We’re changing our name today to reflect something that’s been happening for some time – the gradual evolution of Grubsheet from a general commentary site to one specialising in the Pacific and especially Fiji. In one sense, it was inevitable simply because that’s where our own interests lie. But we were also keen to add more grunt to the efforts of others – especially the distinguished New Zealand academic blogger, Crosbie Walsh – to present a more balanced view of events in Fiji as opposed to the deluge of anti-regime propaganda that emanates from several web outlets, in particular the main anti-government website, Coup 4.5.
It’s precisely two years to the scheduled election in Fiji in 2014 that will herald a return to democratic rule. And as recent events have shown, there’s ample room for a more concerted attempt to hold the Bainimarama Government’s opponents to account for the more contentious aspects of their policies. It simply isn’t acceptable in the New Fiji – in our opinion – for anyone to advocate a Christian state, iTaukei as the sole official language, to reserve the term Fijian for indigenous people, reverse the policy of dual citizenship and remove the constitutional rights of anyone and especially on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Grubsheet Feejee isn’t uncritical of government and we will point out where it errs. But we strongly support its multiracial agenda and its desire to promote solid economic growth through inclusive policies at home and investment-friendly policies abroad. We believe that Fiji needs a strong centre-right government with a keen social conscience. And that as things stand, Frank Bainimarama is best placed to deliver racial and social harmony and jobs growth. The principles he’s enunciated are certainly head and shoulders above those of his opponents – a common and equal citizenry, a secular state, the removal of systemic corruption, an independent judiciary , the elimination of discrimination, good and transparent governance, social justice, equal votes of equal value, the elimination of ethnic voting, proportional representation and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
In one of Grubsheet’s favourite novels – the famous journalistic parody Scoop by Evelyn Waugh – the media baron Lord Copper explains that his Daily Beast “stands for strong mutually antagonistic governments everywhere”. How odd it is that in Fiji’s case, the strong antagonism has come from its larger neighbours – Australia and New Zealand – while Fiji strives to be a “friend to all”. And especially when it strives to entrench equality and fairness as opposed to the racism and bigotry of the previous government that Australia and NZ supported. We have long tried to tell the flip side of the constant “dictator bad, democrat good” narrative that is still the staple of the Australian and NZ media. That whatever its faults, the Bainimarama government’s one shining achievement is to give all Fijians a sense of belonging for the first time.
We believe that whatever their range of views, hundreds of thousands of Fiji citizens and former citizens share our belief in the principle of equality of opportunity for all. They also share our vision that the Feejee of old – the one marked by savagery and primitive intolerance – can give way to a thriving, modern Pacific nation that’s a beacon to its neighbours and a country fit for the heroes all around us. These are those hardworking – and long suffering – ordinary men and women in Fiji who dream of a better life for themselves and their children. With sufficient resolve and goodwill, we passionately believe that dream will one day be realised.