Faced with Little Choice

Thoughts from a concerned observer

General elections is a super spectacle, a major carnival, a solemn salutation, a grim reminder of dire consequences and a momentous occasion for electorates throughout the democratic world – it is a time to decide how one wants his/her lives to be organized and ruled for the next couple of years. Fiji is now at that juncture and as September draws near, electioneering is fast approaching fever pitch.

On the one side are a number of political parties painstakingly dissecting some of the more controversial (and popular) policies and programs of the Bainimarama government. And on the other side, is Fiji First with its track record and string of promises about more to come. If the choices had been confined to evaluations on that level, it would be easier not to take thinking to the next level. Sadly enough, many citizens think only at that bread-butter level!

These observations from a fair-minded Fiji friend with which I only partly agree. I think he concentrates too much  on the "means" and not enough on the very different likely consequences should a SODELPA or a FijiFirst party forms the next government. - Croz

A close scrutiny of SODELPA’s pitch shows that it does not confine itself to the ambit of bread/butter politics; SODELPA is talking about the very survival of the Fijian people as a cultural grouping – the iTaukei identity. They are not willing to re-align the iTaukei identity with vastly changed circumstances; hence the hark back to the GCC, Methodism and benign rule by a chosen few for the lewe-ni-vanua.

Likewise, Fiji First is offering a Fijian identity to all of Fiji’s people – there was no widespread input from the iTaukei on this. There was no consultation before unceremoniously zapping the GCC, no explanations following protocol afterwards. Everyone in Fiji is now Fijian …. close of discussions, let’s move on! We know what is best for you!

It is this style that troubles me greatly – this is why I think there is little to choose from when we compare the styles offered by Qarase/SDL/SODELPA and that offered by Fiji First. Let me try to explain this seeming conundrum.

When Qarase was ramrodding that i Qoliqoli Bill (and the rest), he had a tightly controlled support group in government (GCC, parliament) and he was not going to broach any opposition – it was his way or the highway. Ethno-nationalism was his ticket to power and he was not going to entertain any foolishness on that point. This style persisted in his decision-making approach to governance. After all, he learnt it in the cauldron of 2000.

With Fiji First, we see the same style being mirrored; only this time without any real decorum aside from the dramatic declaration of little-understood decrees that only see light after-the-fact. Any question raised (no matter how necessary) is treated with suspicion, dismissed, shouted down or obfuscated with the confident knowledge that there will be no follow-ups. Remember Minister Kaitani of the SDL?

Thus the media has finally been either muzzled or hijacked. The Fiji Sun used shrewd business strategy early in allowing Bainimarama publicity when he needed it; now it has allowed its Coconut Wireless column to fire broadsides at anti-Fiji First entities at will. FBC has a Saiyed-Khaiyum at its helm, so we recently saw what clearly appeared to be a “rehearsed interview” featuring Bainimarama. Of course, this will be denied vehemently!

Qarase used to go on a Santa ride distributing freebies in the lead-up to elections. Bai is doing the same now even though he denies it and anyone caught saying this better beware. Anyone not with Fiji First is against it – that’s the dictum. The Fiji voters will not be fooled this time is another point of similarity. This appears to say that we have always been fools and this time we’ll be guided to make the right choice! Democracy!

Qarase used to be the Minister for Elections, so Khaiyum will retain that post while checking all government work as AG and plotting political strategy as Secretary General of Fiji First. If Qarase was right, how can Khaiyum be wrong – another point of similarity. Saneem has been appointed Supervisor of Elections without meeting a key requirement. So what? Sound familiar?

Thus when one looks at styles, attitudes and type of concern for democratic principles, there is not much difference to choose from. God bless Fiji.

This article has been written by a concerned observer who fears unwanted attention and negative fallout – s/he could not resist filing a perspective that has so far been deafeningly silent.


Anonymous said…
Interesting perspective. What all those politicians and military egos have in common is a good sense for what they can get away with. And in Fiji you can get away with a lot.