Wikipedia definition of a Republic includes the different types:- A republic is a state or country that is not led by a hereditary monarch, where the people of that state or country (or at least a part of that people)have impact on its government, and that is usually indicated as a republic.
Fiji is amid many changes. According to the latest census data, the population of persons with Indian heritage have dropped, according to the Fiji Times article. However, an article by Micheal Field titled "Census reveals Indians fleeing Fiji" in Stuff online Magazine frames the census data in negative conotations. Judging from the sensationalism used by Field, the actual census data does not denote that anyone is "fleeing" and it appears to be another concoction derived from Fiji's census data that was not fully released by the Bureau of Statistics.
Fiji Times article quoted from two chiefs from the Rewa Province who took issue to the recent remarks made by the Interim Prime Minister in article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH)regarding the Methodist Church of Fiji and their epoch of hatred preached from the pulpit.
The following is an excerpt of the SMH article:
Rumblings of a revolution
October 27, 2007
iji has never had a coup like this one. As it turns into a revolution against the country's chiefly and church establishment, Hamish McDonald talks to its leader. The grandly titled King's Highway leads from Fiji's capital into the hinterland of Viti Levu, but on leaving the lowlands it abruptly degrades to a muddy, potholed dirt road, winding between jagged mountains covered in vivid green trees and scarlet flowers.
On Sunday, up by a little village of corrugated-iron houses, a man we'll call Iona (Jonah) is walking back from church, dressed in a pale blue shirt and tie and grey lava-lava kilt. He seizes the chance of a lift back to Suva.
Inside his ramshackle house, Iona grabs clothes from trunks around the furniture-free matting floors, thrusts them into a sports bag, and we set off. Iona introduces himself as a farmer and Methodist lay preacher: "The Holy Spirit has sent you here today," he declares. "Amen. Hallelujah."
On the road down, through the shabby rice-milling town of Nausori, and then over a bowl of kava at the tin shanty on Suva's fringes occupied by his ailing 73-year-old father and some younger relatives, Iona talks about how Fiji's big events have affected people like him.
There was the coup attempt in May 2000 by the young failed businessman George Speight, who held the Indo-Fijian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and others hostage for 56 days, until outmanoeuvred and outgunned by Fiji military's commander, Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama.
Then came a new government under Laisenia Qarase (pronounced "nGarasay"), at the head of a party representing the taukei or ethnic Fijians, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, or SDL, and after six years, a spectacular falling out with Bainimarama, who seized power.
Iona kept growing his cassava and taro on the plot of land allotted to him by his local chief, tribal land he is not free to sell, and seeking the will of the Holy Spirit in what was happening around him.
To him and his family, Qarase was a good prime minister. "He helped the poor. When there was flooding, Qarase gave money to replace the houses, and gave a small pension to my father," Iona says. "I don't think he ever steals, but maybe the money he gave out to the poor was not properly put down in the books."
Both Speight and Bainimarama come from Iona's province on Viti Levu's eastern side, Tailevu. The coup leader, now serving a life sentence on an island off Suva, gets a tick from Iona. "George would always give a cow for a big festival up in the province," he says. "He should get a pardon, because what he did was to help the poor people."
Iona and his family don't like what Bainimarama is doing and don't like the support he is getting from many Indo-Fijians such as Chaudhry, who joined the interim government as finance minister. "Indians are idol worshippers," he says.
They especially don't like the commodore's abrupt dismissal five months ago of the Great Council of Chiefs, the pinnacle of a traditional authority structure nurtured by the British that has some important constitutional powers, notably appointing the head of state, the president.
"He want to demolish all that system," says cousin Tevita, studying at a Methodist theological college. "He himself does not know what to do," Tevita adds. "He's relying on secret outsiders. They keep texting him on mobile phones and all."
So far, this view from the bottom, with its mix of patronage and conspiracies, hasn't counted much. Bainimarama's obstacles have mostly come from Fiji's institutions - the chiefs' council, the political parties, the legal system, some churches, the mostly Australian-owned newspapers, the human rights groups.
But the day that the grassroots voice will decide has suddenly grown closer, since Bainimarama agreed at a meeting with South Pacific leaders in Tonga on October 17 to hold elections for a new civilian government by the end of March 2009 and to abide by the result.
All settings unaltered, Qarase would probably sweep back in. He remains popular with ethnic Fijians whose vote is given extra weight in Fiji's electoral system. The ousted chiefs and Methodist leaders support him. Despite trawling through the files, Bainimarama's men have not found any corruption to pin on him.
But if Bainimarama has his way the settings will be altered. Pacific leaders pressed him to commit to holding the elections under Fiji's existing constitution and laws, but he didn't. Instead, as Bainimarama spelled out in an interview with the Herald this week, he hopes to sweep away the entire structure of racial-based voting that has ruled Fiji since independence in 1970.
"The countries that are urging us to return to democracy - I don't know if they understand how unfair the system has been over the last 20 or 30 years," Bainimarama says.
""Fijians live in a democracy with a mentality that belongs to the Fijian chiefly system. They decide for us who to vote for, our church talatalas [ministers] decide for us who to vote for. These are the Fijians living in the villages and rural areas. The provincial [chiefly] councils dictate for us who to vote for and we go along with that." "
Instead of voters having two votes, one for a general all-races constituency and one for a closed communal constituency, Bainimarama wants a single vote for all in multiracial constituencies.
"The common roll is the way to go," he says. "It takes away the race card."
He hopes the panel he co-chairs with the Catholic Archbishop, Petero Mataca, to draw up a "people's charter" will back this. Communal seats? "I am hoping they will do away with them altogether," he says.
Since most of the commodore's opponents, including the Methodist Church (sometimes called 'the taukei movement at prayer'), are boycotting the charter, there is a fair chance that it will do just that.
As Qarase observed this week, while waiting at his Suva house for a reply to his request for a meeting with the commodore: "I have a feeling that this guy, when he wants something, he must get it right or wrong."
But how to make it legal? Under the existing constitution, which Bainimarama has said is still in force, the only mechanism for amendment is by two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives, dissolved by order of the 86-year-old President, Josefa Iloilo, after the December coup.
"Parliament is not going to sit, that's for sure, so take away that option," says Bainimarama. "There's talk of referendum, we can do it through referendum. We have not stopped discussing how we can do it … there has to be some changes to the constitution because of the electoral reform, there has to be amendment."
The precise way then? "I leave that to the legal people," he says.
The chief legal person is the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, an Australian-trained lawyer formerly with the law firm Minter Ellison in Sydney, who lost his permanent residency in Australia as part of Canberra's "targeted sanctions" against Bainimarama and associates, including any identifiable soldiers.
Sayed-Khaiyum won't be specific ahead of the charter, but says a referendum can carry great weight. Fiji's first constitution in 1970 was negotiated with London "by a handful of leaders" and then simply promulgated, he notes. The army coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka's 1990 constitution, from which the present one is derived by amendment, was "shoved down our throat at midnight".
A referendum and the eventual elections will be battles for the mind of Fijians such as Iona, with the traditional chiefs and many of the preachers ranged against Bainimarama.
In coming weeks, Bainimarama will fire his next salvo at recalcitrant chiefs, with a dossier detailing how they have played politics, and creamed off rents on traditional lands. With about half the Fijians drifting away from ancestral villages to the towns, the hold of the chiefs on them may be weakening anyway.
The commodore is equally scornful of the Methodist leadership, whose flock includes 80 per cent of ethnic Fijians and who have rejected the charter, calling for an immediate return to elections.
"They had been "sowing the seeds of [racial] hatred" since they backed Rabuka's coup, and were part of a traditional conspiracy of power against ordinary Fijians. "The chiefs, the politicians and the talatalas keep them suppressed so that they can take advantage of them every now and then," Bainimarama says.
He will fight them on Christian principles. "You know it's very easy to tell the people in the villages, who go to church every Sunday, and the first thing you are taught there is love," he says. "And if you don't love your neighbour, what's the use? But they will understand that."
The fourth arm of Fijian supremacy used to be the military, which has just 15 Indians among its 3527 full-time members (thanks to its rigorous physical standards and low pay, not any exclusion policy, insists a spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Mosese Tikaitonga).
Bainimarama - and other officers contacted - insist the military has done a 180-degree turn since supporting Rabuka. "When 1987 came around we thought Rabuka was it, until we realised that the people who had backed Rabuka did it for their own interests," he says.
Whether the standing of the army can help carry the debate remains to be seen. In the first months after the coup, soldiers cracked down on dissenters and petty criminals, with at least two dead from barrack-room bashings and humiliations. The troops returned to bases in May, and incidents have abated, but the lesson lingers.
"People keep inside what they think of this government, because they are very frightened," Iona says.
The Methodist Church is not not lying down. Its head of "Christian citizenship", Mamasa Lasaro, says none of Bainimarama's charges against Qarase or the chiefs have been proven. Fiji was no more or less corrupt than any other comparable country.
The church had set up branches for its minority of non-Fijian believers and was trying to engage with a multicultural reality. "We are struggling,' he admits. "But to say we are very racial, we are very communal - it's quite unfair."
Levelling the playing field could take generations, he says. "I think that is a very superficial view by a few army officers," Lasaro says, "because on the ground there is a feeling of insecurity. On one side the Fijians are very insecure about their identity and their destiny in their own country."
The constitution can also fight back, with Qarase's case for reinstatement coming before Fiji's highest court in March. And once it gets to open politics, Qarase's SDL will not hesitate to play the accusation that December was an "Indian coup", with Chaudhry the Machiavelli behind Bainimarama. "He was very much part of the planning process," Qarase says.
One of the commodore's red-line issues leading to the coup - Qarase's attempt to legislate ethnic Fijian ownership of inshore fishing grounds, known as qoliqoli - is also susceptible to counter-charges of alien influence against native Fijian interests.
"I think he was very much influenced by a few people in the tourist industry," Qarase says.
For his part, Bainimarama thinks the military is the only entity that can bring change. "No other entity that has an influence with the Fijians is professional and apolitical like us," he says.
As for any external influence over the Qoliqoli Bill, it had come from the Maori figure and New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, he says. Peters had told Bainimarama he had personally headed off similar legislation because he foresaw "Maori killing Maori" over it.
Bainimarama throws up his hands at the idea Fijians need "generations" of protection. "They want us to remain in that shell, because they can take advantage of that," he says. "We should come out of this shell and think for ourselves, and do things that are right. And one of them is to recognise that another race is in Fiji. That's the only way forward.
"It's a revolution, but it needs to be done in Fiji … we were heading back into our cannibalistic days. We were going to get rid of the Indians and we would be just left on our own. And that would be worse for everyone."
This is an excerpt of the Fiji Time article:
Attack on church upsets chief
Thursday, November 01, 2007
REWA chief Ro Filipe Tuisawau described comments by interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama about the church and chiefs as inciteful and would definitely burn whatever bridges left between chiefs, church, the vanua and the interim regime.
Ro Filipe, the nephew of the Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa said, "we are just plain sick and tired of his childish and immature comments and shows that once again he is not of national leadership material."
He was reacting to Commodore Bainimarama's observations in an Australian newspaper that the church had been "sowing the seeds of hatred" since they backed Sitiveni Rabuka's coup, and were part of a traditional conspiracy of power against ordinary Fijians. "The chiefs, the politicians and the talatalas keep them suppressed so that they can take advantage of them every now and then," Commodore Bainimarama said in the article.
"The words of a leader must heal and build bridges but this leader destroys and hurts with his words and actions. We can only pray that this nightmare ends soon," Ro Filipe said.
"Despite the insults and hurt, all should be thankful that the Fijian chiefs and people have chosen to respect the rule of law. "As for the Charter, it cannot be a people's Charter because it did not originate from the people. The regime leader has publicly stated that the Fijian communal seats will be abolished and that the Charter structure will be used to achieve that. No right thinking Fijian must ever support this Charter which in the long term will make Fijians political refugees in their own land."
Although, the chiefs are entitled to their opinion however flawed it maybe; the truth of the matter may rest with the experience of Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) head, Rev. Aquila Yabaki as outlined in a Fiji Village article. The excerpt of the Fiji Village article:
Yabaki agrees with Interim PM
Former Methodist Church Minister, and CCF Executive Director, Reverand Akuila Yabaki said he agrees with the statement made by Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the Methodist Church leadership in Fiji has been sowing the seeds of racial hatred in the country since they backed Rabuka's coup in 1987.
Reverand Yabaki said the church leadership supported the last two coups by Rabuka and George Speight, but the big question is why they have changed their stance on the events of December 5th last year.
Reverand Yabaki said he was part of the church leadership in 1987, but he was told to go after he opposed the military coup. Bainimarama said the Methodist leadership was part of a traditional conspiracy of power against the ordinary Fijians and the chiefs, the politicians and the church talatalas keep the ordinary Fijians suppressed so that they can take advantage of them.
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