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Fiji Sun

Letters

Not Marxist

September 19
10:25 2013

Jone Dakuvula
Suva
I refer to the comments in the Fiji Sun on September 16 of the distinguished former civil servant Mr Jioji Kotobalavu on the Archbishop Peter Chong’s presentation at the WACC symposium on democracy.
It was unfortunate that he characterised this interpretation of Fiji’s political history as neo Marxist. A term that may turn many people away from reading the Archbishop’s views or regard him as sort of unrealistic.
There is nothing “Marxist” about Archbishop’s patron-client theory of power which applies in liberal democratic countries and not just less developed countries.
I do not think that the Catholic Church, under the new Archbishop, has taken a very different approach to the situation in Fiji from the former Archbishop Petero Mataca’s position of independent, constructive and theologically principled engagement with social, economic and political concerns.
Mr Kotobalavu is particularly critical of the Archbishops depiction of the Qarase led Government as “corrupt and racist”.
There is much evidence that could justify the Archbishop’s views. For example, In the elections of September 2001, Mr Qarase’ s Interim Government allegedly spent around 21 million dollars of tax payers’ money on their election campaign and all of this is documented in the report of the Auditor General to the Parliament in 2002.
The alleged main beneficiaries of that elections corruption were Indo-Fijian merchants and the SDL politicians.
With regard to “racism”, he seems to have forgotten that during the first term of the Qarase-led Government there were allegedly many arrogant racist comments made in Parliament and in the media by Ministers and their supporters that poisoned relations, increased tension between the communities and alienated many good citizens from the Government.
The Government’s Reconciliation Bill was pushed without any attempt to have prior dialogue with the victims of the 2000 coup or an apology to them.
It seemed that it was aimed towards exempting those who had committed crimes during the 2000 takeover.
These and other actions of the SDL/CAMV Government had compelled the CCF and its associates in the NGO community to submit reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CERD) on Fiji’s lack of observance of the UN convention that was ratified in 1972 and obliged the government to attack all forms of unfair racial discrimination.
The UN Committee did submit its concerns and conclusions to the Government in 2002. This can be read in CERD Papers Volumes 1 & 2 edited Dr Ganesh Chand.
These consist of Government reports to CERD and submissions of a number of concerned organizations and individuals in Fiji.
Mr Kotobalavu also defended the Qarase Government’s record after 2006 of “compliance” with the 1997 Constitution in forming a multi-party Government. However, he failed to mention that from 2001 to early 2006, the SDL Government was stubbornly not in compliance with the Constitution.
It refused to invite the Fiji Labor Party to form Government with the SDL and invited the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua (CAMV) which was not entitled to be a party in Government under the 1997 Constitution.
The excuse given then, and is still made by Mr Kotobalavu now, for non-compliance was that the Parties had different policies.
But policies in a Coalition Government, as he knows well, are matters of negotiation and agreement.  It took the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to compel SDL Government to comply with the plain wordings of the Constitution.
It was a waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs.
The SDL’s refusal to comply with the Constitution for five years (during which Mr Kotobalavu was Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister’s office) was described by the CCF submission to CERD as based on political and racist grounds. Staying in power was more vital for the SDL then being a “Constitutional Government”.
It is noteworthy that in a recent Panel on Democracy at USP organised by the CCF, Mr Kotobalavu said in hindsight that the formation of a government between the SDL and FLP in 2006 was a wonderful legitimising and unifying experience for the whole country. He is also being unfair to Archbishop Chong in labelling him as having a “siege mentality” and “me-the –victim mindset”.
This is probably more of an unconscious self-description. I am sure that the generous Mr Kotobalavu I know will agree that more people need to learn from the Archbishop’s interesting view of Fiji’s political history.
The Catholic Church has in Archbishop Peter Chong a worthy successor to the great former Archbishop Petero Mataca.

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