With Malicious Intent
Ro Teimumu Kepa’s recent epistolary outburst simply demonstrates to the wider public about the real state of race and politics at the very highest levels of itaukei leadership in Fiji. It further underscores the very short distance that she and her coterie have travelled intellectually and ethically in spite of all that has happened since that fateful day in May 1987. Some readers have taken umbrage at Professor Crosbie Walsh’s careful exegesis of Ro Teimumu's letter on this blog, not over questions of interpretation but on a false moral equivalency, that somehow criticizing the Chiefly council is equivalent to endorsing the current government in toto.
I think that Croz’s incremental approach to deformalizing the GCC while understandable is nonetheless too timorous within the context of the political situation in Fiji. Be that as it may, the issues that Croz raises in his analysis of Ro Teimumu’s letter as well as those by Graham Davis are worthy of an extended and robust argument on this site as well as all others that believe in a better future for Fiji.
Her letter followed an earlier diatribe in November 2011 concerning civil servants makes no contribution to policy, law, economics, theology, international relations, nor does the author exhibit any political knowledge or cultural understanding. A lack of expertise in any of these areas does not preclude one from mutual discourse, or none of us would be here, but for crying out loud, shouldn’t we demand that individuals who publicly engage in politics like Ro Teimumu have some awareness of statecraft?
But that is precisely the reason why there is such a vociferous backlash from the elite itaukei class she represents. They don’t have to know anything about statecraft or the tedious work of nation-building, or how the global economy works, or the long-term effects of labor mobility, or comparative advantage, or government financing, or monetary policy, or investing in human capital, or human rights, or democratic accountability, or religious pluralism, or separation of powers, or all the minutiae of governance and public administration. The chiefly class simply through the privilege of birth feel entitled to rule in perpetuity over the lives of people they have neither the interest to know or really give a damn about.
This may seem harsh, but let us pause for a second and consider what has been intimated by Ms. Kepa in her dissimulated missive. What kind of person who unambiguously proclaims about the verities of her faith threaten calamity on a largely poor, fairly defenseless minority group in a letter to the Prime Minister of the Country? How is it possible that the great defenders of multiculturalism like Mr. Madraiwiwi have not publicly repudiated such an appalling declaration by one of their own?
The deafening silence once again reveals to the embattled minority community that the elite itaukei leadership will never relinquish the politics of exclusion and irredentism as long as it serves their goal of maintaining political and financial control. The Methodist Church by virtue of its charter could be expected to speak up for the marginalized and the defenseless, but here in Fiji, it acts as a legitimizing agent for the racists and the intolerant. The ignominious role that the Methodist Church has played in Fiji’s political troubles by giving cover to the worst elements will one day be written along with the opportunists, enablers and sycophants.
Both Croz and Graham have done a great public service in highlighting the fundamental struggle that is going on in Fiji as it moves towards an uncertain future. But the ghosts of the past will almost certainly cast a long and ominous shadow across whatever path Fiji takes, the greatest of which is the Council of Chiefs. Ro Teimumu's dispatch can either be understood as a final coda of a dying institution and a remembrance of things past, or for what it really is— a shot across the bow and a harbinger of things to come. For the sake of all people in Fiji, we should do what we can to make sure that it is not the latter.