Ono-i-Lau, Cakaudrove Apologize, Matanigasau - What Do They Mean? Aus Aid, Pacific Media Centre

Ono-i-Lau.Volcanic and coral; 7.9km2, max.elevation 113m. Pop.about 300.  Nearest island,Vatoa,90km. Distance to Suva 400km. Strong Tongan influences. Distance to Tongatapu 280km. photo  commons.wikipedia.com

(+) ONO-I-LAU APOLOGIZES. As the PM's tour of the Lau Group continues, Fiji's southernmost island offered a traditional apology for not previously supporting Government. The PM told the islanders that his government is making numerous changes to bring rural people in developments they had not seen before.Government's focus is now on education, health, water, roads and electricity as well as removing race based politics. Once again, the PM condemning previous goverments that had used a chief and church power base to stay in power, he said he wants to hand over power to a Government after the 2014 General Elections "that will stand for a good country and one people."

(+) GOVERNMENT NOT DISRESPECTFUL OF CHIEFS OR CHURCH. PM Bainimarama  told villagers on Ono-i-Lau that Government had not dissolved the Great Council of Chiefs out of disrespect but to stop politicians from influencing and manipulating the august body. He says the chiefs were getting involved in politics and seeking more for themselves than looking after their people. Actions against the Methodist Church were taken for similar reasons. He knew that the island had supported the SDL government but many did not know the problems and instability they were posing to the country. That is why the Military removed them from power.

(+) CAKAUDROVE PROVINCE SUPPORTS THE GOVERNMENT. The Cakaudrove Provincial Council meeting in Savusavu yesterday and today  will discuss the proposed new village by-laws and the registration of turaga-ni-koro (village heads). A motion put to the meeting to support the Government was supported by all of the province's 15 tikinas (districts). It is significant that the motion was first discussed by Bose va Koro (village meetings) and by the Bose ni Tikina before being brought to the Provincial Council. It may also be significant that the Paramount chief of Cakaudrove, the Tui Cakau, who is not a Government supporter, was not present at the meeting citing personal reasons.

WHAT DO THE TRADITIONAL APOLOGIES MEAN? With most areas of Fiji now having apologized to the PM for not previously supporting his Government, is it important to know what the matanigasau (traditional apologies) actually mean.

Anti-government bloggers say they are merely a means of seeking Government "development" largesse; others say they mean nothing because most are by provincial councils and not by the vanua (people); and others say it is the way of ethnic Fijians to protect their backs by following the wind. A contrary view is that the matanigasau are evidence of a significant shift in popular support towards Government. More ordinary people now know what it wants to do; what the Qarase government was doing, and what is now being done to improve their lives. Seen in this light the matanigasau could be seen as a referendum on Government's Roadmap.

It is, of course, impossible to know the sincerity of the apologies but their importance should not be underestimated. Nor should it be forgotten how the ousted SDL Party came to power. Speaking to Pacific Scoop last September, Bainimarama was asked why he didn't have democratic elections and leave an elected government to make political reforms. He replied: “In Fiji, you don’t come up with your own vote. Your vote is dictated by the chiefs. It is dictated by the Great Council of Chiefs. It is dictated by the provincial councils. And it is dictated by the [Methodist] Church. So it’s not your vote. So don’t tell me that's democracy." 

If this was the case before -- and it was -- the matanigasau would seem to be at least as representative now of ethnic Fijian opinion as the 2006 Fijian communal votes -- and possibly a whole lot more. The only question now is whether they would go back on their apologies and support for Government if the same group of chiefs and churchmen who helped Qarase win the 2006 elections were allowed to resume their former ways.

  ($Amillion). PNG 457.8, Solomon Is 225.7, Vanuatu 66.4, Samoa 39, Fiji 37.2, with smaller amounts to other PINs.

(www.pmc.aut.ac.nz). Big changes are being made to the Pacific media websites associated with AUT's veteran Pacific journalist Prof. David Robie that may cause some short term inconvenience as the PMC upgrades its websites over the next few months. Pacific Media Watch (www.pacmediawatch.aut.ac.nz) is temporarily suspending its regional Pacific Media Watch e-list monitoring service, but it is maintaining its online D Space database updates.The PMC team will continue to provide contextual and in-depth coverage on media and regional news through its various services, such as PMW Online (www.pacmediawatch.aut.ac.nz), Pacific Media Centre on YouTube (www.youtube.com/pacmedcentre), Twitter(http://twitter.com/pacmedcentre) and on Pacific Scoop (www.pacific.scoop.co.nz). The Centre also produces Pacific Journalism Review (www.pjreview.info).


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