Meanwhile, Fiji Water's Green Gal was present at the Democratic National Convention schmoozing with celebrities, according to the Fiji Green blog post. It's quite a shame that Fiji Green Gal had chosen to occasion to market its product, rather than sparing a moment to understand the historic nature of the event or cover the contents of the convention.
In spite of the separation of Obama's campaign from the Pacific, it has secured a growing legion of admirers and supporters in Fiji, such as Max, who is featured in the Obama website.
Obama's entire inspirational speech is available here (MP3).
Posted below are the Youtube video.
While such inspirational words by Obama is definitely stirring America, Fiji is at its own political crossroads and the winds of change blow, amidst the thorns of resistance.
In a Fiji Live (FL)article, Mahendra Chaudhry of Fiji Labour Party questioned why, Australia and New Zealand do not have communal seats themselves, yet have incessantly arm twisted Fiji, to revert back to that archaic voting system.
The excerpt of the FL article:
Read poll report, FLP tells Rudd, Clark
Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry says Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark should read the report on Fiji’s electoral system by the late Tomasi Vakatora and Dr Brij Lal to understand why Fiji will not hold elections in March 2009.
Chaudhry, in the first of the FLP’s draft Peoples Charter consultation process, has openly told the Australian Prime Minister and his New Zealand counterpart that no amount of undue pressure will force Fiji to have elections by March 2009 because the current electoral system does not give equal value to votes and was racially divisive.
He said the report showed that there was a need to get away from communal voting system and a suggestion was made that communal seats be reduced to 25 and have 45 open seats while maintaining the 70-member parliament.
Chaudhry added that despite this the preferential voting system with 45 communal and 25 open seats was added into the 1997 Constitution, therefore racially dividing Fiji.
He maintained that the current electoral system did not have a clear guideline on the composition of parliament as well.
The FLP leader said if there was a race-based electoral system in Australia and New Zealand, the two countries would not make such comments.
Earlier this week while launching the draft People’s Charter, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said Australia and New Zealand did not have any idea what needed to be done have complete democracy in Fiji.
This, he said, was only in the hands of the people of Fiji. Fiji faces suspension from the Pacific Forum if it does not conduct elections by March 2009.
While some egalitarian neighbors of Fiji have exerted diplomatic pressure to steer Fiji back to an accelerated democracy, they also need to be reminded of the ageless words of Dr. Martin Luther King:
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch-anti revolutionaries.
~Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience, 1968
In a follow up to an earlier SiFM post titled Religion and Politics- A Dangerous Cocktail;
recently, there have been some misgivings from the Methodist Church about Fiji's Charter, as described by the blog post by 'Babasiga'.
Fiji's National Council responded to the Methodist Church's reaction to the charter, which was covered by Radio New Zealand web article. The excerpt of the RNZ article:
Fiji’s National Council attacks Methodist Church leadership for rejecting Charter
Posted at 08:22 on 28 August, 2008 UTC
Fiji’s National Council for Building a Better Fiji has launched a scathing attack on the Methodist Church over its rejection of the Council’s draft People’s Charter.
At its annual conference Fiji’s Methodist Church voted unanimously against the Charter, saying it cannot be seen to support a military-backed government, which took power by force.
Don Wiseman has more:
“The Church’s general secretary, the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, calls the Charter an illegal and dangerous document. But in a news release the National Council says it is disappointed by the Church’s decision. It says many people are amused by the new moralistic tone of the Church leadership, given its support for previous coups.
The Council says the Reverend Waqairatu has not shown how the Charter will cause division and it asks how peaceful ethnic relations can be fostered or future coups stopped without the help of the police or military. It says the members of the Methodist Church should not be misled by claims the Charter will be imposed on people, but that the people will decide. The Council says this is in direct contrast with the actions of the Church leadership which forces its minority views on the people.”
The cusp of political change which Fiji finds itself and those at the reigns, perhaps can find solace in an appropriate quote from one of America's greatest President:
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
This renewed resistance to the Charter in Fiji, orchestrated by the Methodist Church and the SDL political party has more to do with the synergy of religion and politics in Fiji, superimposed with class warfare.
Few outside observers of Fiji's socio-political situation totally understand the strata of complexity, let alone know how to unravel the Gordian Knot.
A brilliant article written in August 2000 by a former Fiji academic outlines this scenario and arguably the contents still hold true with chilling reminders.
THE TROUBLE WITH FIJI
The recent political crisis reportedly pitching indigenous Fijians against Indo-Fijians, was attributed to rising nationalism by the mainstream media. But the problem is more complex than that.
By Teresia Teaiwa
There are Fijian provinces, and traditional Fijian confederacies, but the two military coups of 1987 and the recent hostage crisis illustrate with disturbing insistence the erosion of the indigenous Fijian social order.
The problem with prevailing analyses of the political situation in Fiji is the notion that the conflict is between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians.
The ‘race’ card is misleading and mischievous, and unfortunately, Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister, played right into it with his abrasive style of leadership.
But Chaudhry is not the problem. Through the fortunes and misfortunes of the country’s three indigenous Prime Ministers - Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Dr Timoci Bavadra, and Sitiveni Rabuka - we see the increasingly problematic configuration of indigenous leadership in the country.
Ratu Mara’s leadership draws on his own chiefly title, Tui Nayau; his wife’s, the Roko Tui Dreketi, from the confederacy of Burebasaga, is the highest chiefly title in the islands; and his close association with a tight elite cohort of European, part-European and Indo-Fijian business interests.
Ratu Mara’s leadership, however, alienated rival chiefs, proletarian and nationalist groups within his domain of eastern Fiji, and generated resentment in the western provinces.
The late Dr Timoci Bavadra, Prime Minister in the predominantly Indo-Fijian Labour/National Federation Party coalition government, was consistently described in the media as a ‘commoner’ even though he came from a noble Fijian background.
The problem with Dr Bavadra’s political genealogy in 1987 was not because of his Labour ideology or his ‘commoner’ status; it was because powerful sectors of indigenous Fijian society - in the east - were not ready for a Prime Minister from a western province.
Being both a ‘commoner’ and national leader was not a problem for Sitiveni Rabuka. In fact, a large part of Rabuka’s popularity with indigenous Fijians is linked to his ‘commoner’ status.
For indigenous Fijians, Rabuka’s inter-weaving of his traditional ‘bati’ or warrior genealogy (in the eastern province of Cakaudrove), his career in the modern armed forces, his identification with and deployment of Christian/Methodist discourse, his staging of the two coups d’etat in 1987, and the support he has consistently received from the Great Council of Chiefs, qualified him for leadership.
Rabuka even gained political mileage out of his ‘human frailties’: sexual and financial indiscretion, as well as flip-flopping policy decisions.
Many indigenous Fijians identify with Rabuka much more easily than with the aristocratic Ratu Mara. In opposition to the elder statesman of Fiji, Rabuka developed his own ethos of populism and ‘can-do’ capitalism - exemplified by the National Bank of Fiji debacle.
During his time as Prime Minister, a brash nouveau riche elite of ‘indigenous’ Fijians developed and thrived. George Speight is a good representative of this group, but an even better example is his mentor and benefactor Jim Ah Koy: both illustrate a new opportunism with regards to identity politics in Fiji.
A ‘general elector’ MP in the 1970s, Chinese/Fijian Ah Koy was sent into political convent by Ratu Mara for insubordination. Concentrating his energies in business during the 1980s, Ah Koy’s phenomenal success became worthy of a Horatio Alger story.
In the first post-coup election of 1992, however, Ah Koy re-emerged as a political candidate, this time on the indigenous Fijian electoral roll, and has represented his maternal constituency of Kadavu in Parliament ever since.
Like Ah Koy, George Speight’s father, a ‘part-European’ and former general elector named Sam Speight, became a ‘born-again Fijian’ in the post-coup era.
Sam Speight legally changed his name to Savenaca Tokainavo, winning an indigenous Fijian electoral seat in Parliament in the 1992 and subsequent elections.
In Fiji’s disconcertingly racialised electoral system (comprising three electoral rolls - Fijian, Indian and General), general voters have historically aligned themselves with indigenous Fijian chiefly interests.
The category of general voters covers Fiji’s multitude of ethnic minority communities: Banabans, Chinese, Europeans, Gilbertese, ‘part-Europeans’, Samoans, Solomon Islanders, Tongans, and Tuvaluans.
‘Part-Europeans’ form the largest and most influential group of general voters. In the post-coup era, they have shifted away from their historical identification with colonial European privilege to reclaim their ‘part-Fijian’ or vasu-i-taukei roots.
This shift in ‘part-European’ identification reflects a recognition of the contemporary realities of political power in Fiji: indigenous Fijians’ rule.
George Speight claims to represent indigenous Fijian interests. Sporting his European name, speaking exclusively in English, drawing on his Australian and American degrees and wearing his designer clothes, Speight does indeed represent indigenous Fijian interests.
But Speight’s indigenous Fijian interests are neither those of Ratu Mara nor of the late Dr Bavadra’s. Speight’s version of indigenous Fijian interests coincides in many areas with Rabuka’s version.
But the men Speight has surrounded himself with also represent a changing of the guard from Rabuka’s.
And what of Speight’s relationship with the marching/looting masses, who were inspired by the illegal actions in the House of Parliament on Friday, 19 May 2000? It is a relationship of convenience.
Speight has about as much respect for the 1997 constitution he once praised, as he does for the indigenous marama in Sulu and Jaba helping herself to bales of cloth through the shattered window of a store.
The march was organised by church and Taukei Movement leaders, and though the looting may not have been planned, they certainly enabled it.
Looting has become an ominous feature of recent indigenous Fijian responses to crisis: during the floods of 1998, at the tragic crash site of Flight PC 121 in 1999, and now in the streets of Suva - ‘the millennium city’.
The chiefs and church ministers stir their people but they do not control them: a group of alert and ambitious businessmen has used this feature of Fijian leadership to its advantage.
The impoverishment and disaffection of indigenous Fijians is not a result of 12 months of leadership by an Indo-Fijian. It is the result of 30 years of modern indigenous Fijian leadership that has sacrificed the economic and cultural well-being of a people for the advancement of a few. - Third World Network Features
About the writer: Teresia Teaiwa is a lecturer in Pacific Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.
The above article first appeared in African Agenda (Vol. 3 No. 3, 2000).
A Photo Essay of Fiji squatters was published by Time Magazine.