Take Your Pick: Hunter v. Davis
WEEKEND READINGS. • Allen Lockington Column • Subhash Appana continues his series on constitution-making in Fiji with VII:The 1990 Constitution • Robert Yee's Submission to the Constitution Commission
• Grameem Bank Threatened
Within only a few days of each other we have been presented with two very differing views of Fiji today. First up was Australian Russell Hunter, former Fiji Times editor and Fiji Sun publisher before he was expelled from Fiji in 2008.
In an article published by FijiToday headed “Frank's boat is sinking but he will ride out the waves” Hunter argues that “many thousands of Fiji Islanders who eagerly await their chance to remove him by means of the ballot box are doomed to disappointment.” There will be no elections in 2014. Why? Because Bainimarama “cannot allow a winner other than himself.”
On Bainimarama's multiracialism agenda, Hunter says “The majority of the people he illegally governs do not agree – and not just the ethnic Fijian majority. It will take more than a few decrees to end the politics of race in Fiji.”
He goes on to say that “ they [the iTaikei] are the ones called upon to make all the concessions to a highly identifiable mono-cultural immigrant block [the Indo-Fijians] that declines to assimilate“. He then repeats the notion that the Bainimarama coup was an Indo-Fijian —or worse still an Indo-Fijian Muslim— plot.Submissions to the Constitution Commission, he says, show that most people are against Bainimarama plotters being granted immunity so he will simply impose it, “just as he did the People's Charter he claims won 90% approval from the people.” It was actually a product of wide consultations and just over 60% supported it despite opposition from the Qarase SDL party, the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church.
Hunter then goes on to say Bainimarama has abandoned the Charter; dismantled ethnic Fijian institutions; and ruined the economy. He doubts there will be an election so Bainimarama will probably have himself appointed President. “Certainly the option must look preferable to an election he cannot win without rigging it.”
That's Hunter writing from Australia.
Then comes another Australian journalist and Grubsheet publisher, Fiji-born Graham Davis who now spends half of every week working in Fiji for Qorvis, the Bainimarama PR consultants.
Writing of Fiji Day, Davis writes, “In the 42 years since independence, there can have been few Fiji Days more inspiring than Wednesday’s celebration, or one so filled with hope for a better future … Thousands of people – many of them decked in the flag – turned out at formal Fiji Day celebrations across the country.”
“Grubsheet watched the march through Suva marvelling at this year’s turnout, reputedly the biggest Fiji Day crowd ever. How fantastic that Suva turned on a beautiful day after the miserable weather of the past. How wonderful that so many people joined the procession, calling out Bula vinaka and Happy Fiji Day to the many spectators along the route. It was a river of blue winding its way from the Flea Market through town to Albert Park, interspersed with the brass bands, kids on their parent’s shoulders, the extroverts breaking into their dance routines to the usual kailas and general merriment.”
Most interestingly, given Hunter's account, Davis wrote of “Bainmarama, seeming relaxed and utterly at ease with the crowd ... And as he stood there, ordinary people, and especially children, started to come forward to shake his hand and be photographed with him. Tentatively at first and then en mass as it became obvious that the PM was thoroughly enjoying the encounter.”
Only time will tell, of course, but for the moment, take your pick. Glass half empty; glass half full. Things may not be as rosy as Davis claims but Hunter seems to be describing a different country.
For Fiji Day and other official photos, visit the Ministry of Information Facebook page by clicking here.