National Language Misunderstanding, Dual Citizenship, Sugar Debts Detailed

The Government announcement that it is considering a national language for Fiji (most probably Bauan Fijian) has been misunderstood -- and no wonder. It did not clarify what it meant by a national language. 

Today's press release from the Rev. Akuila Yabaki of the Citizen's Constitutional Forum provides an example. The CCF calls on Government "to respect multiculturalism and diversity [and] not to declare one particular language as the national language for Fiji, as this would be detrimental to Fiji’s image as a multicultural nation with diverse identities."

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. Fiji at present has three official languages -- Fijian, Hindi and English -- but no national language. To make Fijian the national language, therefore, would in no way detract from the existing official languages, but it would show a special respect for the language of the original inhabitants. New Zealand has three official languages -- English, Maori and NZ Sign.

BAUAN FIJIAN? Readers will note that I have referred to Bauan Fiji. When the first Europeans arrived in Fiji there were over 300 "communalects" or dialects, many unintelligible to other itaukei with whom they commonly shared no more than 60% cognates on a standard word list; roughly the same as Dutch and German or Portuguese and Spanish.  Linguists grouped the communalects into two major and 27 minor groupings, 12 in the west of Viti Levu and 15 in the east of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti and Lau.  Bauan became the official itaukei Fijian language thanks to British colonialism and the military prowess of Bauan chief Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau (painting). Many dialects are now extinct or close to extinction and spoken only by old people.  A strong case could be made for the revival of the more robust communalects because as language is lost so also are much of the history and culture of its speakers.

The CCF supported the recent move by government to name all Fiji citizens as ‘Fijians.’

-- Based on Paul Geraghty in Walsh, Crosbie: Fiji: an Encyclopaedic Atlas 2006:388-389.

DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Some 1054 people applied for dual citizenship in the year ending July and 857 applications were approved.The dual citizenship status was granted under the Citizenship Decree which came into effect in April 2009. The Decree allows for any child, spouse and former Fiji citizen to apply for citizenship by registration and also allows foreigners who are working, investing or residing in Fiji for the last ten years to apply for Fiji citizenship by naturalization.

The Decree was introduced to allow those that have left Fiji to return and re-invest in the country.Many of those whose applications were granted have invested in property, farming and tourism developments.

SUGAR DEBTS SPELT OUT. The Fiji Sugar Corporation needs to pay one third of its total borrowings over $60million in the next 12 months. This was announced in its audited financials for the year ending May 31, 2010.

According to the report, the FSC has total borrowings of over $180m from the Export Import Bank of India ($84m), the Fiji National Provident Fund ($44m), the Reserve Bank of Fiji ($22.5m), Sugar Cane Growers Fund ($8m), Bank of Baroda ($19m), Bank of South Pacific ($1.4m), Westpac Bank (overdraft $1.4m).

The EXIM Bank loan was signed in November 2007 for the upgrade of mills, repayments to be made twice a year over a 10-year period. A grace period or moratorium for two years was granted but this was extended to three years, which means repayments start after the end of November. The RBF loan, which was through the purchase of FSC bonds, incurs an interest rate of 7 to 8 per cent to be paid bi-annually and to be paid in full by 2014, the report said. “The loan from the FNPF of $29.3m and borrowings by way of promissory notes of $4.73m are subject to interest at the rate of 12% and 10% per annum respectively and are payable by 31 May, 2011, and 9 October 2010, respectively,” the report said. “During the year, default interest was charged by FNPF for seven days due to delay in rollover of the loan. These borrowings are secured by the government guarantee.

Bonds worth $10m were also bought by the FNPF with the interest rate of 7%to be paid twice a year and repaid by November 5, 2014.The BoB loan (through promissory notes) incurs an interest rate of 8.5-9% per cent per annum repayable by November 11 this year while the borrowing from BSP is to be paid by next month.

All the borrowings were secured through government guarantee.


Global Citizen said…
NZ has three official languages - English, Maori and NZ Sign. Would not expect you to know that.
All Chinese to me said…
Why on earth we need a debate about a national language when there are so many other issues to address is quite beyond me. But here's a suggestion that would involve some token changes without embroiling the nation in a protracted debate that can only create division. Let's agree quickly to follow the New Zealand model of having Bauan Fijian name equivalents on all English language signs and official letter heads etc. So government stationary could read Matanitu Ko Viti as well as Government of Fiji, the name Fiji accompanied by Viti on official maps, and documents and the like. This acknowledges the language of the First Fijians, if you like, but as an adjunct to the language we're all taught to speak - English. The alternative is too fraught to contemplate, a national language only one segment of the population truly understands and uses in general conversation. What's the point of announcing that everyone is now a Fijian irrespective of race and then forcing them to adopt na'i Vosa vaka Viti as the lingua franca? As the CCF rightly points out, it can only end in tears. That doesn't mean everyone shouldn't be encouraged to learn Bauan Fijian as the language of the i'Taukei. That's something that can contribute to nation building and strengthen the preservation of our traditional culture. But let's not make it compulsory. Unless, of course, the regime wants us all to speak the language of our new best friends - Mandarin Chinese. But I digress.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Global Citizen ... I didn't know about NZ Sign. Thank you for that but why do you need to be so rude?
M.B.N said…
I think Fiji also has four languages

1. Fijian
2. Hindi
3. English
4. Military Speak
5. Grog Speak

You can speak in the first three but only in Military Speak can you claim greatness, all good and all knowlege on what Fiji needs.

I often here a lot of grog speak as well all though not sure it is official. Most understand it for what it is but some of it finds it way to blog sites as actual news !
Proud Fijian said…
@M.B.N now you speak grog speak. Four languages? And you least 5? And its only 5pm.
Croz Walsh said…
@ All Chinese ... Please re-read the post. There is no debate; no national language for only one segment of the population; no intention to use Fijian as the lingua franca. The CCF confused official and national. No shame in that. Government should have made its intentions more clear. However, I quite like your government stationery idea and of course multi-lingualism should be encouraged. My understanding is that Govt is doing this with the Citizenship Education programme already stated in primary schools.

@ M.B.N... Ha! Ha! Clever.
All Malay to me said…
Croz, I did re-read the post and am none the wiser. What is a national language if not a language widely spoken and which binds the nation together, giving expression to its aims and aspirations? In Fiji's case, that language is English, otherwise our national anthem ( mmm! Blessings Grant! Dua, rua, tolu! ) would be in the language of the i'Taukei. Someone's going to have to spell this out a lot better, not just point to Singapore as an example of why we should be just as mixed up as they are.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Once All Chinese, now All Malay ...

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.

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.
Clear as mud said…
I mean Singapore being mixed up as in a nation where the majority population is Chinese, the common language is English but the "national language" is Malay. Go figure.
Croz Walsh said…
@ All Chinese and All Malay is now Clear as Mud ... Please use the one pseudonym, and head up the postings with these different titles.

Sorry. I can't explain it further. Perhaps some other reader would come to my assistance.
Correction said…
"The Decree allows for any child, spouse and former Fiji citizen to apply for citizenship by registration and also allows foreigners who are working, investing or residing in Fiji for the last ten years to apply for Fiji citizenship by naturalization."

I think that one needs to spend 5 years in Fiji during the last 10 years in order to apply for citizenship by naturalization.
Anonymous said…
@ Correction said:

The sooner the taxpayer base is widened in Fiji to include people who have lived elsewhere, who are well-versed in transparency and accountability principles which they would expect and require to be applied to their taxes paid within Fiji, the better. This will assist with nation-building. The presence among us of many overseas people who run illegal resorts and businesses without paying any local taxes is more than irksome: it is a challenge to national stability and should be recognised by us all as such. Report on your neighbour! Yes, if you suspect that they are operating illegal, non-tax paying businesses, do this. No more patience now with such persons. Go straight to FICAC and FIRCA and with the new Police Commissioner in place, the Fiji Police. Previously, this was not a reliable place to go. The New Broom has arrived. The Crimes Decree is in force. Make Official Complaints and ensure they are followed up. Those who crow from afar hoping for the restoration of a democratic process before this matter is fully taken care of had best "Think Again"!

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