The New Navosavakadua and the Supposedly Threatened i'Taukei Identity

The modern day Navosavakadua is a regular contributor to the anti-government blogs

It is no coincidence that the person who makes "prophecies" in the anti-Government blogs has chosen the pseudonym Navosavakadua, the oracle chief who founded the Tuka millenian cult in the 1870s, and who prophesised the expulsion of the British, a reworked Christianity and the return of the old gods.  The writings of the  "reborn" Navosavakadua are invariably  erudite, sometimes witty, often reasonable and almost believable, and always —always—  subtely or otherwise, anti-Government. 

Navosavakadua's "almost believable" argument
In a recent contribution to the Fiji Times where he likens the one man one vote proposal to an attack on
i'Taukei identity, we have one of his almost believable arguments: talk of one man, one vote, one value, is to talk of people as if they are grains of sand - all
individuals who can be poured into whatever buckets this self-appointed saviour chooses to pour them. We cannot have electorates based on traditional identities. We have to be in big buckets mixed with all the other grains of sand. The only thing that matters is that each bucket (electorate) has the same number of grains of sand.

What this empty headed saviour doesn't understand is that when we are poured into these big buckets, we will not assume a new identity and start voting as citizens without identity. No. We will start feeling that our only identity is that of iTaukei rather than vulagi. This is not the foundation on which to build a race-free Fiji. It is a recipe for heightening racial feeling, unless we can be sure that all people feel like the undifferentiated citizens they are assumed to be.

Reasonable? No, it's nonsense, washer woman logic, aimed at the emotions of the less educated i'taukei. Another dart thrown into a target that says Bainimara, an ethnic Fijian heading a predominantly ethnic Fijian army, police force, civil service and government, is trying to destroy i'Taukei identity. Why Bainimamara wishes to self-immolumate  is never made clear.

All human beings benefit from a sense of identity. It provides security and a sense of belonging.

But all human beings have more than one idenity. They wear different hats on different occasions and so share their belonging with more than one group. Thus in one of our several capacities we are male or female, old or young, parents or children, and in the Fiji context, Itaukei, Indo-Fijian or a  member of smaller ethnic groups.  We never wear the same hat on all occasions. 

It is essential to self-esteem that we are proud (or at least not ashamed) of our identity. New Zealand
provides an example of how for many years Maori were talked out of being Maori.  At different times they were told they were dying out, soon to be assimilated, and not "real" Maori. More recently, they are told they are criminally prone, a drain on the social welfare system, and rather uppity in expecting the Treaty of Waitangi to be honoured.  Not all is negative, of course, and not everyone thinks like this, but these views are still around and they do not help Maori self-esteem.

Ethnic Fijians have also been diminished by negative (or patronising) views but nowhere to the same extent as Maori who, incidentally, have not been protected by having seats in parliament.  Today's threats to i'Taukei identity come far more from the insiduous forces of change, such as the need to adapt to a monetised economy and lifestyle and urbanization, than from the sometimes negative views of their fellow citizens. ITaukei are sufficiently numerous and powerful, that they can thumb their noses at negative stereotypes. 

The real challenges to i'Taukei identity
The challenges identified by no less a person than former Vice-President and prominent lawyer, the Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, have nothing to do with voting or citizenship. In his published speeches he talks of language, dialects, the pervasiveness of  Western culture, the need for role models for young people, the need to adapt tradition and traditional practices. better chiefly leadership, the need to use God's gift for the benefit of all, and the need to build a shared Fijian identity.

There is no conflict between being an i'Taukei and being a Fiji citizen.It's just a question of doning a
different hat. 

There is no longer a need for race-based parties or i'Taukei electorates.  Whatever the election outcome, i'Taukei will be the overwhelming majority in parliament, and their interests will be protected.  

Navosavakadua's argument, therefore ...
does nothing to protect a robust identity that is not beng threatened. To suggest otherwise implies Navosavakadua has little faith in the essence of an identity that impress others, even tourists.  In his heart, Navosavakadua also know this. The supposed threat was merely another way of persuading the less educated to oppose government.

But ...
the persistence of such superficially reasonable arguments are a warning and have to be taken seriously because they threaten current efforts at nation-building. In this context, i'Taukei need to join with others in support of the Constitutional Commission. In this way, its recommendations to the Constitution Assembly will reflect the wisest advice for a harmonious, multi-ethnic nation.

The introductory quotation is from an article by Martha Kaplan published in 1990:  "Meaning, Agency and Colonial History: Navosavakadua and the Tuka Movement in Fiji." My source was Google. I do not know where the article was published.


Threats and intimidation said…
How can recommendations or even anything resembling satisfactory engagement with the constitution commission take place in an environment of threats and intimidation? The world is not blind croz. Everyone knows what is going on and if the regime doesn't do something to rectify the situation immediately, the limited credibility for the regime that is still remaining will be lost forever.
Rodney Cole said…
It is interesting that an opponent of the present regime in Fiji should choose to adopt the pseudonym of a one time 'prophet' who sought to 'tavuki', (overturn) the socio/ political state of the country in the late 19th century. The leader of the 'Tuku' cult which advocated the change was a kai Ra name Dugumoi who adopted the name accorded the chief justice by the Fijian people, Navosavakadua because of the implied infallibility of his judgements. Initially the first Navosavakadua was exiled by the Council of Chiefs to Lau but as he continued to advocate 'tavuki' the then government exiled him to Rotuma for 10 years. He died shortly after his return to Ra in 1897.

The major difference between the present Navosavakadua and his predecessor would seem to be the self imposed exile and the ability to continue to preach a modern form of 'tavuki' via the internet. Certainly the form of 'tavuki' advocated by the current regime seems far more challenging than that advocated by the reincarnated prophet.

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