( The following story has now been confirmed after doubts were raised about it by Radio Australia and the historian Brij Lal. Details below):
The constitutional submission by members of the former governing party in Fiji – the SDL – calling for the country to be declared a Christian state is surely one of the longest political suicide notes in history. Coming as it does less than a week after the party’s leader, Laisenia Qarase, was jailed for corruption, it’s a fair bet that this document seals the SDL’s fate. It cannot win a multiracial election if these are the policies it takes to the 2014 poll, even in the event that it is permitted to stand. That must now also be in doubt because it’s already abundantly clear that the SDL cannot possibly meet the test of being a multiracial party. What non-indigenous person would be moronic enough to vote for it, let alone join it?
All over Fiji people are shaking their heads. Because it truly beggars belief that any party with pretensions to lead the country can have come up with the provocative document that the SDL submitted to the Constitutional Commission this week. It reeks of racial supremacy and arrogance, appalling religious intolerance and a crude mindset more attuned to the nineteenth century than the 21st. It is as bad as anything proposed by the indigenous supremacists and their chiefly and Methodist patrons after the coups of 1987. And if anything, it’s worse, because the passage of time has done nothing to modify the earnest belief of these people that only the i’Taukei truly have a legitimate place in Fiji. The rest of us are vulagi (visitors) and we’ll bloody well put up with what they have planned for us whether we like it or not. And if we don’t like it, we can leave.
Never mind if you’re a Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, the state religion will be Christianity and Fiji will be governed by Christians and Christian principles. And this in a country where close to 40 per cent of the population isn’t Christian at all. You will also speak Fijian because that will be the only official language. And yes, Fijian not i’Taukei, because only the i’Taukei will be allowed to call themselves Fijian. The rest of us go back to being designated Fiji Islanders. There will be no dual citizenship, no formal recognition of gay rights and the chiefs will be restored to their dominant place in national life, with the sole right to choose the president and vice president.
Welcome to the world an SDL Government has in store for all Fiji citizens, where the minorities are second class citizens again no matter what Frank Bainimarama’s vision was. Incredibly, this is what this political grouping – which recently changed its constitution to admit members of other races – plans to take to the non-negotiable multiracial election of 2014. A return to the tyranny of the majority. Gee fellas. Thanks a million. Where do we sign up, all we Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Buddists, Kai Idia, Kailoma and Kai Valagi, gays and lesbians? It’s the new old Fiji and we can hardly wait.
Morbid jokes aside, this is a shocking document for Fijians of all races, not just for its actual content but for what it says about the leadership of the SDL. These were the people who tried to railroad through legislation to free the odious George Speight and his gang, review existing land title in favour of the i’Taukei and introduce the Qoliqoli Bill to make other citizens pay for the use of coastal resources. Whatever the critics say, all this would have passed into law had not Frank Bainimarama abandoned the role of spectator and stormed onto the political playing field in 2006 to crash tackle the SDL Government before it scored these miserable tries against the rest of us.
Yet incredibly, we know now that even these highly contentious plans – enough to trigger yet another coup but this time to assert the rights of all citizens – were just the start. What this submission confirms is that there was much more to come had these racist goons got their way – truly a new dark age that, thank God, Frank Bainimarama prevented. For five and a half years, the regime’s critics have blabbered on about why the 2006 coup wasn’t justified. Yet in one fell swoop, the SDL leadership has given the lie to any notion that the military takeover was unnecessary or premature, that they genuinely intended to share power with the other parties – as they’d agreed – and that the bills Bainimarama objected to were only proposals that might have been eventually modified or abandoned.
No, they were going into law alright. And we now know that after that would have come the Christian state, Fijian as the official language and the rest of us back to square one and the dark days of 1987. Was the restoration of the Sunday observance laws next? What a merry path we’ve been led along by the likes of Brij Lal, Jon Fraenkel, Wadan Narsey, Graham Leung and Imrana Jalal. “Power sharing could have worked but it wasn’t given a chance!” Well now the naked truth is exposed. And whether they were conned or were conning themselves, they certainly tried to con the rest of us that Laisenia Qarase was a cuddly democrat and Frank Bainimarama the evil dictator. These people habitually describe Grubsheet as a misguided apologist for the Bainimarama regime. Yet they are the ones who have been hoodwinked – apologists for indigenous supremacists masquerading as democrats. Don’t take my word for it, dear reader. Judge for yourself your own place in the Fiji envisaged by the SDL.
What emerges from this document is a frightening insight into the psyche of some of our fellow citizens – racist bigots who don’t accept non-indigenous people no matter how many generations their families have been in Fiji. They represent the country at its most backward and inward looking, presenting a blueprint for a nation that looks to its primitive past rather than seeking an honoured role in the modern world. And if these are the views that the SDL leadership are prepared to commit to paper, what other treats do they have in store for Fiji’s minorities that can’t be uttered in mixed racial company, that are spoken only in whispers around the village grog bowl late at night?
The SDL’s patron is one of the three most senior chiefs in Fiji – the Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa. She recently raised the spectre of racial calamity in Fiji. What did she really mean? What fresh hell awaits us if the SDL ever gets into government again? It’s high time for some public explanations. They want the term “sexual orientation” to be removed from the Bill of Rights of the 1997 constitution – the passage that says a person mustn’t be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Is the racial, cultural and religious orientation of their opponents next?
They also want an end to any multiparty government in future and the adoption of a “winner takes all” system in Fiji. Yes, of course they do. And God help us if it ever comes to pass and the SDL assumes the reins of power again. The only silver lining in this dark cloud is that the “freedom and democracy” cape that these people have used to mask their true agenda has been ripped away to expose the ugly face of racism, fanaticism and intolerance. Their remaining non-indigenous supporters in the diaspora will be aghast, as will the credulous regional media and policy makers in Australia and New Zealand. By going public, the SDL has sounded its death knell.