Amazing Fijians

This story was originally published by the Fiji Sun on April 30, 2020.

Temalesi Tauga, 42, just wanted tamarind so she could kickstart a little business of her own to support her five children and 72-year-old mother.

Now she has an almost new stove, a full cylinder of gas and later this week, she will get ingredients to start a baking business.

Her plea for help on a social media page designed to encourage barter system, showed the acts of kindness Fijians are known for.

Ms Tauga is not alone, the Barter for Better Fiji page on Facebook has seen many people assisted.  Above anything, it has shown how people have come together during a pandemic which has not spared the greatest superpowers.

Ms Tauga is a single mother and lives in a four by two metres shack at Kalekana in Lami, a suburb in Fiji’s capital, Suva.

The tin, wood and other materials used to build her home have been sourced from the area – discarded imaterials make up some part of her home.

Ms Tauga works as a house-girl.  But since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there are not many opportunities.

“You can imagine my surprise when people started helping me. I was given groceries, one person gave me empty bottles for my tamarind chutney, but above all, I have been given a chance to help my children,” she said.

Mafi Mataika was going through Barter for Better Fiji when he came across Ms Tauga’s request.

“I had an old oven and I decided to give it to her. Mr and Mrs Khan from Khalsa Road had a gas cylinder, so I picked it up and delivered it to her. We will be going back to her with baking ingredients and some more items,” he said.

Mr Mataika said an anonymous donor gave money for groceries for the single mum.

Ms Tauga said she was grateful to God and all those who had helped.

But, this is just one heartwarming example that the Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page has created.


In Nadi, the hub of what was once a thriving tourism industry in the Western part of Fiji, Len Yusuf from sold cakes and pastries despite the effects from COVID-19.

On Tuesday, she was looking for an empty gas cylinder.  She posted her request on the Barter page.  Little did she know that she would get two empty gas cylinders, a few fish and coconuts.

She was surprised to see Alice Fong who travelled for more than one and a half hours from Ba to visit her.

On Monday she managed to exchange her chocolate and custard pies with Mere Namalualevu for more fresh fish, coconuts and a brand new pair of shoes.


Former resort worker, Teresa Naivaluvou, traded in her University of the South Pacific textbooks for a tin of infant formula and two packs of diapers.

She was desperate. 

The chief executive officer of Fiji’s biggest language school, FreeBird Institute made contact and arrived at her home with baby stuff.

Mereseini Baleilevuka did not take the textbooks.

She simply saw a need and wanted to help.


The Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page was set up by Marlene Dutta. Ms Dutta is no stranger to business in Fiji.

The page aimed to help people who faced financial constraints to barter. It was a natural solution as money became tight and hard to come by.

“In the spirit of the giving nature of members on this page – we ask that if you are asking for donations or to help people in dire need, to also offer something/anything in return to ensure that the rules of barter apply.

“If commenter’s offer to donate for nothing in return, that is awesome – but we must be true to our purpose. We ask for your understanding in this,” Ms Dutta said.


Out of the depths of despair from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, acts of courage, resilience, kindness and selflessness emerged across Fiji.

By harnessing modern technology to connect people, the Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page started on April 21, 2020. 

Today its membership is over 190,000 – more than 20 percent of Fiji’s population. 

Items being bartered include goats, mobile phones, taxi service, pot plants for building materials, – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food.

In July, Government confirmed that at least 150,000 Fijians have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in the midst of it all – hope came to the fore.

This was the spirit the Fiji Sun captured.

After the front-page story by Shalveen Chand was published, the Fiji Sun editorial team decided that we would highlight Fijians who went above and beyond to assist another. 

The series which continues today is aptly titled: Amazing Fijians.

September 23, don’t fear

Sometimes we cannot blame people when they react to social media posts on instability and unrest.

A post that was circulated online and generated by a Fijian who lives in Australia, caused quite a frenzy amongst Fijians.

The instigator plucked the date, September 23, from thin air and sent out a message declaring that there would be unrest on that day.

Thankfully, on 18 September, The Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander (LFC) Colonel Manoa Gadai quashed the overseas-generated rumour that unrest would occur.

“Everything will be normal and people will enjoy whatever they will do on that day because their security and safety are in good hands,” he said.

Colonel Gadai made this comment after it was reported that some people were stocking up their supplies in case unrest would occur.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

Colonel Gadai said he was working closely with the Fiji Police Force to see that Fijians were safe and living happily in their own environment.

He warned those behind the rumour not to spread lies.

“Just don’t believe in these liars. The truth is – Fiji is safe,” he said.

However, many Fijians have not forgotten the political turmoil that divided the nation in the past.

They fear returning to a past era that was rife with pain and suffering that numerous innocent citizens endured.

The Fijian economy was one of the big casualties affected by previous tumult.

It has taken a long time for the country to recover and rise up to where it is today.

Unfortunately, there are rabble-rousers in our communities who want to disrupt that progress for their own selfish political agendas.

They have cheerleaders who live comfortably in their homes abroad and spread lies via social media to create instability.

They did not even stop to think about their families who still live in Fiji and who could suffer like everyone else should there be a disturbance.

It is comforting to hear from Colonel Gadai that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and the Police are ready to fulfil their role to protect the country and Fijians should there be an emergency.

The Land Force Commander is widely respected in the force and speaks with authority.

He also represents the face of the RFMF leadership today – a leadership that is committed to supporting the provisions of the 2013 Constitution.

From left: Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander Colonel Manoa Gadai, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Naliva and new 3FIR Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Aseri Rokoura in an earlier event this year. Source: Ronald Kumar

Both the RFMF and the Police take any threat to peace and stability very seriously.

The RFMF has been mandated by the Constitution to protect Fiji and all Fijians.

Last month when Colonel Gadai was chief guest at the Ratu Sukuna Memorial School (RSMS) passing-out parade at Albert Park in Suva, the very same rumour

He assured parents and guardians of RSMS students that the nation was secure and safe.

“Now that it has again resurfaced (this is) my advice – don’t believe in this rumour. It is a lie and spread by irresponsible people.”

He urged all Fijians to continue with their daily engagements on September 23.

All units of the RFMF, he said, were aware and ready to fulfil their constitutional role spelt out under the 2013 Constitution.

The Constitution states that the RFMF will at all times ensure the security, defence and well being of Fiji and all Fijians.

So if anyone is even remotely thinking of interfering with Fiji’s peace and stability they have been harshly warned – they will face the full brunt of the law.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

As Colonel Gadai has said, we currently have nothing to fear.

This story is a compilation of articles by Fiji Sun published on 18 Sept 2019.


In this era of fake news, Fiji – like other countries around the world – has been bombarded by a constant stream of fake news. Given Fiji’s history of political crisis – two military coups and a civilian takeover – the public is naturally highly sensitive to any news of possible instability. In this instance, messages were being forwarded on Facebook Messenger encouraging Fijians to stay away from school and work on Monday September 23, 2019. Facebook is the most popular App used in Fiji. It was noted that the person behind this fake message lives overseas. Like most fake news that has been circulated among Fijians, most are initiated by those living outside of the country itself. In this particular case, some had taken such news to heart and started to stock up on goods. Therefore, it was crucial for the media to debunk any fake news or misinformation being circulated on social media or other online platforms. The Fijian army, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), continues to play a vital role in nation building and in bringing stability and assurance to the people of Fiji. It normally does not enter into discussions on such issues, but as Fiji Sun journalists are trusted and credible, the Land Force Commander agreed to comment on such the situation that caused public concern and alarm.