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

Some readers may think I am giving unnecessary attention to Ro Teimumu's letter and so it might be but I do think it important to understand where she is coming from.  There are so many historical inaccuracies and assumptions presented as facts in her letter that one must conclude she is either deliberately lying or that she actually believes what she is saying. Neither conclusion does her credit but I think she is an honest woman and actually believes what she has written.  This is the way some chiefs must think. Either way, her statements should not remain unanswered.

In Part II we will examine paragraphs 1 to 10 of the 18 paragraphs in Ro Teimumu's letter to the PM. Paragraphs 11 to 18 will be discussed on Wednesday, and ten "major decisions" taken by the GCC of Thursday.

In P1 Ro Teimumu makes three claims: (1) the GCC has always had "a voice in the governance of the nation", (2) chiefs are a "stabilising factor (who have helped) control ethno-nationalism", (3) chiefs have helped "reconciliation in ethnic relations."
Comment. (1) The GCC was established by Sir Arthur Gordon in 1876, two years after Cession, to enable him to rule ethnic Fijians indirectly through the chiefs. They had no say in the governance of "the nation", and the GCC did not exist at the time of Cession. (2) There is evidence to support —and deny— this claim for chiefs and the GCC. It is a mixed record.  (3) The same may be said for this claim.


In P2 Ro Teimumu cites a recent Citizen Constitution Forum survey
to show iTaukei "make their decisions through their chiefs."
Comment. The survey showed that villagers took their lead from local chiefs and leaders. They did not initiate decisions. Consensus was usually what the local leaders wanted. But there was no mention of higher chiefs or the GCC. Moreover, the survey was undertaken to assess the effects of CCF workshops that were aimed at encouraging  villagers to think for themselves. Hardly what Ro Teimumu wants.

Further, she said that a "truly empowered Fiji is only possible if there is genuine appreciation of our traditional structures that are harnessed towards enlightening the people."
Comment. What this actually means in practice is difficult to say but it is not contrary to the Bainimarama government's position. They also acknowledge the importance of traditional structures.

In P3 Ro Teimumu says Government's "obsession to remove racialism
from the governance of this nation is shortsighted and ill-conceived, for ethnicity is a fact of life." Only when we accept differences will there be peace.
Comment. She confuses race and ethnicity, which are truly facts of life, with their use as political weapons. Government's endorsement of the People's Charter, its actions on Fiji citizenship and its intended electoral reforms that will abolish communal (ethnic) seats and encourage the formation of truly multi-ethnic political parties, ensures that all citizens will be treated equally. Bainimarama thinks the 1987 and 2000 coups were made possible, not because of race per se, but the deliberate misuse of race for political purposes.

In P4 she makes three claims: (1) It is a "fallacy" that indigenous Fijians were "prioritized" by previous government, (2) Ethnic Fijians have "sacrificed much for development" though our "benevolence in bequeathing traditional land, waterways and i qoliqoli",  but (3) this has made "little difference to (indigenous) Fijian lives." 
Comment.  These are incredible claims, even apart from their irrelevance in an argument advocating the retention of the GCC. No one is questioning the right of indigenous Fijians to stand tall in Fiji or even the need to target programmes to affect all disadvantaged people. including iTaukei but Ro Teimumu should note that  (1) The Fijian Administration has been an almost "parallel government" to parliament, that affirmative Action policies have been followed since Independence, and that almost all ethnic Fijian business enterprises were started by large injections of of Government money. (2) She is living in cloud cuckoo if she believes freehold and State land were bequeathed. They were purchased, and Native land (over 90% of Fiji) was left for its owners to rent, use or not use. (3) How can she say these and other acts have had no effect on ethnic Fijian lives? The chiefs did not drive 4-wheel drives in 1874, today'"slaves" are no longer buried alive below the foundation posts of new bure, and today most ordinary Fijians live lives —along with most people in the world— that their great-grandparents would find hard to imagine.

In P5 she that  only the GCC has the capacity to "help preserve a viable democratic political system for our nation."
Comment. I cannot see how an undemocratic body can serve this role unless she means that it will discourage iTaukei from launching further coups. Given that it failed to do so in 1987, 2000 and 2006, and given her veiled threats about a future "calamity" (P11), I would think the GCC as a body has disqualified itself from this role. Chiefs may play this role but not the GCC, given its record.

In P6 she says Indo-Fijians have "accept the vital role of the chiefs." Witness, Jai Ram Reddy and Mahendra Chaudhry (NFP and FLP party leaders in 1997) declared their "unwavering support to the chiefs, saying they are "chiefs of all communities."
Comment.There is an element of truth in this statement but I think they were polite, diplomatic gestures made to heal wounds between the two major races at a time when race relations were under extreme pressure. I am sure Indo-Fijians respect some chiefs, even though they have absolutely no representation on any chiefly council, but if Chaudhry's opposition (see P9) to extended powers for the GCC is an accurate reflection, they do not necessarily respect the GCC.

In P7 she says the Indo-Fjian parties in their submission to the Reeves Commission agreed to compromise their "human rights principles for the sake of national unity and harmony."
Comment. Yes, but this had nothing to do with the GCC, the subject of her letter. They gave away hopes of one man one vote and accepted the ethnic communal voting system because political realities at the time offered them little option. I should also be noted that the amendments to the Reeves' Commission recommendations, accepted by all parties and the GCC (P14), reduced the number of open seats recommended.  But it was understood the number of open seats would increase over time. They never did.

In P8 she says the GCC has a unique role in "reconcilating cultural differences" and "bridging the social and political cohesion (sic!) in Fiji."
Comment. A bold statement but I can't think of any examples.

In P9 she says the Fijian Administration was on "the verge of being reformed" with an "invigorated" GCC,  when the 2006 Coup occurred.
Comment. The only proposed reform of which I am aware involved an extension of GCC powers. "On 20 April 2005, the Fijian government announced plans to grant greater formal powers to the Great Council. This proposal was immediately opposed by Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who said it would lead to "dual government," in Fiji, It was also opposed by Ratu Epeli Ganilau, among others.

In P10 she claims Bainimarama's "revolutionary changes cannot be made without the involvement of the GCC" who are "the source of peace, stability and unifying factor."
Comment. From a GCC perspective, I suppose making all Fiji citizens equal in law and in politics is revolutionary but chiefs and community leaders will participate in the Constitution and Electoral Reform dialogues. The comments about the GCC as sources of peace, stability and unity are vacuous nonsense. How anyone can make such a claim given the role of individual chiefs in the coups, and the mutiny after the 2006 coup, defies logic. Further, the endorsement of successive ethnic Fijian parties (the Alliance, SVT, SDL [and CAMV?] shows the GCC has favoured one ethnic Fijian party over others, and directed their people to vote for the party chosen.

Part III will be published tomorrow.

For a link to Ro Teimumu's letter, click here  (Excuse the typo in the title) Thanks, Guy.
I have corrected the spelling and words used in some parts of the letter.

Comments

Anonymous said…
so given your glaring lack of withering criticism of military rule of fiji, it is for me to ask does banimiarama and his cronies 'either deliberately lie or actually believe what they are saying'?
Blackmailer said…
Croz is spot on. The Adi is saying, if I do not get what i want, the indians will get what is coming to them. Reeks of blackmail, fear-mongering and incitement.
Anonymous said…
Well done Croz. I see that your critics instead of dealing with your comments, change the goalposts and attack the military yet again. Does the military government justify Ro Teimumu's lack of interest in the truth?The issue here is the validity of the GCC, not of the current govt?
Anonymous said…
Hard to argue with your analysis, Croz.

Your comments are spot on.
Anonymous said…
Well said Croz. Ro Temumu could do some much for Fiji if she put aside her personal agenda and put this country first. To @anon this is NOT about the military its about the GCC. Please try and understand that.

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