Editorial comment – Making tough calls

Adi Ateca Vokili holds a picture of her son Petero Navosailagi at her Simla, Lautoka home yesterday. Picture: SITERI SAUVAKACOLO

Pete Navosailagi was loved by his family. He would have celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday.

In fact his mum, Adi Ateca Vokili, looked forward to the big day.

There was cause for celebration, for many reasons. Ms Vokili said she spoke to her son last week.

He had called her to apologise that he would not be able to make it home during his church visit to Lautoka.

The general secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Trans Pacific Union Mission, Bob Larsen, described Pete as “cheerful” and “someone who would get along with anyone”.

Yesterday, Pete’s family never got to celebrate his birthday.

What should have been a joyous occasion was anything but that.

The 29-year-old allegedly drowned while swimming with friends in a river in Waiyala, Keiyasi, Navosa, on Sunday.

He was a communications specialist with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

His mother said even though his death was unexpected, she was at peace because she believed he died “a humble and true servant of God”. It’s never easy to lose a loved one.

It tears at the heart and there is a yawning gap that is sometimes never easy to fill.

We realise life must go on, however, the fact that our drowning toll continues to climb is certainly not something we can afford to just shrug aside.

Something needs to be done.

For whatever it is worth, the drowning toll stands at 31 compared with 25 for the same period last year.

What is concerning is the fact that there have actually been seven cases to date over recent weeks.

This rather grim outlook is unsettling and must be addressed urgently.

It’s a terrible scenario to be looking at right now.

Aside from at least three of the cases, which were related to swimming, the others came off different activities including young boys who tried to save a sibling and died in the process and a child who reportedly fell overboard.

We have said this before, in a perfect world, you’d expect every Fijian to know how to swim.

We sadly, do not live in a perfect world.

This is why we must respect our waterways.

It is difficult to shrug aside the fact that many Fijians have a sort of love affair with water-based activities.

With these activities, however, come certain obligations, and requirements.

The recent tragedies reaffirm why we must observe water safety tips, and why there must be importance placed on understanding and appreciating the various possibilities when out in our waterways.

We understand our rivers and beachfronts, and the sea can be inviting.

In saying that though, we must accept that things can turn around pretty quickly and the eventualities could include an unforgiving turn of events. That’s when we rue some decisions we make, and live in regret.

So let’s do some simple things when out in our waterways.

Let’s put on life jackets if we have to, know our surroundings before taking a dip in a river or at sea, let’s supervise our children and remember to keep them in our sights constantly.

Every drowning has a repercussion that also leaves an indelible impression on the minds of those affected. It is tough.

Let’s be responsible, be aware and adhere to water safety tips.

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