Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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.]

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