Friday, August 29, 2014

Government by Greed - PART 6: Key Support for the 1987 Coup

Government by Greed - PART 6: Key Support for the 1987 Coup

By Guest Writer, Subhash Appana

A political coup-de-tat is no small undertaking by any standards. It involves treason as by its very definition it attempts to overthrow a “legitimate” government by extra-legal means. In fact, force and violence are necessary complements of any coup-de-tat. And in order to “build” the scenario to justify a coup, an orchestrated process is activated. The aim is to create a situation that allows a treasonous, yet quietly-supported, coup-maker to say “there was no other way”.

SITIVENI RABUKA - The Father of All Coups on 14 May, 1987
This is exactly what happened in Fiji, and that is exactly what Rabuka said after he executed the Father of All Coups on 14th May 1987. The common thread that bound all who supported that coup, whether overtly or covertly, was the perceived need to protect the Fijian heritage and save the Fijian race from the hegemonic designs of a foreign race, the Indo-Fijians. There were mainly 2 reasons for this perception: one, a sustained policy of divide and rule based on ethnicity; and two, a lack of understanding and appreciation of the mechanics of democracy.

Within this framework of politics, the obvious Indian “threat” acted as a diversion that temporarily covered ominously developing undercurrents that were to plague ethnic-Fijian politics and the country in later years. The Taukei Marches of 1987 allowed many of these undercurrents to surface and join the general wave of dissatisfaction, resentment and rage that swept the main centres of the country. Even in these marches, individual grievances and aspirations remained quietly submerged as the convenient rhetoric of “Indian threat” was enough to rally key support.

Many have pointed fingers at the chiefs, and especially Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau who was Governor General at that time. Many have rubbished Ratu Mara’s explanation when he said, “How could I stand by and watch my house on fire?” This statement has generally escaped objective scrutiny as the tendency had been to expect Mara to stop the 1987 coup or take an openly opposed stance after the fact. He did neither because he was a thinking man who could probably “see” things that couldn’t be openly articulated at the time.

The point is that as a chief, Ratu Mara could not stand back and watch his country and his people get destroyed. It was the same for Ratu Penaia who was not only Ratu Mara’s close political ally, but also Ratu Mara’s brother-in-law through the marriage of his son, Ratu Epeli Ganilau to Ratu Mara’s daughter, Adi Ateca Ganilau. More interestingly, Ratu Penaia was also Ratu Mara’s superior as Tui Cakau and head of the Tovata confederacy, within which Ratu Mara’s Lau province fell.

RATU SIR KAMISESES MARA: Perfect marriage connection in Fiji meant that he had relatives in top hierarchy in all three Confederacies in Fiji 
And as mentioned earlier, the second confederacy of Burebasaga fell in line because its paramount chief, the Roko Tui Dreketi, was Ratu Mara’s wife. This left Kubuna, which was headed by Ratu Sir George Cakobau at the time. Ratu George’s first cousin, Ratu Edward Cakobau’s 2nd son, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau is married to Ratu Mara’s daughter Adi Koila Mara. This completed the family link at the apex of the 3 confederacies. Moreover, Kubuna also had among its inter-linked chiefs the Toganivalu clan from Tailevu who were heavily represented in the Mara cabinet through Ratu David, Ratu Josua and Ratu William Toganivalu.

In addition to the above chiefly links, any analysis on chiefly support for the 1987 coup cannot ignore the fact that the first rationale for that coup involved removal of the Indian threat from the political equation of Fiji. From this perspective the chiefs were duty-bound to support that coup because it was seen as a necessity. Opposition could not have been justified in any way and once the rebellion gained momentum, there was simply no room for diplomatic chiefly intervention.

The second important point of support for that coup had to come from the Fiji military. In 1987, the RFMF was a largely foreign peace keeping-focused entity. Since 1978 when troops were deployed to UNIFIL in Lebanon, the size and skills of the RFMF had expanded significantly. And the bulk of troop recruitment involved rural Fijian youths who had virtually no real exposure to the “Indian threat” that they had always heard of – they had no opportunity to see Indians in any other way.

Rural Fijian youths who were recruited in the Military had never met and encountered Indo-Fijians, and were gullible to believe that Indians were trying to take over Fiji. They were seen as Bati- traditional warriors who were there to defend Fijian  heritage.


In fact when they did come to Suva, they were faced with a barrage of things Indian – taxis, businesses, shops, houses, and Indian people all over the place. This left them with little doubt that there was indeed an “Indian threat” to Fiji. Little has been made of the fact that these young soldiers literally saw themselves as modern-day bati (traditional defenders) when they donned the colours of the RFMF. And as bati they were defenders of the Fijian heritage. Nobody epitomized this better than Sitiveni Rabuka, his decision to execute the 1987 coup had largely to do with this – in fact this was very likely the sole compelling reason at the outset. Military support therefore, was virtually guaranteed once the decision was made.

The final card had to do with foreign reaction to an unthinkable act of treason in the Pacific. There was little arguing that this variable had to be factored in because Fiji would not have accepted a reduced international status at that juncture – unlike the stance taken now by Commodore Bainimarama. When David Lange tested the ANZUS alliance by closing NZ ports to US nuclear vessels in 1985, Fiji’s strategic importance had reached a new high.

Thus US geopolitical concerns within the framework of the ever-heating Cold War provided the foreign lifeline that the coup plotters needed. And even though foreign complicity was a little more subtle and complicated to pinpoint, noted CIA operative Vernon Walters was in Fiji and did meet Rabuka 2 weeks before the coup. He was later providentially posted as US Ambassador to the UN and played a pivotal role in minimizing subsequent international condemnation of the Rabuka Coups. And US involvement did continue sporadically until the 1997 constitution brought back normality to the country – was this a case of belated conscience and regret?
The 1987 coup thus had key support from the chiefs, military, sections of the Fijian community and the US. It was supposed to provide a transitory point to a new model of governance for Fiji. Why then did Fiji have to wait 10 years before the 1997 constitution was finally enacted?

Stay tuned for Future articles: Government by Greed - Coup at Last -: A Coup Gone Wrong -: An Intense Power Struggle -: Spawn of the 1987 Coup -: The Personal Tug-of-War. To come later.

[E-Mail: appanas@hotmail.com  / thakurji@xtra.co.nz


SUBHASH APPANA- the author of these series of articles: GOVERNMENT BY GREED 

[About the Author: Subhash Appana is an Indo-Fijian academic with Fijian family links. He was brought up in the chiefly village of Vuna in Taveuni and is particularly fond of the Fijian language and culture. Subhash has written extensively on the link between the politics of the vanua, Indo-Fijian aspirations and the continued search for a functioning democracy in Fiji. This series attempts to be both informative and provocative keeping in mind the delicate, distractive and often destructive sensitivities involved in cross-cultural discourses of this type.]




Monday, August 25, 2014

Government by Greed - PART 5: 1987 - The Impossible Coup

Government by Greed - PART 5: 1987 - The Impossible Coup

Guest Writer-Subhash Appana

A political coup-de-tat has few civilian parallels in terms of rationale, planning, logistics, back-up support, follow-up and consequences. In Fiji, the unthinkable had happened at the April 1987 elections – the carefully camouflaged and internally inconsistent myth of democratic power in perpetuity was finally blown. First there was disbelief, then consternation, then confusion followed by complaining and anger. It is at this point that the coup-makers stepped in to provide guidance to a relatively small portion of the country that appeared to be reeling like a plane without a pilot.

The message that these saviours brought was not about democracy and the inevitability of changes in government, but on how the Fijian people were under threat from the greedy, dishonest and covetous designs of the “kai Idia” or the Indians. This was an old message that had potent political traction and it became the mantra that rallied the masses. Local reggae band Rootstrata, came up with a stirring number about Fijian self-determination, the Fijian way – ‘o cei o ira (who are they), they sang. There was thus no other way for Fiji at that juncture.
 
 Two former Prime Ministers of Fiji-Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Brigadier General Sitiveni Rabuka. The latter came to power through barrel of a gun after he was dubbed the Father of coup in Fiji. Many feel that the Eastern Chiefs and Ratu Mara were behind 1987 coup, and they used Rabuka as an instrument to wrest back power from Bavadras' democratic government.
Rabuka clearly stated this in his (now oft-questioned) book, “No Other Way”. Of course if the Fijian leaders, especially the traditional ones had spoken up and stemmed the tide, coup might have been avoided because the rationale for it would have been nipped – no disturbance, no need for coup! The problem was, this was very difficult and it did not leave (or create) room for a re-look at Fiji politics in order to change it and make it more appropriate to the changing times. Bavadra & Co were hardly likely to re-think a model that had just brought them to power.

There was a more significant development within those orchestrated disturbances that has so far been given scant notice by analysts of the 1987 coup and Fiji politics. The framework within which the disturbances were unleashed involved a cadre of fiery, reactionary, peripheral leaders, who had been agitating for public recognition, as front men. Behind this frontline was a group of shady “controllers” who, in turn, were following directives from a high command. The public only got to see the “faces” and has continued to speculate about the “non-faces”.

More importantly, at some stage the rebellion acquired a momentum and direction of its own. The front-men, who were supposed to follow directives and exit centre stage when required, suddenly had too much power, energy and ambition. Taniela Veitata, Manasa Lasaro, Jona Qio, etc. began to plan and make independent pronouncements. Those who were supposed to be under control were suddenly out of control. That’s where the 1987 coup went wrong, and that’s what Fiji is still reeling from today.

Coming back to the planning of that coup, the plotters needed backing from a number of quarters. Firstly, they needed a smattering of lower-level traditional leaders – there was no shortage of these. Then they needed leaders in an urban setting. And of necessity, this included peripheral unionists, churchmen and thugs. All those whose political (and therefore, economic) ambitions had somehow been kept in check by the Mara government suddenly sprang to centre stage.

This was the opportunity they had been waiting for and they made the most of it while chanting the potent mantra of “down with the kai Idia”. Defenders of the Fijian heritage suddenly sprang up all over the place as the fever took hold and rebellion gained momentum. Many supporters joined simply for want of nothing better to do, many were drawn by the power of the preachers and the occasion that was created. Many thought they were really defending the Fijian heritage. Many expected fallouts and were already fingering Indian houses that they’d move into.
That was the nature of the rebellion that preceded Rabuka’s coup.

A second, more important concern that troubled the plotters of that coup was what would happen afterwards. For an orderly transition from the brink of created chaos, they needed to fall back on Fiji’s main leaders who commanded traditional Fijian backing – they needed leaders who could control both the masses as well as the keepers of the law (police and military). This meant they had to have the support of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau and Ratu Sir George Cakobau. These three leaders stood at the pinnacle of the Fijian chiefly system ie. the traditional power structure at that point in time.
 
The original Coup-maker-Sitiveni Rabuka, who has now gone into oblivion, and the coup culture he opened up in 1987 still affects Fiji.

The Fijian traditional administrative system that was shaped and fossilized by Governor Arthur Gordon after cession in 1874 has the country divided into 14 provinces which are in turn grouped into 3 confederacies – Kubuna, Tovata and Burebasaga. Each of these confederacies is headed by a paramount chief. In 1987, Kubuna was headed by ex-Governor General Ratu Sir George Cakobau. Tovata was headed by the then GG Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau. And Burebasaga was headed by Lady Ro Lala Mara, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s wife.

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was thus not a paramount chief in his own right, but he was the husband of one. On top of that, he had been groomed for and headed the modern structure of government that was essentially juxtaposed on the traditional structure. Moreover, Ratu Mara had been earmarked to lead Fiji by Fiji’s most prominent colonial-era chief, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. In fact it was Ratu Sukuna who played cupid in helping hitch Mara with the young lass from Burebasaga who would later become the Roko Tui Dreketi, the paramount chief of Burebasaga.


Former Roko Tui Dreketi, Adi Lady Lala Mara with husband Ratu Sir Kamiseses Mara. It is said that it was Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna who was instrumental in helping Ratu Mara wed Adi Laldy Lala Mara.


The coup plotters of 1987 had to prepare to contend with the expected fallout after Rabuka executed his Treason at 10. Fiji would be rudderless and leaderless amid the vacuum that would be created by removing the Bavadra government. The trouble-makers were mainly urban Fijians who had been harnessed for the disturbances. They could be controlled by their newly-created leaders up to a certain extent only. The main source of stability had to come from traditional sources – the paramount chiefs.

And the 1987 coup did have either explicit or implicit support from this all-important source as without military and chiefly support a political coup-de-tat was not possible in Fiji at that point in time. 

Next, how could this be true? Keep tuned, coming in Part 6:

“…….. force and violence are necessary complements of any coup-de-tat. And in order to “build” the scenario to justify a coup, an orchestrated process is activated. The aim is to create a situation that allows a treasonous, yet quietly-supported, coup-maker to say “there was no other way”. This is exactly what happened in Fiji, and that is exactly what Rabuka said after he executed the Father of All Coups on 14th May 1987. The common thread that bound all who supported that coup was the perceived need to protect the Fijian heritage and save the Fijian race from Indo-Fijians.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
Subhash Appana- the author of this series of articles on "Government by Greed"

[About the Author: Subhash Appana is an Indo-Fijian academic with Fijian family links. He was brought up in the chiefly village of Vuna in Taveuni and is particularly fond of the Fijian language and culture. Subhash has written extensively on the link between the politics of the vanua, Indo-Fijian aspirations and the continued search for a functioning democracy in Fiji. This series attempts to be both informative and provocative keeping in mind the delicate, distractive and often destructive sensitivities involved in cross-cultural discourses of this type.]


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Government by Greed: PART 4: The Military Card Had to Be Played


Government by Greed: PART 4: The Military Card Had to Be Played

By Guest Writer, Subhash Appana.

Earlier articles in this series contended that in the initial post-1970 scheme of governance (and politics) in Fiji, there was always an unarticulated expectation that the Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) would play a pivotal role in ensuring that government remained in the hands of Chiefs, and by extension the Fijian people. The 1987 elections forced this hand in the pack of cards that was always stacked in favour of ensuring just that within the fa├žade that was widely taken as democracy in Fiji.

SITIVENI RABUKA, 3rd in RFMF in 1987, was identified as the person who could execute the "dirty" job for the Easter Chiefs
After the 1987 elections, as the orchestrated rebellion against the verdict of the ballot box became more strident and violent, a dark silent group began making overtures to the RFMF. And Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka was identified as the right choice to execute a coup-de-tat even though he was number 3 in the military hierarchy. The Commander, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was a Bau chief of very high rank – he could do without the inevitable stain. His number 2, Colonel Jim Sanday was of mixed-blood and therefore, not to be trusted fully. Focus thus fell on Rabuka.

At that point in time, Rabuka’s future in the military was extremely bleak. He was only able to maintain his hold within the top brass through patronage from his high chief, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, who was also the Governor General. In fact Rabuka had already begun to look for jobs outside the military; he had applied for the post of Police Commissioner and had actually been interviewed for it. The post had instead gone to PU Raman, an Indian.
It was no secret that Rabuka was hugely popular and commanded widespread loyalty within the rank and file of the Fiji military. He was also a hardcore traditionalist who believed in the divine right of chiefly control and ethnic Fijian rule in Fiji within the framework of Christian (preferably Methodist) doctrine. More importantly, Rabuka was a strict disciplinarian who was known to deliver. And most importantly, a coup presented him with a crucial opportunity to redeem himself within the military.

This is what the planners saw. What they did not see was that Rabuka was smarting from his “fall from grace” in the military. He had allowed Major Kadavulevu Cakobau to come back to Fiji from Sinai against orders from Queen Elizabeth Barracks. And he was lined up for a court martial that was only avoided through external pressure from the GG’s office. The fact that he took this decision in Sinai showed that he was prone to independent thinking – this was also missed in assessing him.

On the other hand, Ratu Mara was devastated with his fall at elections 1987 even though he did not show this. As a chief and main architect of independent Fiji, he had a noble vision that he thought would serve the myriad interests in the country. His biggest disappointment came from the fact that he was apparently not supported by the Indian electorate after all that he’d tried to do for that community. Ratu Mara therefore, felt betrayed especially by the Indo-Fijian community.

RATU SIR KAMISESES MARA- he was disappointed with Indo-Fijians for not supporting him in 1987 election which he lost. Hence, Rabuka was identified as the third officer to ensure the Chiefly and Fijian control in Fiji through Military. The events of 1987 proved that democracy had failed in Fiji - it did not ensure proper transition of power through ballots, as the lost politicians and Chiefs who lost through ballot had to resort to BULLETS. Fiji is paying the price for this even today.
On the other hand, he had foreseen problems with the 1970 model of governance. That’s why he mooted the idea of a government of national unity around the 1982 elections. He appeared to be quietly searching for a new model to suit the changing circumstances. This need again stared him in the face in 1987 as the Taukei Movement went on the rampage. Many have criticized Ratu Mara for his inaction and reluctance to enter the fray at that critical juncture.

There would have been sound reasons for this disinclination by that thinking gentleman of noble birth and prolonged British grooming. Firstly, the Fijians were genuinely angered because they felt that their generosity had been abused by an ungrateful immigrant community. This negativity had gained too much momentum. Secondly, Ratu Mara’s hold on Fijian leadership had become precarious because people were openly blaming him for selling out the Fijian heritage. In fact, after 1987 he was no longer considered the sole undisputed leader of the Fijian people.

SUBHASH APPANA, the Guest Writer , who grew up with I-Taukeis, wrote this article as an insider who, despite being an Indo-Fijian, wrote from a good understanding of I-Taukei point of view. 
And three, it can be hazarded that Ratu Mara saw in the turbulence of 1987 an opportunity to once again draw up a new model of governance for Fiji. He therefore, saw coup-de-tat as an unsavoury necessity that would open up opportunities for more suitable and enduring political solutions. A consensus approach appeared to be impractical given the entrenched positions between the 2 main ethnic groups – a forced solution was therefore, the best approach.

To appease the hordes, quell crime and bring about some semblance of order, the men at QEB had to be released not to uphold the rule of law, but to upend it. A Schumpeterian creative destruction framework therefore, guided decisions among Ratu Mara and like-minded. There was full confidence that Rabuka would be reined in shortly after he executed the coup because there would be need for a civilian administration. And more importantly, there would be need to appease the shocked international community and explain the unpardonable situation.

So the orchestrated disturbances were allowed to escalate as Rabuka executed his operational plans for the fateful day. He handpicked a team leader in Captain Savenaca Draunidalo, an Eastern soldier who had served as ADC to the GG, and assembled an elite squad of committed soldiers who shared his own traditionalist, fundamentalist concerns. The international dimension that had been hovering on the fringes again entered the picture. Bavadra had followed the NZ lead of 1985 and declared Fiji anti-nuclear, this irked the Americans and they acted by sending over a high-level decorated operative.

CAPTAIN SAVENACA DRAUNIDALO, who was reportedly the Team-Leader Rabuka appointed to assemble and prepare an elite squad of committed soldiers who shared his own traditionalist, fundamentalist concerns, for executing the coup.

Vernon Walters had been in Teheran in 1953 when the CIA supported Shah Pahlavi’s coup against Dr. Mohamad Mosaddeq. He was again involved in a coup by some generals in Brazil in 1963. In 1975 he was in Chile when General Pinochet toppled the Allende government. And in 1987 the very same Vernon Walters was in Fiji. Two weeks before 14th of May, he met Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. Not the army commander, not his deputy, but the 3rd man, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Everything was finally in place: the taukei marchers, power preachers, escalating and apparently uncontrollable crime and violence, chiefly withdrawal, US complicity, key business support, and a primed military goon squad under the command of a committed senior officer. Next stop, treason at 10. Keep tuned.

[E-Mail: appanas@hotmail.com  / thakurji@xtra.co.nz

Stay tuned, COMING SHORTLY - Part 5:1987 - The Impossible Coup

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was thus not a paramount chief in his own right, but he was the husband of one. On top of that, he had been groomed for and headed the modern structure of government that was essentially juxtaposed on the traditional structure. Moreover, Ratu Mara had been earmarked to lead Fiji by Fiji’s most prominent colonial-era chief, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. In fact it was Ratu Sukuna who played cupid in helping hitch Mara with the young lass from Burebasaga who would later become the Roko Tui Dreketi, the paramount chief of Burebasaga.


[About the Author: Subhash Appana is an Indo-Fijian academic with Fijian family links. He was brought up in the chiefly village of Vuna in Taveuni and is particularly fond of the Fijian language and culture. Subhash has written extensively on the link between the politics of the vanua, Indo-Fijian aspirations and the continued search for a functioning democracy in Fiji. This series attempts to be both informative and provocative keeping in mind the delicate, distractive and often destructive sensitivities involved in cross-cultural discourses of this type.]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fiji Election 2014- Part 2: Controls on Media and Divisive Politics promote better race relations

Fiji Election 2014- Part 2: Controls on Media and Divisive Politics promote better race relations

By Guest Writer: Rajendra Prasad, Auckland, NZ.


Author and political commentator on Fiji affairs, Rajendra Prasad, who authored Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.


Corruption was the fastest growing industry during the era of democratic rule in Fiji. It is not to claim that it has vanished but it is being addressed. Much maligned Prime Minister Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Khaiyum have declared their assets, which gives startling comparison to the wealth of leaders who were Prime Ministers of Fiji except Rabuka who had the harvest but was not astute enough to hold it in his granary. All others, except Rabuka, are multimillionaires. It clearly shows that there is prestige, power and unlimited wealth that draw many, not through genuine desire to serve, but to take advantage through such placement. Some say Rabuka chose a different lifestyle and either misunderstood or underestimated the treachery in Fiji politics. Once a hero to his people, following the military coup of May 14, 1987 but today he is shunned and no political party needs him or wants him. His plight is no different to George Speight except that he is serving his sentence and Rabuka will remain a prisoner of his conscience for the rest of his life.

In the build up to the 2014 elections, racial attacks through the media or other public forums, a common feature in the past elections, was demonstrably absent. However, the Internet is being extensively used, sometimes savagely, where the Blogs and Facebook sites give opportunity to people to rant and rave to their hearts content.  What is good about this medium is that Internet is an even playing field where everyone can contribute on issues of common interest. The voices of the weak cannot be stifled. Undoubtedly, the political parties are also using this medium to their best advantage. But on the ground and in public, racial comments and open display of racial hostility is not visible. Credit must go to the Bainimarama Government for facilitating this remarkable change and for the first time, equality and dignity of every citizen of Fiji is not only being seen but felt across the nation. It has not only given dignity to Fijian citizenship but also raised sense of patriotism in Fijians as never before.

FRANK BAINIMARAMA- credited with implementing policies to stem out racism and divisive politics, the fruits of which are evident in Fiji as witnessed by the Author.
It has contributed to a demonstrable change, as the two dominant communities’ live in harmony and go about their day to day business without rancour or bitterness. Go to the towns, markets or sports arenas, the people of Fiji are one happy lot who relate well with one another. There is happy and respectful exchange of greetings and hearty banter, followed by laughter that is an evolving as Fiji Way, replacing the meaningless Pacific Way. Letters to editor columns carry the same spirit and not the nasty ‘snarling’ of the past. Indo-Fijians follow the Fiji Sevens team with same fervour as the iTaukei, including Indo-Fijian women. Bollywood has also infiltrated the iTaukei hearts and minds, drawing them to the TV screens and rigid following of their favourite programmes. Go through the iTaukei settlements and it is not unusual to hear the Bollywood beats echoing, as they do from Indo-Fijian homes. This medium is also enhancing race relations, which is also transforming hearts and minds of Fiji’s peoples, as they realize and accept they are one people and Fiji is their home.
There has also been a physical transformation, which cannot go unnoticed. ITaukei girls, with their frail features and straightened hairs, adjusting to modern fashion trends, are easily mistaken for Indo-Fijians. The effect of the roti and curry across the nation is palpable

Those muscular features of the iTaukei are diminishing and the Policemen in sulu, without the bulging calf muscles, look starved. On the Indo-Fijian front, the kava has contributed to the diminishing physique. Indeed, there is physical harmony among the peoples of Fiji that cannot be apprehended. However, Fiji can only become the utopia of our dreams if there is political harmony. This can come about when advocates of racism are disabled in the interests of the nation. Racism has favoured a few who benefit from the spoils. Racism does not build but destroys nations. Fiji has suffered too much from it for too long. Those closure of the racial ‘kennels’ has brought about perceptible change that needs to be nurtured with care, caution and thoughtfulness.

Indeed, democracy in Fiji was a label without the basic ingredients of equality, justice and dignity. Democracy that is reconfigured to pursue racial discrimination is not democracy but tyranny. Both form and content comprise its inseparable limbs. Worldwide such autocratic democracies abound and it usually entails the tyranny of the aristocracy, propped by the Armed forces, against the majority. Fiji has had a parting of ways between the two on December 5, 2006 and a new era in Fiji politics began, much to the disgust of the ruling elite who had a long reign, using it to restore it to power whenever it was lost, as in 1987 and 2000. With this detachment, a new era in Fiji politics began, which will culminate in first democratic elections on September 17, 2014. The field is open and those deposed in 2006 and their associates are back with their ideologies and banners to retake what they considered to be their birth right. Truth, morals, ethics and principles will become the immediate casualties, as victory at any cost becomes the name of the game.
 
What amused and also saddened me was the sheer lack of remorse and moral conscience of some of the leaders, convicted for abuse of office or violation of taxation laws, as they campaigned for their political parties. They moved around defiant and dismissive of their past when common decency expected them to leave the public domain. Indeed, the fodder of deceit and lies are aplenty and the simple and gullible sometimes fail to distinguish between the grain and chaff.

An unholy alliance, and marriage of convenience, where political enemies become friends for political expediency? [Fiji Sun Photo]
Sometimes, it is beyond the bizarre, as one person, a recent arrival to the mainland from Vanua Levu told me that the Government was wrong in fining Chaudhry F$2 million, as he was paying the farmers evicted from their leased land $28,000 each from the funds he held in Australia! He genuinely grieved that now the poor farmers cannot be helped because the Government had taken all the money in fines. I was gobsmacked by the naivety of the person whose seriousness in his belief was inscrutable. Will this election be won on deceit and lies or will it be won on truth and understanding? Only time will tell. God Bless Fiji!


[About the Author: Rajendra Prasad is the author of Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004), former Ba Town Clerk and an analyst on Fiji’s struggling efforts to seek an appropriate form of democracy.]




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ram Mandir rises in West Auckland:From Dream to Realisation-“Sapna se Sakaar Tak”

From Dream to Realisation-“Sapna se Sakaar tak”: Ram Mandir and 

Community Centre rises in West Auckland

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Waitakere in general and Henderson in particular have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons-violence, crime and dysfunctional families. Indeed it is divine blessings that in all this doom and gloom of Waitakere, has proudly risen a monument. More importantly, like the righteous and noble king it is named after, it took form in West Auckland to liberate us from evils and worries. As Lord Ram came to this world to solve many of our ills, so has Ram Mandir and the associated Community Centre, which collectively promise to do likewise in Waitakere.

Lord Ram came to this world to solve many of our ills, so has this Mandir and Community Centre, risen out in West Auckland to help solve ours.
It was a blessed co-incidence that a dream started taking shape at Brick Street from bricks. A monument was destined to rise from bricks, in fact 350 of them, at 11 Brick Street, Henderson. These bricks, donated by devotees, formed the foundation of Ram Mandir and Community Centre during the Bhumi Pooja-the ground-breaking ceremony on 21 July, 2012. Since then, all the formalities have been finalised and builders have been busy, transforming this vacant land into realisation of a dream.

Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust (SRMCT) is very pleased to announce that the dream of SRI RAM MANDIR and COMMUNITY CENTRE has been taking strides towards realisation. It is now in the final stages of completion. In preparation for that milestone, SRMCT is planning a 5-day ceremonial official opening from 29 November to 3 December, 2014 inclusive.

A Dream - an artiste's impression-RAM MANDIR AND COMMUNITY CENTRE 
However, a project of this magnitude needs the support of the community – it now requires generosity and financial support of devotees of Maryada Purshottam Shri Ram and citizens of New Zealand. The Managing Trustee Praveen Kumar says that we all build our own houses - that is our self-interest. “However, great are those who can help us build the house of Lord Ram – not only a house of worship but also a shelter to provide much-needed service to humanity and the community at large. This is a life-time opportunity for you to be part of the project which is largely constructed now, and need your assistance at this furnishing stage, “said Kumar.

MANDIR and COMMUNITY CENTRE- A dream
Kumar informed that this centre would not only provide our people a handy and culturally suitable facility for wedding and other social functions, it will also facilitate their religious needs. “We appreciate shortage of space at our homes to hold social and religious functions. Therefore, to relieve us of constraint of space at homes, our facility would be available to be hired for Satya Narayan Katha, Hanuman, Devi and other Pooja and similar functions.” Kumar said. One of the major requirements is the convenience on one-stop facilities for food and refreshments. Praveen said that the Trust has spent judicious planning and hence allowed space and resources for a state–of- the – art kitchen. “With a fully-fledged commercial kitchen, we are suitably placed to provide all your catering needs at one place, with all associated requirements for any successful vegetarian needs.” he said.

From this-an empty land
He said to finalise the furnishing of the facility, a consultation meeting is proposed for Sunday 10 September, 2014 at the Ram Mandir and Community Centre, 11 Brick Street, Henderson at 10 am, followed by lunch provided by the Trust. “This consultation meeting is held at the site to give potential donors an opportunity to witness the extent of development and appreciate how a dream is been realised to fill a vacuum of prayer and community use in West Auckland”, he said

From an empty land to this: The construction stage to date. You are invited to come along and see the extent of this project, and give a helping hand in completion of the project - be a donor.

The SRMCT wishes to identify and attract generosity and support of the community by identifying Gold, Silver and Bronze Donors to help them through the completion of this project. Bronze Donors are targeted from $1000 - $4999, Silver Donors from $5000 TO $9999 and Gold Donors for $10000 upwards.


Ram Mandir Trustees hope to see all potential donors on this open day to convert our dream into reality.

Please visit the website for more information: www.shrirammandir.org.nz



Fiji Election 2014- Part 1: Land, Christianity and Racism

Fiji Election 2014- Part 1: Land, Christianity and Racism

PROLOGUE by Thakur Ranjit Singh:

Laisenia Qarase was seen as a clean banker who Frank Bainimarama appointed as Interim Prime Minister of Fiji in 2000 after Speight coup. Subsequently, he tasted power, and sided with ethno-nationalist and formed SDL Party and won 2001 and 2006 election. He was removed by Bainimarama on 5 December, 2006 because of his actions that divided the nation, his racists policies and tendency to be leader of i-Taukei only.

LAESENIA QARASE, former Prime Minister of Fiji who was appointed by Frank Bainimarama in 2000, and deposed by him in 2006, upon numerous warning to abandon his racist stance and ethno-nationalistic policies. Now, he wants a Christian State and has again gone back to the gutter of racist divisive politics, as reported by Fiji Live. Qarase is de-facto leader of SODELPA party which is headed by his former equally racist Minister of Education, and sister-in-law of Ratu Mara.
In the coming election, he is leading SODELPA- a re-incarnation of his racist SDL Party. In the campaign this week, as reported by Fiji Village, he told people that he believed that God had given Fiji to the Itaukei and not to any other race. He said the reason why he wanted people of other races not to be equal with the Itaukei is because of his belief that God has given the land to the forefathers of the Itaukei people.

Qarase has also come out and said that he wanted Fiji to be a Christian state because Christianity brought civilization to Fiji. It is this type of blinkered and jaundiced leaders that Bainimarama wanted removed from politics. Fiji in a sense is blessed that we have a military which is capable of removing democracy which become mad and rabid.

Read on observation by our Guest Writer, Rajendra Prasad, on the upcoming election.



Part 1:Land, Christianity and Racism

By Guest Writer: Rajendra Prasad, Auckland, NZ.

RAJENDRA PRASAD,  Guest Writer for FIJI PUNDIT blog site. He just returned from Fiji and gives a feedback on what he saw in preparedness for the election 2014.

I spent a week in Fiji (9th to 16th July) and saw a nation on the move to claim its place among the democratic nations of the world. On September 17, 2014 Fiji will go to the polls to elect its first Parliament after the military coup of December 5, 2006. It will be held under the new 2013 Constitutions, which is strikingly different to all the previous constitutions. The 1970, 1990 and 1997 Constitution advocated ethnic voting whereas the 2013 Constitution has removed this provision and every citizen of Fiji is now on one roll. The basic precept of such provision is “one person, one vote, one value” for all. Equality and dignity of every citizen is the rallying cry of this Constitution. 

Remarkably, a departure from the norm has gone down well with the majority of people except those who exploited ethnicity to rob their way to power. Ethnic voting kept the nation divided, giving way to racism to flourish. Multiracialism and multiculturalism existed in name. 

There are those who laud the Bainimarama Government for the changes and work it has accomplished in eight years of its rule. Many believe that Fiji’s rotten democracy needed drastic measures for drastic change. The Fijian democracy was a cover for autocracy to prevail by the chosen few who benefitted from the state of anarchy that became the core character of the nation. The Bainimarama Government, though unelected, has given the nation a new taste of what democracy, equality and dignity entails. At least the common citizen feels that he/she is part of a modern, secular, inclusive and equal society and not ruled by racist bigots. Interestingly, security of indigenous land is never an issue except in the period preceding an election. It is used by the racist bigots to camouflage truth, as it fires the emotions of indigenous people on a non-existent threat and they vote en-masse to their ‘so-called champions’. Yet, it has been revealed that, when in power, they had insidiously converted land at Momi and Denarau to freehold.

FRANK BAINIMARAMA -though un-elected, he has given the nation a new taste of what democracy, equality and dignity entails. He is heading Fiji First Party in election 2014
But let us dispassionately review the land issue. Let there be no illusion, it is implied that such threat comes from Indo-Fijians. They have been in Fiji for 135 years and in this period they have not appropriated an inch of indigenous owned land. However, many had leased such land but when the leases expired or upon extra-legal action taken by landowners, largely at the instigation of their leaders, they vacated such land without resistance or demand for compensation. Today, most of such land is lying fallow, compounding the poverty of landowners whose rental income has ceased forever. Further, since independence for 36 years (1970-2006) the iTaukei elite have been in power for 35 years and yet they did nothing to liberate their people from poverty but always blamed Indo-Fijians for it. 

Bizarrely, they pursued policies to marginalize and dispossess Indo-Fijians so that the two communities gained parity in destitution when they should have promoted the prosperity of both to economically benefit the nation. The current Government is advocating prosperity for all and equitable sharing and distribution of resources. Rental income will no longer be shared by others, as in the past, which left peanuts for the landowners. They are now being encouraged to lease their land through the TLTB or Land Bank to enable them to receive regular rental income. Indeed, productive use of land resources by landowners themselves or tenants is in the best interest of everyone.  God gave this vital gift to humanity to use it for its livelihood and prosperity. Those who own such resources should not squander the opportunities that abound.

Land and religion in Fiji comprise the most volatile fuel to kindle the racial conflagration. Religion is now also being dragged by the advocates of racism in a desperate bid to win the election. Most, if not all, project themselves as devout Christians. Yet, Christianity is a religion that is anchored to love. Christianity without love equates to heathenism. People who use Christianity to pursue their racist agendas will struggle to make it through the narrow gates. In Christianity, it is not the cover but content and adherence to Bible’s noble precepts that identify Christians. Those who use malice, hatred and violence, the weapons of the devil, to justify the unjustifiable demean Christianity. Indeed, there is no point in declaring Fiji a Christian State when those who advocate it hold the sword of violence to achieve their goals and objectives. Indeed, Christianity could have been effectively used to rout racism in Fiji; instead it has been used as a weapon against the lost who shun it as a religion bereft of love, tolerance and goodwill. They also rightly claim that today, in Fiji, more Christians are in prison than those whom they label as pagans. Could this also be attributed them, as iTaukei poverty is?

Indeed, racism in Fiji is a British legacy. Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna had famously said that the two races were locked in their racial kennels and they barked and snarled at each other.  He knew it but did nothing to destroy the kennels that the colonial masters had constructed. With passage of time, racial compartmentalization, as presaged by the British consolidated. It was the worst gift the British gave to independent Fiji. Rightly, it should have been rejected, which is a sad commentary on the vision of leaders of that era who, by accepting it, chose racism to shape the destiny of the nation. The result is before our eyes, as a nation once considered the jewel of the Pacific has become the pariah of the Pacific. Only beneficiaries were the leaders who relished power, position and perks, leaving the masses to scramble for the crumbs. A nation with the potential to become economically rich and a flag bearer for the island nations in the Pacific became a pauper. But the parasitic attachment of its leaders to feed their greed remained persistent. [To be continued…

 Sheer lack of remorse and moral conscience of some of the leaders, convicted for abuse of office or violation of taxation laws: Some leaders playing key role in election 2014. [ Fiji Sun photo] 

TO BE CONTINUED.....Fiji Election 2014- Part 2: Controls on Media and Divisive Politics promoted better race relations…

What amused and also saddened me was the sheer lack of remorse and moral conscience of some of the leaders, convicted for abuse of office or violation of taxation laws, as they campaigned for their political parties. They moved around defiant and dismissive of their past when common decency expected them to leave the public domain.


[About the Author: Rajendra Prasad is the author of “Tears in Paradise”, former Ba Town Clerk and an analyst on Fiji’s struggling efforts to seek an appropriate form of democracy.]