Get off your "gnomic chair" and investigate death of CRW soldiers following the 2000 mutiny - Wadan Narsey to Aswin Raj
[Author’s note: I publish this Letter to the Editor and to FHRADC and MIDA to ensure that the public gets to read this, whether the newspapers in Fiji publish or not. Further, with any number of persons being prosecuted, convicted and jailed, for all kinds of alleged crimes in the last few years (some still going on) it is important for the Fiji public to have a better understanding of the nature of the prosecuting arms of the Bainimarama Government and the institutions and persons who are paid by taxpayers to safeguard their basic human rights. This article is also directed to elicit the extent of commitment of some political parties and leaders (like SODELPA) to human rights and justice for all.]
22 March 2017
Letters to the Editor
Fiji Times and Fiji Sun,
Director Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (Ashwin Raj)
FHRADC Commission Members (Justice Mohammed Ajmeer, Faiz Khan, Selina Lee Wah)
Director of Public Prosecutions (Mr Christopher Pryde)
It is encouraging to see that Mr. Ashwin Raj the Director of FHRADC (and Chairman of MIDA) is proactive in wishing to right the wrongs of some of the “institutionalized racism” of the past, an objective which I share.
By this Letter to the Editor, I request Ashwin Raj and the Commissioners of the FHRADC, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, to inform the Fiji public whether they are investigating the denial of the most important human right of all- the right to life- of the following five CRW soldiers who died under questioning, while they were in the custody of the RFMF following the mutiny in 2000: Selesitino Kalounivale, Jone Davui, Epeneri Bainimoli, Lagani Rokowaqa and Iowane Waseroma.
Raj, the Commissioners of the FHRADC and the DPP, might wish to
1. Interview the senior military officer (Viliame Seruvakula) who was apparently responsible for arresting these five soldiers and handed them into police custody at the Nabua Police Station;
2. interview the senior military officer (Jone Baledrokadroka) who was apparently responsible for signing them out of police custody and into military custody, taking them to the Stanley Brown Naval Base where the RFMF Commander (Bainimarama) was then located;
3. interview the senior army officer who ordered them to be taken to Nabua army barracks and be questioned in order to find out who were the instigators of the 2000 mutiny;
4. interview the soldiers who physically interrogated the five CRW soldiers and eventually delivered the bodies to the CWM Hospital;
5. read the very clear judgement of resident magistrate Ajmal Gulab Khan in the Workman’s Compensation Act case brought by Mrs Kalounivale, explaining the chain of events that led to the death of Kalounivale;
6. read the autopsy report by Australian pathologist Professor Stephen Cordner;
7. interview Father Akauola who tended to the tortured soldiers in their dying moments;
8. read (if they can find it) the Police Investigation Report into the torture and death of the five soldiers;
9. interview former FRMF officer Kaci Solomone who headed the court martial of the CRW soldiers accused in the mutiny and also Judge Advocate Graeme Leong;
10. interview the CRW soldiers involved in the mutiny and those (including some current SODELPA leaders and some former RFMF officers) who were named by Captain Shane Stevens (the leader of the mutiny) as being instigators or supporters of the mutiny;
11. interview former Police Commissioner (Andrew Hughes) who stated in an ABC interview that the Fiji Police were close to laying charges against several individuals associated with these deaths.
12. interview the UN which is not only an avowed global defender of basic human rights but who are currently employing some former RFMF and police officers who are alluded to in Questions 1, 2, 10 and 11 above.
13. interview the Fiji Law Society and UN as to their august views on amnesty provisions in the 2013 Fiji Constitution and their applicability to the five deaths referred to above.
As Chairman of the FHRADC (Justice Ajmeer) will no doubt appreciate, these five CRW soldiers were presumed innocent until proven guilty by the Fiji courts (some undoubtedly were innocent).
Only Ashwin Raj and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission can provide closure to the still grieving families of the five CRW soldiers who were killed in military custody in 2000 without trial, judge or jury.
Raj and the FHRADC can reassure the Fiji public that they are ready to defend the human rights of everyone in Fiji, whether they are powerful (like Madam Nazhat Shameem) or weak, like these forgotten deceased CRW soldiers.
In case Raj might feel inclined to label this letter also as “vitriolic diatribe” from “self-selected moral entrepreneurs and armchair critics” (The Fiji Times, March 18, 2017) I remind him of a well-known saying is supported by all world religions: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
Current SODELPA and Bainimarama Government (Fiji First Party) leaders might also wish to explain to the Fiji public why none of them are demanding a Commission of Inquiry into the 2000 coup and the 2000 mutiny, which resulted in the above gross injustices, shoved under the carpet for the last seventeen years.
I cc this Letter to Editor also to Mr. Ashwin Raj as Chairman of MIDA in the faint hope that he will encourage the two newspapers to publish this letter as an indication that he will not be influenced by any conflict of interest in his two important positions as Chairman of MIDA and CEO of FHRADC.
Professor Wadan Narsey
By Ashwin Raj
The vitriolic diatribe that the Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other offices in Geneva Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan has been subjected to for a principled intervention that Fiji made against institutionalised racism and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission for its presence and participation at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva necessitates a response.
While Fiji made a number of substantial interventions premised on principles of non-discrimination, human dignity and substantive equality spanning from social and economic rights to civil and political rights such as the rights of persons with disabilities with a particular focus on Article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, protection of the rights of children in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Fiji’s commitment towards the ratification of all core human rights instruments by 2020 and its presidency over the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP23, the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, the inexorable relationship between human rights and peace, the abolishment of death penalty, the impact of climate change on the rights of children and the incorporation of human rights education into the school curriculum in response to Fiji’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and access to medicine as one of the fundamental elements of the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the polemicists have strategically and exclusively focused on racism.
So what exactly did the Ambassador say about racism that has riled the NFP, SODELPA, Wadan Narsey, self-selected moral entrepreneurs and arm chair critics? “It must be noted”, the Ambassador said, “that racism was institutionalised in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and CLASS, and that racist attitudes were engrained in all communities, which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion”.
The Ambassador never used the word “caste” as has been reported by the NFP and SODELPA and uncritically reproduced by the Fiji Times, Radio New Zealand and the ABCamongst various other social media platforms. She actually used the word “class”.
This begs the question, is the NFP and its leadership deliberately encouraging the conflagration of communalism given that the word “caste” has a particular historical and sociological resonance with the Indo-Fijian community?
One does not need a doctorate in sociology to appreciate the political purchase of the term caste or indeed need such a credential to condemn racism!
The string of racist, sexist and bigoted comments following the NFPs post on Facebook is a sad indictment of the fact that racism and prejudice is alive and thriving.
Extremely derogatory things have been said and continue to be said about the Ambassadors ethnicity, her gender, and her religion and the NFP did not even once intervene in the barrage of these attacks which are simply unconstitutional.
Not only did they selectively focus on the issue of racism, they also deliberately distorted what was said about racism to suite their own political agenda.
The Ambassador never apportioned the charge of racism to a single community. She actually said “…racist attitudes were engrained in all communities”. The following statement that Wadan Narsey so casually and conveniently dismissed is a testament to that:
“Fiji has embarked on a path of substantive equality and this path requires a level of gender, disability and cultural competence and the ability to understand that poverty and disadvantage exists in all cultural groups”.
So is it not obvious then that it is precisely these detractors who are reproducing a racist epistemology to give credence to their own political agenda?
Their vitriol raises fundamental questions about whether a non-indigenous can speak on indigenous issues. It is also a sad indictment of the fact that Fiji has yet to learn to speak meaningfully about race without descending into racism.
Incidentally, in reiterating Government’s priority in light of Fiji’s presidency over the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP23 and underscoring the inextricable relationship between climate change and human rights and in particular recognising the specific vulnerabilities of women, children and persons suffering from disabilities in disasters and climate change induced movement, the Ambassador had adduced the significance of ensuring that “natural relocation policy is sensitive to indigenous rights in ensuring that the rights of the iTaukei to use land, food security including the protection of cultural rights, customary fishing rights and safeguarding of traditional grave sites are protected”.
So why did the NFP, SODELPA and Wadan Narsey not make any reference to these subsequent paragraphs appearing immediately after the paragraph that the NFP deliberately misquoted, SODELPA, the Fiji Times, Radio New Zealand, ABC reproduced and Wadan Narsey once again conveniently glossed?
Your guess is as good as mine!
So are the Ambassador and the Fijian Government really complicit in the erosion of indigenous rights and the distortion of the concerns of the iTaukei at the UN as has been intimated or are her interventions an affront to the political elite that have profited from racism in the last three decades?
Her interventions affirm the intersectional nature of indigenous community’s human rights concerns that affect the ordinary iTaukei in Fiji as opposed to the obsession with political preponderance unabashedly lampooned as an affirmation of indigenous rights. Are these human rights costs of climate change to our iTaukei any less pressing because it has been conveyed to the world on behalf of Fiji by a woman, a Muslim and an Indo-Fijian?
The Ambassadors allusion to the creation of a privileged class as a result of institutionalised racism is about the complicity between the political elite across the racial divide in which the only people who suffered were the marginalised. To those who are suffering from social amnesia or wilful forgetfulness, here is the legacy of institutionalised racism in Fiji:
The politicisation of the sugar industry by the political elite of both major ethnic communities and the consequent non-renewal of cane leases, displacement, social death and poverty accentuating existing class polarities not only between but within communities;
An electoral system premised on ethnicity that entrenched racial compartmentalisation;
The exploitation of non-unionised workers mostly iTaukei and Indo-Fijian women, in tax free zones established to arrest Fiji from the economic malaise following the 1987 coup;
Social justice initiatives such as the enactment of the Social Justice Act 2001 and the implementation of the 2020 Affirmative Action Plan which were contrary to Section 44 (1) of the 1997 Constitution which mandated the design of programmes to achieve equality for all groups or categories of persons who are disadvantaged and therefore deprived of access to education and training, land and housing and participation in commerce and in all levels and branches of service of the state;
Discrimination in the education sector as evidenced in the selection criteria for scholarships. Not only were Indo-Fijians deprived of equal opportunity, the requirements for a Fijian Affairs Board (FAB) scholarship also precluded children that were not registered under the Vola Ni Kawa Bula (VKB). Furthermore,the applicant had to have paternal lineage if she or he were a Rotuman effectively depriving any child who had maternal lineage to iTaukei but paternal lineage to any other race;
Not only were Indo-Fijian farmers rendered landless because of institutionalised racism, both the SVT in the 1990s and the SDL after coming into power in 2001 introduced policies that surreptitiously and permanently alienated the iTaukei from their customary land through the conversion of iTaukei land into freehold land. A damning example is the Momi Bay;
Accumulation in the hands of a few in the name of indigenous capitalism to at least putatively bridge the gap between Indo-Fijians and iTaukei. The unlawful allotment of Fijian Holdings Limited shares by Laisenia Qarase who was the Director of Fijian Holdings Limited and a Financial Advisor to the Fijian Affairs Board and the Great Council of Chiefs after all prioritised immediate family members over the provincial, Tikina Councils and eligible iTaukei people;
The introduction of the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill and the Qoliqoli Bill not only deprived Indo-Fijians from ownership and access to land and ocean, but precluded the iTaukei community as well;
The unequal distribution of lease money and the introduction of goodwill payment over lease renewals.
Is the coalition of detractors denying that Fiji has a history of institutionalised racism? Erasing the ignominy of racism from our public memory will require the courage of conviction to confront this history. Will we speak up against racism and structural inequality again? Absolutely and unabashedly.
Fijileaks: In August 2006, four months before the December coup, VICTOR LAL had analysed in the Fiji Sun the Social Justice Bill and had revealed how the Qarase Goverment had lied that it was not consulted by the Fiji Human Rights Commission
FHRC consulted Government on Affirmative Action Report
The consultant who reviewed the Affirmative Action programme for the Fiji Human Rights Commission provided ample opportunity to the Prime Minister's Office to respond to various queries. The consultant's recommendations titled 'Report on Government's Affirmative Programmes 2020 Plan for Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans and the Blueprint - June 2006', which the Commission is yet to officially release, notes that 'the government had decided that rather than the Government submitting comments on the consultant's draft report to the Commission, the Commission should proceed to its publication and public release'.
If it is true, than the Prime Minister is clearly wrong to raise the concern that FHR report on the Blueprint is definitely biased as the Commission consultant did not approach him or his CEO to get the government's side of the story on the setting up of the program. He also expressed concern that the report was only prepared by one consultant who never spoke to anyone at the PM's Office.
Mr Qarase said he is now analyzing the report following comments by the Commission that it would take the government to court if it does not make immediate changes to the Affirmative Action Program. According to the report, the Government was provided with a number of opportunities to be heard during the investigation.
It was advised of the intention to investigate and invited to provide information about all affirmative action programmes. In March 2005 the Office of the Prime Minister was advised that a number of government ministries, departments and agencies had not responded to requests for information, and the assistance of that office was sought in obtaining their cooperation - some departments subsequently responded, others did not; That same month the CEO of the Prime Ministers Department, the report claims, advised that at a discussion of departmental Chief Executive Officers on 18th March 2005 it had been agreed that the Prime Minister's Office would reply on behalf of Government through its Chief Executive Officer, though no response was received.
Over two months later, on 23rd May 2005, the CEO of Prime Ministers Office sent a copy of the publication For the Good of All, which had been tabled in Parliament in 2004. Later, on 24 November 2005, the same CEO sent copies of a second report on the implementation of the affirmative action programmes under the Social Justice Act that had been tabled as Parliamentary Paper No 108 of 2005. The CEO also supplied the Commission with a copy of the Preliminary Analysis by the ADB of the 2002/2003 Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (September 2005) together with comments.
Despite these opportunities already given, the Commission claims, it provided the Government with a final opportunity to comment on the investigators report and the draft report was sent to the government with the request that a response be received by 23 March 2006. The government subsequently sought an extension of time, and the date for final response was amended to 1 May 2006.
On 19 May 2006, according to the report, the CEO of the Prime Minister's Department wrote to the Commission to advise that the government had decided that rather than the Government submitting comments on the consultant's draft report to the Commission, the Commission should proceed to its publication and public release.
In 2004 the Commission had instigated an 'own motion' investigation into the Government's affirmative action programmes under the Social Justice Act 2001, aspects of the Blueprint initiated by the Interim Government in July 2000 and adopted and continued by the SDL Coalition Government, and the Social Justice Act itself. When notified of the Commission's intention to undertake the investigation, the SDL Coalition Government had offered its cooperation, says the report.
The Commission's decision to instigate the own motion investigation was triggered by the number of complaints it received from different sources about the Affirmative Action law and policy as well as by the Commission's own concerns about the proposals of two different Governments to enact Social Justice legislation for Fiji.
The investigation examined whether each affirmative action and blueprint programme, the policy, and the law complied with the requirements for affirmative action in Chapter 5 (section 44) of the Constitution. Based on the consultant's research, the report concludes that overall, but with some exceptions, the affirmative action programmes put in place by Government under the Social Justice Act 2001 do not comply with the Constitution.
The Social Justice Act 2001 does not comply with the Constitution.
It continues as follows:l Affirmative action programmes based on ethnicity do not comply with the Social Justice provisions (Chapter 5, section 44) of the Constitution.l The programme as a whole lacks a proportional balance between any disadvantage intended to be addressed and the measures being taken to alleviate the disadvantage. Minor or even presumed but non-existent disparities between ethnic groups have been used to justify the complete exclusion of groups other than indigenous Fijians and Rotumans from the bulk of the programmes
The programmes fail to make provision for all who are disadvantaged. This is particularly so in relation to women, who are far more disadvantaged than men. Individual programmes are weighed so disproportionately against Indians, women and other disadvantaged groups as to undermine the legality of all the programmes based on ethnicity.
No programme accurately links its goals to the disadvantage borne by the target group that it is intended to overcome.
Few programmes identify any performance indicators and those that do have no historical component. It is therefore not possible to monitor the effectiveness of the programmes without data that identifies trends before and after the programmes were initiated. There is no data that relates to whether alleged disparities between indigenous Fijians and Rotumans and Indians, for example, have reduced in the areas where affirmative action programmes have been introduced.
On the question whether Government has discharged its burden of establishing justification for the programmes, the report says that the Government's principal justification for its affirmative action programmes, that the rural sector is poorer than the urban sector and a majority of indigenous Fijians live in rural areas, is seriously flawed. In fact, the poorest households in rural areas are Indian.
The Government's other main justification (that the average income of indigenous Fijians is below that of Indians and Others and therefore all indigenous Fijians are disadvantaged and entitled to affirmative action) does not meet the legal standards imposed by the Constitution, the Human Rights Commission Act, and international law.
The programmes fail to justify the distinctions based on ethnicity on which most of the programmes are based. The Government has not established that 'the race-based affirmative action programmes meet the legal standards for these particular programmes'.
According to the report,
the programmes have not been established in response to a justifiable compelling Government interest;
the programmes are not narrowly tailored to remedy the past discrimination or present disadvantage that they purport to correct;
the programmes are not narrowly tailored to exclude from the indigenous Fijian group preferred, any members who are not, or are no longer disadvantaged, through means testing, or class-based and other appropriate measures;
the programmes are inflexible, without waiver provisions to narrow their scope;l criteria in relation to targets make no reference to those qualified group members in the relevant sector or industry;
there is no evidence that the Government has considered race-neutral alternatives;l although the programmes are temporary, the periodic review mechanisms are inadequate;l there is little or no consideration given to degree and type of burden, including on excluded groups, caused by the programme.The report goes on to ask whether affirmative action law and programmes are lawful, and answers in the following:
Since the Affirmative Action programmes do not fulfil the requirements of the Social Justice Chapter in the Constitution, they are not protected by the exemption in section 44 (4). Accordingly, to the extent that certain disadvantaged groups are excluded from the Affirmative Action programmes, they are being unfairly discriminated against in contravention of their rights contained in section 38 (2) of the Constitution.l Since the Affirmative Action programmes do not fulfil the requirements of section 21 of the Human Rights Commission Act, they amount to unfair discrimination in breach of section 17 of the Act.
Since the Affirmative Action Programmes do not fulfil the 'special measures' requirements contained in international human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), they amount to a contravention of the rights contained in section 38 (2) of the Constitution.
Since the Affirmative Action programmes are based on the Social Justice Act 2001, and the Social Justice Act itself breaches Chapter 5 of the Constitution, the programmes cannot be justified on grounds that they comply with the Act.It concludes by noting that the 50/50 by 2020 Development Plan, the Blueprint and the Social Justice Act 2001 have the combined effect of imposing large-scale discrimination against the minority ethnic groups, specifically on the disadvantaged categories within these groups, and more generally on other disadvantaged groups who have not been provided with affirmative action programmes to improve their conditions of life.
The affirmative action law, policies and programmes do not comply with the requirements of Chapter 5 of the Constitution.
KNIVES OUT: Ashwin Raj and Biman Prasad exchange sharp barbs over Nazhat Shameem's Geneva speech; Fijileaks: We cannot write out the RACISM from the script of Fijian history if we want to move Fiji forward
Biman Prasad demands an explanation while Ashwin Raj considers action against NFP
The Leader of the National Federation Party Professor Biman Prasad is now demanding the Director of Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj to explain why there are two different versions of Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan’s statement at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He says Raj needs to explain this first before he begins to shout at others and make wild allegations.
We questioned Prasad whether he agrees with Shameem’s comments where she said that racism was institutionalised in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and class, and that racist attitudes were engrained in all communities, which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion.
Prasad did not give a clear answer but said there can be different interpretations.
We also questioned Prasad about Raj’s comments on why NFP has not even once intervened in the barrage of attacks on Shameem’s ethnicity, her gender, and her religion.
Raj had said that the string of racist, sexist and bigoted comments following the NFPs post on Facebook is a sad indictment of the fact that racism and prejudice is alive and thriving.
We asked Prasad whether he has seen those comments on NFP’s official facebook page.
The Leader of the NFP says they do not condone any of those comments.
Meanwhile, the Director of Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj has confirmed that there are no two versions of Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan’s statement at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.
Raj says the Leader of the NFP who is also an academic should have done his homework before vilifying Khan publicly.
Raj says he is also not satisfied with Biman Prasad’s comments that NFP does not condone those abusive remarks that were put against Nazhat Shameem Khan on NFP’s Facebook page.
When questioned by Fijivillage, Raj has confirmed that he will consider taking action against NFP in relation to the racist, sexist and bigoted comments made against Nazhat Shameem. Source: Fijivillage News
March 16, 2017
Release Meeting Minutes: NFP
The National Federation Party has called on the Electoral Commission to be transparent and release the minutes of their meeting of 7th March in which the Commission resolved to increase the number of parliamentary seats from 50 to 51 in the 2018 elections.
While the Section 4 of the Electoral Act mandates the Commission to only make public their decisions within 5 days, it is at extreme odds with the assurances made by the Attorney General and Minister for Elections when he was trying to sell his amendments in Parliament during the debate on 9th February 2017.
The Attorney General and Minister of Elections distinctly stated in Parliament that the minutes will also be made available in the interest of transparency, and in line with the cherry-picked recommendations of the Multi-National Observer Group.
The Hansard of that debate on the Parliament web-site on page 603, in paragraphs 3-6 (http://parliament.gov.fj/getattachment/1e85b01d-2833-4ad4-ae21-f8c5c90621f9/Thursday-09-02-2017) confirms this and we quote what the Minister for Elections said: -
“Paragraph 5, Madam Speaker, on page 9 of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) Report states, and I quote:
“Despite a general invitation for the MOG to observe the meetings of the Electoral Commission in practice, invitations were not forthcoming. Furthermore the Minutes of the Electoral Commission’s meetings were not published, which limited the transparency of administrative preparation.”
“In other words, the Electoral Commission’s preparations and what they have discussed in the meetings were not available. The Minutes were not available and that is what the MOG observed”.
“So, in order to do that, we made an amendment through Subsection (4A) to say they must publish the Minutes and the decisions. The requirement for the publication of decisions will greatly enhance the transparency, as I have highlighted on the electoral process.”
Since the Minister of Elections has made these pronouncements in the highest court of the land, it behooves the Electoral Commission to then follow through, in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The NFP cannot simply accept carte-blanche what the Commission said in arriving at the decision. The Commission Chairman told the media they considered population data provided by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and the National Register of Voters. Together with the Minutes, the Commission should also release statistical data namely like projected population trend that led it to make the decision.
This is a simple matter and there is no reason why the Commission cannot adhere to the assurances provided by the Elections Minister.
Furthermore, the NFP anticipates that the Electoral Commission will open itself up to wider consultations with political parties and NGOs to have regular discussions in the lead up to 2018 elections.
Authorised by: -
Professor Biman Prasad
Fijileaks: We are still experiencing some technical hitches with the site. We will soon reproduce Victor Lal's analysis from 2000 condemning Laisenia Qarase's lies to the UN on indigenous rights following the Speight coup. It is shocking to read the attacks on Nazhat Shameem's Geneva speech. She was correct to remind how indigenous rights slogan was abused to oppress and reduce Indo-Fijians into second class citizenship. Ironically, Qarase went from UN podium to Fijian prison. Below is People's Coalition Government's response to Qarase and his speech to UN in which he justified the Speight coup in the context of indigenous rights - was Nazhat Shameem referring to Qarase also? And guess what - Bainimarama had sent Qarase to lie to the UN. Fiji's problem is not dictatorship but Dictator's Associates - Rabuka had Jai Ram Reddy and Bainimarama had Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry until they fell out - now Dog Eat Dog is rife in Fiji
Issue No: 46; 17 September 2000
The Address given by the interim regime's Prime Minister at the UN yesterday 16 September was a pathetic attempt to justify the existence of the regime.
The speech contained numerous lies about the situation in Fiji, including the innuendo that the George Speight terrorist group had a majority support. Qarase stated:
"The crux of our political crisis in Fiji is that indigenous Fijian and Rotuman communities felt threatened by certain policies which the non-indigenous leadership of the People's Coalition Government had implemented following their decisive victory in our National Elections in May 1999. It was this fear and anxiety about their future as the world's only indigenous Fijian and Rotuman community of just over 420,000 people that led to mass demonstrations and ultimately the Coup d'etat on May 19th this year."
As anyone familiar with Fiji knows, the indigenous Fijian community did not feel threatened by the People's Coalition Government's policies; indeed it had overwhelmingly endorsed the People's Coalition polices as demonstrated by their votes in the 1999 election. It was the Opposition SVT, which commanded only 19.98% of votes in the 1999 elections, which felt threatened about losing power and privilege. It is also widely known that there was no mass demonstration against the People's Coalition Government.
The Qarase Speech has numerous other distortions. But most interesting is the fact that at the UN Qarase condemned democracy and liberty as neo-colonialism. Barring a few dictatorial regimes, this certainly will not go well with the UN.
At home in Fiji, the regime's Information Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola continues to deceive people by saying that Qarase's "UN speech was well received and this would be a platform to build upon." This deception, obviously, was fed by the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Jioji Kotobalavu , who is accompanying Qarase, and whom the regime press release quoted as saying "indeed the PM' message to the UN and to the international community was taken well."
Kubuabola even went to the extent of saying that "Even at the CMAG meet, PM Qarase's remarks were appreciated." We all know the outcome of the CMAG meeting.
The Qarase regime seems content with wallowing in lies and deceptions. Observers believe that the lies and deceptions are losing whatever intrinsic support the regime could muster. Even one interim regime minister has been heard over the weekend as saying that most of the interim Cabinet members are "fed-up" with Qarase.
The full text of Qarase's speech follows.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly by Mr Laisenia Qarase, Prime Minister and Minister for National Reconciliation and Unity,
New York, U.S.A
Saturday, 16th September, 2000
Heads and Members of Delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I bring you greetings from the people of the Fiji Islands.
On their behalf, I also convey our warm congratulations to you Mr President, along with the pledge of my delegation to support you and to closely co-operate with you, in ensuring the success of this Session.
To our distinguished Secretary-General, I would like to express to you the sincere gratitude of the people of Fiji for all that the United Nations family is doing every day, in every part of the globe, to bring relief to those in need, and to promote peace, security and development.
I would like to take this opportunity, Mr President, to warmly welcome our neighbor and close friend, Tuvalu, as the newest member of the United Nations. Fiji is very proud to see the flag of this very important Pacific island country taking its place alongside the other 188 Members of the United Nations. We look forward to the admission in the future of more Pacific island States.
Mr President, I address this august Assembly today on behalf of the Interim Administration in Fiji, which I have been entrusted by our President to lead.
In the wake of the Coup d'etat in my country on 19th May this year, and the political crisis it triggered, my Interim Administration has two very important tasks to undertake within the 2-year time frame we have set for ourselves.
Firstly, it is to return Fiji to constitutional democracy.
And secondly, it is to stabilize our economy and to lay the foundation for a return to sustained growth and expansion with increased investment.
I would like to take this opportunity, Mr President, to thank all those Governments who have shown sympathy and understanding, who recognize the complexities of the situation in Fiji as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country, and who readily accept that solutions to the present political crisis can be developed within Fiji, by the people of Fiji themselves, without external interference in any form.
Mr President, with the disappearance of the Cold War and the dual division it created in World Order, it would seem that a new form of imperialism has emerged along with its twin-brother, neo-colonialism. As if the corrosive influence and impact of their mass culture of consumerism and materialism are not enough, this new form of domination is being propagated by the "purists" of the Liberal Democracies, in the name of good governance, human rights, accountability and transparency. In themselves, these are important general standards to ensure the integrity of the present system of Government in a country, and the just and fair treatment of its citizens. But what is of concern is that we are being told to apply these standards and values of liberal democracy strictly according to their standards, without regard for the particular or complex circumstances in each country.
Our concern, Mr President, is that some of the fundamental principles upon which this unique World Organization was founded fifty-five years ago, are being eroded and violated. The principles of respect for national sovereignty and of non-interference in the internal affairs of an independent State.
We appreciate, Mr President, that we now live in a closely inter-linked global community, and we are all part of one humankind, we are children of one divine Creator. We must, therefore, be concerned about each other, about our common well being, and common basic standards of rights and freedoms.
This, however, does not give a country the right to impose on another its own standards of democratic governance, and what it perceives or considers to be right and acceptable.
If within each of our countries, we believe and accept that civilized behaviour among the citizenry can only be one based on mutual respect, mutual understanding, and a willingness to assist and support each other, why is it that some countries today should think that these rules of civilized and respectful behaviour within a country, should not apply in their dealings with other members of the international community of nations.
I have raised this point, Mr President, not only that we here at the United Nations should be ever watchful of this disturbing negative trend, but also to remind my own country's friends and neighbours that stridency of political rhetoric, smart sanctions and threats of more sanctions, will not really assist us in bringing about a speedy and amicable resolution to our political situation. In fact, the very opposite is true; they have only served to harden attitudes of one community against the other. I, therefore, make a plea to members of the United Nations to show greater understanding of, and sensitivity to, the complexity of the situation in Fiji.
We are a country of many communities and many cultures. All have contributed to Fiji's development. We have all accepted each other as citizens and as communities, and Fiji is our common and permanent home.
But we also have peculiar features, which bear directly on inter-communal relationships within our society.
We have a total population of around 800,000. Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans make up 52% and are growing at 1.8% every year. The second major ethnic group is our Indian community. They make up 43% of the population, but with a low birth rate and emigration, this is continuing to decrease at 0.3% each year. The other communities in Fiji are Europeans, Chinese and Pacific Islanders.
Ethnicity is only one basis of distinction and difference in Fiji. Then there is land ownership. Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans own, by custom, 84% of all land in Fiji. Much of the best of this, however, is on lease for various purposes, residential, commercial and agricultural, and more than 60% of the tenants are members of our Indian community. Most of the agricultural leases are sugar cane farming leases, and more than 75% of these are held by Indian tenants, and most of these tenants have lived on their leased land for three generations.
In our urban areas, the situation is the reverse. The majority of property owners, of businesses, of those in the professions, of those working for a regular income, are non-Fijians, and mostly Indians.
In religion, more than 57% of the population, the indigenous Fijians and Rotumans, and the other minority groups, are mostly Christians. On the other hand, the remaining 43%, the members of the Indian community mostly belong to the Hindu, Muslim and other faiths.
Then, there are our culture and value systems.
Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans have a hierarchical social structure. Traditional hereditary Chiefs and commoners alike have their place and role in society, and are bound together by reciprocal obligations of loyalty, obedience, and of sharing with, and caring for, each other, and everyone in the community. Fijians value their democratic rights as individuals, but as a community, they know their place in their traditional society.
With our Indian and other communities, people are much more individually based. There is, therefore, greater consciousness and emphasis on one's individual rights and freedoms - the right to equality, the importance of education, success in one's professional life, security of property rights.
We all live together side by side in Fiji, yet we remain apart, separated by our ethnicity, religion and cultural differences and our value systems. We communicate with each other, not through the languages of our communities, but through the English language.
And in our general standards of living, even though indigenous Fijians and Rotumans own 84% of the land in Fiji, they have, on average, the lowest level of household income, and they also lag well behind the other communities in almost every aspect of life in a rapidly expanding market based economy.
I have explained all these, Mr President, to highlight the delicate and sensitive nature of our multi ethnic and multi cultural society in Fiji.
The crux of our political crisis in Fiji is that indigenous Fijian and Rotuman communities felt threatened by certain policies which the non-indigenous leadership of the People's Coalition Government had implemented following their decisive victory in our National Elections in May 1999.
It was this fear and anxiety about their future as the world's only indigenous Fijian and Rotuman community of just over 420,000 people that led to mass demonstrations and ultimately the Coup d'etat on May 19th this year. It manifested itself also in the mass looting of shops, destruction of property, and threats to people and their families, and unfortunately and tragically, the victims were mainly members of our Indian community.
It was in this serious and deteriorating law and order situation that the Fiji Military Forces responded to a request from our Police to take over direct control of law and order and the protection of citizens. To facilitate this role, the Fiji Military Forces abrogated our 1997 Constitution on 29th May.
However, as a civilian Interim Administration, we have ourselves taken over from the Army and as I have said, we are firmly committed to returning Fiji to Constitutional parliamentary democracy. We intend to promulgate the new Constitution in August next year. General Elections will then follow within twelve months. The new Constitution is to be prepared by a Constitution Commission, which we shall be appointing early next month. It will be representative of all our communities and it will consult widely throughout the country giving the public at large every opportunity to submit their advice and recommendation on the new Constitution.
I should also mention, Mr President, that a new initiative I have taken to deal with the inter-ethnic crisis in Fiji, is to establish a Ministry of National Reconciliation and Unity, together with a Council for National Reconciliation and Unity. It is my sincere hope that this Council will bring together the representatives of the various communities in our rich multi-cultural society, as well as representatives of the various sections of the wider community, including employers, trade unions and civil society, to discuss and make recommendations on various ways through which we can promote greater inter-communal understanding and co-operation. What we have realized, Mr President, is that it is not enough simply to focus attention on the Constitution as the framework for our different communities in Fiji to live together peacefully and harmoniously. We need to do more. We have to build and reinforce foundations for living together in all aspects of our lives in our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. We are making good progress in education, and proposals are now under consideration to broaden the curriculum in schools to include compulsory study of the Fijian language, Fijian culture and the ethno-history and ethno-geography of Fiji. We also need to encourage and to promote a more social interaction and cohesion at the neighbourhood and community level. Most importantly, it is my sincere hope that this Council for National Reconciliation and Unity will develop a consensus on National Leadership and power sharing in Fiji. I believe sincerely, Mr President, that the most enduring foundation for unity in Fiji is one that is built in a spirit of give and take, of justice and fairness for all, and of responsibility for one another.
Mr President, very recently the United Nations launched a decade for celebrations from January 1995 to December 2004 to commemorate the theme of Indigenous Peoples: A New Partnership, which seeks the formation of new relationships, founded on mutual respect and understanding between indigenous peoples and States and the United Nations. In the context of Fiji, what we hope to build is a new partnership between the indigenous Fijian and Rotuman communities, and the other communities, as the basis of living together in our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, in the 21st Century.
Mr President, I again assure the international community that within the two years of our transitional administration we shall return Fiji to constitutional democracy. A new Constitution will address the concerns of the indigenous Fijians and Rotumans about their future. At the same time, however, it will also maintain and protect the equal fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens and groups without distinction based on ethnicity, religion, culture, gender or economic and social status.
Indeed, as the Interim Prime Minister in the Transitional Administration in Fiji, I am committed to building a united Fiji with a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society where all the different communities can live together in peace, harmony and prosperity, where the aspirations of the Fijians and Rotumans are realized and the paramountcy of their interests is secure, and where the provision of important social services such as education and health to all our communities, is a priority, so that the quality of life and standard of living of all our people are continuously improving.
Mr President, Fiji commends and supports the Brahimi Report on Peacekeeping. It is a timely and thoughtful Report which, if implemented, will considerably enhance United Nations ability to discharge its peacekeeping abilities.
On Fiji's continuing participation in the United Nations peacekeeping activities, I am pleased to confirm our positive response to the Secretary-General's request for a further increase in our troops serving in UNIFIL. Along with that Mr President, I also commend the efforts of all those involved in the Middle-East process. Fiji earnestly hopes that these negotiations will be successful in resolving long standing differences and bring about long term peace in the region.
Mr President, we have been greatly inspired in Fiji by the positive developments on the Korean Peninsular, with the growing rapprochement between the South and North. We express the hope that the same spirit of goodwill and readiness to enter into dialogue will also spread to the great country of China, between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. And on the very important country of Japan, I reaffirm Fiji's support, Mr President, for Japan's admission as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The Secretary-General's report, "We, the Peoples" has inspired the entire UN community with its vision for a more humane and more holistic future for our children and our world. We agree entirely that the United Nations should focus not just only on the relationship between and amongst States but more increasingly on the well being and development of the peoples of this world.
Mr President, once again my congratulations and best wishes to you on a successful Millennium Assembly.
By Wadan Narsey
Nazhat Shameem, indigenous rights and the rule of law in Fiji
[In this post, Nazhat Shameem’s words are given in italics and red.]
Nazhat Shameem is one of the brighter lawyers that Fiji has produced in recent decades. She was once destined to be a star nationally and internationally.
That is, until she took, in my personal opinion, a wrong turn in 2006 (that die may have been cast when the Qarase Government refused to support her applications to a prestigious international position).
But in 2006, High Court Judge, Justice Shameem irregularly chaired a Judicial Services Commission that appointed Anthony Gates as Chief Justice, who (with Justices Pathik and Byrne) subsequently and strangely concluded that Bainimarama’s 2006 coup was legal.
By that one decision, and totally ignoring the fundamental legal principle of the rule of law verified by the 2009 Fiji Court of Appeal ruling that the 2006 coup was illegal, Shameem hitched her wagon and sharp legal mind to an illegitimate treasonous Bainimarama Government that ruled Fiji until 2014.
Since 2006, as a consultant to the Attorney General, Shameem has been providing all kinds of advice (paid and unpaid) to the Bainimarama Government, including many inputs into the imposed 2013 Constitution which she continues to defend and buttress.
Recently, she has been taking a high profile role as Fiji’s Ambassador in Geneva, where she no doubt impresses the international diplomatic community, given that she is an articulate and forceful woman diplomat, of whom there are not too many internationally, and certainly not from the Third World and Oceania.
But it is in defending the Bainimarama Government’s policies through verbal contortions and half truths (in the vein of Ashwin Raj, Christopher Pryde and recently Calanchini), that she becomes most vulnerable to criticism.
Of course, there are some ethno-nationalists in SODELPA who are guilty of some of Shameem’s accusations, but Shameem’s statements deserve fair analysis, without in any way defending the racism that was behind the plotters and supporters of the coups of 1987 and 2000, some of whom are still in Bainimarama’s government today, as they are in SODELPA.
Shameem’s latest speech makes a number of statements which would appear quite convincing to an international audience. Some are accurate, such as
“racist attitudes were engrained in all communities [in Fiji], which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion”.
Some must be totally supported such as
“However the rights of the majority in democracy, whether indigenous or not, must not be used to suppress the rights of the minorities and vulnerable populations.”
Equally, there are many statements which do not tell the whole truth or are deliberately misleading and would certainly be misconstrued by a less descerning international audience.
Shameem’s half truths
“racism was institutionalised in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class, a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and class”.
After Rabuka’s 1987 coup, there certainly was a privileged class of elite indigenous Fijians who obtained preferential access to bank loans such as from the National Bank of Fiji or from Fijian Development Bank such as for Class A shares in Fijian Holdings Limited (some still held today by SODELPA protagonists).
But as I have argued elsewhere, taken in entirety, the majority Fijian community were still massively under-represented at the top income levels, and were virtually non-existent in the corporate sector.
The Fiji Bureau of Statistics data showed clearly that the indigenous Fijians were the largest number of poor in Fiji, going by incomes or expenditure.
The indigenous Fijians were also the poorest going by all the indicators of wealth, such as houses, cars, fridges, televisions, computers, education levels, access to utilities like electricity and water, etc.
The only asset they had much more of was communally owned land, which for many institutional and social reasons, they were not able to translate into incomes and they remained historically poor.
This was not a healthy situation for Fiji. Affirmative Action was called for, but at all levels.
In some cases, the rich Fijians would have to be necessarily made richer if the gap at the top between the ethnic groups was to be closed, even if it worsened the distribution between the rich and poor indigenous Fijians which most of us do not want either (another headache for policy makers).
But, in my advice to the Qarase Government in 2005, I had emphasized that their largest efforts must be directed to the thousands of struggling small and medium Fijian enterprises, out of whom would in the future, no doubt painfully and slowly, arise the Fijian Punjas, Patels and Tappoos.
But Fijian dominated governments, understandably preferred short-cuts, such as through the National Bank of Fiji (which they effectively made bankrupt in the process) or the Fiji Development Bank (whose solvency without government grants might be questionable), with many attempts resulting in failure.
The fundamental fact is that, contrary to the impression created by Shameem, the majority of the indigenous Fijians were not the privileged classes or castes. Far from it. All the objective data from the FBS show that they were similar to or poorer than the majority of the other ethnic groups in Fiji.
What of the current privileged classes or castes?
While Shameem talks about Bainimarama eliminating the privileged “classes and castes” of old (she certainly creates that grand impression), she makes no mention of the privileged classes created by or perpetuated under Bainimarama.
No less a person than Archbishop Chong (Head of the Catholic Church in Fiji) has pointed out that among the indigenous Fijians the old chiefly classes have been replaced by the new military classes- the officers and their relatives.
Bainimarama has made no secret of the fact that not only has the Prime Minsrter’s rewards from taxpayer funds increased enormously under his reign, many of his relatives are in privileged positions with contracts and board positions. So also are his party’s most important supporters like the chief fund raiser for Fiji First Party, like Sanjay Kaba and family members of the corporate financiers of FFP, including all the hardware merchants
There are arguably many relatives and friends of the Attorney General and Minister of Finance who are or have been in privileged positions with respect to taxpayers’ funds.
Shameem’s husband, when CEO of Vodaphone, was given many financial advantages vis a vis its main competitor Digicel, not just in relation to licensing fees required by government and contracts, but also advertising benefits associated with the sponsorship of the Fiji Sevens rugby team.
Then there are the many corporate entities in Fiji who are openly supporters of Bainimarama in return for special financial benefits given directly or indirectly through corporate tax cuts and the suppression of Wages Council Orders which denied the working class their cost of living adjustments despite massive erosion by inflation.
Some individuals like Ajit Kodagoda (financial controller of the privileged CJ Patel and owner of the pro-government Fiji Sun (which has a monopoly on all tax-payer funded advertisements despite having a lower circulation than the Fiji Times as well as other financial benefits) sits on a massive number of boards, despite Bainimarama early on in his coup, condemning the many multiple board memberships under the Qarase Government, often involving conflicts of interest. Kodagoda is not alone and many other names can be added.
It is pertinent that the Chairman of the Wages Council (Father Kevin Barr) despite being an early supporter of Bainimarama’s coup, condemned Bainimarama’s support of “crony capitalism” which suppressed the rights of the working class.
The English language has a seemingly contradictory utterance used when one dying king is succeeded by another king: “The king is dead. Long live the king”. In Bainimarama’s case, Shameem ought to be shouting from the roof-tops “the privileged castes and classes are dead. Long live the privileged castes and classes”.
UNDRIP is not wrongly used
Shameem: “Racism in Fiji is often disguised by assertions that a community’s own cultural identity is being submerged under the blanket of national unity. These assertions are often made by relying on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“In Fiji, the indigenous people are in the majority. They constitute to over 60% of the population and their rights to land, minerals, fishing and cultural succession are protected under the Fijian Constitution.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People has been accepted by all the signatories of the UN. While Shameem alleges otherwise, it still has relevance in Fiji for the many reasons.
There have been many ministerial decisions made on natural resources, for the exploitation of minerals or marines resources without the approval of the land-owning units. Marine environments like our precious mangroves have been destroyed all over Fiji, explicitly against Fiji Environment Protection laws.
The indigenous Fijian language has been banned from Parliament. Where in the world is the indigenous majority language, banned from the national parliament. Certainly not in China or India or Indonesia, the great new found friends of Bainimarama and Khaiyum.
While the Government keeps trumpeting their mantra that “with one person one vote, all Fijians are equal” clearly this is a political mirage associated with merely putting a vote in a ballot box.
The other side of democracy which is the rights of people to have their voice in parliament through their trusted representative, is subject to a language test under Bainimarama and Khaiyum. An indigenous Fijian (or Indo-Fijian or Rotuman or Chinese) who is unable to speak fluently or comfortably in English is banned from representing his or her community’s interests in Parliament. How scandalous.
This is not a minor matter. Shameem should note that when Bainimarama speaks to his army troops (where the real power in Fiji ultimately resides) either as Commander or as Prime Minister of Fiji, he most often uses the indigenous Fijian language, not English. None of his puppet Indo-Fijian MPs in Parliament have ever dared to raise this issue although they must all notice.
It is scandalous that the Fiji Bureau of Statistics has now been banned from obtaining data on ethnicity, including, one hears, in the forthcoming 2017 Census. It also refuses to release tables from the most recent household income and expenditure survey on ethnic differentials in income, expenditure and poverty.
[The Government Statistician is apparently too frightened to even reply to my emails, forget about publishing an extremely important report lying in his desk since 2013, or replying to a recent Fiji Times Letter to the Editor by Paul Geraghty. This is the sad state of senior civil servants in Fiji under Bainimarama and Khaiyum].
Fiji and the indigenous Fijian people will no longer have objective statistics on how poor or rich they are, how educated they are; what kind of houses or toilets or water supply they have, or what their mortality or fertility rates are; or how many of them there are in Fiji and how many are leaving.
Can you imagine the uproar in Australia and the United Nations if the Australian Government banned the Australian Bureau of Statistics from obtaining data on the parlous Third World state of Aboriginal people, arguing that Australia does not need data on ethnicity since everyone is “Australian”. How scandalous.
What “majority” and strong representation in parliament?
Shameem: “Thus, when we talk about the rights of the indigenous in Fiji’s context, we are not speaking of a marginalised minority. We are talking about a majority community with a proud and active culture and a history of strong representation in Parliament.”
Shameem makes much of Fijians being the majority race in Fiji and being “strongly represented in parliament”.
But note, firstly, there are many countries in the world where conflicts have arisen because the majority ethnic group, for whatever reason, feel marginalized by those in power.
As for strong representation in parliament, Shameem conveniently forgets (probably because she was complicit in it) that the lawfully elected government of Qarase (which was not only supported by the majority of indigenous Fijians and the Fiji Labour Party) was removed by Bainimarama’s coup (with the strange approval of the Leader of the Fiji Labour Party- another sad story) with allegations of corruption which have never been proven after ten years.
On the contrary, corruption is still alive and well (“Corruption is dead. Long live corruption”?).
To this date the Bainimarama Government has not answered the legitimate questions asked by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee about ministers’ salaries (how much and why) from 2010 to 2013 being paid through a private accounting company relate to the Attorney General or about consultancies awarded without proper tender.
[These questions were being asked when Professor Biman Prasad was chairman but appeared to have died when he was removed as Chair. Neither is the pathetic public asking why the SODELPA reps on the PAC have also gone quiet on this issue. Was there a deal?)
The “new” right to life and freedom from torture?
Shameem: “the Fijian Parliament in 2015 abolished the last vestiges of the death penalty remaining in the Fiji Military Forces Act, thus giving credence to section 8 of the Fijian Constitution which is the right to life. Moreover, in March 2016, Fiji ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture or UNCAT, which complemented section 11 of the Fijian Constitution which already says that every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment…. There will now be discussions about a new offence of torture”.
How extraordinary that Shameem presents all these as new developments under Bainimarama when they were all there under the previous constitutions.
How extraordinary that Shameem ignores that it has been under Bainimarama’s command, both as Prime Minister and as Military Commander, that there have been numerous cases of torture some even leading to death, with many of the culprits not being brought to justice.
How extraordinary that Nazhat Shameem, a former High Court Judge, talks about a “new offence of torture” as if it previously had not been an offence before Bainimarama came along with his 2006 coup.
Perhaps the Fiji lawyers and the Fiji Law Society can ask Nazhat Shameem and her sharp legal mind, whether all the immunity provisions in the Bainimarama Government’s 2013 Constitution (never approved by the Fiji parliament) prevents prosecution of those accused of torture, manslaughter and murder and whether the Statute of Limitations applies to all the coups (of 1987, 2000 and 2006) and the mutiny of 2000.
If they are masochistic enough, experts in law, language and literature can waste many more hours of their valuable time to “deconstruct” (using Ashwin’s jargon) Shameem’s speech and show how it amounts to mere propaganda about how the Bainimarama Government “is the first in Fiji” to ever do anything decent for its people.
They can start with this gem, which is so worthy of Ashwin Raj (Chairman of MIDA and Fiji Human Rights Commission) that one might think he had a hand in this literary masterpiece by Nazhat Shameem.
Shameem: “Fiji has embarked upon a path of substantive equality, and this path requires a level of gender, disability and cultural competence and the ability to understand that poverty and disadvantage exists in all cultural groups. It also requires a recognition of cultural practices and attitudes as necessary for an understanding of how multiple sources of discrimination often intersect”.
Friday March 10, 2017
Privileged caste assertion insulting: NFP
Fiji’s Ambassador to Geneva’s reference to the indigenous Fijian or i-Taukei community institutionalizing discrimination and becoming a privileged caste before the promulgation of the 2013 Constitution is demeaning to our indigenous community.
We question whether it is the official policy of Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First Government to castigate ethnic groups of our multicultural community to justify their case to be elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
"It is simply astonishing and worrying that Ambassador Nazhat Shameem chose to use a global megaphone to make a demeaning statement while conveniently steering clear from the human rights stock-take that the UN Human Rights Council is due, and ignoring the appalling state of human rights in Fiji."
Ambassador Shameem has basically camouflaged the real issue of human rights abuses in Fiji through limitations in the 2013 Constitution’s Bill of Rights, as well as several complaints made against police for alleged brutality, even resulting in death of one while in police custody, and the lackadaisical attitude adopted by the law enforcement agencies to promptly investigate such cases with impartiality.
For example, there has ben no official word on the circumstances surrounding the death of Vikarant Chandra while in police custody.
In another incident case has been bought to our attention, a female victim who was allegedly stripped naked in public view by police in January, is still awaiting answers and crying for justice more than a month.
She suffered cruel and degrading treatment but the police response has been lackadaisical and has even gone to the extent of accusing the victim of manufacturing her sorry saga."
"Very recently in Nadi, Ashneel Kumar was viciously assaulted by police who entered his residence by force, and he has lodged complaints to the Director of Fiji Human Rights Commission as well the Attorney General on 6th March."
"The onus on these appalling issues of recurring serious human rights violations by organs of the State, that we know about, is on the Government. It must show its sincerity as a measure of its worthiness of recent ratification to the UN Convention on Torture, and prove that to the nation that it is ready to be considered by the world as an upstanding candidate for the UN Human Rights Council seat."
Ambassador Shameem’s conduct of playing the blame game, without providing statistical data on what happened, and whether equal citizenry and the Bill of Rights under the 2013 Constitution is eradicating racism, is hallmark of this Government.
Unless and until this happens, Fiji is not worthy of a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.
Authorised by: -
Professor Biman Prasad
The furore over Nazhat Shameem's Geneva speech reminds us of the old NFP which had trapped the Indo-Fijians in a bottomless pit for decades
Fijileaks: Dear Jack Sparrow and other readers. As requested we have located this article of Victor Lal which was reproduced on People's Coalition Government website in August 2001; when Victor Lal defended FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry against attacks from NFP he was not aware that Chaudhry was hiding two million dollars in Australia, scooped up by Chaudhry from the debris of race and indigenous rights politics; however, Victor Lal stands by his 2001 analysis on NFP
The NFP has trapped Indo-Fijians into a Bottomless Past
The great Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore once wrote that, ‘The bond of kingship that prevails within the community not only protects it from wanton cruelty and injustice from inside but is the natural nerve channel through which we directly feel our own race in its entirety. But the stranger from outside can easily be unjust, owing to the fact that he has not to pay for his conduct in his own feeling and be checked by that deeper sensibility which goes directly beyond the miscellany of facts into the heart of living unity. And for the sake of his own benefit and other’s safety he must bring with him his inner light of imagination, so that he may feel truth and not merely know facts’.
In many respects, the National Federation Party (NFP) was founded in the 1960s to protect Indian interests in Fiji. Some would even argue that it was founded to protect the bourgeoisie and big Indo-Fijian mahajans (businessmen) in the country. Whatever the aims and objectives of the original founding fathers of the NFP, the Indo-Fijian community, like its Fijian counterpart, is heavily fragmented. The lines of cleavage are many. There are divisions into formal political parties; there are ethnic divisions between the descendants of ‘girmitwala’ and khula (free) ‘bombaywallah’. Indo-Fijian politics is further fragmented by immunerable clashes of personality between leading political figures. Inevitably, on each major issue facing the Indo-Fijians a united response is difficult to achieve, even in times of grave Fijian provocation, violence, and political vandalism.
Moreover, in the current political climate, there is a deep division between Indo-Fijian leaders who comfortably set in front of their TVs eating their favourite chicken curry and roti, and between their rival Indo-Fijian political counterparts who suffered for 56 days at the hands of the pseudo-Fijian nationalist George Speight and his Nazi-like storm troopers, including the mysterious ten Indo-Fijian businessmen and countless others who backed the overthrow of the Peoples Coalition Government of Mahendra Pal Chaudhry.
In view of this, the NFP’s crude attempt recently to lay the blame on Fiji’s racial, economic and political problems on the shoulders of deposed Prime Minister Chaudhry smacks of cheap, crude, mischievous, and gutter politics.
The disguised attack, tantamount to calling for the political and even personal ‘assassination’ of Chaudhry at the recent annual NFP convention, is a case in point. The former NFP leader Harish Sharma told the political gathering that the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) was a sinking boat and it would do everything possible to stay afloat. He said the FLP was telling voters that the NFP was behind Speight’s civilian coup. Sharma called on voters to think wisely about whom they wanted as their leaders after the August elections. According to the Fiji Times, Sharma called on sufferers of the political crisis to get rid of such leaders. ‘One man above can destroy a nation. If there’s a man amongst us, we should get rid of him. I won’t name him but I guess all of you know who I am referring to,’ Sharma told supporters at the party’s annual convention in Suva.
He also said the biggest problem faced by the Indo-Fijian community was the expiry of land leases and that the only way to resolve the issue was through dialogue. ‘If you are going to annoy the landowners, then what hope will leaders have to solve the problems? In their 12 months of leadership, they (FLP) were not able to give any tenant even five days lease.’ Sharma also claimed that after 30 years of independence, the country was still divided into racial compartments and the progress of the nation had been disregarded. The NFP president Joginder Singh spoke on the 1997 Constitution, saying the party was instrumental in providing leadership for the negotiations. ‘We delivered the Constitution and I believe we would have delivered a solution to the land problems to resolve the land problems,’ he said. ‘We will work with Fijian leaders to resolve the land problems after the elections’. He warned politicians to do away with racial politics, saying Fiji was home to all people, regardless of race and religion. Bauan chief and former High Court judge Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, who also spoke at the convention, supported him. Ratu Joni, however, failed to berate his hosts, the NFP leaders, for the state of racial affairs in Fiji. It is they, and their party, of all the Indo-Fijian leaders, who kept the two major races - Fijians and Indo-Fijians-apart since the 1920s.
The Wolves Among the Hawks
It is surprising that some of the cheerleaders at the NFP convention included Adi Kuin Speed of the FAP, Filipe Bole of the SVT, Tupeni Baba of the New Labour Party, former Cabinet ministers David Pickering and Meli Bogileka, former parliamentarian Ofa Duncan and former senator Dalpat Rathod.
What a motley gathering to endorse the NFP sermon on multi-racialism at a pre-dominantly Indo-Fijian political party. It was not long ago, in 1999, when Adi Kuini tried to lay claim to the Prime Ministership of Fiji over the head of Chaudhry on the grounds that the FAP was the largest Fijian political party in Parliament. Baba, on the other hand, as he made a failed bid to oust Chaudhry from the FLP leadership, told the world that Fiji was not ready for an Indo-Fijian Prime Minister and that he should lead the nation as an ethnic Taukei to reassure the rent-a-mob Fijians who had helped depose his own Peoples Coalition Government of Fiji. And still going further into the dark and violent recesses of history-1987- Bole played a leading role as a Taukei to help the Father of the Two Coups in Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, to overthrow the Timoci Bavadra-Harish Sharma’s FLP-NFP Coalition Government of Fiji. Rabuka was aided and assisted by the leader of the New Labour Party, Ratu Meli Vesikula, the most ruthless fanatic and fearsome leader of the Taukei Movement, and now a born-again multi-racialist.
The truth of the matter is the 1997 Constitution, which Chaudhry and others, including the international community, forced Rabuka to promulgate, was designed in such a way to ensure that the SVT-NFP Coalition was returned to power in the 1999 general elections. Rabuka was to continue as Prime Minister and the former NFP leader Jai Ram Reddy, was designated as his Deputy PM. The election result, as we all are aware of and which does not need repeating here, went the other way: to the FLP and its Coalition partners. Now, the NFP leaders who failed to win a single seat in the last Parliament are blaming Chaudhry for all the ills afflicting the nation.
Sharma toppled as Deputy PM in 1987
Can the former NFP leader Harish Sharma explain to the nation why he was overthrown by the racist pseudo Fijian supremacist Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987 as Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji? Was it because he was the ‘one man who alone was hell-bent on destroying the nation’ in 1987? Is Sharma saying that George Speight and his thugs were absolutely right to overthrow Chaudhry as PM? Why was it that the 1999 Peoples Coalition Government of Chaudhry was overthrown in 365 days, and the 1987 FLP-NFP Government of Sharma was overthrown in only 33 days? Was it because of the presence of Chaudhry as Sharma’s Minister of Finance in 1987? Or was it because Sharma was ‘a danger to Fijian culture, chiefs, land and language’ in Fiji?
It is time the likes of Sharma and the NFP parliamentarians stopped playing cheap politics with the lives of Indo-Fijians in Fiji? It is time the NFP answered some long-hard questions. It is time for the NFP to explain why after 30 years of independence Fiji is still a divided nation.
We will try and answer some of the questions. One is the opportunistic politicians in the NFP and the Fijian politicians in other parties. Another reason is that the NFP and the Alliance Party, and later the NFP’s newfound bride Sitiveni Rabuka and the SVT, manipulated race and ethnicity to perpetuate the politics or race and hate in Fiji. The NFP is, broadly speaking a racist Indo-Fijian ethno-centric party, which manipulated Indo-Fijian fears and helplessness to remain on the political scene for over 30 years until the Indo-Fijians woke up from their ‘coolie mentality’ in 1999, and drowned them in the political bathwater. Now, the NFP leaders are once again using religious forum, temples, and holy occasions in the name of multi-racialism to manipulate ethnicity and whip up the politics of fear in the Indo-Fijian community. It is time, therefore, to stop blaming Chaudhry. Its time for the NFP leaders to look into the skeletons in their own political cupboards. It is time the NFP came out of the bridal underpants of the so-called moderate Fijians, some of whom have blood on their hands and racial exclusivity feelings in their hearts.
NFP and Land Problems
It is absolutely appalling and mischievous to blame Chaudhry and the Peoples Coalition Government for the land problems. The land problem facing the Indo-Fijian community is the result of the politics of the Alliance Party and the NFP ‘ALTA Gangs’ makings. During one the parliamentary sessions in the late 1970s Ratu Mara, then Prime Minister of Fiji made a curt and pertinent remark on the behaviour of the Indo-Fijian leaders. He reminded the House that on the Opposition benches were some of the best legal brains in the country, and if they really wanted to, they could solve the land problem amicably. Instead, what we witnessed was the pathetic infighting among the NFP politicians on the land issue.
ALTO breaks NFP
In 1976, to allay Indo-Fijian fears, the Alliance government passed the Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act (ALTA), which guaranteed Indo-Fijians 30-year leases, but, unlike the specification of the 1967 ALTO’s three 10-year periods, the 1976 Act specified an uninterrupted 20-year lease, plus 10 years. This Act split the National Federation Party (NFP): a group of NFP parliamentarians including Harish Sharma, defying their colleagues’ demands for 99-year leases, supported the Alliance which, constitutionally, needed 39 votes, including that of the Speaker, to push the Act through Parliament. Mrs Irene Jai Narayan and Karam Ramrakha, along with Messrs Hargovind Lodhia, Isikeli Nadalo, Anirudh Kuver, Sarwan Singh and Captain Atunaisa Maitoga, favoured the Bill. Siddiq Koya and his trusted lieutenants, Messrs Chirag Ali Shah, Apisai Tora, Ujagar Singh, Chandra Pillay, Ram Jati Singh and Edmund March, led the anti-ALTO movement. Koya’s main objection to the Bill was what he sincerely believed to be a dangerous rent-fixing mechanism in it.
Many Indo-Fijians rightly concluded that the passage of the Bill spelt the end of their fight for long-term security. The opposing faction charged the NFP ‘ALTO Gang’ with selling out the community while the Alliance faced similar charges from the Fijian Nationalist Party (FNP), which claimed that the extension of the leases robbed the Fijians of their land rights. And once again the land issue emerged as a source of conflict. As K.C. Ramrakha put it: ‘No matter what Mrs Jai Narayan would have said on the ALTO, Koya was determined to oppose her and the party broke into two pieces over this Bill. Please do not forget, it was not Karam Ramrakha who broke the party, it was an issue, the ALTO bill.’
‘Blood will Flow’ - Ratu Mara
Similarly, an attack by Ramrakha on the NLTB provoked the then Minister of Fijian Affairs, Ratu William Toganivalu, into stating that the Board would lease no more land to the Indo-Fijians. But it was the then Prime Minister and now President Ratu Mara’s statement on land matters that took the Indo-Fijian community by storm. On 1 March 1978, while the House of Representatives was debating a government sponsored motion to grant $1,27000 to the NLTB, Ratu Mara warned the country of the Fijians’ response if their land rights were trampled upon. In his statement to the House, claiming that he had been provoked by an Indian MP’s ‘malicious, insulting and provocative statement on the NLTB’, Ratu Mara said: ‘Why do the Fijians feel so emotional when questions of their land is discussed in this House? If people, the citizens of this nation, do not understand the deep emotional feeling of the Fijians, they should know now because if they tread on it and hurt it, blood will flow in this country’.
Others, notably Sakeasi Butadroka, saw a peaceful and bloodless solution to the land issue: the mass deportation of the people of Indian origin at the expense of the British government. The Indo-Fijians worst enemy was the NFP itself: it had divided the Hindus and Muslims into Dove and Flower Factions in 1977 as the opposing leaders fought for the control of the NFP leadership and its mango tree symbol.
Reddy’s Toilet Remark
In the 1982 general elections, the then leader of the NFP, Jai Ram Reddy, had successfully negotiated with the Western United Front (WUF), led by two western chiefs, Ratu Osea Gavidi and Ratu Napolioni Dawai, to fight the election as NFP-WUF Coalition. Reddy presented the Coalition as Fiji’s ‘first truly multi-racial coalition capable of responding to the wishes of all communities’.
But the election followed what London’s influential The Financial Times described as ‘a bitter campaign dominated by racial issues and marred by smear tactics’, and a major official inquiry opened in March 1983 into the conduct of the campaign. What was supposed to be a clean 1982 campaign characterized by promises of providing one kind of amenity or another broke all rules of the political game. The personalization and vituperation disrupted the clam of a ‘budding democracy’ and revealed all the political depravity and often-ugly competitiveness characteristic of a plural society in which restraint imposed by traditional values was ignored.
The pettiness and character assassination took an ugly turn when Reddy, with uncharacteristic rashness, told a political meeting in Labasa that Ratu Mara would even open a toilet to shake a few more Indian hands to get their votes. The Alliance Party branded Reddy ‘racist’ and claimed that this remark had insulted the Fijian people and the chiefs.
As a result, a group of villagers, led by a ‘touchy’ chief, demolished a temporary building where Reddy was holding a political meeting. In another incident, a chief banned Coalition candidate’s holding meetings in the Yasawa Islands. He later claimed that all political parties opposing the Alliance Party had been similarly banned.
NFP and Fijian cannibalism
Not to mention the introduction by the NFP-WUF into Fiji the Australian Four Corners Programme which pointed out that the Fijian leaders were descendants of cannibals ‘who ate and clubbed their way to power in these islands centuries ago’, and that ‘the democratic chief of Fiji for the past 12 years is such a descendant: a Ratu, a Chief, and a Knight too, Sir Kamisese Mara’.
The end result was the hardening of the position of the Great Council of Chiefs attitude towards the Indo-Fijian leaders, and indirectly, towards the Indo-Fijian community. Shortly after the 1982 election results, the GCC began calling for the change to the 1970 Constitution and that Fiji should be led by a Fijian Prime Minister in Fiji. Some Fijian politicians, who set the stage for Rabuka to overthrow the Bavadra-Sharma Coalition Government in 1987, thus manipulated the lingering fear and loathing of the Indo-Fijian leaders to the extreme. Captain Savenaca Draunidalo, Adi Kuni Bavadra Speed’s ex-husband who was recently dismissed for allegedly improper sexual activities in a public place, assisted Rabuka in his illegal act. Ironically, the NFP had alleged in the 1982 elections that Clive Speed (now the husband of Adi Kuini), the former Australian journalist, was ‘churning out election propaganda for the Alliance Party’.
In the 1987 elections, the Fijian nationalists, in a similar language that they deployed against Chaudhry last year, had claimed that Jai Ram Reddy was the ‘bullet’ and Bavadra, the late husband of Adi Kuini, was a ‘gun’. In other words, and despite the fact that the vast majority of important and sensitive portfolios in the Bavadra-Sharma government was held by ethnic Fijians, the Indo-Fijian leaders were secretly planning to takeover Fiji.
So, it is time the NFP stopped playing the ‘Speight Card’ in reverse to blame non-NFP leaders for the tragic and sad state of others in Fiji, notably the plight of Indo-Fijian farmers.
The Tale of Two Chiefs and Land Problem
The district of Ba has an historical anomaly. It has two tui or kings and both are called Tui Ba. One lives in the village of Nailaga and the other in Sorokoba. Rival claimants to the Tui Ba title could not claim outright victory and thus resulted the anomalous co-existence of two tui. The senior line lives in Nailaga and the new line lives in Sorokoba. The historical rivalry between the two lines persists in contemporary power struggles. The Ba district formed a political party, the Party of National Unity (PANU), and became a minor but important partner of the 1999 governing coalition.
The Tui Ba in Sorokoba (also known as Tui Ba 1 Bulu) was the current patron of PANU and an influential member of the Fiji Labour Party/Fijian Association Party/Party of National Unity (FLP/FAP/PANU) government coalition ousted by rebels in May 2000. He is also a personal friend and supporter of the deposed Prime Minister Chaudhry. The other Tui Ba titleholder in Nailaga is a staunch member of the Soqosoqo Vakavulewa Ni Taukei (SVT), which lost power. The political significance of Ba lies in economics. The district lays in a province, which is the location of some of the largest tracts of agricultural land under sugar, Fiji’s largest export earner. It is also home to a large number of mostly Fiji-Indian (Indo-Fijian) cane farmers. The formation of PANU has had its fair share of internal dissension the cause of which can be explained in terms of the power struggle between the two chiefly lines.
A major issue fuelling this tension was the loss by political maverick Apisai Tora (PANU’s former General Secretary) at the May elections to a Labour candidate and coalition partner. Tora claimed Chaudhry had reneged on a deal which saw the two coalition partners fielding parallel candidates for the same constituency. Tora’s loss was also related to the different political affiliation of the two leading tui of Ba.
A major casualty was the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Agreement (ALTA). From June to September this issue sparked bitter debates in the nation’s boardrooms, Parliament and media. Eventually, at PANU’s annual general meeting, Apisai Tora was removed, a move that was endorsed by the two tui, and replaced by cabinet minister Ponipate Lesaivua as party leader. Without their joint agreement, Tora’s removal would have been a slow and costly affair.
This perceptive analysis of Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano in the recent issue of the Journal of Pacific History, we think, neatly captures the recent and perennial infighting inside the Fijian leadership, and also starkly demonstrates why the Chaudhry government could not solve the issue of leased land to the Indo-Fijians. Most recently, the FLP again alleged that Tora was threatening the Indo-Fijian cane farmers over the expiry of land leases.
Fiji’s racial and political problems are complex and intricate, and the blame for the racial gulf that divides the nation lies at the doorsteps of the NFP and the Alliance Party, who had for many years been able to attract big Indo-Fijian businessmen and Gujarati merchant votes in successive general elections. The Gujaratis, particularly the big businessmen, flocked to the Alliance in order to protect their financial interests in the country. We must not forget to remind ourselves of the contribution of the Indo-Fijians in the Indian Alliance, including my late father who was for several years the President of the Tailevu North Alliance District Council.
The Indo-Fijian mahajans, money, and ‘Mother India’
Sadly, some Gujarati businessmen still behave as if they are still living in the Fiji of the 1920s, when they first arrived here, rather than living in the country in the 21st century. Even some of their own kith and kin have called for the public flogging of some who allegedly funded the overthrow of the Chaudhry government. In the eyes of the descendants of Indo-Fijian coolies, the behaviour of some of the Gujarati’s can be characterised as a tale of divided loyalties and shame as our own refugee children had been going hungry in the camps in Girmit Centre in Lautoka.
When the devastating earthquake struck the Indian city of Gujarat on 26 January of this year, it’s after shocks were felt millions of miles away in the remote islands of Fiji. The Gujarati community of Fiji suddenly woke up to share the pain and suffering of their countrymen in ‘Mother India’. It was time for communal solidarity with their kinsmen, both in prayers and monetary contributions. We are not privy to any statistics about how much money was funnelled through the Bank of Baroda, if any, to assist the earthquake victims.
But what we do know from press reports is that the Interim Government contributed $20,000 towards the rehabilitation and assistance of the victims. The question one needs to ask is whether the money reached its intended beneficiaries. Or was is swallowed by the upper caste Gujaratis and Jains who refused to move in and share even sleeping tents with the Dalits (the so-called Untouchables) in the village of Adhoi.
Our Gujarati friends, the ‘Gujis’ or Bambaiyas, have every right to be irritated with us, for after all; death and disaster is no respecter of race, class, creed, religion or caste. God’s adversity is man’s opportunity to come together in one grand wheel of humanity. Why are we even bothered to raise the issue in our column?
The answer is three fold: first, there is an old worn-out saying that ‘charity begins at home’; secondly, the Interim Government sent the money that was our taxpayers money, and thirdly, we are raising the issue because of a small but significant story that appeared in the respectable British newspaper, The Guardian, and which might have escaped the notice of our readers and the authorities, not to mention the bambaiyas of Fiji.
On Saturday 17 February 2001, the Guardian’s India correspondent, Luke Harding, filed the following story from the town of Adhoi: ‘In a dusty field in the village of Adhoi, white tents flap emptily in the wind. Near by, young boys fly kites, cows graze in the dirt and the sun beats down. In the days after the devastating earthquake that wrecked this part of western India, soldiers arrived and erected the tents as emergency shelter. But the village’s influential upper caste Patel community refused to move in. There was nothing wrong with the tents. The problem was the new neighbours 15 metres away: Adhoi’s Dalits (Untouchables) who had already set up a makeshift camp using old bed sheets and bamboo poles. As the days went by the tents the army had set up remained eerily vacant? Eventually the soldiers took most of them away. Three weeks after the quake ripped across the state of Gujarat, killing at least 30,000, it is clear that in the village at least, shared adversity has done little to break down old prejudices. From lower caste Hindus and poor Muslim families there are mounting accusations that much of the aid that has cascaded into Kutch, the worst affected district, has been withheld from them. In the hours after the tremors reduced Adhoi’s main street to rubble, burying a parade of small girls, villagers worked to retrieve more than 400 dead. But, the poor and their leaders, allege, when the first aid trucks appeared the next day members of the dominant Jain and Patel communities diverted them towards their own people.’
‘For the first three days we had nothing to eat,’ a Dalit villager, Pravin Bharward, complained to the Guardian: ‘They told the trucks to avoid us and said we were disease-ridden.’ The Jains started a relief kitchen, but only the upper castes were encouraged to eat, he said. Two days later, a swami (holy man) arrived at Adhoi with three trucks and began a separate camp for the ‘backward’ castes. ‘If it wasn’t for the swami we would have died of hunger,’ Bharward said. Though Adhoi is completely destroyed, the Guardian found that the Gujaratis refuse to live next to the Dalits. The Dalits camp is to the north. Next door are the Kolis, another ‘backward’ caste.
The Patels and the Jains have set up camp down the road, close to the village’s shattered and pigeon-infested temple. The shepherd caste is somewhere else. Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, who fought against the evils of caste. He gave the Dalits, the name Harijans- The Children of God.’
Gandhi also played an influential role in the ending of the Indian indentured labour system throughout the British Empire.
In fact, the last Indian coolie was technically freed in Fiji.
But three-quarters of a century later his or her descendants are still ‘coolies’ in 21st century Fiji Islands, in part because of the behaviour of the Indo-Fijian businessmen, and the NFP politicians who preached and practised the politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’ since the 1960s.
It is not surprising, therefore, that ordinary Fijians have been brainwashed into believing that Indo-Fijians commercially own Fiji, and politically have no desire to integrate and make Fiji their home. The vast majority of Indo-Fijians tried to break free from the stereotype by voting for the FLP in the 1999 elections, and what one of the most high-profile Indo-Fijians in the Alliance Party, Dr Ahmed Ali, pointed out in 1973 still holds true in 2001: ‘The prosperity among the Indians is largely in the hands of ‘free’ migrants: the Gujarati merchants who dominate commerce. Among the non-Gujarati Indians, wealth lies in the hands of the few who own large construction firms, monopolize the transport industry or have other large business interests.’
The Royal Commission on Voting made a similar observation in 1975: ‘The ordinary men, seeing the extent to which shops and other commercial activities are in Indian hands, believe that the economic power of the Indian population as a whole is very great. In fact, it is not so significant when compared with the international companies in Fiji.’
It is time, therefore, that the NFP woke up to the truth. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, the seeds of Indo-Fijian misery, which now also is affecting the Fijians and other minority groups, is the handiwork of one, and only one man- Sitiveni Rabuka. Instead of bringing him to legal books, the NFP had been strangely, shamelessly, and soundly politically sleeping with the destroyer of the country’s chequered history in multi-racialism, and was willing to be a junior partner if the 1999 elections had been won by the SVT-NFP Coalition.
As the veteran politician and columnist Sir Vijay Singh once remarked that Sitiveni Rabuka did no favour to the Indo-Fijian community by promulgating the 1997 Constitution of Fiji. He gave back to them what he had stolen in 1987 under the pretext of indigenous rights, and that the likes of Harish Sharma, a devout Hindu of public standing, was a pagan who should be converted to Christianity.
The Ghost of Koya for Sharma
It is worth reminding Harish Sharma of the events of 1986, when he as NFP secretary, along with Shardha Nand, and Navin Patel prepared the ‘Appraisal Report’ on revitalising the NFP. The Report argued that unless the NFP took drastic action the Alliance Party would win the next (1987) general election by a large party. It noted that the needs and demands of voters had changed considerably since independence and questioned whether the NFP had adapted to those changes. Among the recommendations was the change in leadership. Siddiq Koya led the NFP.
Koya, however, addressed a public meeting in Nasinu. He warned that the NFP would be crushed in the upcoming (1987) election and that the ‘Indian people’ would be ‘finished’ if they failed to unite behind the NFP. Referring to the prospect of the Alliance Party winning enough seats to change the 1970 Constitution, Koya stated that the ‘Alliance people will do legally what Mr Butadroka is trying to do now’ and referred to racist statements made in Parliament by NFP defector to the Alliance- Apisai Tora.
Koya, as the historian Michael Howard, formerly of USP points out, then launched into a series of personal attacks in which he accused members of the Fiji press and supporters of the newly formed Fiji Labour Party of diving the Indo-Fijian community (‘you are responsible for destroying’) and stated, ‘I am after your blood and I will fight you. You will be without jobs soon’. Some NFP members had to apologise to the reporters for Koya’s outbursts: ‘We did not know what he was going to talk about. If we had known we would have stopped him before he began. But we could not stop him once he had started making a public speech, as it would have led to open conflict between us. But the rest of the new NFP does not feel the same way and do not have the false fears he carries’.
The following day, the previous Fiji Sun editorial commented: ‘The drumbeat of racial politics is on the march again as Siddiq Koya tries to rally the fragmented National Federation Party. Mr Koya’s reversion to the politics of race is a sign of just how desperate he has become.’ The Sun asked whether the NFP continued to function as a viable opposition party. Harish Sharma as the new NFP leader replaced Siddiq Koya.
In a telling reminder to the NFP leaders, as Michael Howard (Race, Class and Politics in Fiji) points out, the secretary of the Navua branch of the NFP, Vijay Kumar, reminded: ‘We do not regard Labour as our opponents but as a brother party.’ According to Howard, it was sentiment that was shared by many rank-and-file members of the NFP, but not by party leaders who continued to see Fiji Labour Party as a threat. If anything, Sharma’s recent outbursts at the NFP Convention reveal that after 15 years following Koya’s Nasinu speech, the FLP and Mahendra Chaudhry still remain a threat to the NFP.
The NFP jumped into the political bed with the FLP as a junior partner in the 1987 elections, and surprisingly, Harish Sharma was appointed Dr Bavadra’s Deputy Prime Minister, the first Indo-Fijian to ever do so in independent Fiji.
But after 33 days in political office, the Bible-bashing lay preacher, obscure colonel and Fijian saviour-Sitiveni Rabuka-and his bogus, violent, and fanatical defenders of Taukeism overthrew Sharma and his government in the name of indigenous rights.
For the next twelve years the NFP shamelessly consorted with the political rapist and would have continued to do so if the voters in the 1999 elections, led by the FLP and Mahendra Chaudhry, had not decisively rejected the SVT-NFP Coalition.
NFP and Rebuff to President
The NFP, as we have already shown, is the principal manufacturer of the plight of the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji.
It is time it owned up to its past sins.
Its most recent contribution to bad race relations was its rejection of the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo’s apology on behalf of the Fijian community for the pain and suffering that the Indo-Fijians suffered at the hands of George Speight and his thugs.
Even Chaudhry, the principal victim of Speight’s brutality, had told the nation to move on, for he held no grudge against George Speight. He left the law to take care of the hostage-taker and destroyer of Fiji.
The NFP leaders should stop trying to hold the Indo-Fijians and non-Fijians in the bottomless trapdoor in which they have been past masters before and after Fiji’s independence in 1970.
We live in the 21st century.
People's Coalition Government - Fiji Islands
Last update: August 27, 2001
CASTE or CLASS: The official speech of Nazhat Shameem in Geneva and posted on Fiji's Geneva Mission website on 27 February says CLASS
Mr President, on the issue of racism, it must be noted that racism was institutionalised in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class, a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and class, and that racist attitudes were engrained in all communities, which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion. Racism in Fiji is often disguised by assertions that a community’s own cultural identity is being submerged under the blanket of national unity. These assertions are often made by relying on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. In Fiji, the indigenous people are in the majority. They constitute to over 60% of the population and their rights to land, minerals, fishing and cultural succession are protected under the Fijian Constitution. Thus, when we talk about the rights of the indigenous in Fiji’s context, we are not speaking of a marginalised minority. We are talking about a majority community with a proud and active culture and a history of strong representation in Parliament.
"...Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives." --Robert A. Heinlein, -If This Goes On
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