Ratu Tevita's New Friends: the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement

The Beast, an image favoured by Suliasi Draunitutu
  It's always hard to know whether to acknowledge or ignore an event. To acknowledge the overseas-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement meeting in Canberra at 2pm today where the special guest was Ratu Tevita Mara may be giving it publicity it does not deserve. 

Their march in Sydney last December attracted 60 people, including many children (and one Indo-Fijian!), somewhat less than the 300 they expected, and their support for a planned Suva protest march earlier this year that was billed to attract 10,000 to 20,000 protesters attracted not a single one. They have a tendency to hyperventilate. 

But if one of their supporters is to be believed about Ratu Tevita (“This special friend is God sent at this hour to break this deadlock of evil holding our country from having our freedom”), I would be unwise to ignore it.


The blog FijiToday also gives it special prominence: “It’s hoped the forum will be the catalyst for a strategic alliance with SDL, FLP, Vanua, Church, Unions and Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island Leaders Forum.” The meeting is also noticeable because it is the first time opponents of the Bainimarama government have put forward what might be a credible agenda for change, although whether the change is intended, or turns out, to be violent or peaceful cannot be known. They seem prepared to take the risk. Given this assumed credibility, it seems on balance better to acknowledge than ignore the meeting, consider what is proposed, and ask who the organisers and their supporters represent.
 
My comments on their Ten-Point Plan
 
They have proposed a ten-point plan to “return Fiji to democracy.” The wording is important because of the use of the word “return.” Many, including this writer, would contend that Fiji was very far from being a democracy in the years leading up to the 2006 Coup. An examination of the plan should give an indication of whether the current agenda is any different or more forward looking than that of the ousted Qarase SDL-led government. 
 
The first and second points, the call for the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations and the end of media censorship, seem reasonable. Most people would agree that these restrictions should be lifting but some would caution that to lift them too soon would play into the hands of those who on more than one occasion have advocated violence. Threats to assassinate the PM, the Attorney-General and other senior government officials cannot be taken too lightly. There were signs that PER was being relaxed and censors had already been removed from media offices. An unfortunate consequence of Ratu Tevita's defection and its use by anti-government groups is that there is now a strong likelihood that PER will remain in place longer than was hoped. 
 
Point 3 calls for the restoration of the 1997 Constitution, a document heavily loaded in favour of the ethnic Fijian establishment. The only concession envisaged is “appropriate ... changes to the electoral system, including the removal of communal rolls.” This is a good step, already anticipated by the Bainimarama government, but much more change is needed to the constitution than the electoral system. (see point 8.) 
 
Point 4 calls for acceptance of the verdict of the Fiji Court of Appeal (that ruled the Bainimarama government illegal), and the installation of a caretaker Prime Minister to lead the country to fresh elections in 2012. The Caretaker PM is to be appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs. (see point 8).
 
Point 5 calls for the restoration of “full diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries, the Pacific Islands Forum, Commonwealth, European Union and the United Nations.” This is a specious call given that it was these bodies with their insistence on an immediate "return to democracy”, and not Fiji, that curtailed relations. But it will have instant appeal to Australia, New Zealand and the bodies in question.
 
Point 6 calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to initiate a national healing and ensure that no community in Fiji is victimised. This is reminiscent of the “healing process” the Qarase government wanted with its Reconciliation,Tolerance and Unity Bill that was endorsed by the GCC but opposed by Bainimarama and most moderately-minded people. One does not need to guess which community is to be healed, and which is not  be victimised again. But it is unrealistic to expect any national healing until Fiji turns its back on the corruption, self-interest and institutional racism that marked the rule of the former government. 
 
Point 7, the re-empowerment of institutions of governance, including allowing democratic elections for such bodies as municipal councils, industrial associations, trade unions and statutory organisations, also sounds good, and would be good, were it not for the nepotism, abuse of office and corruption that marked their former governance. The ongoing clean up of the civil service will see governance restored in due course. 
 
Point 8 is especially important. They wish to “Allow the Great Councils of Chiefs to reconvene to deliberate on the affairs of the nation.” Let me repeat that. A “democracy” movement, speaking presumably for people of all races, wishes to reconvene a non-elected (i.e., a non-democratic) body of ethnic Fijian chiefs to represent Fijians of all races as they deliberate on the “affairs of the nation.” 
 
I understand something of the causes of the itaukei fears [and] insecurity [that], “reinforced in large measure by their leaders, have spawned a siege mentality, making many of them vulnerable to the siren-song of ethnic nationalism” (these are Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi's words, not mine). Most people in Fiji would also acknowledge the important ties between chiefs and vanua, and recognize that the GCC can play an important role in strengthening (or weakening) popular democracy. But many people, itaukei and others, would also say that while governments should heed the GCC on itaukei affairs, the GCC can only represent itaukei, and even in doing this, it needs to be apolitical. That is, it should not, as it has done in the past, endorse one political party to the exclusion of others.  Nor should it appoint the President.
 
Under the 1997 Constitution, to which the FDFM wish to return, the GCC appointed the President and Vice-President, and the President, acting on the advice of the GCC, appointed 14 member of the 32-member Senate, Fiji's Upper House. Any forward-looking democratic body would limit the authority of the GCC to those ethnic Fijian affairs that are the natural concern of chiefs. They would not extend them to non-ethnic Fijians and national political processes. 
 
Point 9 calls for the restoration of public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and the civil service. This call is the logical outcome of years of calculated misinformation. There is no evidence that the people of Fiji, living in Fiji, doubt the integrity or impartiality of either.
 
Finally, point 10, calls for the disengagement of the “military from civilian roles [and] their orderly return to the barracks.” The military, as they know full well, has taken an unusually active role in civil affairs because it is efficient, it is not corrupt, it is accountable to the Prime Minister, and  travel bans have limited civilian participation. It has largely stepped in to replace officials and mechanisms that were seen to be deficient (see Point 7).
 
A summary of the Ten-Point Plan would conclude that in all but one respect – the abolition of communal electoral seats, that are no longer necessary to ensure ethnic Fijian hegemony because they now outnumber all other races —they want a return to how things were. The Plan seems little different that the “plans” of the SDL party, which is unsurprising given the political leanings and affiliation of its leaders. 

They claim “to be the voice of the voiceless people of Fiji [who will] tell the story of our predicament to the whole world.” The supposedly voiceless people of whom they speak are ethnic Fijians, and the predicament, that is by no means shared by all Fijians, is that this particular section of the ethnic Fijian elite no longer runs Fiji. 

There is every reason to suppose the FDFM is in fact one of several fronts of the SDL in exile!
 
Who they represent
 
Three names reappear in news about the FDFM: Usaia Waqatairewa, Tui Savu and Suliasi Draunitutu, all Australian residents. Usaia Peter Waqatairewa was elected president of the FDFM when it was formed in April 2009, charged with establishing chapters “of Fiji’s People across Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.” (Their strategies are appended as Note 1 at the end of this article). Only the Australian and US chapters seem to be operational.
 
Usaia is a former official of the SDL party; Tui Savu is a former member of the SVT party and a lawyer who specialised in helping ethnic Fijians to stay in Australia; and Suliasi. who makes frequent references to “God, Satan and the Beast.” was the organizer of the Suva protest march that wasn't, and the source of the DVD distributed through SDL headquarters in Suva that resulted in Sam Speight (later sacked by his own Naloto vanua for distributing the tapes) being held in temporary detention. The connection with the SDL is indisputable.
 
The recent comments of a “close cousin,” the self-styled President of the Democracy Movement in the USA is Loruama Tawawili,  on the Matavuvale blog are revealing. Here is a sample:
Now that we have Bainimaramna's former Chief of Staff to justify our cause of Freedom in Fiji you have the balls to come and Question us? Don't worry about kai Idia worry about the backlash I will undo on your race for causing so much pain to the Taukei's of Fiji. You ain't seen nothing yet mate.

The game is going to change now. For me it is going to be "Fiji for The Taukeis " all IndoFijians fuck off to where your forefathers came from. (Other comments may be found in Note 2 at the bottom of the article.)
Not all in the FDFM, of course, would share all of Loroama's views, but may would, and none of the SDL blogs block comments like these. 

Blog comments in support of the FDFM 
 
FDFM membership is unknown but it has many supporters in overseas itaukei communities, as any visit to coupfourpointfive,  solivakasama or matavuvale blogsites would show.
 

Recent comments on Coupfourpointfive (another front for the SDL) include the following:
The 10 point plan must include one more point that is use of force to remove the fiji junta and its dictator- the answer to the 2006 coup where the nation's treasury is raped by a gang of 11 junta thugs is a counter coup. There is no other way. Believe in the cause and not the method for this eleventh point.

NEVER, EVER, BE ABLE TO SUCCEED IN TRYING TO DISMANTLE THE VANUA AND CHIEFS INFLUENCE IN FIJIAN POLITICS …. because it is a GOD GIVEN RIGHT and RESPONSIBILITY. We'll be the LAST THING YOU SEE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH!!!! YOU SCUM...we also know your Computer IP.... And we know who you are!!!!

The two greatest institutions of the Fijian races are the Methodist Church and the GCC. As RUM rightly and repeatedly pointed out recently. [They are] are the two greatest institutions of the Fijian people. As RUM has rightly and repeatedly pointed out. They need to be resurrected and preserved and strengthened. They will be resurrected and will again be an inseparable part of our lives and culture - whether you like it or not. NO MORE ATTACKS ON INDIGENEOUS FIJIANS AND FIJIAN INSTITUTIONS.

Those advocating the GCC's removal are insulting the Fijian people and their culture and no different from the present regime who have silenced the church and abolished the GCC.
Both paramount institutions will play a significant role in the new Fiji. So get over it. No more destruction of Fijian values and institutions.
At least one of those commenting was accusing Indo-Fijians of the “attacks” on itaukei culture. All overlooked the fact that the military government is overwhelmingly itaukei, and includes several high ranking chiefs, including the President. 

Conclusion
 
What more can be said? 

The membership, aims and methods of the FDFM are transparent. The racism is implicit in the FDFM aims and explicit in their supporters’ comments. Let's get back to the good old days when we ruled the roost, and feathered our own nest. And let's use the traditional loyalties of ordinary ethnic Fijians to put us there.
 
Many in Fiji oppose Bainimarama’s methods, some doubt his motives  and some do not agree with all his aims.  But few, if any, of those seeking a more genuine democracy would give any credence to Ratu Tevita Mara’s words — or to the concept of democracy as seen by the FDFM and its hapless supporters.
 ____________________________________________________________
Note 1.
In addition to setting up other chapters, the inaugural meeting planned these strategies: Organising public marches and rallies, lobbying governments to increase trade sanctions and introduce a blanket ban to replace the so-called smart sanctions; ban Air Pacific from flying to Australia and NZ (“to cut off the major tourist market from Fiji”) ; ban all sporting contacts and stop the “Fiji national rugby team from all future overseas tours”; extend bans to other countries; extend the list of those banned to include “hose identified as sympathisers of the Interim Government and their families”; pressure the UN through Australia “to ban any further peace keeping missions for the Fiji Security Forces (Police and Military) and cancel the existing peace keeping”; lobby lawyers not to take up appointments in Fiji, and trade and business interests; and demonstrate at then Chinese and Indian Embassies to expose their “bank rolling of the Fiji Military Dictatorship.”


Note 2.
The Indians were given everything they wanted and the Taukeis were being reduced to nothing in the land they own 85% of. You Sharneet still think we want to bring in racial differences? Pity that when the Taukeis accepted you the Indians into our midst you still wanted to have what we have and went behind our backs to get it. Now get ready to face us the Taukeis face to face. I have always fought for a race tolerant society where we can be co habitate and respect each other. Now I know for a fact that it will never happen because the IndoFijians who are a migrant race in Fiji are nothing but back stabbers. From now on I will dedicate my life to making sure that all Fijians who are of Indian decent go back to India.

I am a ITaukei in Fiji and am held at a very high esteem by my people in Ono. Now I am seeing the IndoFijians in a very different light. They are the worst scums of this earth and they should not be given refuge in Fiji if they are not willing to accept our way of life the Taukeis of Fiji. They must go back to India.

Comments

Charter chatter said…
The problem is Croz that the current PER and attitude of the military will not allow for any new leaders to emerge. So we are left with those who have lost everything from the coup - they are only loud because they live overseas, have lost all power, are broke or simply sidelined from former privilege.

If Frank wants balanced genuine new leadership in the country he has to change his attitude and approach. When was the last time he accepted or acknowledged a alternate view ?

The last thing Fiji needs is this bunch of has beens back in power but also the dictorial military leadership can't stay forever. Not if the PM wants what he says he wants.

The real challenge and the big question is can Frank do more than lead Military style ? Can he change his approach, can he learn to take advice and can he when the time is right step aside ? I hope so, I really do.

When you try and silence everyone some one some where screams....that is what is happening now. Don't hold off on you PER article. Fiji needs it lifted more than ever.

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