Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement

6 June 2000

Fijians Paramountcy- Let's think rationally
by Jesetaki Waqanisau


Some facts :

1840s - Under leadership of Governor Sir Arthur Gordon, Melanesian Pacific Islanders were brought to Fiji to work in the cotton plantations. They begin to die with illnesses in 1880s.

1880s- Indentured labourers brought from India (also a British colony at the time) to work in the sugar plantations for the Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) company from Australia. 

1916 - Indenture system formally put to an end and indentured labourers were free to go back to India. However many did not have enough savings for fare to go back, others were victims of circumstance and chose to live on the lands they had broken their back working.

After this period - Merchants mainly Gujeratis came to set up businesses (Most of whom have had economic upper hand over the years of development).

1966 - First ever election held. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was elected the Prime Minister.Two political parties had emerged, the Alliance and the National Federation Party.

1970- Fiji Islands gained independence from Great Britain.  Fiji was ceded.

1970 Constitution put in place with the Queen as the head of State.

1972 The election in the independent State saw Mara at the head of the helm.

1977  The following election saw people wanting a change and S M Koya led National Federation Party won. However after three days of uncertainty the Governor General made Mara the Prime Minister.

1987 Mara enjoyed the privilege of leadership and the Alliance Party remained the ruling party until 1987 when multiracial Labour Party won and the Late Dr. Timoci Bavadra became the Prime Minister.

1987- May 14th saw first Military Coup and overthrow of the democratically elected government. ( It is said politicians who lost the elections in 1987 were behind the overthrow for political upper hand. Coup leader Major General Sitiveni Rabuka says in his book released this year that Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara had prior knowledge of the coup. Therefore this indicates that this is was not for indigenous supremacy but done to appease the well off former politicians who had lost power and to put them back in the driver's seat ).

An interim Government was appointed.

1990 - A new Constitution providing Paramouncy to the Indigenous Fijians was promulgated. This Constitution allowed pro Indigenous Fijians policy in every field- e.g. education and business loans. We enjoy annual budget of about two million dollars on Indigenous Fijians scholarships through Fijians Affairs Board.

There have been various programs encouraging Fijians in Business. There are incentives for share holding with foreign and Fijians owned businesses with easy access to credit as well as 'Equity Window schemes' from the Fiji Development Bank.

"Indigenous Fijians have easier access to loan funds for business establishment, purchase or development. Fiji Development Bank administers several such schemes including a number under the general heading of commercial loans to Fijians," Laisenia Qarase, 1993.

Qarase also informed a meeting in Nadi about the success of the Fijians Holding Limited established to increase  Fijians participation in business and the economy. The FHL concept has seen indigenous Fijians obtain substantial equity share holding in and in several cases majority or complete ownership of major business enterprises. These include such well-known Fiji companies as the Motibhai Group, Crest Chicken, Basic Industries and Carlton Brewery. The FHL has  majority share holding in Carpenters Proprieties Limited, a $20 Million real estate company formed in association with WR Carpenters. ( FDB 1993)

Fijians have another great Asset- Land, particularly Native Land suitable for development in our largest foreign exchange earner, Tourism sector.

There are more than eighty hotel or tourism leases being administered by the Native Land Trust Board which is responsible for leasing Fijians owned land on behalf of the owners. (NLTB, 1998) These include Sheraton, Warwick, Naviti, Treasure Island, Castaway and Mana Island Resorts among others. Native Landowners currently receive Millions of dollars annually from Tourism leases. There is also great potential in eco-tourism projects.

Fijians were pushed on socioeconomic ladder. However it was sad to see many failures, massive mismanagement and collapse of National Bank of Fiji. Many Fijians businesses like Eimcol and Yellow Cabs failed due to mismanagement. It was not because of lack of opportunities!

1997 We saw a change in the Constitution in 1997.

1999 General Election under the new Constitution. People wanted change and Labour Government led by Chaudhry comes in power.

We still saw Fijians Paramouncy. The powers of the Great Council of Chiefs, the paramount indigenous body was enshrined in the 1997 Constitution. The highest executive role of the President could only be appointed by this indigenous body. The President appointed by this body had to endorse any person appointed by the winning political party before he could take the Prime Ministership. Chaudhry could become Prime Minister only by the permission of the President. And his party was not only voted by the Indians but Fijians as well since the Labour Party won my Majority. So who are we blaming now ?

Indigenous Fijians still enjoy privilege of:

We are only a little more than half of the population but own 80% of the land ! (Where else in the world is this a possibility?) Foreign aid, including Japanese, Canada, AUDAID and NZODA grant to rural village projects like sanitation and footpaths in the villages through Ministry of Regional Development ( which will now cease)

We have the Vola Ni Kawa Bula( the genealogical register of Fijians owners of the Native Land)

The question of ethinicity is crucial to us Indigenous Fijians because it relates to ownership of Native Land and through affirmative action, to access to scholarships and employment in the Civil Service ( Fiji CRC Implementation Report, 1995).

Registration in the Vola ni Kawa Bula brings the following rights:

Yes the Indians seem to have economic paramouncy but not because we Fijians did not have opportunities to do the same. They work hard... we definitely have more opportunities than them in terms of ownership of land and easy access to credit. They employ thousands of Fijians as well as other races.

Destroying them means destroying ourselves. Indians who have economic paramouncy are only 10% of the Indian population. Majority are like us if you look at the Fiji Poverty Report 1996. The poorest of poor in Fiji are not Fijians but Indo-Fijians if the Fiji Report 1996 is credible at all.

Think carefully, what George Speight is doing, is he doing this for our paramouncy? We already had paramouncy, that Chaudhry's arrogance also couldn't take from us. A vote of no confidence in him could have removed him pretty easily!

Is this about his personal benefit? He is bankrupt and not even a full Fijians ashamed to use his Fijians name. Can he run this nation? Would he not lead the Nation to bankruptcy?

Is this about provincialism? If this is so then tomorrow Ba, the richest province could come and demand power at the barrel of the gun and so can the others.

Can we afford to do this? We all know that we will lose millions of dollars as landowners if the Tourists stop coming, which they will if this continues. We will lose our jobs if the shops don't reopen. We don't want to be led by this man who doesn't care about this country and spent most of his time out of this nation, in Australia and in the U.S.

Australia has already put a trade ban. South Africa suffered for 20 years. Do we want to go that path? If all the countries start punishing us we will not have any food, oil, fuel in the country. Hundreds are already losing their jobs. We will not be able to import spare parts if machines don't operate. Many rich Indians will be able to close shops and migrate, all the skilled people will migrate. We will be the losers. We will not have access to good doctors, teachers and other professional people. It will be too painful for our next generation. Is this what we want to give our children... a hollow future full of pain??? This man George Speight will be free and will manage his life fine , it is us and our children that will suffer.

African Nations were applauding us and wanted to live our lives, we are on the path worse than what they have been through. We were the last Melanesian country to have peace intact, that seems to have been snatched by Speight.

We have seen Fijians paramouncy in Fijians leaders since1970. Why did we not achieve Fijians economic supremacy under Mara or Rabuka? Was there something wrong in our Fijians leaders or such were circumstances? What is the guarantee we will see it under Speight who is supporting criminal activities. What is the guarantee civilians will not be running around with arms under his government and our children will not be victims? Let not our children accuse us of being unthinking, unintelligent and unchristian.

Please try and think rationally and act now for the good of our nation and future generations!


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