It "Looks Like Racism to Me"

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara
    A comment on my "Muslims are Taking Over Fiji" article.

    @Croz You talk about "Fijian leaders" and `some Fijian parties" pursuing racist fears over fifty years. These sweeping generalisations about the leaders of a particular race look like racism to me. I

In 1977 or 1978 Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara introduced and won support for the the amendment of the Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Ordinance to increase the term of agricultural leases from 10 to 30 years. All existing leases were extended by a further twenty years. To pass this legislation he had to win the support of the Great Council of Chiefs (as required by the Constitution.) How does your claim that Fijian leaders were consistently claiming over 50 years that "'Indians have been planning to take away Fijian land" fit with this fact?

The National Federation Party leaders repaid the courage and vision of Ratu Mara in the 1982 elections by showing the famous Four Corners program on the Mara government all over the country. The inclusion in this program of a throw-away line about Ratu Mara's ancestors being cannibals was one of the low points in our nation's history - and something Jai Ram Reddy regrets to this day.

It seems to me that you are the one whose vision is clouded by stereotypes about race. The blog picture you've labelled in fact racist targets one individual, not the group to which he belongs. The late Dr Ahmed Ali who belonged to that same group was frequently vilified for his support for the vision and leadership of Ratu Mara.

 Race is such a difficult problem in Fiji because there are no easy rights and wrongs. One thing is certain: a mono-ethnic army is not the leadership base for solving these problems. A genuinely multiparty government, something that was always the vision of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, is the only way to overcome the legacy of past race politics.



Blogger Croz Walsh said...

    @ Navosavakadua ... If you have followed this blog for a while, you would know my claim that some chiefs and political parties have supported or pursued racist policies, is not racist. If you knew your Fiji history, you'd know my claim is based on fact. And if you knew me, you would realize how wrong you are.

Think Adi Caucau, an SDL Goverment Minister, who in the House called Indians "weeds" to be rooted out and returned to India. Think Sakiusa Butadroka's Fiji National Party that also called for Indians to be expelled. In the 1977 election the FNP won 26% of the Fijian vote! Think of (some) chiefly support for Rabuka, and the Great Council of Chief's endorsement of his SVT party.

Think of the chiefs behind the 2000 coup and policies of the CAMV party in the 2001 election, and, after its dissolution, of it role within the SDL after the 2006 election. Think what the CAMV thought of the 1997 Constitution and the entrenching power-sharing it imposed. Think of the calls for the Sunday Ban and a Christian state that spurned the rights of non-Christian citizens.

Think of the muddle as Fijians seek to reconcile the unity of vanua,lotu and matanitu in the modern world, and the way some chiefs, some churchmen, and some others have sought to exploit the muddle, making a modern reconciliation that much more difficult.

Finally, think of the Fiji that could have been — and still can be — if the institutional racism of the FNP, SVT, SDL, CAMV (and, yes, occasionally, the NFP and FLP — were demolished.

You are right pointing to racism among non-Fijians, and Ratu Mara's multicultural vision. I have never written anything disrespectful of Ratu Mara. I was a colleague of Ahmed Ali and I know firsthand about the shameful abuse you mention.

But none of this is relevant to my article on the supposed Muslim takeover of Fiji. There are chiefs, Christian church leaders (to their immortal shame), and there were political parties, that "preached" racism and supported the 1987 and 2000 coups. To deny this is to deny the historical record. But, thank Heaven, there are also chiefs such as Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi (for whom I have immense respect) and church leaders like the Rev. Ilaitia Tuwere who have been outstanding spokesmen for the multiracialism espoused by Ratu Mara, and with which I am in full agreement.

Don't throw away the possibilities of a multiracial future because of your opposition to the Bainimarama government. Keep it to its promises, and force its opponents to declare their multiracial intentions.


A junta is not a government said…
You need to wake up to yourself and your prejudices. Bainimarama is in control of a military junta, for no other reasons than he has the guns. This junta is in no way a government, it is a military junta and a dictatorship. And no amount of spin and rhetoric, from you or other coup apologists, will change this fact.
flyhalf said…
Speaking of Asenaca "weed' Caucau, she is busy in Santa Rosa, California of with the democracy movement in late Oct. 2011, which appeared to be more like a SDL gathering.

Among the others in the group photo include the visiting Australian resident Suliasi Daunitutu, Adi Sai Tuinvanuavou.

More pics.
Anonymous said…
thank you for your reply,

Ratu Mara, the Fijian leader with the vision and leadership skills to enact the ALTA reforms, enjoyed strong support within his community. He was removed from office as President by Bainimarama, not by his community.

Butadroka (Sakeasi, by the way, not Sakiusa) never enjoyed such support. As for his motion to repatriate Indo-Fijians, like his bow tie it was a stunt, not a serious proposition. It was well known at the time that he was getting help from the NFP because they saw him as a good prospect for taking votes from the Alliance.

As for Adi Asenaca Caucau, she did a good job of discrediting herself and no-one should be blamed for her statements other than herself. Lumping her in with an unspecified group of "Fijian leaders" or "certain Fijian leaders" is creating a category which is inherently racial in character.

The race card has been played by members of all communities from time to time. From the 1960s onwards Indo-Fijian leaders attacked "chiefs" or "the chiefs", lumping them together as a similar category. This was culturally insensitive and politically disastrous. It was the race card. Chiefs were all members of one race, and it was designed to brand the Government of Ratu Mara illegitimate.

This resonated with many Indo-Fijians, just as it evidently resonated with you, but angered many Fijians. Each Fijian thought it was a reference to his or her chief. The leaders attacking chiefs were sure that they were not racist, they hoped to win votes not lose them, but they caused offence.

We need to get beyond this, which is surely one thing we agree on, but I find it hard to believe that you seriously think a military dictatorship, particularly where the military is mono-ethnic, can provide the leadership to take us out of the politics of race.

As for the cartoon, why does the fact that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is represented as manipulative mean that all Muslims are being vilified. ASK is just one individual, albeit with a king size ego. There is no class of persons called ASK. He is just one man.

Anonymous said…
A lot is being made about the chiefs and yet history would view them as people who were the gatekeepers of the colonial govt, having their people corralled, isolated and disabled from being part of the modern world. They benefitted for as long as they could. Ratu Mara was a great champion of multiracialism only to the point he held the reigns but when he lost the elections, he had no qualms in joining those who destroyed democracy and dismissed it as unsuitable for Fiji. He joined Rabuka, who destroyed democracy showing no remorse or regret for the destruction of democracy in Fji. In 2000 coup, his chiefly colleagues asked for his head on the platter through their new found hero George Speight supported by the CRW unit. For his safety he had to flee from his presidential palace with his family at midnight and was transported to his island home. Even the army sensed that it was unable to provide protection and guarantee his safety. He was the last and the greatest of all those who were classed as paramount chiefs and yet this what his colleagues and his own people did to him.
The One-Eyed Man is King said…
@ Anonymous and Navosavakadua

You are right to say that one person behaving badly should not reflect upon a religion nor the community from which they come. But the fact is - they do. And this has always been so in Fiji and it is also relevant and real elsewhere. The relevance is important because sad, bad, self-indulgent behaviour breeds instability. It creates tensions on the ground for the most vulnerable in a society and renders them in thrall to others. The Badly Behaving do not observe this for themselves. They are isolated and immunised by their inability to interact easily with the people. Do they not perceive that ordinary people with differing views will give them a wide berth? This is how power corrupts. It renders those who are isolated immured in their own perceptions, their own hypotheses and ultimately their own end.

"In the Valley of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King"

(H.G. Wells)
SOE said…
@ "It looks like racism to me..."

There would be few people in this world more qualified to speak of racism and its pernicious effect than the late Basil d'Oliveira who has passed away at the age of 80. A South African of mixed parentage who became a cricketer, an all- rounder of world acclaim, he was obliged to leave the country of his birth to pursue his cricket career based in the United Kingdom. Those of us who had the honour to meet him, however briefly, may vouch for his quiet, courteous and gentlemanly demeanour. A person who had known more than his fair share of slights and discrimination based solely upon his appearance and his mixed race parentage. His cricketing prowess might have helped to compensate for such obvious injustice but he had the courage and conviction to speak out about the intolerance of the South African apartheid regime and the choice he had been obliged so unfairly to make: to live outside his country of birth in a land more prepared to honour his singular skills.

May Basil d'Oliveira, a Cricketer and a Gentleman rest in peace.

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