National | Pasifika

‘Hero of the Pacific’, Collins remembered by his communities

Final goodbyes as an entire country remembers Fa’anānā Efeso Collins

As the final preparations for Fa’anānā Efeso Collins’s funeral commenced, the Pasifika community came to bid farewell to their ‘beloved’ community leader.

Thousands of family, friends, and political figures have paid their respects at Manukau’s Due Drop Event Centre following the Green MP’s sudden death. The popular leader died at a charity event last week while raising money for ChildFund, which provides clean drinking water to the children of the Pacific region.

With heavy hearts and teary eyes, thousands of people arrived to celebrate a ‘champion’ illustrating the tangible effect Collins had on the community.

Speaking outside the packed memorial, Nua Silipa, a counsellor at Sacred Heart College said Collins’ work with young Pasifika students through Dream Fono, connected Pasifika university students with high-school students to teach the importance of goal setting, how to study and work hard to reach their dreams.

“Our Pasifika students were able to access a programme that he had created,” she said, “He knew that it was needed for mentoring our young people... [and] that our education system did not serve, is not serving our young people well. That’s the impact of his life.”

‘We must all stand up’

A saddened David Letele, a friend and fellow social activist for the Pacific community said “The winds left my sail, so I am trying to reset and go again,”

“We celebrate the life and this definitely help in the healing process and I feel for his wife and children and community but we must stand up and fight for what he stood for.”

Asked about the successor of Colins’ workload he said: ”We all do, we have to stand up. Too often these politicians, especially this government, trample all over us and Efeso was all about equality. We need to take a stand.”

Māngere-Ōtahuhu Local board chair Tauanu’u Nanai Nick Bakulich described Collins as someone whose work spoke to who he was and what he stood for. “He [stood] up for a lot of the injustices of social issues that he was very passionate about.”

“Part of his legacy was building up the young people, building up leaders. So we have to make sure that his work continues and encourage young people. As he has said in many forums - we are capable of so much,” he said.

A man with ‘charisma’

Albert Tupuola Samoan community member and former Te Tau Dance group member, says Efeso’s work transcends politics and the community but his witty nature allowed him to entertain crowds on the stage.

“I think what people don’t really know about Fa’anānā, he’s probably one of the best MC’s… He had a charisma, a personality to him, and that really comes into our performances. You know that positive vibe. That’s probably one thing that I’ll remember about him outside of his community work,” he says.

Members of the public also turned out in droves, one remembering him as a man who “had the mocks of doom.” Collins’ quick-witted humour was one thing that drew many to him.

‘He taught us to be fearless

In his early life Fa’anānā Efeso Collins worked with Pacific Media Network (PMN) in many of their successful radio shows, including Niu FM and 5 31pi.PMN Fiji radio host Nemai Tagicakibau remembers Collins’ nature in the studio.

“We were so pleased to have him, somebody of his calibre, somebody of his character, a straight shooter. He just tells the truth, he speaks his mind and sometimes we’re hated for speaking the truth and speaking our mind. So Efeso was that person, and he taught us to be fearless,” she says.

“Although he was younger than me, he was like a big brother and he loved to offer his help whenever we asked for his help. He always offered to assist us in any way possible.”

In pictures

Political figures will miss his ‘influence’

Green party member and former colleague Teanau Tuiono said: “We are still in shock with the passing of my bro.”

Reminiscing on the old days of student life, Tuiono says, “We were university students together in the ‘90s and we are fellow political travelers, I remember supporting him in his various political campaigns when he was running for president of the student union.”

The full video of Fa’anānā Efeso Collins’ memorial can be viewed at Tagata Pasifika.