Aitu Ostonu is the head of the Sunday School for the Oinafa Circuit of the Methodist Church of Rotuma.
She’s one of more than 30 participants of the Leadership and Management Training held in Rotuma from November 23 to December 4, 2020.
The Methodist Church of Rotuma hosted the training that was organised by the Institute for Mission and Research of PTC.
The training shared essential skills for leaders of communities, churches and organisations.
These include things like time management, self-leadership, conflict resolution, and Jesus style of leadership.
Though biblical, theological principles form the basis of the training, participation is not restricted to members of the Christian faith.
Ms Ostonu said, ‘This training for leaders must continue and not be the first and last for Rotuma because as leaders we are learning so much.’ Rotuma faces unprecedented time. The advent of tourism, an increase of land disputes as Rotumans return home, changing lifestyles, and related social issues demand good leaders.
But good leaders, related Ms Ostonu, are around but do not have the requisite skills to lead in changing times.
We are chosen by the people to do the best we can to serve their interests, and if it means learning the necessary skills, we will do so, and so we appreciate this training.’
Rotuma’s system of leadership is traditional
At the helm is the Rotuma Island Council comprised of Gagajs or chiefs of the seven districts. Within each district are sub-chiefs that lead tribes or clans. The leadership style is somewhat autocratic, where the chiefs make the decisions, and the people are supposed to follow.
But Mr Ralifo Nasario, a Chief Steward for the Oinafa Methodist Church Circuit said times have changed.
‘People now challenge the chiefs or refuse to follow their decisions,’ he said.
‘People proclaim their individual rights, and this challenges the systems of leadership that have existed for many, many years.’
He added leaders of Rotuma needed to learn and adapt skills for leading during these changing times.
One of the critical skills he believes will help leaders is self-leadership.
‘A leader that exercise first self-leadership serves as a good role model for the community,’ he said.
‘He or she will be respected and followed.’
Head Minister for the Oinafa Circuit of the Methodist Church Reverend Mario Lagi Rigamoto said there is also a great need for young leaders.
‘They can learn from the older leaders,’ he said.
‘Many young Rotumans leave the island for Fiji, and this creates a gap in leadership.’
An issue that pushes at the conservative, cultural fabric of Rotuman society is tourism.
The older generation opposes it.
Their concern is that tourism will harm the traditional indigenous spirit of the island and harm its ecology. Some say it will bring in bad influences. Behaviours that are un-Rotuman, like undignified dressing. Others welcome tourism for the income it gives. The majority believe change is inevitable. They suggest managing it at an acceptable rate. And so the growing popularity of the Visiting Friends and Relatives concept instead of tourism. This compromise is all about allowing people to visit Rotuma and stay with families (homestay). As opposed to building a hotel.
Another growing issue is that of land disputes. Rotumans returning home after long stints abroad, dispute land with those that chose to remain on the island.
These issues formed discussions at the Leadership and Management training.