(+) Just Back from Fiji

Author of Tears in Paradise, the 125 year story of Indians in Fiji, Rajendra Prasad, has just returned to New Zealand from Fiji.  This is what he had to say of his trip in Indian NewsLink, NZ's highest circulation Indian newspaper.
During my recent visit to Fiji, I was amazed at the widespread normalcy powerfully evident, in most urban centers, depicting the social, political and economic pulse of the nation.
Fiji has not escaped the impact of the global recession, and is additionally suffering the sanctions imposed by Australia and New Zealand against the Interim Government led by Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.
The Reserve Bank of Fiji devalued the Fijian Dollar to sustain liquidity.
Fiji is struggling but not panicking. As Australia and New Zealand ease their sanctions and as tourism picks up, the country’s economic performance may be better this year.
Further, the expected high price for sugar may assist in restoring stability, notwithstanding the decline in sugar output.
The promise of 99-year farm leases to farmers could reinvigorate the agricultural sector, which was savaged when Indo-Fijian farmers suffered massive eviction, leaving the rich and productive farmland fallow.
After a decade, most farmlands are now covered by bush. Many villages are silent and somnolent, as those who once gave it life were herded out because they were Indo-Fijians.
There is hope that the Interim Government may restore these farms to productive use, securing the interests of landowners and tenants for mutual benefit. 

Improved race relations
Race relations have improved remarkably. The previous governments used racism to retain their dominance. The Bainimarama Government has doused the flames and if it continues on its path, the small embers would extinguish by itself, as sanity, reason and understanding nourish the hearts and minds of the people.
I traveled to Suva from Ba twice and met many people and none of them spoke against Commodore Bainimarama or his government. The radio talkback shows praised him and talk around the proverbial kava bowel was appreciation. But this is not to claim that there are no critics. Clearly, they are a minority and comprise supporters of deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase or his SDL Party.
Few things were obvious, to which the public has responded positively. Civil service is being purged of corrupt officials. In the last two years, 50 officers from Works and Transport Ministry lost their jobs for abuse of authority, nepotism, fraud, corruption and bribery. Eleven other departments are under investigation. Those who indulged in corruption in the past have realigned with the dictates of the Interim Government, aware of the dire consequences.
The civil service has been reinvigorated and officials have awakened from their slumber, responding to the new era with pace and urgency.  
Mr Bainimarama visited Raki Raki and Ba rural areas to connect with the farming communities. Anyone can send him a text on 01 and raise their concerns. We complained about the bad condition of road that served our village and found roadwork undertaken in about two days.
The crime scene
Most people felt that crime was on the decline. For the first time in the history of our village, arsonists who habitually carried out the annual ritual of burning sugarcane plantations were restrained. Those village thugs, engaged in extortion, using strong-arm tactics or glib tongue, have largely been disabled.
The legal profession is being regulated by the Government, sending a strong message to practitioners that they cannot now dodge or evade, after dispensing their services recklessly.
However, organised crime including raiding service stations, business places and homes of business owners are of concern. The authorities continue to target the perpetrators of such crimes but with measured success.
Politicians are in forced hibernation. Many may never return to the pasture that they relished, as the El Nino effect on Fiji’s political landscape may continue until 2014. The Great Council of Chiefs was dissolved over three years ago and may never meet again.
The Methodist Church has been forced to retreat to the pulpit and its role restricted to the spiritual realm. It cannot hold its annual fĂȘte, collecting millions of dollars from its members and using the forum to indoctrinate them with the political ideology of the nationalists.
The Interim Government has taken some bold initiatives that no elected government would have had the courage to undertake. Hopefully, it would be able to restore the desires, dreams and aspirations of the people of Fiji – a country where all its peoples’ will look at each other as equal citizens, and not with the racial tag.
Reprinted, with thanks, from Indian New Week.


Qanibulu said…
I think the readers would be more interested to hear about his encounters with ordinary people and the pulse of the land rather than an appraisal of the political landscape, which we can get any day from blogsites such as this and the media.

Too many generalisations in an article that borders on spin.

BTW the "proverbial kava bowel" syndrome is what you get after drinking too much dodgy kava from the Sigatoka markets.

Coming from an academic I am appalled he has chosen not to use the local vernacular as a sign of respect - the "bowel" is called a tanoa. Pathetic.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Liu Muri said…
Rajendra Prasad is neither an academic nor somebody who would suck up to anybody. I have followed his writings and his book, Tears in Paradise. He is a simple family man who has been aggrieved by an unfair form of democracy that Fiji hitherto had. I have followed his writings and found them profound. What democratic election was the previous post speaking about?
Qarase had it under the wraps in 2006, supported by some greedy Chiefs and a very unspiritual Methodist Church. If those who raped and trashed democracy in 1987 and 2000 under the guise of indigenous superiority have not suffered the wrath imagined by my earlier friend, why should those who support removal of a racist and corrupt regime suffer?
We need more clear cut versions like this than the ones painted by people who were on Qarase's gravy train and now find themselves without a source of income or free-falling money.
Dream On! said…
Nice spin from a coup apologist but totally irrelevant in the real world.
Here is some REALITY CHECK for Raj and other coup apologists!

"Fiji's continued failure to respect human rights and the rule of law has prompted European Union to extend trade and aid sanctions against the government of that South Pacific island nation for six more months.

The measure means the suspension of EU's development aid to Fiji worth about 30 million euros ($44 million) and the payment of subsidies to sugar farmers in that country amounting to 115 million euros ($169) will remain in force until the end of September this year."

Sad for the sugar farmewrs and others.....

But here is more....

- Fiji is suspended from the Commonwealth and WONT be going to the Commonwealth Games in India!!
- NZ announced in HK (where was the 'president'???) that sanctions will not be lifted!!!

Let us know if you need any more info coup apologist??? There is plenty more and the war against Fijians is far from over yet!!
Croz Walsh said…
Earlier comment deleted because it was anonymous.
Long live the dictatorship said…
It's to be expected that crime is down and Indo-Fijians, in particular, feel generally safer under the "new order". The village thugs Prasad speaks of know that they'll get a good old fashioned buturaki nowadays if they step out of line. But rest assured, they'll just be biding their time until the pressure is off. Because the brutal truth in Fiji is that the place has only ever really functioned properly with a firm hand. When that hand is withdrawn in 2014, it'll be back to the bad old days. So enjoy the dictatorship while it lasts.
Nive said…
To Dream on

Can you please list the human rights that Fiji is not respecting?
Proud fijian said…
Was in Fiji in December and a particular farmer didn't have a cane burnt since he ever started farming - over 30 years.

Other gangs in the area were particularly careful about cane burning as you would all know were usually done by the gang under the guise of an accident.

Things need to change for Fiji and the only way is to instill a change in behavior and that takes time.

Hopefully, in 2014 (with the entry of a new younger generation of voters and workforce) the current trend in the civil service will continue.

About 80,000 people will starting entering the workforce and voting from 2014. These were between the age of 10-14 at the last census 2007.

There are another 80,000 who were entering the workforce since the coup of 2006.

How many of these are actually in the civil service I don't know but with reducing the retirement age and getting these young ones in and training them to have high work ethics and standard we would have i believe a very efficient and well run civil service.
Free Fiji now said…
@ Nive
Dear Govind
Hope this helps. Let us know if you want it in monosyllables.
This is from the EU - but if you need more it is available from the USA, UN, Australia, NZ etc etc - unfortunately not from Iran - that is a basket case like the current Fiji under the illegal regime...

""Fiji has lost access to tens of millions of dollars in aid from the European Union after it decided to extend sanctions by six months.

The EU move is to put pressure on the military regime in Suva to return to democracy and respect human rights.

The EU says the decision follows the delay in implementing commitments the Fiji authorities made to the EU, notably concerning the abrogation of the constitution, human rights violations and the postponement of parliamentary elections.""

Even a mongoose could understand what 'violation of human rights' means....try the murders of Fijian patriots and torture of pregnant women by the illegal regime...want names????
Perhaps you can get them from the suppressed media under this human rights abusing illegal regime???
Invictus said…
The human rights abuse that gets bandied around more often than not is a mere figment of one’s imagination, now this current regime is far from being perfect but then again which stratocracy is?

The difference between a Democratic led Government and a Military Government insofar as human rights abuse is concerned is this: A Democratic led Government has the imprimatur by the majority of people to rule with impunity including the abuse of its citizens.

Whereas in a stratocracy they do not have the imprimatur of the people but they rule with impunity.

So therefore it would be imprudent to suggest this current regime is odious, all one has to do is look back on Rabuka, Qarase and his deadbeat cronies’ respective governments to witness such flagitious crimes committed by these supposed Democratic Clowns where the mass subjugation of the people was the norm.

Is this not maltreatment?
snoopy said…
Many people going to Fiji are surprised by the nromalcy. The overseas media and limited news about Fiji makes it appear as if there is visible unease with the country. This is not the case.

I am surprise that people who state facts about the good things that are happening in Fiji are branded "coup apologists" by those who have their own agendas.
Tears of tedium said…
I hate to insert a dose of reality into the debate over Mr Prasad's comments but his analysis is pretty banal. In fact, is there anything here that we don't already know? What makes me wonder if he has any credibility at all is his once-over-lightly approach to the Fiji economy. There's a few too many coulds, mights and maybes for my liking. Talk to anyone in the business community in Fiji and they'll tell you new investment is zero. That, coupled with the dismal outlook for sugar, continuing EU sanctions, cyclone fallout etc ought to be ringing loud alarm bells. Cheap airfares aren't going to save the country either, only destroy Air Pacific as a viable carrier. So pardon me for concluding that these are the holiday musings of a Kai Idia expatriate indulging himself with a huge dollop of wishful thinking. Strange, Croz, that you'd give the piece such prominence.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Tears of tedium. What prominence? One item. One man's opinion; not an analysis. But it did show a side never mentioned in the media and for this reason alone it was worth publishing.

You are correct in detailing the economic problems but I'd be pleased to hear your views on how the EU and other sanctions are supposed to help, and what advice you'd give the local and overseas protagonists. In other words, what, realistically, do you advise to take Fiji forward?
Navosavakadua said…
What puzzles me when I read Rajendra Prasad's report is why he thinks an election cannot be held now. If there is so much support for the regime why can't they schedule elections for next year at the latest? They can rewrite the constitution to create a fair electoral system.

Rajendra Prasad may not know it, but Frank Bainimarama is in no doubt that he and any of the criminals in his government have no chance of winning a free and fair election any time soon.
Well you did ask, Croz said…
Well, Croz, my advice to the local protagonists ( and what other protagonist is there, realistically, apart from the regime? ) is to move a lot quicker on two vital fronts. Because until it does, international confidence in Fiji will continue to be adversely affected.

The first is to begin the process of electoral reform that will demonstrate, in a practical sense, that Fiji really is committed to holding elections in 2014. Had this process already started, perhaps the EU might have reinstated its aid. We were told there'd be a national forum in January to map the way forward for a return to democracy. What's happened? As far as I can see, nothing. Can't find a chairman? Try harder.

The second is to address the chronic lack of discipline, strategic planning and, especially, lack of basic communication, that characterises the regime. It's simply not doing enough to get a positive message across to the international community.. Whether or not it's governing effectively isn't enough. It needs to be seen to be governing effectively and working towards the restoration of democracy. As far as I can see, there's no concerted effort to address this woeful shortcoming, even with the regional media.

Let's take, as an example, the regime's treatment of the Methodist Church. It wonders why the rest of the world sees this simply as a case of religious persecution. But it doesn't do a jot to explain the stand-off more fully and present the evidence we all know is there of the church's pernicious influence in national life.

Even your own correspondents have demonstrated contempt for the notion of an effective PR campaign to explain the regime's case. But then have the gall to constantly complain about the failings of the regional media when they ( inevitably) embrace the message of the regime's vociferous and smarter opponents. The evidence is undeniable. Be willing to join the battle or be prepared for defeat, as a matter of course, in the court of public opinion.

Bainimarama and the Military Council seem to think that it's enough to be demonstrating to the country that government is being conducted more transparently and effectively. We know that compared to the last government, that is pretty much the case. But what the international community sees is a military dictatorship with no mandate other than the gun whacking its opponents around the head while promising to relinquish the reins of power in four year's time. Promises, promises.

Set in motion a transparent and credible process to deliver on those promises and you've gone some way to meeting the concerns of your critics. Then go out and sell that process vigorously ( by opening up the country to selected media, among other things ) and you've got some hope of regenerating investor confidence. Do nothing and the country continues to stagnate. Don't take my word for it. Talk to senior members of the business community in Fiji. The overwhelming sentiment is: "there's nothing happening" and "these guys have no idea". And that's a disaster for Fiji.
Corruption Fighter said…
Rajendra Prasad refers to "a promise of 99 year leases" . He's not quite right. There have been hints of 99 year leases among the promises to do something but no promises as specific as that.

Idle cane land is a problem, but it has been for the past three years and nothing has been done except make empty promises.

Btw, Rajendra Prasad, as fan of Bainimarama's new race free Fiji should not be talking about the problem as the 'eviction of Indo-Fijian farmers', even if they constitute the majority of farmers whose leases have not been renewed? We're all Fijian now. Indigenous farmers whose leases were not renewed were in the same boat.
Nive said…
To free fiji Now

Please go ahead and name one person who was murdered by the IG or one pregnant woman who was tortured by the IG. If you don't, all you are doing is running a smear campaign against the IG, and really you are hurting the people of Fiji. People like you and "Dream on" are the reason the EU has wrong information and are punishing the people of Fiji.
Nive said…
To Walsh
One letter, positive toward the country, the people and perhaps the IG, and how many nasty comments did you get condemning the letter? You still feel that these selfish, foul-mouth imbeciles should be able to say what they want and when they want to say it? My point about the IG blocking the blog-sites as they see fit is justified, is clearly demonstrated by this item alone.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Tear of Tedium. Many thanks. I've posted your ideas in Kickstart...
Invictus said…

Define Free and Fair election.
Dangling jubjubs said…
Great post, Tears of tedium.

Invictus – surely you’re asking a rhetorical question? If not then ‘free and fair’ could be defined by elections in America, UK, France, Australia, New Zealand… hanging chads, gerrymandered districts and all
Loonie said…
Stop being the poor little victim and get over not going to the Commonwealth games!!!
Oh.. and the EU said they will get some sugar and butter to you around 2014 - you have a nice Easter now~
Nive said…
To Free Fiji Now and Dream On
So you can't quote a single name of a person who was deprived of their human rights in Fiji by the IG. I thought so. Maybe that's why you don't want to use your real names. It's easier to tell lies when hiding behind a fictitious name.

To Loonie
I am not a victim. I don't care about the commonwealth games. I don't observe Easter. All I ask you lot is to stop spreading lies about the IG and what is happening Fiji in general. If you assert something, show proof. When you tell lies about Fiji's human rights and the govt, sanctions are imposed by other countries which hurt the ordinary people. Think of the consequences of your lies, will you.

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