantics of the components involved, in the order in which verbal and incorporated-object components occur (VO), and, in many cases, in the shapes of the individual morphemes as well. Moreover, the two groups of innovative causatives are in complementary distribution in Papua New Guinea and both differ from the causative pattern commonly found in Oceanic languages elsewhere. These circumstances seem to invite the reconstruction of a single ancestral pattern that will account for both the VO (verb before object) and OV (object before verb) constructions.

Distributional evidence within the Austronesian language family suggests that the VO, serializing languages around the Huon Gulf are more conservative of ancestral word order than the OV languages elsewhere around the New Guinea mainland. The syntactic pattern ancestral to both the serial and compound causative constructions should thus be compatible with VO basic word order. The Huon Gulf languages already provide evidence for an SVOV pattern in which the first verb indicates a causing action and the second a result. SVOV syntax is compatible with VO basic word order and such a reconstruction will also account for the compounding pattern if we assume that the compounding languages shifted their basic word order from VO to OV after serial causative constructions were well established. (Perhaps Central Papuan languages like Motu have no classificatory prefixes because they shifted before the serial causative was well established.)

Two major changes are thus sufficient to account for the causative compounds in OV languages along the north coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland. First, SVOV serial causative constructions developed. This stage is attested in the VO languages around the Huon Gulf. The languages to the northwest and southeast then underwent a further change: they shifted from VO to OV basic word order. The SVOV causative thus became an SOVV causative. In some of the Morobe languages, which apparently never made the full shift to OV basic word order, the SVOV serial causative produced an SVOR phrasal causative when the final verbs in the construction lost their verbal status and became resultative particles. In most of the OV languages, the SOVV serial causative produced SOVV compound causative and classificatory prefix constructions. The OV languages show progressive deverbalization of the nonfinal verb in the construction. These developments are outlined below.

Reflexes of serial causatives in New Guinea Oceanic languages

* S Vt O Vi (Switch Subject) ‘they hit pig die’
* S Vt O Vt (Same Subject) ‘they hit pig kill/cause-die’

The VO languages

S V O V (Switch Subject) GITUA
ti-rap nggaya mate
3P-hit pig 3S-die

S V O Result (< Same Subject) NUMBAMI
ti-lapa bola uni
3P-hit pig dead (< ‘killed’)

The OV languages

S O V V (Switch Subject) KAIRIRU
bur rro-un-i a-myat
pig 3P-hit-3S 3S-die

S O V-V (< Same Subject) GEDAGED
boz du-punu-fun-i
pig 3P-shoot-kill-3S

S O classifier-V (< Switch Subject) MANAM
boro di-rau-mate-i
pig 3P-hit-die-3S

S O classifier-V (< Same Subject) IDUNA
bawe hi-lu-ve-‘alika-na
pig 3P-*hit-cause-die-3S


Capell, Arthur. 1943. The linguistic position of South-Eastern Papua. Sydney, Australasian Medical Publishing.

Milke, Wilhelm. 1965. Comparative notes on the Austronesian languages of New Guinea. Lingua 14:330–348.


Filed under Fiji, language, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Polynesia

Causative Makeovers in New Guinea Oceanic Languages, 1

In contrast to Austronesian languages almost everywhere else, the Oceanic languages on the north coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland show an unusual disinclination to make use of the morphological causative inherited from Proto-Oceanic and Proto-Austronesian. Innovative causatives derived from causative serial constructions appear to have supplanted to varying degrees the inherited prefix *pa(ka)-. Part 1 (here) summarizes the dethroning of the inherited prefix. Part 2 outlines the replacement pattern of serial causatives. Part 3 suggests reasons for preferring the serial causatives.

The morphological causative supplanted

Both in Oceanic languages and in Austronesian languages more generally, the causative prefix is ubiquitous. In virtually any grammatical description of a Philippine language one can find mention of a pa- causative affix. Pa- causatives also occur in all the aboriginal (Austronesian) languages of Formosa, and even in distant Malagasy. The causative prefix is also well attested in Oceanic languages. In fact, it is one of the prefixes most characteristic of Oceanic languages. In Pawley’s (1972) grammatical comparison of Eastern Oceanic languages, it is the first verbal prefix listed and also the best attested—all but one of the 31 languages compared show an appropriate reflex. The same is true of Codrington’s (1885:183–184) table of verbal prefixes in 32 Melanesian languages. (The two lists overlap by about 50 percent. Only Ambrym lacks the prefix in Codrington’s list; only Tasiko lacks it in Pawley’s.) A sample of Austronesian causative constructions follows.


RUKAI, Formosa
‘a-‘acay kuani taraalu‘ sa babuy
cause-die that hunter ART boar
‘that hunter killed a boar’

ILOKANO, the Philippines
im-pa-kan na diay baboy
GOAL-cause-eat 3S that pig
‘he fed the pig’

MALAGASY, Madagascar
n-amp-anasa ny lamba aho
PAST-cause-wash the clothes 1S
‘I had the clothes washed’

ROVIANA, the Solomon Islands
va-mate-a sa si keke boko pa inevana
cause-die-3S 3S PRT a pig for feast
‘he killed a pig for the feast’

eratou vaka-mate-a na vuaka
3P cause-die-3S ART pig
‘they killed the pig’

HAWAIIAN, the Hawaiian Islands
ho‘o-make lākou i ka pua‘a
cause-die 3P OBJ the pig
‘they killed the pig’

The widespread occurrence of the prefix in most Eastern Oceanic languages is matched by a widespread multiplicity of function. Pawley (1972:45) notes three common functions of the prefix in the languages supporting his reconstruction of *paka- for Eastern Oceanic: causative (‘causing/allowing …’); multiplicative (‘repeatedly/extensively …’); and similative (‘resembling/characteristic of …’; as in Fa‘asamoa). The prefix is so productive in Polynesian and Fijian languages that Churchward’s (1959) Tongan dictionary, for instance, has 112 pages of words beginning with faka-, the Tongan form of the prefix.

In the Papua New Guinea languages with reflexes of the serial causative, on the other hand, the prefix has markedly diminished in function and in some cases disappeared altogether.

The Manam reflex of *paka- is aka-/a‘a-. It only serves to derive transitives from a limited number of statives and psychological verbs (Lichtenberk 1983:217).

The reflex of the morphological causative in Gedaged and its congeners is variously pa-, pe-, pi-, or pu-. Mager (1952:233) defines it as “a petrified prefix” and says:

It is not always clear when this prefix (and its variants) is a prefix and when it is a reduplication or a part of the root. Some times we can discern that it is a causative prefix, at times it expresses intensification, or it gives the word an opposite meaning.

In Gitua, the reflexes of causative *pa(ka)- and reciprocal *paRi have fallen together as pa-. (Lincoln 1977:24). Pa- can indicate reciprocal or multiple action, but its causative function has been almost entirely displaced by serial causative constructions. Thus, pa-mate (lit. ‘to cause to die’) only means ‘to extinguish (fire)’. The serial causative is required to render the literal sense of ‘to kill’.

The causative prefix appears completely lost elsewhere in Morobe Province. I have been able to find no evidence of it in the Huon Gulf languages.

The Papuan Tip languages show a proliferation of causative prefixes. Reflexes of causative *pa(ka)- are well attested but are not always easy to tell—either semantically or phonologically—from the reflexes of reciprocal *paRi- (Capell 1943:113, 237–242). Other causative prefixes have arisen due to the near-total semantic bleaching of some of the classificatory prefixes (see the compilation in Ezard 1992:238-248). The prefixes, which—as transitive action verbs—used to describe the manner in which the result was achieved, now indicate little more than that the result was achieved. Capell used the vague gloss ‘assumption of state’ for such prefixes. The new causative prefixes now perform functions often identical to the functions of the inherited causative prefix. The same is true of many manner-transitive verbs in the languages that retain Verb-Object word order. A comparison of some morphologically causative verbs in Hawaiian (Pukui and Elbert 1986) with analogous new causative constructions in Papua New Guinea Oceanic languages will illustrate the way in which transitive action verbs have taken on the functions of the morphological causative inherited from Proto-Oceanic. The usual Hawaiian reflex of *paka is ho‘o-.

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-hana (‘make-work’) ‘to employ, cause to work’
WEDAU rau-karäi (*‘hit-work’) ‘to set (s.o.) to work’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-helele‘i (‘make-falling’) ‘to scatter, sow’
WEDAU ravi-awawari (‘*hit-falling’) ‘to sow broadcast’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-hua (‘make-fruit’) ‘to bear fruit’
NUMBAMI -ambi ano (‘hold-fruit’) ‘to bear fruit’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-huli (‘make-turn over’) ‘to turn, change, convert’
IWAL -amb nalili (‘hold-turned around’) ‘to turn (s.t.) around’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-loli (‘make-turn/change’) ‘to change, amend’
NUMBAMI -ambi lele (‘hold-turned’) ‘to translate’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-luli (‘make-shake’) ‘to rock (so); to sway’
WEDAU ravi-dagudagu (‘*hit-restless’) ‘to shake, disturb’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-make (‘make-die’) ‘to kill, let die’
MANAM rau-mate (‘hit-die’) ‘to kill’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-piha (‘make-full’) ‘to fill’
TUBETUBE ro-karapowani (‘*hit-full’) ‘to fill’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-pi‘i (‘make-ascend’) ‘to cause to rise’
GEDAGED bi-sa (‘hold-ascend’) ‘to lift up, raise’

HAWAIIAN ho‘o-puka (‘make-perforation’) ‘to make a hole or opening’
NUMBAMI -so bozoka (‘stab-pierced through’) ‘to make a hole or opening’


Capell, Arthur. 1943. The linguistic position of South-Eastern Papua. Sydney, Australasian Medical Publishing.

Churchward, C. Maxwell. 1959. Tongan dictionary. London, Oxford University Press.

Codrington, Robert. 1885/1974. The Melanesian languages. Oxford, Clarendon Press. Reprint. Amsterdam, Philo Press.

Ezard, Bryan. 1992. Tawala derivational prefixes: A semantic perspective. In: M. D. Ross, ed., Papers in Austronesian linguistics no. 2. Canberra, Pacific Linguistics.

Lichtenberk, Frantisek. 1983. A grammar of Manam. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication No. 18. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.

Lincoln, Peter C. 1977. Gitua–English vocabulary. Photocopy.

Mager, John F. 1952. Gedaged–English dictionary. Columbus, Ohio, The American Lutheran Church Board of Foreign Missions.

Pawley, Andrew K. 1972. On the internal relationships of Eastern Oceanic languages. In: R. C. Green and M. Kelly, eds., Studies in Oceanic culture history, vol. 3, pp. 1–142. Honolulu, Department of Anthropology, Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Samuel H. Elbert. 1986. Hawaiian dictionary: Hawaiian–English, English–Hawaiian, rev. and enl. ed. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.


Filed under Fiji, language, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Polynesia

India’s Diverse Diasporas

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), pp. 233-235:

The cultivation of sugar-cane in colonies such as Mauritius and the Natal province of South Africa, in Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam in the Caribbean and Fiji in the Pacific Ocean created settlements of Indian labourers as many stayed on as free labourers after their contracts had expired. In some of these places the Indians emerged as the majority of the population, but with few exceptions they did not rise above the position of labourers. Therefore the diaspora in the ex-sugar colonies is not much of an economic asset to India. Mauritius is an exception to this rule. It has shown encouraging signs of economic growth and its Indian majority dominates the politics of the island but has maintained equitable relations with the other ethnic groups. Mauritius has become a major offshore banking centre for investors who channel their investments in India through the island. This has led to the strange phenomenon whereby tiny Mauritius ranks high among the nations investing in India. Being well aware of the benefits of good relations with Mauritius, India is even prepared to protect the maritime economic zone of the island with the help of its navy….

The era of decolonization did not provide much scope for re-migration from the diaspora to India. Nor did the erstwhile colonial powers invite people of Indian origin to settle in their home countries. There were only two striking exceptions to this rule. The Netherlands became the target of a mass exodus of Indians from Surinam after that colony gained independence in 1975. This was due to the fact that the Dutch had granted citizenship to the people of Surinam and since the Indians did not get along with the Afro-American majority, they left for the Netherlands before their right of citizenship could be revoked. A similar exodus of Indians from Uganda to Great Britain had taken place after Idi Amin had established his tyrannical rule in 1971. The Indians of Uganda were not the offspring of indentured servants but had followed the Uganda railroad. The workers who built that railroad had also come from India, but almost all of them had returned to their homes in the Punjab. The subsequent immigrants from India were for the most part literate Gujaratis who manned the administrative posts of the railway or set up shops in the hinterland which had been opened up by the railway. When these people were persecuted by Idi Amin and shifted to Great Britain they did very well there as a result of their business acumen. This group of the Indian diaspora is of considerable importance for India. But, of course, the Indians who came from East Africa are only part of the Indian diaspora in Great Britain, which also consists of Indian professionals and businessmen who migrated from India to the ex-imperial country in search of greener pastures.

Another post-colonial migration which had some similarity to the export of Indian manpower in colonial times was the recruitment of Indian labour by the countries along the Persian Gulf when those countries earned millions of petro-dollars. This recruitment benefited all South Asian countries. Most of them sent unskilled labourers to the Gulf; India had the lion’s share of skilled administrative jobs. For quite some time the ample remittances of these skilled personnel filled the gap in India’s balance of payments which was usually affected by a negative balance of trade. When the first Gulf War of 1991 disrupted this profitable connection, India was hit very hard, the more so as the disaster was sudden and unexpected. When Indira Gandhi was asked in 1981 whether she could envision an Indian exodus from the Gulf similar to that from East Africa precipitated by Idi Amin, she jauntily replied: ‘The Arabs need US.’ Her successors also took this for granted and were rudely awakened by the Gulf War.

The Indian diaspora in the countries along the Persian Gulf was very different from that everywhere else. First of all it was of very recent origin. This diaspora had no second or third generation members born in the country of residence. Moreover, the Indians who came to the Gulf did not intend to settle there for any length of time. There were many educated people from Kerala among them who simply wanted to earn enough money to build a house back home. Busy construction work in the villages of Kerala provided striking evidence of this trend in the 1980s. Under such conditions there was hardly any incentive to establish Indian community centres in the Gulf countries. The Indian diaspora was not concentrated in anyone place and its members fluctuated. Nevertheless, this was the diaspora which was most important for India, due to the economic effect of its remittances. Other Indian diasporas would be less inclined to send money to India as they would rather invest it where they lived. The occasional support of poor relatives in India did not give rise to substantial remittances.

Today’s Wall Street Journal weighs in on one of the barriers to the expansion of India’s diaspora in the U.S., where “the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin which was founded in 1984 has 42,000 members” (Rothermund, p. 235):

The Chandrayaan-I blasted off about dawn from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. It is expected to reach lunar orbit by November 8. The probe, whose principal goal is to “conduct mineralogical and chemical mapping of the lunar service,” carries five scientific payloads from India and others from NASA and the European Space Agency. With this achievement, India joins the U.S., Japan, Europe, Russia and China in the lunar club.

India deserves congratulations for the Chandrayaan-I, which attests further to that nation’s remarkable strides as an economic and scientific power. That said, we cannot fail to draw attention to how this event bears on the continuing lunacy of Congress in limiting visa quotas for highly skilled immigrants.

American universities are filled with foreign students, not least from India, getting degrees in engineering and science. Many dearly wish to stay and work in the U.S. Instead, we basically kick them out after training them, owing to the Congressional limit of 65,000 H-1B visas, which are used up the day they are released in March.

Would calling this the “pre-emptive export of jobs overseas” make it any less attractive to economic protectionists?

Leave a comment

Filed under anglosphere, Caribbean, economics, education, Fiji, India, migration, South Africa, U.K., U.S., Uganda

Wordcatcher Tales: girmitya, kala pani

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), p. 1:

India is a state encompassing a civilization. It includes a multitude of ethnic and linguistic groups which share a common cultural background. Its historical continuity is amazing…. In the recent past India has also become a territorial nation state with defined borders and institutions guarding its territorial integrity. The idea of a clearly delineated territoriality was not prevalent in India in earlier times. The Himalayas in the north and the ocean encircling the country appeared to those living inside it as ‘natural’ boundaries. In fact the mountain people never conceived of the Himalayas as a boundary and they ‘transgressed’ it in many ways. Many of the coastal people, on the other hand, participated throughout the ages in maritime trade. The orthodox prejudice against crossing the kala pani (black water) was not shared by them. This aversion to seafaring was a relatively late phenomenon in an era when people in India became more introverted and defensive.

The awareness of the ‘natural’ boundaries of India did not imply a feeling of national identity in territorial terms. Nationalism first found expression among educated people and did not affect the common people for along time. The poor people from northern India who were transported to Fiji as indentured servants to work on the sugar plantations did not refer to themselves as ‘Indians’ but as girmityas. The word girmit was a Hindi neologism derived from ‘agreement’, the document which bound them to their servitude. Their identity was derived from this common fate. It was only later when emissaries of Mahatma Gandhi reached Fiji that these girmityas became Indians.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiji, India, language, migration, nationalism

Rev. Sgt. Usaia Sotutu: Fijian missionary, spy, soldier

One of the most intriguing people whose name keeps popping up in accounts of coastwatching in the Solomon Islands during World War II is Usaia Sotutu, a Fijian missionary who volunteered to help the coastwatchers. His name appears (according to the index) in 18 different passages in the book I just finished reading, Coast Watching in WWII: Operations against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, 1941–43, by A. B. Feuer (Stackpole, 2006).

Nevertheless, I can find no profile of him anywhere on the web—although there is another Usaia Sotutu born on 20 September 1947, a Fijian athlete who participated in the 1972 Olympics and the 1975 South Pacific Games, whom I presume to be among the children of Usaia and Margaret Sotutu. [They were not. See the correction below.—J.] So, in an effort to get a better sense of this remarkable man, I want to compile as much as I can in a blogpost, beginning with several passages from Feuer’s book.

[April 1942, p. 33] Friendly Fijian natives, led by Usaia Sotutu, hid the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] men from Japanese search parties. Usaia knew every inch of Buka Island and guided the soldiers to the western end of the [Buka] Passage. For several days, the Fijians kept the Army lads concealed until Usaia was able to find a few canoes. Then, under cover of night, he sneaked the coast watchers and their teleradio across the Passage to Soraken.

[June 1942, p. 40] While waiting for the air drop at Kunua, I again met with Father Herbert and Usaia Sotutu. Usaia was still keen on taking an active part in our cause and brought with him a half-caste lad—Anton Jossten. Like Usaia, Anton was very intelligent and spoke English fluently. They had an unusual proposition for me that had immediate appeal. Usaia had a following of educated natives who had been employed as teachers at the Methodist Mission. Usaia and Anton, with the assistance of this group, wanted to establish an espionage network to furnish intelligence regarding Japanese activity around the Buka Passage. The scheme had intriguing possibilities. The teachers were not known to be in any way connected with our coast watching activities. They could move about, within or near enemy lines, without suspicion. I gave Usaia the go-ahead to proceed with his plans. And, although both he and Anton were willing to work voluntarily, I gave them both to understand that I would try and have them enlisted—or put on the payroll in some other capacity.

[January 1943, p. 120] On the night of January 10, Usaia Sotutu and Corporal Sali secretly sneaked down the mountain into Soraken and set fire to every building and wharf. At dawn, the enemy arrived in force to view the gutted ruins…. I am convinced that our action delayed the Japanese occupation of Soraken.

[March 1943, p. 191] After reaching Namatoa, our detachment was split into three parties, each consisting of eight soldiers and a number of trusted natives. I also met Usaia Sotutu—a fine stamp of a man, six feet tall or over, whose wife Margaret and young children passed me as our boat, from the U.S.S. Gato, headed for the beach. Mrs. Sotutu, and her children, were on their way to safety aboard the submarine. I was among the first 12 Army personnel that arrived on this trip.

[July 1943, p. 201] On its second trip to Bougainville the [U.S.S.] Guardfish evacuated 23 people. In addition to Jack Read, the rescued personnel included Captain Eric Robinson, Usaia Sotutu, Anton Jossten, Sergeant Yauwika, Corporal Sali, Constables Sanei and Ena, and 15 other natives. The site chosen for the rescue of Jack Read and his party was at a point south of the Kiviki River. At 4 a.m. on July 30, Read and his men were transferred to a subchaser, and at 7 p.m., they reached Guadalcanal.

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre‘s Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45: The Pacific, chapter 10, section III, Battalions Move to the Solomons offers a glimpse of the Rev. Sgt. Usaia Sotutu’s later exploits.

Almost three years after its formation, 1 Battalion, Fiji Military Forces, sailed for the Solomons on 15 April 1943 in the USS President Hayes. Half the officers and many of the non-commissioned officers were New Zealanders, three of them former instructors lent to Fiji in November 1939. The battalion, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. B. K. Taylor, who had served with the New Zealand Division in Egypt and France during the 1914–18 War and later joined the Fiji administration, reached Guadalcanal on 19 April and occupied a camp at Kukumbona. On 8 May, after the American command had complied with Taylor’s desire not to break up his unit into small groups for action in New Georgia, the battalion moved to a more agreeable camp site in the island of Florida. It remained there for five months, practising jungle tactics and landing exercises and carrying out such routine tasks as beach patrols and coastwatching….

When the Fiji Battalion landed [in Bougainville], American forces had established road blocks on these trails to prevent any surprise attacks from the main Japanese forces occuping the south and north-east coasts of Bougainville, with their principal concentrations round Buin, Kahili, and Kieta. The most disputed of these tracks was the Numa Numa Trail, which led through the mountains from the gorge of the Laruma River. Air observation by aeroplanes based on the Torokina and Piva airstrips, though valuable, was unreliable in country where ground movement could not be accurately discerned, so that all vital intelligence was obtained from patrols working through the rough country beyond the limits of the perimeter. Because of the desire to obtain as much intelligence information as possible without revealing their own strength, patrols were at first instructed not to fight unless they were forced to do so. Enemy patrols, on similar missions, worked down from the forest-clad hills towards the perimeter, so that these alert opposing groups, creeping through the jungle, continually tried to ambush each other and frequently succeeded….

A strong combined patrol from 129 US Infantry Regiment and 1 Fiji Battalion set out from the perimeter, but was driven back soon after it entered the rough hill country towards Sisivie and Tokua, two native villages which gave their names to the forest tracks leading to the garrison area from the rear. Almost simultaneously the Japanese began their attacks on road blocks established along the tracks covering the Ibu post. [Battalion commander Lt. Col.] Upton decided to evacuate the position and withdraw his force down the Ibu-Sisivie trail, which would bring him to the Laruma River and the Numa Numa Trail and so into the perimeter. Early on the morning of 15 February [1944] he despatched [Capt.] Corner from the outpost with the first section of the garrison, which included 120 native carriers with ammunition and radio equipment, and 100 native women and children from mountain villages who feared enemy reprisals….

Corner found his way blocked by determined Japanese attacks on the road posts and retired along the trail he had just traversed, taking up a defensive position at a ravine which offered the only good natural barrier. He was joined there later in the afternoon with the main force under Upton, who was confronted with a disturbing situation. All escape routes were blocked by the Japanese, who greatly outnumbered him, and no help was available from American or Fiji units from the perimeter. He had little time to decide how to get 400-odd men and 200 natives over a mountain range and down to the perimeter unknown to the Japanese, who were now pressing the battalion patrols blocking the tracks along which Upton’s force was extended. A Fijian sergeant, Usaia Sotutu [emphasis added], who had been a missionary on Bougainville for twenty years, saved the day. He remembered an old, disused track near the ravine and led the battalion along it, carefully camouflaging the entrance where it branched off the main trail the force had just used…. On 19 February the force reached the coast intact and with only one man wounded. In those four days, travelling slowly and with the utmost difficulty, the Ibu force climbed 5000 feet through dense forest drenched with rain, and carried arms and equipment, which included Vickers guns, 3-inch mortars, and food for more than 600 people—soldiers and natives.

It’s not clear where he ended up after the war (or even whether he survived it), but a Margaret Sotutu turns up in a photo of teachers at Ratu Kandavulevu School in Fiji in 1962, seated next to a Paula Sotutu, who went on to a distinguished career as a diplomat and public servant. The most recent source I could find on the Rev. Sgt. Usaia Sotutu is a speech on 27 August 2005 by Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase welcoming Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare, whose delegation repatriated the remains of Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, a Fijian soldier who had died on Bougainville in 1944.

In the final decades of the 19th century, Fijian missionaries began to help in taking the Light of Christianity to your islands. We remember those soldiers of God today and give thanks for their service. Many settled, married and became part of village life. This missionary tradition continued until after the last War.

We have with us today Mr Paula Sotutu, a well-known and distinguished citizen of Fiji. Paula has a very personal perspective of the Fijian missionary experience in Bougainville. His father, Reverend Usaia Sotutu, was perhaps the most famous of those pioneering preachers. He spread the Word for 27 years in the Teop and Buin-Siwai areas and had many followers.

Paula, his brother and sisters, were born at the Buka Mission Hospital. He accompanied his father during many pastoral visits to his flock. Paula remembers clearly some of his father’s courageous exploits as a wartime coast watcher and guide to government officials and a small contingent of Australian troops.

Later, when Bougainville was retaken, he made his local knowledge available to Fijian troops, who were part of the invasion force. Mrs Sotutu and the children were smuggled to safety in a submarine in 1943. Reverend Sotutu stayed behind. He still had God’s work to do.

The following year Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, was awarded the Victoria Cross for giving his life at Bougainville to save his fellow soldiers.

For over 60 years, this dear and brave son of Fiji – our greatest war hero – has been buried at Rabaul.

UPDATE: David Sotutu, son of the Olympian Usaia Sotutu, offers a correction.

In your article you mentioned a Usaia Sotutu that was born on September 20, 1947 and participated in the Olympics and South Pacific Games.

He is my father. His parents were not Usaia and Margaret Sotutu. He is only named after Usaia Sotutu. His parents were Tevita Naiteitei and Akisi Buasega. He was born in the village of Tavea in Bua. He now lives in Tacoma, Washington, USA.


Filed under Fiji, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, war

Head Heeb on Truth and Alienation in Fiji

The Head Heeb, who knows more about far-outlying parts of the globe than anyone else I know, has an insightful post on Fiji’s attempt at Truth and Reconciliation.

Fiji, which has had far too many political controversies in its recent history, is now in the grip of another one – and the cause, ironically, is a bill designed to promote national reconciliation. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase announced his intention to suspend prosecutions in connection with the May 2000 coup, and replace the judicial process with a Reconciliation and Unity Commission modeled on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission….

The bill is likely to be popular among much of the indigenous Fijian population, which is looking for closure and is growing tired of the continuing spectacle of trials and recriminations. The Qarase government, for its part, has been embarrassed at the number of high government officials convicted of participating in the coup, and may also be looking for a graceful way to give in to its right-wing coalition partners’ demand for a general amnesty….

The trouble with this rhetoric, however, is that it doesn’t speak for the 44 percent of the population that is of Indian origin, few of whom are Christian and who come from a different tradition of justice. As Qarase acknowledged later in the speech, they were the primary victims of the coup, and most of them don’t regard amnesty as closure. Instead, they view closure in terms of just punishment for the coup plotters and restoration of their own place in society. Others – like the military, which believes that amnesty would reward lawlessness – also oppose the bill, but the primary opposition has come from the largely Indo-Fijian Labour Party, which is not only campaigning against the proposal but will seek to pre-empt it through judicial review. Labour – whose leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, was the prime minister who was ousted in the coup – has characterized the commission as an attempt to pander to indigenous votes and “a signal that people could commit terrible crimes and get away with it.”

Read the rest, including the comments, which begin with the following astute observation.

It seems to me that truth and reconciliation polices require that the victimized party be in power (as in South Africa) or at least that the abuses be identified with an out-of-power political faction (as in some of the South American cases). In this case, when you have an ethnicity-based conflict where the minority took most of the damage and the majority is now offering to shake hands and start over — it’s not surprising that it’s going over poorly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiji, Pacific