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Left to drift at sea

Mere Naleba
Monday, May 26, 2014

A FIJIAN fisherman who was cast adrift on a rubber tube by his colleagues on a foreign fishing vessel is thankful he is still alive and back in the company of his family and friends.

Malakai Cerekidaveta Jr, 24, boarded the Zhong Yang #28 from Suva's Kings Wharf on November 29, last year, with his elder brother Maikeli Bai. They had been at sea for four months when he became sick.

According to Mr Cerekidaveta (Jr), the vessel he had been on was anchored out in the open Tahiti waters and he was seriously ill when he was told by the captain that he needed to get on a transfer vessel to bring him home.

He said little did he know that the transfer vessel would mean putting him in a rubber tube and letting him drift before he was picked up by the other foreign vessel hours later.

"I was really sick. They had placed my bag of clothes in the rubber tube and then one or two of them placed me in the rubber tube and then they took off," Mr Cerekidaveta Jr said.

He said after he was set adrift, all he could do was close his eyes and think of his parents and siblings.

"I could not see anything, not even a single island. Huge waves just kept throwing my rubber tube here and there in the open sea.

"Hours later, the other foreign vessel which was arranged by the skipper of the Zhong Yang #28 to pick me up came into sight.

"They threw a hook to my buoy and pulled me into their vessel."

He said they travelled for another 17 days to reach Fiji. He said the trip was a nightmare.

"I was not eating much food because my body was rejecting almost everything I ate," he said.

"I don't even know which ship brought me here, only the boat's agents know. I was in and out of conscious during those 17 days out at sea."

A medical report supplied to this newspaper stated Mr Cerekidaveta lost 15kg during the ordeal and had suffered from diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, generalised weakness and suspected tuberculosis.

The family has lodged a complaint on the matter to the Labour Ministry claiming for workmen's compensation.

A letter from the Labour Ministry, dated May 14 to the CWM Hospital and sighted by this newspaper, requested the hospital to supply a medical report and to clarify if Mr Cerekidaveta's medication condition is related to the work environment he was in before the ministry can proceed further with his report.

Several calls made to get a comment from the Labour Minister Jone Usamate yesterday remained unanswered.

The family is yet to lodge an official police complaint on the matter.

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