Dr Mike Gosling is a third generation Fijian from the celebrated family that formed one half of the Williams and Gosling freight forwarding company, which has become one of Fiji’s largest and now employs around 300 people. He wrote to Grubsheet in response to our article this week quoting the former vice president, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, as saying that race relations in Fiji had never been better. We think it’s well worth publishing as a separate posting. It’s an illuminating and heartfelt insight into what it means for one Kai Valagi to be recognised as a Fijian for the first time. It is certain to resonate with all Fiji-born Europeans.
Since first being referred to Grubsheet several months ago, I have felt profoundly shaken reading in the comments to your site the level of hatred some contributors hold toward Prime Minister Bainimarama personally. At the same time I feel justly proud that Frank Bainimarama has stood his ground and moved our country forward despite the unjustified nonsense from detractors and the Australian and New Zealand governments, which, in my view, have in recent years maintained opposition to Bainimarama’s regime for their own domestic political considerations with less regard for the needs of the people of Fiji.
To hold the Bainimarama government to deleterious sanctions for not meeting Australian standards of ‘democracy’ is woeful politics by the Australian government. And the Australian Leader of the Opposition is equally culpable with his silence on support for the Fiji regime.
I completely agree with you, Graham, that the attempt by Prime Minister Bainimarama “to create one Fijian identity has been the most daring of the regime’s initiatives and the most noble”.
Like you, I was born in Fiji – a 3rd generation Fijian. Whilst my grandfather was born in the UK he spent most of his life in Fiji and began, with his father-in-law, one of the most successful companies still in existence in Fiji today, which still bears his name. My father was born in Suva and served in the Royal Fiji Military Forces in World War II alongside his fellow Fijians. He supported Fiji cricket and rugby, and helped many Fijians throughout his life. For some years I have been working towards returning to live and work in Fiji, the place I call home. Being known as ‘kai valagi’ has never been a problem for me – but now being known as ‘Fijian’ is even better. Why?
Because during the 12 years I lived in Singapore I always had goose bumps every time I watched the National Day Parade each year on August 9, in commemoration of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965. It is a massively popular event in the lives of every Singaporean. It’s on a scale worthy of all races, as they come together in celebration of their heritage as citizens of Singapore. It binds Singaporeans to a common goal – the achievement of a successful and prosperous nation for everyone, regardless of race or religion. As I watched these spectacles, I realized that I had never experienced anything like this in Fiji and that was sad, as Fiji has been so divided along race lines, including the political groupings.
When I visited Fiji for the Royal Suva Yacht Club 75th Anniversary in 2007 I had the opportunity to ask Prime Minister Bainimarama personally if it were true that he was going to make it possible for former citizens like me to take up Fiji Citizen again. He told me quite forthrightly that it was already being formulated. He is a man of his word – I am proud to say that earlier this year I once again applied for and became a Fiji Citizen. That we are now all ‘Fijian’ is a seminal step in the journey back to a successful and prosperous future for us all. And let’s have a huge celebration each October 10th Independence Day to reinforce our one Fijian Identity.
On another visit back home in 2010, to celebrate the Suva Grammar School 50th Jubilee, I travelled on a bus from Nadi to Suva. I sat next to an elder iTaukei gentleman who, as it happened, had known my deceased father. We chatted all the way and spoke of the changes going on in the country; in particular the sugar fields we passed that were lying fallow. He assured me that things were in play that would address these issues. But I saved my most daring question for him as we pulled up opposite Government Buildings in Suva, as I did not know how he would react.
I asked him, “What percentage of people did he feel supported Bainimarama?” His answer: “When Bainimarama came to power in 2006, 95% of the population was against him. Now, 95% of the people are for him.” “And why do you think this is so?” I asked. “Because people are getting the services they require from government, which they failed to get for so many years under previous governments.” Let’s give Prime Minister Bainimarama an A+ for uplifting the general level of happiness and functioning of government in Fiji! It is plain for all to see, especially the registration of electors for the forthcoming 2014 elections. And let’s give him an A++ for bringing us together as one people, one nation with huge resources and potential to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
The recent capitulation by the Australian and New Zealand governments to engage again with the Fijian government is further evidence that the political nonsense of recent years is finally over and the people of Fiji – the Fijians – can really take their place in the world, alongside Singaporeans, Australians, New Zealanders and other regimes who each espouse different perceptions of democracy and how it should function in their own cultural context.
Congratulations on this article and many other fine pieces of reporting on Grubsheet and for the courage you have shown on behalf of many of us who have remained quiet in the background but are wilfully willing you on. Thank you for taking on the detractors and clearly, succinctly and honestly reporting on the true situation in Fiji to help make Fiji again – the way the world should be!