How is Life in Fiji Today?

Downtown Suva coffee shop
Downtown Suva Mall
Of the 30-odd anti-Bainimarama government blog sites one might have escaped readers' attention, either because it has until now published only infrequently or because whatever it publishes is copied and published by other anti-blogs, as is their way.

The overlooked blog is Good Men (and Women) Doing Something "for the people of Fiji who want to do something but do not have the means to do something, about the illegal regime that is now in power." This is the link to their site. The major contributor is 'Fiji Black' whose most recent posting is ”I'm just overwhelmed by what is happening here, in Fiji." The article tells readers about the sorry state of affairs in Fiji, covering four areas: the "farcicle" justice system, a “dead” downtown Suva, the struggle for "survival", and the brain drain.

I posted Fiji Black's article to four people in Fiji and asked for their comments. Here they are, together with a summary of Fiji Black's points:

Allegation 1. The Justice System
Fiji Black, “The courts are a farce” because “our brightest legal minds have been 'blacklisted'...”

Respondent 1. I believe that it does its best but has both hands, and both ankles tied together (from decrees, no accurate police recording, poorly-trained DPPs, lost records … I feel sorry for the judiciary: it is having a tough time but it is still there, and the best support we can give to it is not to bag it.
Respondent 2. Even before the 2006 Coup, our judiciary was overwhelmed and had limited capacity and resources. Currently,  there are large demands on the court system and it is not clear how it is coping. There is also an on-going concern about political interference –unfortunately! But it is struggling on, and that’s positive.

 Respondent 3. On the court system what cases are not being heard? In fact, for the first time the courts at all levels are case managed on computer with the Court of Appeal adopting case management this year. The FCA is the last court to be case managed. Labasa has no back log at all, with judges hearing 2012 cases. In any case delays in a court system does not make it a 'farce'! If it did, the NZ court system would be a farce! Most court systems have some delay.
     As for the firm not getting govt business, is this the old Munro Leys complaint? If so, they were Qarase Govt's lawyers from 2000 to 2006. Maybe it's time for other law firms to be able to get Govt business! In any case it's up to the client to choose its lawyer, and since Munro Leys  has decided to take a strong anti - Government position, why should government choose them? Trust is an important feature of solicitor-client relations and it is clearly not present in this relationship. Surely Munro Leys must have known of the risk of losing govt business when it took its political position in 2006.  
Allegation 2. Downtown Suva
Fiji Black. “at close of business on a weekday is dead” because of lack of disposable income—“there's no more money to give the kids to buy beans … pay for fares, food, school fees,etc.” 
Respondent 2. Suva is a bustle in Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. It must be remembered that there has been considerable suburbanisation in the Suva-Nausori and Suva-Navua corridors. People shop at Nabua, Centre Point, Tamavua, Nasinu (Hansons), Lami and Pacific Harbour. This has eased the crowds at the city centre. MHCC is always jammed packed with people. Perhaps the relatively low number of people on the streets is also due to the ‘mall effect’. 

Editor. I added these recent photos taken at about 4pm not to show that all is well but to show Downtown is not "dead" and at least some people are not "struggling for survival." 

Allegation 3. Life Being a Grind
Fiji Black: “a struggle for survival. Pay is not increasing, cost of living is just going up. On top of the floods and the rest of it, we the people of Fiji are being ground underfoot. We are not living, we are surviving. We are sending ore from Bua no less!!! to China to process. Why couldn't we do that here?”

Respondent 1. I'd say (the article is ) fairly spot-on, but dramatic. Sums it up - the poverty.
Respondent 2. For a good 60-70% of our people life has been a grind for some time with real cost of living getting ever larger compared to ‘real wages’. The devaluation, VAT and the floods have not helped. Pro-poor policies such as family assistance allowance, food vouchers, fee free schooling, bus fare support and free text books have helped. But there is an urgent need to increase wages for the 60-70% of our people who constitute the working poor. More effective development planning, rural development and self help projects would help. This government appears to have been successfully seduced by the large business operators, especially the worst of them –the garment factory owners!!
Respondent 4. Fiji Black implies that all responsibility falls on government and some obviously does but many people were struggling long before the 2006 Coup; the world Financial Crisis is causing increased poverty world-wide, and sanctions , especially those affecting the sugar industry and the quality of those administering government and quasi-government departments and organizations, have made things worse.
      Fiji Black seems exclusively concerned with urban Fijians. Government's pro-poor and infrastructural policies have also done much for people living in some rural areas, and the work is ongoing. The payment of all land lease money to grassroots Taukei will also help in some areas. Previously, administration deductions and chiefly payments left little left over for ordinary villagers. 

Editor.  Even Australia exports its ores for processing.  Bua—and Fiji—just do not have the capacity.
Allegation 4. Brain Drain 
Fiji Black: “This is happening at an alarming pace. And it's the cream of your people that are leaving. PNG now has a sizeable Fijian community … a lot of foreign Fijians will return home if they see the chance to get a fair go where rise is on merit and not because you are an officer or are related to someone in the regime.”
Respondent 2. Again, this should have been an issue  for government since 1987. We’ve lost 12-15% of our people some of them the best among us in the professions, trades and business. Because more than 90% were Indo-Fijians, the various racially motivated regimes really did not give a hoot. As a result there have been declines in the standard of educational, health and public services generally. There is a serious and urgent need to review our immigration/emigration policies and to think about how best to encourage our most capable to stay in the country.

Respondent 4: Fiji Black's comment leads me to believe he is only talking about the Taukei brain drain. Some professional Taukei have taken up jobs in PNG and other parts of Melanesia but few Fijians of other races. Most Indo-Fijians have been emigrating to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA since the 1970s. Similarly, I think he is only concerned about Taukei Fijians returning to Fiji. 
      This tells me a lot about the kind of Fiji he wants, and influences how I think about all else he writes. I do not think he wants a Fiji where all Fijian citizens are treated equally and where all citizen votes are equal. I think he wants a return to the good old days where a Qarase government ruled on behalf of a privileged Taukei elite.


Gutter Press said…
Crosbie, you sent the comments to 4 respondents, but only published the answers of two or three. From the way you've identified the respondents it appears that all 4 did reply to you. Why didn't you didn't publish 4 replies? Was it because some of them didn't reply to certain comments?
Croz Walsh said…
Yes and No. One person felt best qualified to comment on only one issue, and I did not publish repetitions from the others.
Anonymous said…
My question is, what can be done to at least move the discussion to some form of movement to encourage people to return to Fiji. Not all of us are waiting for the change in government, many of us can return and help make the changes across the board -- my question is how can we begin encouraging people to move back...

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