Keep Cool! This is a Time for Clear Thinking


This short article should not be written by an outsider.  It can so easily be seen as patronising, which it is not. But what is said needs to be said, and is especially important at this new crossroad in Fiji's recent history. -- Croz Walsh

The road from December 2006 to the promised elections in 2014 was never going to be an easy one. The potholes and patch-overs have proved to be far worse than those on Fiji roads.  And, as with the roads where cyclones, floods and poor workmanship, have often undone the good work, so also in the political scene.  Promising steps forward have too often been followed by too many steps back.

The annoying thing is that the causes, as with the cyclones and floods,  can be easily identified but no one seems able or willing to do anything about them.  First one or another of those capable of finding solutions, whether it be Government, opposition to Government, an NGO or a foreign government, manages to put their foot in it, which in turn produces actions and reactions from the other parties involved, with an escalation of emotions, finger pointing, the intemperate use of words — and an escalation of the problem that needs resolution. No one says  "Stop", and moderate, calming voices are silent.

And so it is now, in Fiji. The Constitution Commission came up with what I think Dr Wadan Narsey called a "compromise" draft constitution. It was intended to be "inclusive" of the old political parties while offering Government and the military, in exchange, a guarantee of immunity.  A network of commissions was recommended to ensure inputs from civil society but  they also excluded inputs from the present government and the military.

The old political parties applauded. And why not? They were back in business.  They had lost the communal seats but retained their 71 seats. They did not  need to reform their racially particularist aims or membership so long as their MPs swore a generalist oath of allegiance. The proposed National People's Assembly could be stacked, made inert or, like the old Senate, be made extensions of their influence in Parliament.  They could also effectively ignore the People's Charter.

Ninety —even ninety-five— percent of the draft constitution is fair, balanced and should be acceptable to all (lower case) parties  The commissioners should be congratulated on what for the most part is a thorough piece of work that in these details lay a sound basis for a fair and democratically sustainable Fiji.  It is the other five-ten percent that Government finds unacceptable.  How on earth could the commissioners have got this so wrong!

So, where is Fiji now? The old political parties and their supporting blogs are having a hey day.  We can hear them saying, We told you so. The "illegal junta" was never genuine about its Roadmap, its Constitution Commission, or its Constituent Assembly leading up  to elections in 2014.  It never intended to hold elections.  The only holding intended was to hold on to power, perks and salaries.

I think not.  There is far more to the credit of a government that launched the People's Charter that won the support of two-thirds of the adult population, despite opposition from these self-same critics and others in the old political establishment.  I cannot believe that a government that has placed so much emphasis on racial equality, a shared Fijian identity, national unity, and has done so much towards improving the country's physical and institutional infrastructure, not to mention its efforts to assist rural communities and the poor, is merely in power for self-serving purposes.

But then again, Government's actions have not been flawless.  Its PR has been appalling.   Its has failed to deal firmly with some of those guilty of human rights abuses. It has not been forthcoming about salaries and payouts, leaving itself open to charges of corruption. It has demanded one hundred percent agreement before accepting anyone as its friends. Less than that, and you are are a potential enemy. It has not listened to the concerns of civil society organizations.  It has not sought to win over and include those who in 2006 supported it, and many have become progressively alienated and disillusioned.  It has sought to intimidate its opposition and has at times resorted to threats, personal abuse and insults. In short, it has shown its military base and lack of  political or diplomatic skills.  These are serious shortcomings of approach and method, but they are not shortcomings of intent or sincerity. And we should remind ourselves,  those opposed to Government are similarly flawed.

Then there are the old political parties and the anti-government blogs. I  recall little to no  approval or encouragement for anything government has attempted.. It has always been criticism, criticism, criticism. Why have they never put forward any ideas on how to solve  Fiji's problems other than to unpick what Government was fashioning and  return themselves  to power?

Finally, there  are the foreign governments and the regional and international organizations they influence.  This blog has pointed to their many acts that further isolated Fiji, making its economic recovery, and fuller civilian participation in government, difficult.  And this is before we include the foreign media, foreign law societies, Amnesty International and the foreign trade unions, and the hysteria they have helped produce. Few knew, and ever fewer had visited,  Fiji  but that did not stop them  taking up arms in defence of the very imperfect democracy that Fiji once had, closing their eyes to what the Bainimarama Government  was trying to do to make it better.

Where does this leave Fiji?  My advice, for what it is worth, is that all parties, including Government,   should refrain from personal attacks, imputed motives, and vindictive and retaliatory actions. All (lower case) parties should re-visit their old positions,  reconsider present realities, and concentrate on what can, and not on what cannot, be done in the face of these realities.

If those who oppose government think my remarks frivolous, they need to know how relatively lucky they are in this essentially benevolent dictatorship.  They have relative freedoms of speech, assembly and movement.  The media is relatively free. Things could be much, much worse.

Further, ordinary men and women are not unduly concerned about this or that "democracy" but they do want a stable government that will help them with the other human rights: the rights to work and fair wages, to food, security, shelter, good health care, and education.

"Keep cool" in the forthcoming weeks.  Call a truce. This is a time for clear thinking.


Notice.  Readers may be interested in Graham Davis's explanation on Why the Ghai draft is to be modified.


Comments

peace said…
Well done! An excellent piece and a salutary reminder of what is really important. But will good sense prevail? Attar Singh is already advising all not to take part in the Constituent Assembly. They never learn
Anonymous said…
nice to see a little (lower case) balance back on your postings. for a while there i was strating to think you really where on the militaries pay roll

since government has all the power, money, guns - surely it is hey who should take a lead on your suggestions.

one way to quickly defuse the opposition is the PM to declare (as originally promised) that he is not going to run in the election, nor does he covert the pesidents chair. That way it is a lot easier to believe he will allow a free and fair election. Also i think people will have less issue with him leading government right up to the election removing the need and calls for a transitional government.
Marc Edge said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Keeping cool and thinking carefully about what one says now is most important. However, it does not mean that people should remain silent. We have had too much silence for too long imposed for cultural and then for political reasons. "Now there are things you may not say". An injunction which leads a country nowhere useful for its people. It leads to feudal tyranny. It leads to corruption and abuse of every imaginable kind. The 7,000 submissions to the Constitution Commission were therefore a marvel and a most edifying result. Those who received them are forever in our debt. They must never be treated contemptuously or with disregard. They are a pathway of shining light towards a future for Fiji.
Marc Edge said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
When the reparations and restitution for the prolonged suffering of many Fijians come ultimately into sight - however far off that may be - there will be ample opportunity for a further exposition of how we were hoodwinked for so long by those who sought to abuse and defraud us under cover of deceit and non-transparency. Propaganda flourishes in such a place. It also may lead to the ultimate disaster: Un Sendero Luminoso or an Uprising of Nationalism which will plunge us yet again into trauma. A call for "Indians to leave" has been posted on a blogsite yesterday. The mere utterance is sufficient to traumatise many who have just begun to recover from a severe cyclone. Heartless proselytizing is a morbid, psychological form of terror. Spare a moment of sober thought for the dispossessed and the trapped. Trapping people is a strategy we appear to have become adept at. But the organised criminals who perjure themelves in our courts with impunity seem to travel in and out with alarming abandon: on bail. Even those who are charged with the offence of rape-by-stalking (now somewhere in Canada) and one who is in jail in Toronto awaiting trial for abuse of numbers of our children and young people. What have we been thinking of? Are there not more important matters to be writing about? viz: "The Lives of Others" (A masterwork film by the director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 2007): "Fascinating,inspiring, even empowering" - Los Angeles Daily News
Honi soit qui mal y pense said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
'The government has sought to intimidate its opposition and has at times resorted to threats, personal abuse and insults. In short, it has shown its military base and lack of political or diplomatic skills. These are serious shortcomings of approach and method, but they are not shortcomings of intent or sincerity.....'

So Davis wants us to believe that the 'benevolent dictatorship' has good intentions but has some minor problems with approach and method. This is an insult to anyone with a half functioning brain. I would like to ask a simple question: How can anyone resorting to intimidation, threats, abuse and insults do that just by accident, without any intention? The attempt to spin the regime's human rights abuses as accidental is laughable. Yes, we are critical about the regimes actions and many believe that there is only one purpose of whatever the regime does: Hold on to power, perks and kick backs. Calling everybody who does not savour the strong smell of corruption and deceit that wafts out of the corridors of power hysterical will not cut it. And as far as bad PR is concerned, the ridiculous spin that Davis produces as a paid lackey is certainly part of bad PR.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marc Edge said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marc Edge said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Blog editor do not remove Marc Edge's cussing. It exposes his dark character.
No apologies, no compromise, no immunity said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bogey man said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ghoose watch said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Anonymous... I wrote this article; not Graham Davis. Please use a pseudonym. It only takes one click more and then you'd have a name unique to yourself.
Crosbie Walsh said…
It's not just the "cussing". It's the personal insults and misrepresentation of what I've written. I don't see how an intelligent exchange is possible with someone who behaves in this manner and accuses you of being on the junta payroll and calls you a senile propagandist.
Anonymous said…
Marc Edge - please just go away. You are a laughing stock in Fiji and everyone has heard of your story from USP. We know that you were kicked out because you could not get on with students and staff. We know you have to try and spin your own story to save your career.
Anonymous said…
another person prepared to trade away natural justice and human rights as there is no cost to them.. Cheap eh!! 'Relative justice' 'relative freedom', oh please. Isn't it abit like saying you should be grateful as you are only 'partially raped'? It is all relative. Again we must all meet the militray government half way , and they baulk anyway it is their way or nothing. How do deral with people like this ??
rusi said…
Oh and what happened to all those Fijian academics writing about the country's current situation and all that stimualting debate, ..the answer is they don't dare and therere isn't any... and we know why.
Marc Edge said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
I like the theory of relativity. Ask the poor sods in Syria what kind of dictator they like more, Assad of Bainimarama. But then Syrians have dared to march and protest and by doing so brought all the killing, torture and human rights abuses onto themselves. Fijian people have understood the teachings of Albert Einstein and accept dictatorial rule as long as there is cassava and dalo in the pot and grog in the bowl.
Thank you Marc said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Master of disguise said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
theory of relativity said…
They say that in a democracy the person who wins is not the best man for the job but the better of several evils. How is that for relativity? And what will we expect from the Australian general elections. The best PM or just one we dislike less than the last one?
Junta watch said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons from Africa

Fijian Holdings Scandal: Betrayal by their trusted sons

The Ratu Tevita Saga, Coup4.5, Michael Field, the ANU Duo, and Tonga