Four Horses for Courses: Chaudhry, Mara, Singh, Baba

By Crosbie Walsh

The phrase, horses for courses, stems from the fact that a racehorse performs best on a racecourse specifically suited to it (Wiktionary)  but what happens when the jockey jumps horses?

People who change their minds because they have been backing the wrong principles or practices are to be applauded, but people who change their minds when they think they are backing the “wrong horse” inevitably arouse suspicion, especially when they change not one horse but two, or even four.  Sometimes, of course, people are most probably motivated by a confused mixture of principles and horses.  

Chaudhry1Mahendra Chaudhry
This seems to have been the case with  former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry ousted by the Speight Coup. He initially supported —and was a part of— the Bainimarama government before resigning. He probably thought there would be an early election after the 2006 Coup and being close to Bainimarama would give him a leg start. But then there were the unanswered questions about money raised in India that was salted away in his  Australian bank account, and other stories.   I suspect Chaudhry is now hoping that he’s distanced himself sufficiently  from the Bainimarama government that, whatever the outcome, he’ll still be a political leader, in 2014 or earlier. With a court case pending, and the likelihood that people with criminal records will not be allowed to stand for election, I wouldn’t bet on it.

ratu tevita maraRatu Tevita Mara
Ratu Tevita Mara’s defection raises similar questions.  Did he really undergo a Damascus experience that led him to reject his role in the 2006 Coup and the events that followed, or did he jump off the horse only when he was sidelined in the Military Council , sent on leave, and charged with sedition?  We will never know but I think genuine democrats should tread very carefully before lending him their ears.  His long term aims (that see the Great Council of Chiefs restored to their former powers and playing a major part in the interim) seem more aristocratic than democratic.  

His long term future is another matter.  For the moment he is a rallying point for the so-called pro-democracy forces. If they are successful in bringing down the Bainimarama government, I doubt he will have any further usefulness.  If they are unsuccessful —which seems more likely— he may, with some help from ANU contacts including Jone Baledrokadroka, be awarded a PhD scholarship. But thereafter, Australia will have to give him residency rights,  or failing this, he will have to decide whether to return to Fiji  to face the sedition charges, or take up residence in Tonga where he now has citizenship.  His second horse has not yet cleared the first hurdle and seems likely to finish an also ran.

RajeshSinghRajesh Singh
Then there is Rajesh Singh, who recently surfaced in New Zealand to found the NZ Chapter of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement that in Australia seems to have no Indo-Fijian members.  In the 2001 election he stood unsuccessfully for the National Federation Party against the FLP and SDL .  In the 2006 election he stood for the SDL, against the NFP and FLP.  He was one of two Indo-Fijians in the SDL government in which he was appointed Minister of Youth and Sport, but six months later he was dismissed by Qarase .  Following the Bainimarama Coup in December 2006, he resigned from the SDL and sought, again unsuccessfully, to attach himself to the Bainimarama Government.  

Thereafter he disappeared from public view to resurface in Auckland last month where he managed to split the “pro-democracy” movement by forming the FDFM chapter that could conceivably attract more ethnic Fijian support than the reputable and well-established  Coalition for Democracy in Fiji led by Nik Naidu.  He likes to be a leader. That’s why he didn’t like being subordinate to Ro Teimumu Kepa when he was Minister of Youth and Sport and why he was dismissed. If NZ’s ethnic Fijians don’t want him as a leader he may need to change horses yet again.

tupeni babaDr Tupeni Baba
Another person to surface in the aftermath of the Mara defection is my former colleague Dr Tupeni Baba who says the defection is the “beginning of a major crack” in a government that is “facing disintegration due to the defections of key loyalists.” 

Tupeni’s motives, like Chaudhry’s, are also most probably a mix of principle and opportunism.  He was a foundation member of the FLP and Education Minister in the Bavadra government that was deposed some months later by 1987 Rabuka Coup.  He was Foreign Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister in the Chaudhry government that survived barely a year before being ousted by the 2000 Speight Coup.  He fell out with Chaudhry and formed the National Labour Unity Party for the 2001 election. The party won two seats, and contributed to the defeat of the FLP (and the re-election of the SDL), but he was not elected.  In early 2006, much to the surprise and disappointment of former colleagues on the political “left,” he accepted Qarase’s invitation to stand as an SDL candidate. He was again unsuccessful but Qarase nominated him for Senate.  Had the December 2006 Coup not occurred Senator Baba would have been Fiji’s Ambassador to the UN.  For a while, he seemed to be courting appointment in the Bainimarama administration but this cannot be confirmed. What is known, however, is that he did not speak out publically in the days after the Coup when many others did, and when the media reported their protests. If he was anti-Bainimarama then, he did not show it.

Now, from Guam, where his wife has a three-year university appointment, he  is “predicting the collapse of Fiji's military regime as a result of the growing influence of internet activism that he said hampered the Government's attempt to control.”  He says this is why the Government has tried to limit the hours of internet use.  

But no key defections have been reported, even in the anti-Government blogs, and no attempt has ever been made to limit internet use — other than by FINTEL which unplugged Telecom’s internet links on Friday  because it owed them money.   Where on earth is he getting his information?

Tupeni is now normally based in Auckland and has not been in Fiji for a while. Some of his other comments suggest he’s more than a little out of touch.  Asked by a journalist about Fiji’s exports before he gave his address at the University of Guam , he mentioned timber, food crops and some minerals, with Australia and Europe as their main   destinations. No mention was made sugar, manufacturing , or Asia. He said Guam and Suva were about the same size and had one university. Greater Suva has a population double that of Guam and it has two universities.  This might seem like penny-pricking  but he was not well prepared for the questions.

More intriguingly, in his address, he asked how the government will “hold people together when people like me, my friends, and the academics all over the world are talking and commenting? We are the dangers to his system.”  

This makes incredible reading. A government overthrown by email and lack of support from academics? Pardon, Tupeni, but when have people like you or academics ever held the people together?  It certainly wasn’t in 1987, 2000 or 2006. On those occasions it was you who needed to be held together.

Bainimarama certainly needs the support of what I have called “middle Fiji” (and he has lost some of  this support due to his over reliance on the military, the Public Emergency Regulations and poor PR) but middle Fiji comprises a much larger slice of civil society than Tupeni’s friends.   

The Government may fall, as Tupeni predicts, but it will not be for the reasons he states.   It seems far more likely, from news within Fiji, that it will survive, and Tupeni will be left riding his fourth cock-horse all the way to Banberry Cross.

One can only wonder yet again why the media rely on sources that are so out of touch with Fiji when they contain only sparse, superficial analysis,  and why, in this case, they chose an obscure lecture given in Guam to broadcast around the world. 

One wonders also how much weight should be given to the opinions of people who change horses so often.



A Sinking Economic Meringue said…
Quite right, Croz. Here your analysis is acute and you are asking the right questions. All these people are "Yesterday's Men" (all men, we note!). They have been opportunists par excellence given whatever the circumstances, however dire, they have found a perch for themselves at the expense of the People but not their own pockets! They are the reason for the increasingly dwindling investment on the ground. No one wishes to invest any more in such galloping and decreasing economic circumstances despite the shrill PR. How may judgements be made as to which decree will surface next, affecting which sector of the economy or social interaction? The fines and penalties alone are risible: who will ever have sufficient funds to pay them while the economic meringue falls in on itself? Look at the balance sheets and assess the Bottom Line: hourly.
Gutter Press said…

You write that you “can only wonder yet again why the media rely on sources that are so out of touch with Fiji when they contain only sparse, superficial analysis...”

Fair comment - but then why do you, a former colleague of Dr Baba (and therefore more likely to be able to have a chat with him than most others) rely on that media reliance in order to make your derogatory implications about him and his motives?

Given that you know the media is biased against this government and will therefore print anything that remotely fits in with their perception of Fiji, why did you not do your former colleague the basic justice of speaking to him directly, rather than the injustice of making comments about information you have gleaned third hand?

I believe Dr Baba is a principled man and feel that if you’re going to comment on his motives and knowledge of Fiji (which, I venture to say, could be a great deal more thorough than yours) you should have shown him the common decency of least allowing him the opportunity of replying to your direct questions. Gutter press principles have been rather egregiously displayed in your analysis.

By the way – you once mentioned ‘lying by omission’. You noted that FINTEL unplugged Telecom’s internet links on Friday because it owed them money. Correct, but why did you not mention that the reason the links were restored was because the Commerce Commission instructed FINTEL to do so. The fact that the Commission saw fit to get involved in a commercial dispute is a worrying sign of more quasi government interference in local business.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Gutter Press ... I didn't know Tupeni was in Guam until I read about his speech. We haven't been in contact for over ten years. If he chooses to go public, he must expect responses. What would (or should) I have written differently had I been able to contact him in Guam? What differently might he have said had there been such contact? Sorry. I stand by what I wrote. He is free to reply.
Re. FINTEL, I only had early reports on this fiaso, and will comment futher as I am better informed. As for the Commerce Commission's "interference", it's their job to resolve commercial disputes. I don't see it as a worrying sign.
Gutter Press said…
Whether or not you knew he was in Guam is immaterial in the age of email communication.

I’m not suggesting that you should have written anything differently. I merely believe that, before commenting on a man who I’m sure you also feel is decent and not duplicitous, you should have contacted him.

For all I know his answers may have given you good reason to write even more disparagingly about him. But he wasn’t able to give those answers because you didn’t give him the chance. And you didn’t give him the chance because you chose to believe the reports in what you’ve written many times are biased media.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Gutter Press ... You will see I've now published Tupeni's speech. But it was not his speech I was criticising — I agree with most of it — but his remarks, made to a journalist before he gave the speeech, about overthrowing the Government. It is this analysis that it purely conjecture with which I disagree.
Anonymous said…
Croz, reading about Rajesh Singh in your blog, reminded me of a letter he wrote to the Fiji Times on 07 February 2011:

"I WOULD like to ask Fiji and its people to forgive me.

I have made mistakes. We have to ask for forgiveness from the people, only then will God forgive us.

I hope and pray you all will forgive me.

Families and voters.

God bless you all.

Former minister of youth and sports

What was that all about?
Islands in the Stream said…
Middle Fiji? Wbat and where is that? Flying around on Korean Air at forty thousand dollars a pop? Not likely. Middle Fiji now has nowhere to go: passports hard to secure; travel bans in or out; no clear idea of where the next bill will be paid and if the client who paid last month can do so now. Like Fintel, Middle Fiji is on hold while the Cabinet gets mobile and jets off for another quick fix. Get real! Your country is unravelling and you are in 'perpetuo mobile' phase. Untold folly that will bring you tears. Beware the Ides of July.
Islands in the Stream said…
Middle Fiji? Wbat and where is that? Flying around on Korean Air at forty thousand dollars a pop? Not likely. Middle Fiji now has nowhere to go: passports hard to secure; travel bans in or out; no clear idea of where the next bill will be paid and if the client who paid last month can do so now. Like Fintel, Middle Fiji is on hold while the Cabinet gets mobile and jets off for another quick fix. Get real! Your country is unravelling and you are in 'perpetuo mobile' phase. Untold folly that will bring us all tears. The Ides of July bode Ill. Who is paying heed? At 38,000 ft it is unlikely. Fintel is a Gateway to Fiji and should be paid first? In fact it must be paid as must the Passport Printer. Who is to justify again a delay in the issuing of passports: The Dog Service at the Gulag would do better. viz Solzhenitsyn
Proud Fijian said…
@ Gutter Press

The Commerce Commission has every right to do investigate. Telecom provides more than 50% (I would assume) of Fiji's Internet Service.

The 4 hours of internet outage caused businesses to halt an would have cost thousands if not millions of dollars.

Their are avenues including legal action if a company bilieves bills are not paid.

This is a worrying sign and whoever made that decision should be made reponsible and I believe that FINTEL should be made to pay.
Anonymous said…
@ Proud Fijian

You may believe what you choose. In a free society that is your right. are we a free society?

The shareholders of Fintel think otherwise. And that is their right too. Proud people pay their bills and they pay them on time. Bring back Cable & Wireless - see what they have to say?
Gutter Press said…
Thank you for your clarification.

Proud Fijian
I agree with your inference that there was possibly a better way for FINTEL to go about enforcing payment of the money it claimed it was owed from Telecom.
However I'm sure you're also aware of the high irony that FINTEL is 51% owned by the Fiji government. So on Friday we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of two companies, both of which has the Fijian government as the majority shareholder, going at it hammer and tongs.

Whatever the reason for the dispute, if government resorts to such public actions to sort out its own internal commercial differences, outside investors aren't going to be attracted to Fiji.
Yea yea said…
You need to add our current PM and most of his cabinet to the list Croz. He was against coups, then supported a interim government and Qarae, then decided coups where ok if it was him doing it. He then removed the man he had supported and put key labour people including the pm he did not put back in 2000 into his cabinet and then later removed them. He has shifted horses and courses as much as any others on your list >>>> and it's a good fair list.
Anonymous said…
Rajeshwar Singh deservedly fell from horses that he attempted to ride into rich pasture. He is a menace and danger to himself. Imagine such people being in the Parliament of Fiji? For him to stand on SDL ticket - a Party using the cover of democracy to discriminate against his compatriots - shows that this opportunist is not for democracy but for himself. If he had any respect and regard for his community, he would not act as such.
As for Dr Baba he can speak for hours and say nothing. Never seen any academic so confused and floating without anchor.
Your comments on the academics in Fiji is laudable. By their silence and selfishness, they contributed to democracy in Fiji loosing its fibre, allowing the rejects of the society to sit in the Parliament of Fiji and those that could not make it there were accommodated in the Senate.
Mahen, as a leader, has given a very poor image to his community and they are being judged as if every Indo-Fijian is like him. Indo-Fijians have suffered from every side - despised by others and robbed by leaders like Mahen.

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