Posted by John Liebhardt to Global Voices Online
A government-appointed committee in Fiji introduced an 11-point framework to augment the Pacific island nation’s constitution and “rebuild Fiji into a nonracial, culturally vibrant and united, well-governed, truly democratic nation.” The 75-page report, called the “Fiji Draft People’s Charter for Change, Peace & Progress” (.pdf available here) was introduced Wednesday so the public can provide opinions and recommendations.
The 45 authors, worked for the past eight months under the banner “National Council for Building a Better Fiji,” were given authority from the so-called interim government of Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, which came to power in a December 2006 coup.
The National Council for Building a Better Fiji is predominately responsible for “ending the coup culture” in the island nation, where the military has interrupted democratic rule four times since 1987, helping suffocate the nation’s economy and usher in “lawlessness and bad governance.” To move beyond continued military intervention in politics, the group admits the country must end the “adversarial ethnic-based politics” which largely pit the indigenous Melanesian population against an Indian population that the British colonial government began importing to work in the sugar industry around 1880s and early 1900s. For decades, the Indo-Fijians, who are mostly practicing Hindus, maintained a slight numerical majority. Since the two coups of 1987, however, Indo-Fijian emigration has increased to the point where the largely Christian indigenous people now make up roughly 57 percent of the population.
The draft charter says for the country to move forward, people must affirm the constitution as the law of the land, reform the system of racially segregated voting and solve the land issue, one of the country’s most intractable problems, by insuring that people from all ethnic groups have access to land by increasing the supply of fertile fields and through sustainable lease arrangements. The Bainimarama government said the country must act on these recommendations before a restoration of democracy can take place amidst general elections, which were originally scheduled for March 2009 and recently postponed.
Initial opinions regarding the draft charter from the public, mainstream press — and most bloggers in Fiji — have been negative. Many people took exception with the committee’s proposal to combat ethno-nationalism by calling all citizens of the islands “Fijians” while changing the name of indigenous people to itaukei, a term from the local Fijian language. Presently, indigenous people are referred to as “Fijians” while the descendants of Indian workers are called “Indo-Fijians.”
gdevreal, a prodigious commentator at a very lively forum called Fiji Board Exiles argues that if the committee wants to change the name of Fiji’s inhabitants, it should find a title that is not already in use.
Pick something new instead of robbing it from someone else. There is no need to steal from one group to satisfy another. Pick a word that does not already have a meaning so you can respect Fijians right to what they have and what in addition is guaranteed to them under the Constitution by all the Peoples of Fiji.
Are People of all races called Indians in India? Japanese in Japan?
“Fiji citizen” is good enough as a common name…
…when Vijay Singh plays on the international golf circuit, everybody makes a point about him being Fijian – the media always underline that like its a badge of honour – and they underscore it even in TV reports with phrases like “Fijian Vijay Singh today won the US Masters……” as if we don’t already know he is Fijian ! lol.
this argument about the word “Fijian” won’t put bread and butter on the table – nor does it make a difference – that word is not our itaukei identity anyway – its a British word that came in with the Brits…
If we were to take it on American standards then it would be Fijian African and Fijian Indian. Would the recent people from Fiji who have migrated to the US then be American Fijians and further defined to American Fijian Indians but NOT American Indians because they use to be the Red ones? I am sooo confused. You gotta love it, especially if we all supposedly originated out of Africa, then would I be an African, European, Hawaiian American???Fijian??? because I now live here? Or do we base it on Home is where the heart is? Or where we presently live, or where our parents were born, or where we were born or where we were raised. I am still confused.
People misunderstand the charter, claims Delta, a commenter at the Fijilive site:
People’s Charter is absolutely correct. By birth we are the citizens of Fiji and therefore we should be called Fijians but under the sub-category we should be identified as Fijians, Indians, Samoans, Tongans, Whites from NZ or Australia etc. One can never change your origin by birth. The People’s Charter is recognising the citizenship my friends. Don’t get too self centered.
Paceli and Wendy’s Blog argued that if Fiji is to pick a new name for its peoples, it must be an “ethnically-neutral name, and a new name — for a new beginning for Fiji.” Indo-Fijian Kaicolo demurred, arguing that “I am a Fijian whether anyone likes it or not…my being of Indian race shouldnt belittle my being a Fijian citizen!!”
The name change was not the only issue that raised passions amongst people. Those at the blog Soli Vakasama argue the National Council for Building a Better Fiji has no legitimacy because its members were handpicked by an “illegal junta.”
Resistance is quickly spreading and we at the SV Team, believe the NCBBF Members are truly astounded at the level of resistance since they thought it was going to be a walk in the park and many Fijians will let sleeping dogs lie and get on with their lives, but little did they realise that what this illegal junta have done to Fiji has directly affected every person in Fiji is a way unlike previous coups and the people will not rest until the coup perpetrators are brought to justice.
Ragone, we at the SV Team calls for the ending of the coup culture permanently by bringing these perpetrators to justice, even if it means the death penalty for Vore and his cronies. Remember, [2000 coup leader George] Speight was handed the death penalty and commuted to life imprisonment by [President Josefa] Iloilo after recommendations from the Prerogative of Mercy Commission, however Vore and his Military Officers are not civilians like Speight and have no excuse and it is highly unlikely that the same will be recommended for them. What do you think?
Fiji Democracy Now argues the best way to get Fiji back on its economic and political feet is to restore the democracy overthrown during the December 2006 coup.
The thing that the quest for a common name needs most desperately is democracy. Only a democratically elected government can have the mandate for such a change. The un-elected National Committee for Bullshit and Bluster wants to give us pure democracy, as they see it, but why do they want to give us a new name before they have introduced their pure democracy?
We think we have an answer: it’s because the Illegal regime wants to sow the seeds of anger and distrust in order to prolong their dictatorial rule. Far from wanting to move Fiji forward they want to mire Fiji in confusion, anger and distrust. We say return democracy and the rule of law to Fiji now. Let’s move back to the rule of law, not forward, because if this is the future we don’t want it.
Corruption Fighter, a commentator to the Soli Vakasama post, claims the widespread opposition to the draft charter may help speed the nation’s return to democracy.
What a great day for Fiji. May be some good will come out of all this evil if everyone unites behind the rule of the law and the spirit as well as the letter of the Constitution. Never forget that the 2006 coup
overthrew a multi-party government that represented the people of Fiji better than any previous government in our history.