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Dr Jona: a profile of Fiji's military-appointed PM

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Wednesday, a medical doctor was sworn in as the military-appointed Prime Minister of Fiji.

Doctor Jona Baravilala Senilagakali, 77, hails from Waciwaci in Lakeba, Lau, where he was born on November 8, 1929 at Waciwaci.

His attended Lau Provincial School as part of his primary education then moved to Viti Levu for his secondary school education.

This he did in 1945 at the prestigious Queen Victoria School in Tailevu.

Five years later, after completing high school, young Jona enrolled into the Fiji School of Medicine.

Having spent four years studying medicine, Dr Jona graduated in medicine and surgery.

Between 1954 and 1963, Dr Jona served in the Fiji Health Services in various capacities at Lautoka Levuka, Lautoka and Colonial War Memorial hospitals.

In 1964 he left to study orthopaedic surgery in Melbourne and at the Vellore Christian Medical College Hospital in India.

Upon his return in 1968, Dr Jona became a consultant surgeon at the Labasa Hospital.

Two years later he took a slightly different approach to medicine becoming a lecturer at the Fiji School of Medicine.

In 1974 Dr Jona became the director medical services.

Four years down the line saw him move into politics, where he became the permanent secretary for Health.

He obviously enjoyed politics because in 1981 he became the counsellor at the Fiji Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.

Two years later, Dr Jona became the consul-general of Fiji in Los Angeles then a roving ambassador to the Forum Island countries as its chief protocol officer.

In 1986, he was made the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office.

Two years later, Dr Jona retired from the public service after 35 years of continuous service.

Before accepting the interim Prime Minister's post, Dr Jona Senilagakali was the president of the Fiji Medical Association and the Fiji Military Forces doctor.

His presidency into the medical association started way back in 1970.

He was re-elected to the post in 1972 to 1974 then for a further term from 2005 to 2007.

Interestingly, Dr Jona held the position of public member of the disciplinary committee of the Fiji Law Society from 1998 until this year.

He is also the chief steward of Yarawa Methodist Church and also a lay preacher.

From 1989 to 2002, Dr Jona was a member of the standing committee of the Methodist Conference.

In 1990, he translated the Methodist Church Constitution from English to Fijian.

Dr Jona is married with five children and has four grandchildren.