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.]

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