Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement - May 26, 2000

May 25, 2000. 7.00pm
FIJI - Canadian Professor Counters the Universal Perception of Indian-as-Victim



An article recently made available to a world-wide audience shows just how much Fijian Indians are architects of their own misfortune, and how the imperfections of the 1997 Constitution have led to the crisis today. It shows that there are a range of factors for us to consider in forming our policy towards Fiji, beyond the few our government seems to have grasped in their selective and narrow cultural understandings.

Professor John Davies, Head of the Department of Economics at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada has published the article presenting this entirely different perspective. Professor Davies has a 25 year association with Fiji through his marriage to an indigenous Fijian, and through extensive work experience in Fiji.

He analyses the common perception of the Indian-as-victim, then describes in detail the reality of the Fijian-as-victim. This is a point of view and a reality rarely found in analyses of the Fijian situation. It describes widespread Indian racism, and the effect this has on ethnic relationships. His revelations are eye-opening and will not be welcomed by Indian people everywhere.

However, having read the article, one anonymous Indian correspondent wrote:

"I believe everyone should read this article - both Fijians and Indians alike - and realise the shame we each have as a race.

Especially Indians (I am Indian and will probably be called a traitor!) but if any Indian out there reads this article and can convince me the reasoning behind it unfounded - I'll welcome that.

Reading this article has made me realise that some of the attitudes we Indians have knowingly or otherwise possessed, is inherent in our thinking and sub-conscious - same goes for Fijians.

As two main races, we have failed to address or show any compassion - greed (Indian businessman are the worst you can find!) and the common thinking Fijians - have failed to consistently address these issues - now we are both paying a price and the long term repercussions for Fiji (whether it's Fijians who win or Indians) is apparent!

For the Fijians - you should read this and also realise where you went wrong.

This article is a legacy of unspoken shame that everyone in Fiji should be made aware about."

Davies goes on to examine the Reeves Report which provided the basis for the 1997 Constitution, within which white members of the international community are insisting the solution to the present crisis will be found.

He writes, "the paper argues that the Reeves Report failed to identify or address the root cause of Fiji’s constitutional problems, leaving thereby the 1997 Constitution fundamentally flawed in several critical areas. By missing this golden opportunity it paved the way for the country’s current crisis."

In the conclusion to this article Davies offers recommendations for a new constitution, and has some advice for both sides of the racial divide.

"For Fijians, they must accept that the idea of paramountcy is a legitimate goal only at the level of culture, language and national image. It cannot be used to disenfranchise the Indian community without correctly precipitating international isolation and condemnation. Similarly no attempt to address income inequalities can hope to succeed without a far greater degree of emphasis placed by individuals, families, communities and the church on the need for education, commercial enterprise, sound business practice and plain hard work. The nation cries out for more good Fijian journalists, businessmen, teachers, professors etc. Failure to recognise and correct the institutional impediments to commercial success that reside in Fijian traditions can only condemn Fijians to a subservient future. The example of the Indian community in its business and professional accomplishment must serve as model to all. Additionally, discipline and respect must reassert themselves and be vigorously championed by politicians, chiefs, elders and parents. Finally, Fijians of all persuasions must welcome, encourage and support attempts by immigrant communities to learn and absorb the Fijian language and culture and to project it as their own.

"As for Indians, they must wake up to the fact that they are not innocent hostages to the constitutional problems of today. The chauvinistic attitudes manifested by many Fijians over the last decade or so - and embodied in the 1990 Constitution - are not simply the product of jealousy at the business and professional success of the Indian community, convenient though it may be for some to believe it. In no small measure they are a direct reaction to the decades of condescension, marginalisation and all too frequent naked racism levelled against the host people, culture and traditions. Any vision of creating here a "Little India of the South Pacific", of developing a society in which Fijians play a secondary role, is a dangerous and futile illusion. As events have shown, the normal passivity of the indigenous population cannot casually be assumed when it feels itself powerless, that its very existence is under assault. To create a society where both chauvinism and racism cannot flourish Indian and other immigrant groups must be willing to adapt, assimilate and embrace the Fijian and Pacific character of the nation. It is a character that is not theirs to change. If not they will condemn their children to labour with the same problems they have inherited."

These are issues that European politicians need to study and understand before they leap in with comment and advice, and before they issue threats based on their own cultural prejudices.

The full article is at http://maorinews.com/karere/fiji/davies.htm


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