L'Etat C'Est Moi

Advised by the English Ambassador that in England Parliament and not the king was supreme, the French monarch Louis XIV (1638-1715) , replied "En ici. L'Etat c'est moi." (And here.  I am the State.) Less than a century later the people had other ideas. 

I am reminded of these incidents, when one after another person in Fiji claims to be speaking on behalf of the people.  The PM,  of course, is  a front runner but he is at least consulting the people, an election will be held in 2014,  it is a temporary state, and he makes no pretence Fiji is a democracy at the present time. 

The chiefs of Rewa
The chiefs of Rewa headed by former SDL Cabinet Minister and head of the Burebasaga confederacy Ro Teimumu  Kepa , however, writing on behalf of the people of Rewa in their submission on Government's draft constitution, have assumed their traditional Louis XIV role . "We, the undersigned, in our indigenous traditional cultural roles as Turaga i Taukei, and on behalf of the people of the Vanua ‘o Rewa..."

That the  chiefs have decided what the people of Rewa think should come as no surprise. As with Louis XIV  the royal "We"  and "the people" are seen as one.  Ro Teimumu once said that she did not need need to consult her people. She knew what was best for them. 

The Rewa chiefs now seek to return Fiji to what they call "parliamentary democracy." Their submission shows how much of a democracy that will be:

They accuse Government of weakening and ridiculing indigenous institutions, traditional leadership and their rights as first settlers; they complain about the loss of "special privileges... the removal of the entrenched legislations that safeguard the indigenous institutions,  resources, tradition and culture." .

Not for the first time, they issue "a warning to the interim Government that it must consult fully with the indigenous Fijians and obtain their prior and informed consent before it changes any legislation or policy affecting them."  And this from chiefs who consider a meeting of chiefs in the Bose Vanua is a full consultation with their own people.

And finally, they warn that "the stability, peace and progress of our beloved country can only be achieved if the rights of indigenous Fijians are recognized and respected" which sounds very much like the words used by those who supported the Speight-led coup in 2000 as justification for their overthrow of  the "democratically elected" government of Mahendra Chaudhry.

 "Our forefathers." they conclude, " had made compromises and had exercised goodwill and restraints in the unique role they played in facilitating the establishment of proper governance in Fiji. We remain steadfast in our resolve to stand by the resolution of the Great Council of Chiefs in rejecting the unlawful takeover of the properly elected government. We believe that the way forward for Fiji is to return to the 1997 Constitution and necessary changes shall only be made through an elected parliament."

Other chiefs, however, see the situation differently
Macuata’s paramount chief, Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere has applauded the PM 's decision to contest the 2014 General Elections. And he has appealed to other chiefs and all Fijians to support the Prime Minister’s political party.

Asked why, he said: “Unlike previous governments and prime ministers, Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama has kept his promises. His Government delivers and we must all appreciate this.”

He said the people should also appreciate the determination of the Government to give all Fijians the things they needed to empower them – better access to telecommunications, better access to affordable higher education, access to affordable housing, access to water and electricity, access to legal aid, access to better roads and to skills training for our young people."

When asked about the chiefly support the Prime Minister was getting, the Tui Macuata said for the Northern Division all chiefs, except for the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, supported the Prime Minister and the Government. "Other chiefs in Fiji have given their support to the Prime Minister except for a very few.”

And another Northern chief, from Fiji's third largest island, Taveuni, also supports the PM.  Ratu Talemo Ratakele, the Turaga na Tuwei head of the Wainikeli tikina,  has urged his people to follow his lead and support Government. A former minister for internal affairs and immigration in the interim Cabinet formed by Laisenia Qarase in 2000, he has categorically denied a report that he had sided with the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu,  head of the Tovata confederacy  who opposes Government.

 “I just don’t know where [this information came from] as I had already advised the eight villages within the Wainikeli district to support the Government when the People’s Charter was launched.

I want to let the nation know that I join my fellow chiefs in the Northern Division and others around the country in lending support to the Prime Minister and his Government.”

So, while Ro Teimumu and the chiefs of the five tikina (districts) that comprise Rewa province accuse Government of weakening  and ridiculing  "our indigenous institutions and speak of  "we, the indigenous people",  chiefs in many other areas think differently. 

Rewa is divided as are most other provinces in the Burebasaga confederacy.  Important chiefs in the major islands of the Tovata confederacy (Vanua Levu and Taveuni)  do not support the anti-government stance of the Tui Cakau.  And in the third confederacy, Kubuna, where the headship has been dormant for 18 years, one Cakobau contender opposes government and the other supports it.  

The same is true within families. Ratu Tevita Mara who fled Fiji is the younger brother of the President's wife.  Ratu Jone Kubuabola is part of the United Front for a Democratic Fiji while his brother Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is in Bainimarma's Cabinet and Fiji's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

When the map is rolled out, Ro Teimumu is voicing the views of some chiefs and some people.  She is not the voice of indigenous Fiji as several  uninformed overseas commentators seem to assume.
                                                                                                                                -- Crosbie Walsh


Anonymous said…

When the map is rolled out, Crosbie Walsh is voicing the one NZ tax payer subsidised superannuate. He is not the voice of anything else despite what Qorvis commentators seem to assume.
Joe said…
The submission by Kepa is not worth the paper it is written on. What on earth makes her think that the govt will reinstate the 1997 constitution. On the other hand we have UFDF (united front for a democratic fiji), more appropriately known as "united front for a dis-united fiji", whose demands are similar to Kepa's. MC is calling for a civil disobedience against the govt at these meaningless UFDF meetings, and his useless son is spewing venom against the muslims on facebook, from Australian soil. RC even says on his FB that AG is a fat pig and that he will be roasted. I am surprised that the Aust govt is mum on such a derogatory remark which is bordering on a death threat, in a public domain, all from Australian soil. Such is the mentality of people who want to govern Fiji.
Anonymous said…
I don't condone death threats but lets remember the only Deaths since 2006 have been at the hand of the military.
Anonymous said…

The PM is the front runner but i don't see any lengthy paragraphs on this from you ? He may appear to consult but cvertainly does not listen.
Joe said…
To the UFDF especially, and for all of us to refresh memories of 5yrs ago. I am not a fan of fiji times, but this is an interesting read:

Concerned said…
Dear Croz,

Thanks for raising these issues.

I am also concerned we are heading to a one party election. The current government has done a great job in silencing opposition. This was achieved via threats and violence, then the courts and later the public emergency regulations. Finally we have the media development decree and now the restrictions on who/how to get a party up and running. It's looking like a anything but free and fair election.

As at today we have no political parties registered/approved. We have most of the old parties closed down and heavy restrictions on trade unionists. At the same time we have the PM with all the resources of the military and government behind him announcing he will stand in the 2014 election and win. Note he does not have a party, a platform or meet any of the requirements in his own decree at this stage. Despite this he makes political comments almost daily and spends much of his time now campaigning for 2014. Worse still the RFMF has come out and said they will support him in his run for power. Sorry but none of this is sounding very fair or free.

Joe said…
As much as I agree with you in principle, my point is that this idiot Rajen Chaudhary is inciting racial hatred and making threats from a country where even sexist remarks are taken seriously. To top it all off, it is coming from a lawyer who studied his law in Australia. Apart from the legal aspect of this issue, the institution that granted him his law degree should look into this as well. Also, his use of the "F" word in a public domain like FB is so low and unprofessional. Is it a surprise that he has been struck out from practising law in Fiji.
Joe said…
The PM is in no hurry to form a political party. Perhaps you misunderstood the "registration of political parties decree", which applies to existing political parties. There is nothing stopping any Fiji citizen from forming a new political party before the election in 2014. Get your facts right mate before making baseless allegations and accusations. What is the big deal in RFMF supporting Frank's run for power? It equates to a mere 2000 votes, if that. What about the rest of the half million or so registered voters? In your scheme of things, 2000 vs 500,000 is unfair?????? Go figure!!! and come up with something better than this lousy assesment of yours.
Just listen to the facist fool said…
You are starting to make Joseph Stalin look good. Get a life you old fool. You have become obsessed with defending this dictator. Is this all you do?
Anonymous said…
Very good points Croz - if i recall correctly there was another senior Rewa Chief who opposed Ro Kepa and very nearly beat her in the last election. She seems to be very keen to go back to the old ways where the GCC was heavily influential in the Fijian politics
Anonymous said…
...and I assume Joe you think its fair that Francis Kean is allowed to kick a man to death and get away with it just because he is in the RFMF, brother of Frank and supporter of the coup ? The military is not 2000 votes its 2000 guns, 100,000 of threats, its the foot on the throat of opponents, its influential roles in all parts of government. Its a law unto itself and there is nothing fair about that.
Joe said…
We are not discussing Francis Kean here. If that was the case, I would also throw in names like Seniloli, Lalabalavu, Vakalalabure, RTU, Qoliqoli etc. The point is this:

Whether it is 2000 guns, 100,000 threats or whatever, the voter will place a tick on the ballot paper in privacy, and that is the bottom line. Who has the support and who hasnt will be clear then. You can clearly draw a conclusion and predict a trend when a prominent politician has to impersonate to get signatures by fraudelent means in his own stronghold.
Anonymous said…
Joe, So you think its OK for the PM to use public servants and the military to ensure there is little or no opposition to him being elected ? What of his promise that no one in the military would not benefit from the coup and his promise that no one in the interim government could stand in elections.

Joe I suspect you are none other than someone on the payroll of the PM or AG's office.
Anonymous said…
Just like the when the soldiers arrived at my house to get me to sign the Peoples Charter....which has neatly been forgotten by Frank anyway.
Anonymous said…

Do you seriously think if the poll result puts Mahen, Singh, Beddos, Qarase back in power that Frank will accept it ? He has said he won't. The coup culture will continue. Frank only beleives in democracy if it keeps him in power.
Anonymous said…
Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe....while we all love your loyal support of King Frank be carefule how close you fly. Remember all those who have also got behind him only to fall later.

The situation in Fiji is worsening profoundly said…
Let me get this right? The GCC cannot be involved in politics or politicking but the Military (according to mohammed aziz?????) can? What is next? The taliban?
Anonymous said…
Both the GCC and the military should stay out of politics - are you willing to agree to the same or are you a hypocrit
Joe said…
@ anons above
I am not on the govt's payroll, I have a decent job in the private sector. As for the PM's promise, yes he changed his mind, more on that later. I am not aware of the govt trying to eliminate the opposition, all it has done, is levelled the playing field and everyone is welcome to play by the rules of the game. As for the election, there wont be an armed soldier by your side at the polling booth telling you where to tick on the ballot paper. On the election result, winners and losers, we will cross that bridge when we come to it, but it is absurd to suggest that Frank will not accept the verdict of the people, if he looses, under the new constitution.

On the issue of Frank changing his mind, lets look at the big picture. He appointed LQ as PM after SP8 coup, to take the country forward. I dont have to spell out every detail in that regard as it is common knowledge that LQ had other ideas. He then had the misfortune of having to work with MC. In fact it was a blessing in disguise, as it exposed the true colours of MC. Travel ban kept other potential leaders from joining govt. Submissions at the Ghai Commission was deafening with the same old GCC, Church, Christian state, communal voting etc. What other choice was available to Frank? I fully support his decision to contest the election, and I predict a lanslide win for him in 2014 and 2018 as well. For you nay sayers, gear up for 2022 elections.
L'etat c'est NOUS said…
Would agree with your estimation, Croz. 'Ici, L'Etat c'est Nous' - Le peuple. All actors party to this plot must 'Get it'. The people are the Nation. The People are supreme arbiters of the future of the state. Not paramount but supreme.

That is precisely why "Salus populi suprema est lex". Marcus Tullius Cicero had it summed up over two thousand years ago. Why ever are we still in a quandary about it? "Qu'en dirai-je"?

Every Police Officer in Fiji wears this on his sleeve. To remind him and us. No confusion. No folly. No mistake.

If we were more precise in our language, our thinking would be more acute. Bear that in mind!
Without a 'by- your-leave' said…
@ L'etat c'est NOUS'....

This is the problem, is it not? We, the people, the common, ordinary people are the State itself. Not the elite, not the 'paramount', we the taxpayers and voters, the citizens de l'etat? Don't like that affected word 'citizenry'. Where the hell did it come from? Don't like that term 'elite' either. Where the hell did that come from? Which elite? There have been so many of them. Some drinking blended Whisky....others preferring other brands? All too expensive when taxes pay for them without a by-your-leave.
Bratha Kanaki said…
Yes... and your point is?

Has Walsh ever claimed to be speaking for others?

Only in Fiji can a person (Mrs Kepa) claim to speak for Fijians based on birthright, and at the same time claim to support democracy. Either the former Minister for Education doesn't know the meaning of democracy, or she knows it but wants it to apply only to others, and not to herself.
Fee Fi Fo Fum said…
LOL, an ad hominem is all you have?

Try reading the article and criticizing the content.

Or go back to the cesspit (c4.5) from whence you came.
Unprofound said…
GCC? What has the GCC got to do with this article?

Mrs Kepa is very welcome to lodge a submission, and she has done so. I believe Croz is criticizing the fact that she lodged it on behalf of every iTaukei in her province. This is of course silly because she can only speak for herself.

The military can of course say what its wants, but its leaders have never claimed that they speak for every soldier.

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