Biographical entry: Ferafaita, John William (1939 - 2006)

April 2006


John William Ferafaita, known as John Fera, was born in 1939 to parents Bu'uka and Sa'alia at Laulasi village in Langalanga Lagoon, Malaita. He was the second of six children who were orphaned during the Second World War, which meant a hard life. He was raised by his uncle, Ifumaoma, a fata'abu (priest), who taught him a traditional way of life and never sent John Fera to school. He entered the shipping industry as a cook on the small ship Kaonifai, which plied between Malaita and Nggela, and later became a stevedore at Marovo, Western Province where he lived for eight years. Under the supervision of Waleilia Konare, a local ship builder, he became skilled in building and repairing small boats and dinghies. In 1961 he returned home and continued his trade with the help of his brothers, and the next year married Martha Maomalifaga. By 1967, Ferafaita had expanded his business to Yandina and in 1967 went to Bougainville to sell Langalanga shell-wealth, which provided enough funds to purchase engines to power his fishing boats. Often in trouble for fishing with dynamite, in 1971 he returned to shell-wealth manufacture and made several more trips to Bougainville up until 1976.

In 1977, Ferafaita returned to building boats and with the help of his brothers completed the 12.8 metre MV Tavuilo in January 1980. His next boat was the twenty-five-metre MV Sa'alia, started in 1983 and launched in 1987, which became a well-known passenger and cargo ship. His next business venture was to purchase MV Mawo (renamed Aedilyn), which plied the Auki-Honiara route carrying cargo and fuel. Next he began a bus service and moved into local real estate. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2001, but still managed to begin work on his next ship, a 19.8 metre vessel due to be launched in 2006. In 2001, during the 'tension' years, the Malaita Eagle Force took control of MV Sa'alia, which he regained after the RAMSI forces arrived in mid-2003. One of the most prominent Langalanga businessmen, Ferafaita received an M.B.E. in 1997 and died in April 2006, survived by his wife, five children, eighteen grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. (SS 28 Apr. 2006)

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