Nation-Building: Language, Flags, Symbols; Fiji Sun Squatter Heading Misleading, Squatter Policies & Solutions

NATION-BUILDING & A NATIONAL LANGUAGE. Yesterday's posting that sought to correct CCF's misunderstanding of government's intentions on a national language generate many comments, many equally confused, and at least one reader still did not understand the difference between an official language and a national language.  I explained it like this:

"Perhaps the best way to explain a national language is to consider it as an honorary title, a symbol of respect and nation-building, but without the utility value of official languages that are used in legal documents, the courts, and so on.

"The decisions to use "Fijian" for all Fiji citizens, the proposal on a national language, and today's announcement that all Govt buildings will fly the Fiji flag, are all symbolic ways intended to unite the nation."

The reader thought Singaporeans were confused by their arrangements.  I replied: "Believe me, Singaporeans are not at all confused. Irrespective of their many ethnicities and languages, they are all proud of the peace and harmony they enjoy today. And it all started with symbols like this."

FLYING THE FLAG AND INDEPENDENCE DAY. Government has approved the flying of the Fiji flag on all government premises, business houses, schools, various institutions and residential houses from the October 1 to 10.

"Flying of the Fiji flag symbolises the national pride in our heritage and is an expression of our patriotism for Fiji, our heaven, our home and our country." Fiji will celebrate the 40th year of Independence on October 7th and 8th. --Based on 2010 No:1552/MOI. [Why limit the flag flying to these dates? Patriotism does not start and finish on October 7-8.]

. A headline that reads "Ministry will tear down homes" plays straight into the hands of government opponents because it falsely shows government as unfeeling towards the poor and otherwise homeless. The article then proceeds to correct its sensationalist misinformation.

The announcement by Ministry of Lands Permanent Secretary Lt.Col. Neumi Leweni refers only to newly built houses on crown or state land.It does not include older homes or any homes on native* or private land. Neither would the homes be torn down. The PS said the houses would be "removed." He then went on to talk about the development of state land, a move that would allow people to buy their own lots and move into the settlements, and that “people living in squatter settlements will be given first chance in occupying the new housing to be constructed for squatters.” He said the first phase of development had already started at Jittu Estate in Suva and rounded up by saying that Government is "serious in its bid to reduce squatters in the country," estimated at 15% of the population in more than 200 squatter settlements.

Far from tearing down homes and leaving people homeless, Government is trying to find a solution to the squatter problem that was virtually ignored by the previous government.  And that is what the Sun's headline should have said.

* Interestingly, ethnic Fijians households with vakavanua arrangements with native landowners are not considered squatters, even though they present similar town planning problems, and their occupance is at best extra-legal.  Fijian urban villages  present urban planning problems that also will need to be addressed further down the road.

SQUATTERS NEGLECTED BY PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS. A month earlier, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony at Tacirua East, north of Suva, where the Housing Authority will develop 1,050 lots  and build 900 housing units for low, middle and high income earners, the PM said “Concomitantly previous governments failed to tackle the growth of squatter communities and neglected those who needed housing assistance.

My Government has demanded that Housing Authority and Public Rental Board contribute in a tangible fashion to resolve and solve the housing and squatter challenges. However, subsequently and over the years, Housing Authority and the Public Rental Board relented on its core values and principles.”

Another project assisted by government is the  $4million housing project at Lagilagi settlement at the Jittu squatter Estate in Suva City.-- Based on 2010 No:1436/MOI.

I researched squatters and squatter settlements in Greater Suva in the 1970s for my doctoral degree. While agreeing with much of what Government and the Housing Authority are now doing, I do not think the resources are available to solve the problem. There are just too many squatters and not enough money.

For this reason I think that monitored and assisted site and basic services provision should be a major part of the solution. Government could assist in several ways: in addition to providing the site, basic roading and street lighting, water, sewerage and electricity connections, they could also provide carpentry training, overall supervision, subsidized building materials, and loans. The Military and volunteers could also be involved.

This approach would see groups of squatter families directly involved in solving the problem. They would build houses to the design and size they could afford, extending the house as their circumstances improved. Self help housing is a way of helping people solve their housing problems in an organized manner.


National gobblygook said…
Honestly Croz, if I was marking you at university level for your explanation of "national language" in this instance, I'd be obliged to fail you. You are saying again here that the term the government uses is innocuous and there's no need for anyone to be concerned. There's even a faint suggestion that those expressing that concern aren't the sharpest tools in the national shed. Yet surely in the absence of any clarifying statement from government, it's hardly fair for you to suggest that Akuila Yabaki and CCF have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Unless I've missed something, I've yet to see any explanation from the regime whatsoever. Which surely means there remains a big question mark over the precise meaning of "national language" and perhaps even in its own ranks. Why you'd instinctively rally to the regime's defence without knowing the full facts is puzzling, to say the least. And surely rabbiting on about Singapore as if its own formula is what the regime has in mind is just presumption at this stage, not established fact.
Spiral of spin said…
You are throwing so much spin around you are starting to confuse yourself. What about some real news that is really impacting on Fiji? For example, discussing the reasons the EU has again continued sanctions on the Fiji military junta. The nation, and particularly the sugar industry, are in dire straits as a result of this coup.
Croz Walsh said…
@ National gobblygook ... Suggest you check out Google for the meaning of national language and its use in Singapore and elsewhere. Having done that, you'll be able to say whether its use in Fiji may be innocuous or not, and whether I'm rallying to the regime's defence or merely stating the obvious once the distinction between national and official is made.

As for rabbiting on about Singapore, there's been much traffic between the two nations over the past year, and in the Media Decree and the emphasis on nation-building it is not difficult to see Singapore's influence.

Suggest also you do not read what you wish to read in what I write. I criticised Government for causing what I see as the CCF misunderstanding, but, like you, I wonder why they release so many ill-prepared statements and then take so long to clarify their meanings.

But surely you cannot be in doubt that their intent is any different from what I've said. A Government intent on nation-building would not elevate one language to the detriment of others. Making Fijian the national language would not be detrimental to the other official languages.

Must get back to the marking. I hope I don't have to fail anyone.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Spiral of Spin ... I'm always prepared to publish reasoned information but fuller statements are needed than what you've provided. As for "real news", that's always a matter of opinion. I think I'm publishing real news, as I have repeatedly, for example, on the plight of the sugar industry, Did you not see this?
More gobblygook said…
Croz, I did look at Google and specifically the Singapore reference. It says Malay is both the national and official language of Singapore, which is quite different to how you've been portraying it. The Malays make up only 14 per cent of the population of Singapore so this was presumably a sop to them by the majority Chinese, who flooded their country. The i'Taukei, on the other hand, are the majority population of Fiji so making Bauan Fijian the national language ( even if it's not designated the official language ) carries quite a different connotation. In fact, there is no one definition of national language but several, as my own Google search has uncovered, so a clarification is required under the circumstances and it is you who perhaps needs to read the fine print. I'm not suggesting that the regime is somehow trying to put other language groups at a disadvantage. That is clearly unlikely given their commitment to racial quality. But my own point would be that this is yet another proposal that is evidently being rammed through without any community consultation. I know we're not a democracy and have no right to quibble but why this?
Vosa Dina said…
Re: Bauan Fijian. I have always been led to believe that the standard Fijian dialect we refer to as "Bauan" is not Bauan at all in origin.

The people from Bau spoke/speak the Tailevu dialect.

It is not "vosa vaka-Bau" but rather "vosa vakabau".

There is an important difference between the two.

The former implies that it is the language of Bau.

The latter, with a lower case "B" and unhyphenated "vakabau" points to an accepted or collectively agreed-upon version of Fijian which speakers of widely varying dialects can use to understand one another.
Croz Walsh said…
@ More Gobblygook ... I quote from my first posting on this topic and will say no more. "The cause of the misunderstanding will be immediately seen when considering Singapore which has four official languages -- Malay, Mandarin, English and Tamil-- and one national language -- Malay: the language of the original inhabitants."
Cicero said…
@ Croz

The Singapore practice would appear to fit perfectly into the present scenario of reform, not for reform's sake, but for national cohesion, parity of respect to all Fijians and sheer common sense. English is the language of global commerce and instruction. Even in France MBAs and many Higher Level Scientific degrees are now taught by choice in English. That never used to be so. But it is now. We must ask ourselves WHY?
Anonymous said…
@ Squatter relocation and Self-Help

Several key words come up in your analysis, Croz, of this on-going problem for all who live and pay taxes in Fiji: squatters and all that they represent. These key words are:

Training in relevant skills

Habitat for Humanity is one of the organisations which can offer ideas but it does not rely on people helping themselves. It mobilises volunteers. Self-help, skills that are so needed in Fiji like: brick-laying, plumbing, electrical and other wiring, carpentry all should be available now leaving those who are trained with "jobs for life". Fiji's military possess many of these skills already. Taxpayers would want the most expedient and the most cost-effective way of solving this squatter problem once and for all.
True Blue said…
Whatever happened to the previously "ROYAL MAIL"?

Somewhere along the road from 1987 the position and the honour of carrying what then was called 'Royal Mail' was lost. Now servants of Post Fiji appear to be regularly helping themselves to anything that passes through their allegedly grasping clutches. Where did this all 'Go Wrong' and why? It is time to reinvent Post Fiji and put it back in the mould of the pre-1987 ROYAL MAIL. One cannot recall ever losing a parcel, packet or envelope then. Not one single instance in almost twenty years. Time for a Shake Up!

As part of this shake-up, Air Pacific might be designated carrier of the Mail to and from Fiji. It should promote this worldwide, flying the Flag and honourably the Coat of Arms. Is this what it might take to restore integrity to this service?
Contraception Rules said…
A word about the squatter problem now.

In developping countries, cities tend to grow way faster than the economy, for the very simple reason that it is much more easy to make babies than to create wealth and economic growth.

A big problem in the South Pacific is familial planning, especially in the countryside. That's why I tend to disagree with the government trying to keep the people in their villages. This might be a short-term solution to the problem of urban drift, but it will create bigger problems tomorrow as the population will grow faster if we keep the youths in the villages. As the people migrate to urban areas and experience hardship and overcrowding, they have to change their mentality radically. Villagers can't understand that easily.

Squatter problems will not last forever, but since the previous generations have had larger families than what the country could afford, we have to live with squatters settlements for a little while.

Urban drift is the only way for women to get their independance. Emancipation of women is actually the key to the squatter problem in the long run!
rodney said…
Croz, CCF did not get it wrong, It opposes the idea of a national language and prefers the notion of multiple official language. A national language selects the langauge of one ethnic group to represent the nation albeit as a symbolism. That CCF is saying is unncessary and divisive. Basically CCF is saying - Can the national language idea and stay with the official languages.
Leadership and progress said…
I doubt we will ever be able to look to the current PM for Leadership or Nation Building and nor should we. The only difference between our "PM" and another coupl plotter sitting in jail is that one is free with the support of the military and one in not.

The country is deeply divided. I suggest more so than ever. The old elite are back. And the PM shows none of leadership skills i would want to instill in my children. He is not flexible, he does not discuss issues, he does not respect the law, he does not accept criticism, he does not seek to understand and he does not practice what he preaches.

We learn about leadership from what people do not say. Every child and young adult in Fiji has seen this PM rise through using his guns to take power and hold. The leadership he has taught Fiji is this is OK, normal and acceptable. No matter what he says he has set a example that sadly others will follow.

And on the progress he has made to "free and fair election" ? This was summed up well overnight by the US.

"Fiji’s coup leaders have not taken any credible steps to restore democratic institutions. After breaking a promise to hold elections in 2009, they now promise to begin work in 2012 to craft a new constitution and hold elections in 2014. They also promised to lift public emergency regulations, but the regulations remain in place, the press remains heavily censored, and the right to assembly is severely restricted. Fiji has failed to restore democracy or institute structural reforms. The entrenchment of authoritarian rule indifferent to criticism has become a dangerous model for the region and the global community."

And the man that has led all this progress want's to preach about leadership and nation building - politely NO THANKYOU.
Scott MacWilliam said…
On the Squatter Problem

Dear Croz,

You said, re urban squatters and the need for housing: 'monitored and assisted site and basic services provision should be a major part of the solution. Government could assist in several ways: in addition to providing the site, basic roading and street lighting, water, sewerage and electricity connections, they could also provide carpentry training, overall supervision, subsidized building materials, and loans. The Military and volunteers could also be involved.'

At about the time you were working in this area in Fiji, in the 1970s I researched some of the earliest World Bank site and service schemes in Nairobi, Kenya. As attractive as the proposals seemed, it was not long before the WB was forced to station its own people in the Nairobi City Council offices to stop the rampant corruption which was occurring in the allocation of serviced plots of land. The 'big fish' (samaki kubwa in Kiswahili) extending right up to President Kenyatta's family were accumulating site and serviced plots and becoming slum landlords. Despite the best efforts of the WB officials the land-grab continued.
There is no known way of stopping this process of land accumulation, for even attempts to limit the number of plots one person or company can own fail against the practice of dummying. This practice has repeatedly occurred whenever land is sold under ostensibly restricted conditions, including after World War I when former German-owned plantations were sold supposedly to Australian ex-servicemen in New Guinea. Instead ex-servicemen and others bought the plantations as dummies for the major trading firms, especially Burns Philp and Carpenters. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard's father was a dummy for W.R.Carpenter.
Further, all efforts to have the houses on the site and service plots in Kenya constructed to a satisfactory standard proved futile-again, corruption ensured that the owners of the serviced plots were able to build low standard, densely packed housing. Australian TV has regularly shown conditions in Nairobi's slums but not mentioned that parts of these slums were once what was seen as a means of solving the housing shortage in Kenya.
While there is no easy solution to the problem of housing shortages, equally there is no reason to provide state funds to support the emergence and entrenchment of a stratum of slum landlords. Before Fiji embarks on anything like site and service housing, I hope that what has occurred elsewhere with similar schemes will be closely investigated.

Best wishes,
Real Leadership said…
@Leadership and progress said...

The difference between the PM and the coup plotter in jail is what they stand for, and the type of Fiji they are/were trying to achieve.

It is just a huge pity that people like you can't see that.
I don't think so said…
@ Real leadership

They both overthrew elected governments.

If we hold one as better than the other don't we just encourage another coup. If I claim a better purpose does that give me the right to overthrow the current PM and government ?

Will you support me like the current PM if I remove him ? Even if it cause further economic down turn ?

I could claim to remove racism 100%, fix the economy, fix poverty and have free and fair elections in the next 18months.....all better claims than the PM so if I take guns and act another coup I should be rewarded and supported by you and the international community ?

PS these claims would be crazy but so are many of the PM's and I another coup is the last thing I wish for Fiji.

Sorry, the end does not always justify the means. He had many other options. You may recall in the last days the previous PM was prepared to negotiate. Alternatively given how everyone one supports Frank he could have formed a political party.
Navosavakadua said…
I think the problem Prof Walsh is having in understanding what's happening here is a result of his failure to understand what the language of the RFMF is.

The Fiji Police Force operates in English but the RFMF functions in a language he seems to be unfamiliar with - na vosa vakaviti, which as far as I'm aware, can only be translated into English as Fijian. If there's going to be a single National Language, under an RFMF controlled regime it will be Fijian.

And Vosa Dina can confirm for you that a suitable Fijian equivalent for National Language is na vosa vakabau. I trust this doesn't confuse you.

All of this would be a lot clearer to you Professor if you understood that the RFMF is a mono-ethnic institution.
Real Leadership said…
@Whatever you want to call yourself next...

Sorry but the whole world was hoping someone inside Zimbabwe would oust Mugabe, and the same in Iraq with Saddam, Germany and Hitler. All were elected and the world would have cheered as a hero the person that overthrew any of them. So sometimes the ends (and the circumstances) does justify the means.

The other difference is that we didn't just have some coward secretly attempt a coup without any warning, such as 1987 and 2000. Bainimarama was very clear about the specific issues that were the problem with Qarase. All very reasonable ones to. However, Qarase took no notice, failed to negotiate in good faith, and instead tried to cause a mutiny in the military to remove Bainimarama. When that didn't work he tried to get NZ to arrest him at their last meeting chaired by NZ. Is that what you mean by negotiation? Only Bainimarama tried to negotiate, in the end his only choice was the coup or let Qarase get rid of him and see fiji go down the gurgler of “nationalistic supremacy”, nepotism and corruption.
leadershi and progress said…
Right so Qarase was Hitler and Frank is the saivor. Oh please.

An average at best PM over thrown by a thug.

Last time I checked deaths occured at the hands of frank and his team not Qarase.
I don't think so said…
Qarase should have removed the now PM long ago. That was his big mistake.

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