#25 THE KING AND I : A PACIFIC INTRIGUE

Lt Col Tevita Mara aka Roko Ului

A bizarre rerun of the political intrigues of the 19th century South Seas aristocracy is being played out at a stately royal residence on the waterfront of the sleepy Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa. Consular House was once the home of the British High Commissioner to Tonga and the lion and the unicorn still gaze majestically down from the wall in the foyer. But now the timber tropical pile with its push out shutters houses the region’s latest and most celebrated political refugee – a Fijian chief who’s sought sanctuary with his distant kinsmen, the monocle-wearing King George Tupou V.

Lt Colonel Tevita Uluilakeba Mara – commonly known as Roko Ului – is a Fijian blue-blood, the younger son of modern Fiji’s founding father, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Four and a half years ago, Mara threw his considerable support– military and traditional – behind his commanding officer, Frank Bainimarama, in a coup that removed Fiji’s elected government and sparked an ongoing regional crisis. But last week he fled the country in dramatic circumstances, plucked from a boat in Fiji waters by a Tongan naval patrol vessel evidently sent by his royal relative and patron.

King George Tupou V

Mara had been removed as commander of Fiji’s biggest military regiment and charged with sedition after he allegedly made critical comments about Bainimarama during a trip to South Korea. He’s also been linked to the alleged disappearance of F$ 3-million from the coffers of the state-owned timber company, Fiji Pine. Mara protested his innocence during his court appearance, obtained bail and was forced to surrender his passport. But having reported to police as part of his bail conditions, he suddenly vanished, eventually turning up on a Youtube posting in which he eviscerated Bainimarama as morally and intellectually bankrupt.

As the Fijian authorities try to piece together what happened -taking in Mara’s wife, relatives and close associates for questioning – some intriguing details are emerging. Mara traveled from Suva to the southern tip of Fiji’s southernmost island, Kadavu, and spent the night in a bure at the Nagigia Island surfing resort. A local boatman says he saw him in the company of a European man – widely believed to be Estonian-born local fisherman Risto Harmat – and they were joined by another European man with an indigenous Fijian wife.

In a startling development if confirmed, the feverish coconut radio in Suva has it that this couple is surfing instructor Tim McBride and his wife, Adi Koila Ganilau, who is Tevita Mara’s niece. Adi Koila is the daughter of Adi Ateca Mara, Mara’s elder sister, and Bainimarama’s predecessor as military chief, Brigadier Epeli Ganilau. Epeli Ganilau was defence minister in Bainimarama’s government but resigned in a dispute last year, apparently over the regime’s desire to impose higher taxes on one of Fiji’s main exports, Fiji Water. Suddenly, the steady estrangement in recent months between Bainimarama and the Mara-Ganilau dynasty – once a cornerstone of his support – has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Nagigia Island Resort Kadavu

According to the local boatman at Nagigia, he took some of Mara’s party to a larger vessel that then headed for open seas. Precisely where this vessel then made contact with the Tongan naval patrol boat, Savea, is now at the centre of a diplomatic storm, with Fiji accusing Tonga of violating its sovereignty by secretly entering its waters. Tonga’s chief secretary, the unlikely-named Busby Kautoke, maintains that Mara’s status was “a man rescued at sea”. But while Mara himself said he’d been picked up after issuing a distress signal, the relevant authorities in Fiji and New Zealand say no distress signal was ever detected.

So it appears that the Tongan King sent one his ships into Fiji to enact a political rescue, plucking his relative from the clutches of Fijian law and providing a base for Mara to wage war on Bainimarama. Needless to say, Frank is less than pleased and the traditionally close relationship between Fiji and Tonga has entered its own perilous waters. A plausible explanation from the Tongan authorities is still awaited, not least as to how someone without a passport was able to enter the country so freely.

King George has been traveling in Europe after being famously mistaken for Mohammed Al- Fayed at the recent wedding of Wills and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. His prime minister, Lord Tu’ivakano, says its up to the Fijian authorities to pursue an extradition request through the normal legal channels. That has now been lodged but is given little chance of success, partly because Tonga’s chief justice, Michael Scott, is something of a refugee from Fiji himself. Justice Scott was once on the bench in Suva but fell out with Fiji’s chief justice, Anthony Gates, over what he perceived to be Gates’s support for the Bainimarama regime.

Tea, bro? Former allies Bainimarama (2nd from left) and Mara (far right)

Since he arrived at Consular House, Mara has been granting audiences to the regional and global media, portraying Bainimarama as a tyrant in the thrall of his Indo-Fijian attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum. Mara’s hatred for Khaiyum is visceral and expressed in crudely racial terms. In both English and Fijian language postings on Youtube, Mara casts him as an overly ambitious Muslim seeking to exercise control over the country through his puppet, Bainimarama. It’s a none-too-subtle play on indigenous fears of Indian domination in a racially divided Fiji and has raised fears that part of Mara’s agenda is to derail Bainimarama’s push for a level playing field for all citizens. Certainly, his language suggests that he may not share his father, Kamisese Mara’s, commitment to multiracialism.

Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, Mara’s defection is the biggest boost for the regime’s opponents in a long time. Their recent setbacks include a change of heart on Fiji by Australia’s most prestigious Melanesian think tank, the Lowy Institute, which is now arguing for re-engagement and acceptance of Bainimarama’s election timetable of 2014. This unleashed a storm of abuse on anti-government websites that immediately turned to glee at the prospect of Tevita Mara leading a movement in exile against the hated dictator.

Some of the content on sites like Coup Four-point-Five is frequently hysterical and occasionally borders on the certifiable. A group calling itself “Strategic HQ desk” has called for a peoples’ revolt in Fiji in the coming week, including a general strike. Part of its advice to civil servants is to put sedatives in their minister’s tea “ to make him senile” and “mix his water with a sweet ingredient that will put him to sleep”.

Coup Four- Point-Five has become the media outlet of choice for Tevita Mara and is also the source of some journalistic howlers that have made their way into the mainstream media in New Zealand and Australia. The website breathlessly reported that Bainimarama was planning to remove Fiji’s president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, whose wife, Adi Koila, is one of Tevita Mara’s elder sisters. The story was picked up by Fairfax New Zealand’s Pacific correspondent, Michael Field, who Bainimarama expelled from Fiji and has a history of slanted reporting on the country, including two adverse findings by the New Zealand Press Council. Field’s story was picked up by TVNZ and he subsequently told it in person in an interview on Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat, one of the region’s prime sources of news. It was wrong – as Bainimarama wearily explained to the censored local media – admonishing its international colleagues for being “naughty”. But it wasn’t as wrong as Coup Four- Point-Five’s story that the President was holed up at Government House working on a counter strategy to dismiss Bainimarama and then seek refuge in the US embassy. The President was nowhere near Government House and still on an official visit to distant Rotuma. But such is the static generated on the coconut radio by Mara’s sensational defection.

Ex colonel Tevita Mara

What now? Assuming Fiji’s fails in its extradition request, Mara faces a lengthy exile. Will he be content to languish in the royal residences of Nuku’alofa playing war games with King George’s famous lead toy soldiers? Or will he head for New Zealand or Australia and lead the loose anti-regime movement that has been so singularly unsuccessful in dislodging Bainimarama? The dictator himself has suggested the latter, telling the Fiji media that he doesn’t care if Mara goes to Australia and joins another disgruntled former fellow officer in exile, Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka. Baledrokadroka – who has close links to a high chief jailed over the 2000 Speight coup – was charged with insubordination for opposing Bainimarama before his own coup in 2006. He soon left for Australia and was granted a fellowship at the Australian National University in Canberra, from where he conducts a steady campaign against the regime, including some colourful invective on Coup Four -Point -Five.

The ANU happens to be a hot-bed of anti-regime activity. On its staff  is the Indo-Fijian historian, Brij Lal, whose criticism of Bainimarama saw him barred from Fiji, and Dr Jon Fraenkel, a former lecturer at the University of the South Pacific in Suva who is married to a indigenous Fijian. Both men wage war on the regime in the Australian media, Brij Lal as commentator of choice on Radio Australia and Jon Fraenkel in several pieces in The Australian, including one this week in which he argued that Australia continue its hardline approach to Fiji. Will Tevita Mara be joining them? His time at the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College may or may not hold him in good academic stead.

But while Mara may be a regarded as a fugitive from justice in Fiji, there’s a certain historical symmetry in him seeking refuge with the Tongan king. In the 1840s, a Tongan prince called Ene’le Ma’afu sought refuge on Mara’s home island of Lakeba in Fiji when he was seen as a rival for the Tongan throne. He aligned himself with Mara’s direct ancestor, the Tui Nayau, and eventually went to war on his behalf, conquering a string of islands in eastern and northern Fiji. Ma’afu, the Tongan, eventually entered history as one of  Fiji’s most powerful and celebrated chiefs and played a large part in ceding the islands to Britain in 1874.

As he becomes a diplomatic thorn in the relationship between Fiji and Tonga, Tevita Mara’s own horizons probably lie much further afield in New Zealand or Australia. But he and the resolutely single King George are certain to have plenty to talk about when their war games are over and they while away the lonely hours of a balmy Pacific night.

This posting has since appeared on Pacific Scoop New Zealand, which prompted a wave of negative comments from Tevita Mara/ Roko Ului’s supporters that Graham Davis – who is Fiji born- has addressed directly. Those exchanges follow.

By way of explanation, kai idia means Indian, kai valagi means European, kai vata means one’s relations, i’taukei means indigenous Fijian and liumuri is a pejorative term that means literally “leading from behind” but is used colloquially to describe  someone who is cowardly and less than frank.

  1. Annoyed, 21. May 2011, 10:36

    Does Graham Davies speak Fijian?

    I watched all of Roko Ului’s videos on YouTube, both in English and Fijian, and nowhere does he mention anything about an overly ambitious “Muslim” seeking to exercise control over the country through his puppet, Bainimarama.

    Yes, he implies that Khaiyum is overly ambitious and he does say Bainimarama is Khaiyum’s puppet but there is no mention of Khaiyum’s racial or religious heritage.

    Roko Ului did not use the word “Muslim”.

    By untruthfully paraphrasing Roko Ului’s statements, Davies paints Ului as some kind of anti-Islamic racial bigot.

    Davies is the one who has turned this saga into a racial and religious issue.

    Yes, there are thousands of racist and degrading comments on various anti-Bainimarama blogs, but not one from Roko Ului.

    I also can’t understand the inference, not only in Davies’s article but also on Crosbie Walsh’s blog, that anyone who is anti-Bainimarama is also against multiracialism.

    This is one of the feeblest arguments I have ever heard.

    I am anti-Bainimarama because I am anti-coup, not because I am a nationalist who benefited from Qarase’s policies.

    In fact, I am like Graham Davies – a Fiji-born kaivalagi. But unlike Graham Davies I speak fluent Fijian.

  2. Graham Davis, 21. May 2011, 15:21

    Yes, I have a basic understanding of Fijian. I learned it before I learned English growing up without European company, although many years abroad have eroded my ability to speak it fluently, as I did in childhood.

    Graham Davis ( bottom left) circa 1958

    In one of his Youtube postings in Fijian, Mara speaks of Khaiyum putting ” a Muslim from Ba” into Fiji Pine. You will have heard it, if you’ve seen them all. It carries the clear imputation that one Muslim is assisting another Muslim at Mara’s expense. Why Mara would use this phrase in the Fiji context, except to suggest that Khaiyum is benefiting a Indo-Fijian Muslim at the expense of an indigenous Fijian? This is clearly an exercise in racial stereotyping.

    I reject your other comments about me turning this into a racial issue. Blind freddy can see what you obviously can’t.

    Liu Muri, 22. May 2011, 19:55

  3. Graham Davies, you are doing a fine job, some idiots just think that since they know Fijian, they are more intelligent. Racism has always been rife in Fiji and despise for Indo Fijians has been promoted by GCC and the very unChristian Methodist Church. Please see my comments in the other story. Some racially divisive Fijians have been trying to pass etho-nationalism above democracy. Even Ratu Mara , Ului’s father had not been as big an advocate of multi-racialism as history passes him to be. Hence you cannot expect any better from Ratu Ului sitting comfortably in Tonga while his hangers-on are suffering for supporting him. Is that a quality of a Chief who protects his own backside at the cost of his people?

  4. James King, 23. May 2011, 0:07

    Graham Davis – I am glad you “learnt” Fijian before you “learnt” English. What both you and Croz Walsh fail to understand is that most Fijians (including those of Indian heritage) are well educated and make the difference and see through the bull both sides are feeding us. I am insulted by the fact that you both can sit in countries that have the freedom of expression. information and movement and pass judgement. Both your stance reeks of almost colonialist mindset where if the locals cant get their act together lets make them see the light with the power of the gun with an ignorant person lead it. I am a person of Indian heritage but Fijian and young and we will shape Fiji not ignorant no school monkeys with guns and people like you both urging them on

    Tane, 23. May 2011, 11:19

  5. Well said James, how Davis, Croz and Liumuri aka Thakur Singh think that they know best while enjoying the comfort of democracy in NZ & Aust is beyond anyones imagination.

  6. Graham Davis, 23. May 2011, 12:44

    James King, your reference to Croz Walsh and I having an ‘an almost colonialist mindset’ to events in Fiji is ridiculous. I am Fiji born and can say what I like about my country of birth. Why do I have any less right to do so as a kai valagi than you do as a kai idia? This obsession with race is absurd and is at the root of all of Fiji’s problems. It’s a nation with retarded development surrounded by prosperous multicultural, multiracial societies that it would do well to emulate. Incidentally, learned and learnt are interchangeable in English and learnt is never used in American usage. So spare me the gratuitous quotation marks and high handed inference about you being well educated. You may be formally but evidently not where it counts. And that is to view Fiji as a collection of ethnic groups working together as one nation, colour blind and grateful for the country’s rich cultural diversity.

  7. James King, 24. May 2011, 17:06

    Thanks for clarifying the use of American English being interchangeable and good on you for being born in Fiji. Fiji born journalist next to your name (quite and achievement) makes it all good to dribble on about utopia lost. I guess it is easy to toe the illegal government’s line under the guise of developmental journalism while people are denied their rights or are they sub-human to be given their full rights?
    Let me just rephrase the statement about colonial mindset – Croz and yourself are leftovers of Fiji’s Colonial past…(was going to say sloppy seconds)
    Yes Race is the root of Fiji’s problem even blind Freddy can see that. Majority of Fiji Citizens regardless of race, color(see what I am doing here!) want a Fiji run by smart, respectable, educated people. Bainimarama and Khaiyum aren’t. Mara’s and Ganilau’s are left in the shadows of their fathers achievements and the younger generation don’t care much about politics just as yet.
    Give me a Baleidrokadroka or Brij Lal analysis anyday – guess what they too are Fiji born/bred and educated and are in touch with the grassroots. The people that matter most – where as you only have one thing going for you and that is a tag at the end of your name saying “Fiji Born Journalist.” ….give us a break.

  8. Graham Davis, 27. May 2011, 1:58

    James King, OK, you win. We “sloppy seconds” of Fiji’s colonial past aren’t one tenth of the individual you are. You’re Fiji born too but a distinct cut above us mere kai valagi. The elite, indeed, those born to rule while white kumala like us can shove off and keep our mouths shut while you and your kai vata trash the country. OK, maintain the fantasy of having Fiji to yourself. But don’t pretend that you have even a modicum of the wit needed to run the place. Who built the infrastructure, that hasn’t been added to in any significant way 40 years after independence? Yes, your hated colonials. And what have your “smart, respectable, educated people” achieved? A succession of unstable, self serving governments punctuated by racist coups until the full stop of December 2006. You know as well as I do that some of the smartest “real people” born in Fiji don’t live there anymore. And those that do flay around, even with the best of intentions, unable to break the appalling cycle of self interest and self aggrandisement that’s the main feature of national life. Don’t talk to me about Brij Lal and Jone Baledrokadroka “being in touch with the grass roots”. They live in Canberra and the only grass they come anywhere near is when they mow their manicured lawns or attend the odd louche ANU party. You slag off at me for describing myself as Fiji-born because you can’t stand the notion of a white man who can actually see Fiji through the prism of not just visiting regularly but with a lifetime of living and working in other countries. And believe me, I know a place that works when I see one. How remiss of me not to have stayed in Fiji, to have lolled around for years on end in the fishbowl of Suva, knowing everyone’s business and getting legless every weekend at Ed’s Bar or Traps. Then I’d be entitled to an opinion, wouldn’t I? Incidentally, I’ve done all that quite regularly and it doesn’t take long to work out who’s up who and what’s going on. Frankly, you and your “smart” lot haven’t been able to run Fiji half as well as the colonials did. Nor as well as Bainimarama, if a multiracial agenda, service delivery and good governance count for anything. So to coin your own phrase, give us a break and spare us your chauvinism and cultural superiority. Judging from these gratuitous comments, you’re not part of Fiji’s solution, you’re part of its problem. Backward, racist and constantly pointing the finger of blame at everyone else for the country’s self inflicted woes.

  9. Annoyed, 27. May 2011, 15:03

    Mr Davis, pray show me the videos “in both English and Fijian” where Roko Ului casts Khaiyum as an “overly ambitious Muslim”.

    Given your basic understanding of Fiji, I’ll make things a little easier for you. Go tohttp://www.youtube.com/user/truthforfiji#p/u/10/n5o7sffmRGQ at the 4min16sec mark.

    This is what Roko Ului says: “Qo, mai vakacegui au o’ Khaiyum ka bi(u)ta kina e dua na nona i tokani vaka-Muslim mai Ba.”

    In English: “Then Khaiyum sacked me and replaced me with a fellow-Muslim from Ba.”

    Roko Ului made this statement when he was talking about the allegations regarding the missing millions from Fiji Pine Trust.

    What you have done is taken that one sentence, combined it with a quote from an earlier video where Roko Ului calls Bainimarama a puppet of an ambitious Khaiyum and woven a tale in which Roko Ului is suddenly anti-Muslim.

    If I use this twisted logic, I can assume you are anti-Lebanese.

    See http://www.grubsheet.com.au/?p=357, paragraph 4: “As a Lebanese Melkite Catholic, young Karl would doubtless have been reared on the story of Christ’s betrayal for thirty pieces of silver.”

    Now, what has being Lebanese got to do with Karl Bitar’s new position? I see no relevance whatsoever, except that you and your audience share some kind of prejudice towards anyone who is Lebanese.

    Now back to the Roko Ului issue.

    The video above was in Fijian. I’ve marked out the section for you.

    Why don’t you reciprocate and show me where Roko Ului expresses the same sentiments in English?

    I am particularly interested in any section which demonstrates Roko Ului’s visceral hatred of Khaiyum.

    I want to see and hear him use the crudely racial terms you say he used. I want to see the spittle on my computer screen when I watch the video(s).

    I’d rather Blind Freddy see what I can’t then be deceived by a few twisted quotes.

  10. Bruce C Wearne, 27. May 2011, 18:16

    So thankyou to author Davis an all commentators in this blow-by-blow championship fight – but have you given us non-Fijians of the region any grounds for hope that the racist-militarist cycle of coup culture might be broken? I don’t think you have. So let me ask this: Are there resources – cultural, spiritual – in Fiji’s pre-independence history and conflict resolution since then that signal a possibility for a future just society that can be supported by all South Pacific people? To ask it again: how now can Fiji sidestep the cycle of racism and militarism that threatens to de-gut every and all attempts at Fijian democracy?

    Was it not in the context of putting down the 2000 coup that Bainimarama came to occupy a crucial intermediary position between the institutions of Fijian democracy and the military? He and his supporters have not yet explained, or shown by example, how the cumulative actions they now endorse – what he is supposed to have done in 2000, his ongoing pre-2006-coup threats and warnings and demands, his 2006 and 2009 coups, his revocation of the Constitution – make it possible to now eradicate coup culture. Where is the articulated viewpoint that renounces not only tribalism, not only racism and not only militarism but the manner in which all three -isms, and any other residues of colonialistic imposition, are inextricably joined in Fijian self definition?? Where is the new Fijian self-definition emerging? Is this latest development from Col Mara merely the opening shots in a disastrous struggle over who controls the military from within the military? Of course the Commodore and his right hand man in suit and tie can say that they are actually trying to address the problem of “coup culture” – but they have given no grounds at all to suggest that the Fijian military have renounced the militarism that feeds racism and the racism that feeds post Dec 2006 militarism and which is presupposed by “coup culture”. And so the onus is now upon the senior military dissenter who has defected to call not only for an end to coup culture but for an end to the RFMF’s militariistic view of its own contribution to Fiji governance. The question is whether Mara’s clan is capable of ensuring that that be done? Can they now renounce militarism without self-destructing?

  11. James King, 28. May 2011, 15:46

    Well isn’t it easy to waltz in and out of the country when you toe the military governments line and provide solutions for us natives from afar!
    I am such a stirrer ! Sorry to poke your boil Graham and thanks for putting what you REALLY feel about Fiji and its people.
    Please dont let me start on what the “kaivalagi’s” brought into Fiji…military, christianity, indentured labourers, etc etc and pissed off leaving this mess so dont talk about the shody infrastructre…but lets move on and address the issue of your ill researched opinion pieces which trust Newsltd to give the time of day. You still dont get it do you? You support the clamp down on media, freedom of expression by the Military for the rest of the population but at the same time see it as your God given birth right to express yours on how things should be done.
    Whats wrong with Baleidrokadroka and Brij attending ANU parties? At least they back their opnions with research and facts and figures unlike you! and yes they are banned from entering the country – you see once the Military government has its day – we will not ban you from entering the country because your opinions were different to the current government.. You are Fijian Graham whether you like it or not and we will welcome you with open arms – it is just how we roll.

  12. Graham Davis, 28. May 2011, 19:20

    “Annoyed”, I’m glad you’ve endorsed my earlier reference to Roko Uilui having referred in one of his Fijian language Youtube broadcasts to the AG putting a Muslim from Ba into Fiji Pine. My Fijian isn’t as rusty as I thought.

    What possible reason was there to use the term Muslim in this context other than to insinuate preferential treatment for someone of the same religion? So on that I plead FACT.

    The Muslim reference was made only in a Fijian language broadcast, not in any English version, so I think it’s FAIR COMMENT to cast this as a classic dog whistle in the local context. It is one of the least attractive aspects of indigenous politics that someone of the traditional stature of Roko Ului would use language to his own people that he wouldn’t use to the country as a whole. You don’t need to see the spittle – as you put it – to discern the traces of venom.

    On his reference to the AG’s ambition, this is also FACT. On his reference to Bainimarama being Khaiyum’s puppet, FACT again. On the tone of his original broadcast, it’s highly personal nature and its barely concealed contempt, indeed hatred, for the AG. FAIR COMMENT.

    Re your reference to my blog and its reference to Karl Bitar being a Melkite Catholic. This was in the context of Judas’s betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver. The reference to which you object was to make the point that someone of Bitar’s background – a Lebanese Christian – ought to properly know the biblical meaning of betrayal. For the former organisational head of the Australian Labor Party to join a gambling empire fighting his own party’s attempts to curb problem gambling is something many would regard as a betrayal. I regard this is FAIR COMMENT.

    Bruce C Wearne, you are clearly a wise man whose thoughts and suggestions deserve the widest consideration. You are certainly a lot wiser than I am. FACT and FAIR COMMENT. With very best wishes.

  13. Graham Davis, 29. May 2011, 10:46

    Thank you, James King, for accepting that a Fiji kai valagi has as much right to belong to the country as anyone else. Just as you – as a kai idia – have every right to equal rights – the stated cornerstone of Bainimarama’s agenda for the future.

    This is what I don’t understand about the regime’s kai idia and kai valagi opponents. Bainimarama deposed a racist ( qoliqoli, “reconciliation” ( for speight ), alteration to land title) and corrupt government that may have been “democratically elected” (under a weighted system) but was intent on using the tyranny of the majority to disadvantage everyone else.

    Twice before, governments in Fiji had been removed at gunpoint because they were either led by a kai ida ( Chaudhry ) or perceived to be dominated by kai idia ( Bavadra ). There was a pattern developing here. Yes, when the kai idia represented the majority of the population, many people could understand indigenous fears about the potential for their position to be eroded. But once so many kai idia had fled and indigenous Fijians were in the majority, those fears were totally unfounded.

    What did the Qarase government do? Embark on a unconscionable program to further erode the rights of kai idia and every other citizen. They were intent on making Fiji a nation of two classes – the i’taukei ( with both land and coastal rights ) and everyone else ( with the obligation to buy the relatively small percentage of freehold land or lease indigenous land and also pay for coastal access rights ) On top of that, Qarase wanted to increase the amount of land set aside for Fijians and free the thugs who’d brought Fiji to its knees in 2000. Que?

    When people like you go on about Bainimarama removing democracy, let’s be clear about what kind of democracy he was removing. It was not one man, one vote ( as in the US, EU or Fiji’s immediate neighbours ) but a democracy loaded in favour of one race that then used that “democracy” to perpetuate a tyranny over a significant minority of other racial groupings – some 40 per cent of the population. Is this what you and the likes of Brij Lal et al are defending?

    I think the notion that some kind of fairer system would have evolved if only Bainimarama hadn’t intervened is a utopian fantasy. The tyranny of the majority had already triumphed at government level and the indigenous supremacists at the heart of that government were racial fanatics, not negotiators. This is what I’ve tried to convey in what you call my “poorly researched pieces for News Limited” – the backstory that is never told about the so-called theft of democracy in Fiji through the barrel of the gun.

    Bainimarama says we will finally get free and fair elections in 2014 and people like Akuila Yabaki believe him. Let’s see what happens. But they won’t be like previous elections in that no party that represents one racial grouping like the SDL will be allowed to participate. This is creating a hue and cry. But I do think the regime has a point. Voting along racial lines has to be smashed one way or another to break the cycle that is strangling Fiji’s development. Many people – like Jon Fraenkel – don’t regard that as true democracy and in a purist sense, he has a point. But democracy that expresses the will of the majority isn’t some unassailable ideal when the power that flows from that is then used to erode an even more important principle in the Fiji context – racial equality.

    Let’s not kid ourselves here. Much of the noise from the so-called “pro-democracy lobby” isn’t from people who believe in democracy at all. It’s from people who are upset at the loss of their power, privileges and influence when they or their kai vata were in government. Don’t you think it’s rather paradoxical that the new hero of the “pro-democracy” lobby – Roko Ului – is a hereditary chief? He owes his position in life solely to an accident of birth. And he fell out with Bainimarama not because he supported democracy. He was one of the chief instigators of the coup of 2006. Am I the only one who finds this all a bit hard to stomach?

    As to the obvious chip on your shoulder about kai valagi and all the dreadful things they brought to Fiji before “pissing off” and leaving you to it, as you put it. I don’t see any sign of you or anyone else dispensing with the military or the church. The irony is that moderate versions of both that the white man brought to Fiji have been moulded totally by the locals into the extreme manifestations that plague national life. The Fiji military is much more political than that of the former colonial power. And the Methodist Church has been commandeered by racial supremacists in a way that would have horrified those missionaries like my late father who saw the church as multiracial and a source of spiritual and pastoral sustenance.

    As to your own heritage as the descendant of an indentured labourer, that is an accident of history. You can blame the colonials for that, just as many Australians can blame the 17th century British courts for where they now live. But to wear that as a badge of resentment – as you seem to do – seems a somewhat pointless case of self flagellation. As a kai idia, you could always move back to India and become part of the new economic miracle, if that would make you feel better. But I somehow doubt it.

    I happen to believe in a new Fiji in which you are equal – which you weren’t under Qarase – and prosper in the economic powerhouse it could be if we can bury the racial bogey once and for all. Singapore did it and is one of the most successful nations in the world. Why can’t Fiji? Yes, there is a price to pay for that – as there was in Singapore – with a period of democratic deprivation in the purist sense. But Singapore is far less repressive than it was and its institutions are slowly evolving into facsimiles of those in mature democracies in the West. It takes time. But racist tyrannies never evolve because their raison d’etre is suspicion and hatred.

  1. Liu Muri, 29. May 2011, 17:55

    James King is an unusual name for an Indo Fijian, appears to be either a Kai Loma or somebody who has changed his belief and religion, or he is not an indo Fijian at all. He should be thakful to the Europeans for bringing civilisation and Christianity to Fiji. Despite their faults, they have done a great deal for Fiji and we are thankful to the rational thinking ones like Graham Davies who still has not abandoned Fiji despite its shorfalls. I doubt any Indo Fijian of sound mind would support Qarase or his ethno nationalist brand of democracy. Mere elections do not deliver democracy, and we need to sort things out before any future elections, or we will be back to those dark days of SDL’s brand of democracy.

  2. James King, 29. May 2011, 21:52

    Thanks Graham. Very convincing argument and thanks for putting up with the my comments.
    Liu Muri – sa kilai vavinaka na policy liu muri nei Qarase – did not and never did support him… Fiji seems to be in limbo with all this rubbish – but a person like Bainimarama and Khaiyum were not the right people. One is an ulukau,ulupepa and the other is just a dhobi ka kutta na ghar ke na ghat ke – using the whole country as an extension of his Masters thesis. I am what you call a fruit salad Liu Muri so dont bother guessing…. na luveni kawa ca.
    Graham – Fiji will be restored back to its old glory – give it ten years or so …once the old nationalist farts fade away.
    Cheers

  3. Coralia, 30. May 2011, 10:04

    Woo…this place sounds like Coup 4.5…depressing reading all your defensive arguments about some fallen Fijian leaders/administrations and the even more offensive retorts that come after…freedom of expression eh?….with that freedom comes responsibility – when you abuse it, this is the result – an unproductive name calling racial debate that will go on to no limits – the kind that further aggravates Fiji’s underlying socio-political problem that’s been the cause of failing democracy in Fiji since independence!

    Every leader have their weaknesses every coup has a lesson to be learnt from…so be it, be flexible, learn and move on. Support the good and let go of the bad. Bainimarama is not all bad and not all good either, so as Qarase so as the Colonial administration.The problem with Fiji is that everyone takes sides and blindly thinks their superhero leader (Qarase, Bainimarama etc..) has it all right thus refuse to acknowledge the plain truth in their weaknesses that affects clarify of judgement to accept what is right and denounce the wrong – even the learned academics ironic!

    The racial card has been played by all leaders and parties and coup leaders that has ever sat on the helm of Fiji’s leadership. And doing away with it is not as easy as changing the electoral system or putting it down in the Pillars of the Charter. It takes a change of mindset (the hardest thing to change) of the people and meeting halfway to give and receive what the other has to offer. And it takes scholars and academics to recognize this and spearhead the move to action – not biased self-serving politicians and not the ordinary people that are easily swayed from side to side with any party propaganda that comes their way.

    If you’ve been through Fiji’s education system and voted in an election (however not limited to)…you should be able to come up with a well informed balanced view on the seriously erroneous racial based socio political landscape that’s been plaguing our country since independence and the strengths and weaknesses of the Fiji leadership helm thereafter.

    Okay am starting to sound like a broken record here but seriously I can’t understand why academics can’t simply see things as they are and be in a position to critically analyze issues and come up with balanced views and assumptions and instead behave like politicians and the ill-informed less fortunate public that have limited access to information as well as mental capacity and come up with these sort of unproductive start & end at Square 1 discussions that will do nothing to help us out of the rut we’re in. Qarase or Bainimarama, Inidian or Kai Viti or Kai Loma, Muslim or Hindu or Cristian remember we’re all in the soup together – please my learned colleagues be productive and put your education to good use to help Fiji move forward, your posts are embarrassing and unbecoming of people of your caliber.

  4. Graham Davis, 30. May 2011, 12:25

    Thank you, James, for your gracious response. Here’s to a better future for all.