Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement - May 21, 2000
by Ross Nepia Himona
The attempted coup in Fiji takes most negative Maori news reportage out of the media for a while.
The media has another indigenous whipping boy, and most reportage and comment is of course against the indigenous Fijians, and sympathetic to Indian Fijians. As it was in 1987. In fact it amazes me how Pakeha New Zealand manages to feel and express so much outrage at events in the Republic of Fiji. The leftover heritage of a colonial past perhaps, this idea that white New Zealanders have a right to say what goes on in non-white countries. Perhaps also it gives them a safe outlet to vent their spleens against the subconscious threat of a growing indigenous influence in their own country.
Of course the attempted coup, in this instance, is wrong. And of course it is very damaging to the economy, and damages efforts to build a national unity, across the racial divide. But it is after all a matter for Fiji to resolve, in a Fijian way. We in Aotearoa New Zealand are bystanders and observers, nothing more. That's our only role.
Don McKinnon at the Commonwealth Secretariat fulminates and declares himself angry. Phil Goff pontificates and passes judgement. As do their Australian counterparts. Who the hell do they think they are these white boy neo-colonials?
The fact is that the Fijian troubles were caused by British colonists when they imported Indian indentured workers to labour in their canefields. The fact is that the Indians in Fiji are as much to blame for their plight as anyone is, for they have held themselves aloof from the indigenous Fijians, and have attempted to maintain an Indian homeland in another land. The fact is that they have acted as though they fully intend to eventually become the power in Fiji, and to convert Fiji into a culturally Indian country. As an indigenous Fijian wouldn't you feel threatened and outraged.
The Government, led by Mahendra Chaudhry, were warned that this coup attempt was imminent, and ignored it. The Police Commissioner warned that the Police would not be able to cope, and Chaudhry told him to shut up. The sin of Hubris is inevitably and inexorably followed by Nemesis.
That white people and their media take sides in these troubles is an expression of the tired old colonial racism that still infects the whole of the Pacific; nothing more.
One of the ironies in this situation is that the present president, His Excellency Rt Hon Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who is now leading the effort to restore order, predicted in Parliament in the late 1960s that the day the Indians gained a majority in Parliament would be the day that Suva would burn to the ground. He said that the only thing the Fijians would lose would be Indian records of Fijian debt. His timing was a bit out, but Suva burns.
Another irony is that the gunmen backing George Speight are members of an elite military counter-revolutionary unit set up by Sitiveni Rabuka after the 1987 coups. They are led by a former British SAS member who was brought home by Rabuka to set up the unit. Now Sitiveni Rabuka is negotiating with his own creation to back down. They are all of them quite close to Rabuka, as is his golfing partner George Speight.
Best coverage at Fijilive and its alternative site
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And on a personal note I watch closely for news of Adi Koila Nailatikau, Minister of Tourism, and one of the hostages. She is the daughter of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and the wife of a long-time friend, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Brigadier (Retired) Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was the Commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces in 1987, and was retired and replaced by the then Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka.
Adi Koila is one of only three hostages who is not allowed any family contact at all at the moment (midday Sunday), although her husband was called to Parliament by George Speight on Friday. She would seem to be the key hostage in Speight's standoff with Ratu Mara.
This editorial has been put on the wire by Scoop news. And a response by a Pakeha journalist that says it all really.
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