God, the Great Council of Chiefs and the SODELPA Manifesto

Opinion piece by Crosbie Walsh

"Our manifesto affirms SODELPA will place God in His rightful position." -- Ro Teimumu.

In other circumstances —in another century or sitting with the Taliban— I would have been mildly amused that SODELPA intends to put "God back in His rightful position" by amending the 2013 Constitution. I would have thought God was already everywhere and did not need a helping hand from a political party.

I would also have thought making Fiji a Christian state was unnecessary. The secular state protects all religious beliefs, and does not require the caveat that non-Christian beliefs will also be protected.  

So why is the inclusion of God so important to SODELPA in its intended new constitution?

It is, I think, based on two premises, both of them believed  by many ordinary Taukei.

First, the fusion of religion and chiefly authority that typified tribal society in pre-Cession Fiji is still very much alive in modern Fiji.  Obeying and respecting  one's chiefs is seen by many Taukei to be part of the natural— and supernatural— order.

Secondly, there is the mistaken belief that the chiefs ceded Fiji to Christianity and Queen Victoria, There is absolutely nothing in the Deed of Cession to support the former claim. The myth, for that is what it is, has been kept alive by extreme Methodist and Taukei nationalists, and a lot of wishful thinking.

For a Taukei nationalist party such as SODELPA, being seen to restore God to His rightful place —even if He was never not there— will therefore win votes from the less educated. SODELPA clearly wants them to think that God is on its side, and the secular state defined in the 2013 Constitution makes Fiji a state without God.

This, of course, is arrogant nonsense. SODELPA has no special claim on God and this tactic is unlikely to win many votes from liberal Methodists and other Christians.

It has not always been recognized that the Methodist Church has been a battleground between moderates and extremists since the 1987 Coup.¹  The extremists took over the church leadership and supported the Rabuka Coup and short-lived 1990 Constitution when as a Christian state, the Sunday Ban prohibited shops from opening and buses from operating which, ironically, resulted in many of the faithful being unable to attend church!

No other Methodist Church anywhere in the world and no other Christian denomination in Fiji has called for a Christian state. 

Indeed, Fiji's second largest denomination, the Catholic Church, has positively endorsed  the secular state.

Speaking last week to a workshop for Church leaders and politicians Archbishop Peter Loy Chong said: "The Catholic Church is clear in her role in politics. Pope Paul VI's letter clearly states the role of the church and State are separate."

Ro Teimumu, a Catholic, attended the workshop so,  she said,  she could " hear from the experts who have been teaching on secularism, secular state, those who have done studies on it, they have written papers on it so we can hear from them what is the position of the church in as far as the secular state is concerned.”

But SODEPLA's Manifesto was already written and her mind made up long before she attended the workshop. Immediately afterwards, she ignored the teaching of her church and the workshop, and spoke instead  of the  "historical facts in the 1997 Constitution included the Deed of Cession." The die had already been cast.

But it is not only God SODELPA wishes to include in the Constitution.  He is to be joined by Taukei chiefs, or more precisely, the Great Council of Chiefs for only it, they claim and despite assurances to the contrary, can protect Taukei land and customs.

There is much more to the SODELPA Manifesto but everything else is subordinate to these two primary pillars, the "inclusion" of the Christian God and the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs.

And this, it is hard to believe,  from a party whose name proclaims it to be both democratic and liberal; a party that wants to govern a multi-racial and multi-religious Fiji in the twenty-first century.
                                                             

¹ Perhaps not widely known, Graham Davis's father was the President of the Fiji  Methodist Church in the 1950s-60s. Graham's September 2012 article on the resurgence of religious intolerance in the Methodist Church is worth reading.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Well said Croz. Temumu is desperately clutching on straws to try to keep her heard above the water.
Anonymous said…
It is indeed much more effective to give the military a clear role as the protector of the government. The 2013 constitution is ground breaking as it guarantees step-in rights for the military in case religious fanatics such as the SODELPA thugs go on a rampage. The notion that god needs a political party to recognise his role is ridiculous. What we need in Fiji are strong willed secular leaders, people who have problem solving backgrounds such as the higher ranking RFMF officers, we need people who can unite under a clear command structure, people who know the importance of obeying orders, people who respect their leadership.
Anonymous said…
SODELPA is full of adulterers, adulteress and thieves.
Anonymous said…
I guess this crystallizes how desperate SODELPA is in terms of winning votes. Whilst this strategy would have worked many years ago, the fact is, especially I'Taukeis' are better educated now then ever before (especially the grassroots or "tawavanua" to be precise). On the other hand, I'Taukeis' who are still trying to work their way up the education ladder (especially ones in villagers) have seen first hand the difference the current regime has brought to their lives when it comes to keeping promises. Whilst I do not condone how the current regime came into power, I have to admit that they have delivered on their promises especially when it came to rural infrastructures. And to make it more difficult for other parties, these villages have been waiting for many years (some 50 years) for basic amenities such as electricity. Since independence these villages have been promised things such as roads, powers, schools etc by various parties to no avail. This in fact in my view will be the unmaking of all the other parties including SODELPA. I am amazed at their strategists for not being able to come up with a better concept to form the platform for their vision. To me they have been caught in a "time-warp" and their total reliance is on reminding people the difficulty that this current regime has heaped on Fiji since 2006 without accurately weighting the fact that, the regime has delivered more (outweighing the bad publicity) to form traction towards the coming election. The other downfall for SODELPA is the utilisation of the same old "faces" who are supposedly going to take Fiji forward. Classic example is the Namosi Villagers publicly stating that whilst they will always respect the Tui Namosi in his capacity as their traditional chief, politically they support Fiji First due to delivery of services which was not the case with prior governments even when their chief was a Minister in Qarase's government. To me that statement by Tui Namosi's own subject (something that SODELPA is still trying to ride on) is the "last straw that breaks the camels back".
Anonymous said…
What an incredible and cowardly attack on a courageous Fijian woman on this blog by Croz Walsh and his Thikwits? Walsh is so confused he doesn't seem to understand that the Taliban are muslims not Christians?
Anonymous said…
@Anonymous-
"...Cowardly attack on courageous Fijian woman...and his thikwits?"
Get a life and stop calling people names. It's called a blogsite where people are allowed to share and put forward their opinions. If you don't agree put your points forward to try and change our opinion (or mine) in this case. Name calling clearly portrays your inability to constructively argue in a forum such as this. As I have always stated here that it embarrasses me how people resort to name calling especially if they are I'Taukei like me.
Anonymous said…
The SODELPA Manifesto was written by Jioji Kotobalavu & Matt Wilson. It was not written by Mrs Kepa. She just stood there and read it..
Anonymous said…
Get a life and stop calling people names. It's called a blogsite where people are allowed to share and put forward their opinions. If you don't agree put your points forward to try and change our opinion (or mine) in this case. Name calling clearly portrays your inability to constructively argue in a forum such as this. As I have always stated here that it embarrasses me how people resort to name calling especially if they are indians like me.
Anonymous said…
Mate,
Write your own piece stop "cutting and pasting" from others.
Sa sega ga ni o rawa ni o vola vakataki iko na ka o via vatavatairalago taka, kakua ni o vakaitavi ena veitalanoa qoka.
Kena levu.
Anonymous said…
@ the green goon
Write your own piece stop "cutting and pasting" from others.
Sa sega ga ni o rawa ni o vola vakataki iko na ka o via vatavatairalago taka, kakua ni o vakaitavi ena veitalanoa qoka. You desperate wanka. Have you run out of bananas?
Kena levu.
Anonymous said…
SODELPA reminds me more and more of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which is notoriously known to be neither liberal nor democratic. Similarly, it seems to me that SODELPA is neither social (wants to restore unequal land rents), nor democratic (wants to restore political power to a non-democratic institution like the GCC) nor liberal (wants to make Christianity the state religion). But that is no big surprise, since they just randomly came up with English words to fill the SDL acronym, and probably didn't think too much about the meaning of those words...
Anonymous said…
I won't stoop to your level but you need some help.
Anonymous said…
AnonymousWednesday, August 6, 2014 at 8:45:00 PM GMT+12

Wow, if "desperate wanka and running out of bananas", is the best you can come up with, then there are other blogsites you would really find yourself at home. Have an awesome day.
Anonymous said…
In reference to Archbishop Chong's statement - I think that the “The Catholic Church” here refers only to the clergy because he (Archbishop Chong) has previously stated "priests and bishops are not allowed to take active part in politics". The Methodist Church has also said that its ministers who want to enter politics need to resign from the ministry. So it does not apply to non-clerical Christians which includes politicians. So I don’t see a conflict between the two. Yes “the church and State are separate”, but the threat is secularism and a secularistic state, which I think both the SODELPA leader and the Archbishop are well aware of and have been made more aware of following the workshop.
Anonymous said…
Congratulations to the courageous Fijian woman standing up to the sexist and racist heathens - one only has to look at their culture to see how they treat women.
Anonymous said…
You cannot have a huge ass indian and muslim population and make the country a Christian state..unless you are a racist. Means you dont give a shit about others. A brave woman fighting for indigenous rights which is already there. In this day and age thats substantial the amount of rights. Indigenous rights is getting too damn overrated with others who watch on and can only lay claim to nothing. Who fights for them. Land should be protected from foreigners. In Fiji the other races are foreigners. Why are Australia and New Zealand silent on racist policies of sodelpa. Educated people who have gone to school are having issues with moral values. There is no equal citizenry in Fiji. Plain and simple. Even when Fiji First comes into power there still wont be equal citizenry. But sodelpa is far worse than Fiji First in that regard.

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