A Most Curious Letter: Ro Teimumu to "I Voreqe", Part I

Ro Teimumu Kepa

                                        Opinion by Crosbie Walsh

Prior to reading Ro Temumu's letter to the Prime Minister on the Great Council of Chiefs I scribbled some question to assist my analysis: What does she want? What are her claims?  What did she not say that should have been said?  What could she have said that might help favourable outcomes?

Briefly, she wants the Great Council of Chiefs restored with its previous powers. She claims the support of the GCC is essential for any viable changes, and for peace and harmony in Fiji. She makes a number of  claims about the past contributions of the GCC. She makes no mention of any GCC shortcomings or need for reform. She offers no new ideas to produce favourable outcomes. And she makes this appeal as Fiji is about the consider a new constitution in which she could be involved and which conceivably could recommend the reinstatement of a modified GCC. Why then did she write this letter? And why now?

Her letter was addressed rather disrespectfully to "Voqere", and not the PM or Commodore  Voqere Baininamarama, but I think it was really addressed to her supporters and the wider public.  She thinks Bainimarama has made a "serious error" in abolishing the GCC.

She could be right. I previously argued the move was unnecessary and the future of the GCC should be left to the Constitution Assembly.  But she also could have miscalculated the degree of support for an unchanged GCC. At least one prominent chief and a number of commoners have applauded its abolition. And by further distancing herself from Government, she has lost an important opportunity to influence events.  Unless, of course, she wishes to see a different order of events. In which case her letter is a call for unrest, instability  and a stalled Constitution dialogue process. It is her third anti-Government statement, one calling for UN intervention, in almost as many days.

She was, however, a little disingenuous  in treating chiefs and the GCC as if they were the same which, of course, they are not. She wants people to believe Bainimarama has as good as abolished the chiefs, which is not so. Bainimarama is himself a chief and he has constantly acknowledged the important role chiefs play in modern Fiji.  It is the politicing of the GCC that led first to its suspension and then abolition.

She claims many things for the GCC over the past 140 years but most should be credited to Fiji's governments and individual chiefs, pre and post Independence, . In most cases, the GCC merely endorsed the initiatives of others.

She speaks as if she is speaking for all iTaukei, failing to recognize that the nation is divided with many iTaukei supporting a Government comprised mainly of iTaukei. Chiefs and people are close but they are not the same. Many still do as the chief asks but a growing number are independent thinkers.

She speaks also as if she is the GCC, although it has not met for over two years, and, as noted, several prominent chiefs are on record  supporting its reform or abolition. Many would agree it should not engage in national politics as it has done in recent years. 

She speaks also as if the GCC belongs exclusively to its chiefly members, failing to acknowledge that it is a Government-sponsored and financed body with a significant number of government appointees.

In the absence of any suggestions for changes in the GCC, either in it membership or functions, one can only conclude it is a call to turn the clock back to the days when she was a Minister in Qarase's SDL government and the GCC was actively engaged in national politics.

The letter merely reinforces views she has previously expressed. It is certainly not a call for democracy, multi-culturalism or grassroots participation.

One might have thought there are more pressing matters to be concerned about, that affect all iTaukei and all other Fiji citizens, other than an unchanged role for the Great Council of Chiefs, whose actions and inactions, if we examine them clearly, have contributed to all of Fiji's coups.

Some will see it be disrespectful to say so, not just from a vulagi but from anyone in Fiji, but this is an arrogant, uncompromising letter written by someone who sees herself as someone born to rule. The letter is an important document because it shows us quite clearly how chiefs like Ro Teimumu see themselves, how they view commoner Fijians, how they see history and their contribution to modern Fiji, and why they will do all they can to obstruct changes make since  2006 and the forthcoming dialogues on constitutional and electoral reform.  Thankfully, Fiji has chiefs who are more concerned about their people's welfare.

There can be little doubt that Ro Teimumu's letter it is an attempt to rally support against the Bainimarama government,  but those who would follow her should read the letter carefully. There is nothing in the document for ordinary iTaukei, for other races, for democracy or equal citizenship. The letter is only concerned with the maintenance of chiefly power or, more specifically, the reinstatement of the powers of the Great Council of Chiefs.




I will support these claims in Parts II-IV of this article later in the week.

* Readers wishing to read the a copy of the original letter are referred to Coup4.5, FijiToday and Graham Davis's Grubsheet. I was unable to copy a clear version but in succeeding  articles there are summaries of each paragraph.

Comments

Why Now? said…
Croz
Why do you write this pro junta article and attack an elected member of the Fijian parliament before it was disbanded by men with guns? And why now?
Anonymous said…
yes , and lets be equally bold and abolish the military all together. The only realson we are even discussing the GCC is because it has be unilaterally scrapped by an uneletec military junta. Croz does not even dare to question the need for a military in such a small island nation except as to oppress their own people and entrench their own influence, to be used as canon fodder for others ina conflict that rarely if ever affects fiji and remittances, which given the bloated military budget is an argument non-starter.
Anonymous said…
yes , and lets be equally bold and abolish the military all together. The only realson we are even discussing the GCC is because it has be unilaterally scrapped by an uneletec military junta. Croz does not even dare to question the need for a military in such a small island nation except as to oppress their own people and entrench their own influence, to be used as canon fodder for others ina conflict that rarely if ever affects fiji and remittances, which given the bloated military budget is an argument non-starter.
Eyes wide shut said…
This is good analysis, thank you Croz.

Indo-Fijians by now must be sick and tired of being used and threatened by certain Fijians leaders whenever they feel like.

People like Teimumu find Indo-Fijians an easy and convenient target.

Indo-Fijians are blamed for everything in Fiji and must be fed up by now.

Unfortunately, some of our Taukei brothers and sisters have their eyes wide and swallow the race propaganda.

Taukei own all the resources and have been running government since independence. If with all these advantages they are still behind, they need to look deeply and honestly within themselves and ask why?

Instead of forever blaming others, confront the issues in an honest and frank manner, and ask questions like: what has happened to all the millions of lease money collected by the chiefs? what's there to show for it?.

No one has let Taukei down you more than their own chiefs and leaders. But Indians are east targets and convenient scapegoats when you need to blame someone.

Long after the Indians are gone, the problems will still be there unless confronted in an honest manner. Instead of the Indians, Taukei will turn on each other.

This is already happening.

Indians a politically spent force. They will continue to leave Fiji and no longer pose a political threat.

What we are witnessing is essentially a fight between Taukei elite for power, wealth and privileges. As in the old days, the chief is mobilising her people to do the dirty work.

Further to Croz's questions, others come to mind: Why is Teimumu stirring racial animosity?
What is her motive?
What are the rewards and who will it go to?
What will ordinary Fijians gain?

Ordinary Fijians and Indians lives will not change, just like it didn't after 1987, 2000, 2006 coups.

But Teimumu has lot to gain by causing bloodshed.

Bainimarama used Indo-Fijians to justify his coup and the Adi is promoting hate against them and using her people to try and get back into power.

A chief like Teimumu is a user and an opportunist.

Indo-Fijians are convenient football for kicking around by some chiefs in Fiji.
Aage Picche said…
Why Now, what have you got to hide on these Thieves masquerading as Chiefs? With aristocracy, they benefited while poor Fijians kept on bowing down to this undeserving lot. Look at Fijian Holdings saga where provinces for which FHL was established held less preference A shares compared to elite Fijian fat cats associated with Fiji Development Bank ( read Qarase) and National Bank of Fiji ( read Bakani). And how about SDL’s Duavata Holdings? Rich Fijian elite formed a higher social structure just like the rich Gujarati Community, with whom Qarase drank Black Label while underpaid workers in retail industry sweated in poverty.
Anonymous said…
Perhaps the chief feels that she is as responsible for the success as she is the failures of the GCC and doesn't feel inclined to defend anything. Unlike the regime who have as yet as far as i recall, never suggested in public or the media that they have failed in anything and the only solution to all the nations ills.Aided by you of course Croz.
Anonymous said…
Wow, you speak of Ro Temumu as being disrespectful for addressing FB as Voqere and not PM or Commodore when this is the very guy who removed her from office at gunpoint?

Then, you go on to write:

"...one can only conclude it is a call to turn the clock back to the days when she was a Minister in Qarase's SDL government..."


That seems a perfectly reasonable conclusion to me. It's about time FB and his fellow travellers were put on trial for treason and the Qarase Government reinstalled.
Had enough said…
Well said, Croz. Thank God for you and the likes of Graham Davies or there would be no sanity at all. I just despair of all the racism and how this is manipulated by chiefs like Ro Kepa. It needs to be stomped on whenever it rears its ugly head. Democracy isn't worth it if people have to live in fear of racial hatred and the sooner people realise that the better. Why do you think so many Indo -Fijians want the dictatorship to continue? Because it's better than a democracy in which they are terrorised, that's why.
Ram Sami said…
I think the cost of institutons such as the Council of Chiefs should be borne by a levy from those who want to persist with this anachronism.

Ro Kepa should spend her remaining years on this earth righting the wrongs of her kin who deprived the landowners of Yanuca Island of their right to a just share of lease monies paid by the Fijian Hotel.
Paula said…
Let me try to answer your questions. Why now? Because the regime has just abolished the GCC without a chance to address its role, shortfalls etc in the constitutional dialogue. Why? Because nobody else seem to have the guts to stand up and say something that is critical of the military overthrowing an elected government. If we are to have an open and free dialogue on Fiji's future, the opinion of leaders such as Ro Teimumu need to be admitted together with those of the rest of our society. And I do honestly not understand why rallying people against a dictator is such a horrible thing? History is full of examples and those who have taken power by force should not be too surprised that resistance starts to emerge.
Anonymous said…
Ro Temumu is not predicting racial violence, she is threatening racial violence. She should be charged with stirring up racial hatred.
Anonymous said…
I find it spectacularly hypocritical that Qrase znd his ministers are labelled a 'racist government' but Croz find sit so hard to refer to this regime as a military junta, without any mandate and no accountability.As they say they speak otu of both sdes of thier mouth about fairness and equality but have demonstrated that things are stil,. much fairer and profitable up their end of town. So some personally have done very well out of this regime.
Anonymous said…
Rallying people against any government or community using racial hatred and violence for a political cause is terrorism anywhere in the world. The use of violence does not become lawful just because the victims are unpopular. If it did, the use of violence would become a weapon in the hands of the popular against those who are less popular. And who decides which cause is a good one?! Justifying the use of violence? People like the Ro Teimumu? Her fellow chiefs? God forbid.
Anonymous said…
'Rallying people against any government or community using racial hatred and violence for a political cause is terrorism' perhaps you need to calm down, i didn't read into what she said what you clearly did and wanted to find.Presumably if she were inciting all of those things, the regime would pack her off for a beating?

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