Opinion: What Sort Of Democracy Do We Want in Fiji?

Since our Independence from Britain in 1970, it seems some of us are still searching for what they think is a perfect democ­racy. It begs the question: What kind of
10 May 2017 12:35
Opinion: What Sort Of Democracy Do We Want in Fiji?

Since our Independence from Britain in 1970, it seems some of us are still searching for what they think is a perfect democ­racy.

It begs the question: What kind of democracy do they want?

Democracy is anchored by laws of the country. The laws ensure there is order and peace.

They also ensure freedom of choice and expression. So in 1987 the long ruling Alliance Government of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was defeated at the polls by the powerful Fiji Labour Party-National Federa­tion Party Coalition led by the late Dr Timoci Bavadra.

This was democracy in action. This was the kind of democracy that the late US President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) talked about when he defined democracy.

He said democracy was “Govern­ment of the people, by the people, for the people.”

That’s the concept that democra­cies around the world uphold.

But in 1987, after the election out­come was announced, iTaukei ex­tremists backed by some powerful chiefs and church leaders, rallied supporters and took to the streets in demonstrations against what they described as an Indo-Fijian domi­nated Government even though an iTaukei Prime Minister had been sworn in.

Is that the democracy we are talk­ing about? We saw similar demon­strations in the recent US presiden­tial election.

After Donald Trump won, Hillary Clinton supporters took to the streets and burned his effigies.

In some parts of the US demon­strators burned cars and damaged properties. Do we want to see that happening here? Of course, we don’t!

We do not have to follow other countries because we’re too small and can’t afford to descend to their level. It will hurt our ordinary peo­ple.

The first military coup led by Siti­veni Rabuka happened after the demonstrations.

It plunged the country into a seri­ous and unprecedented political turmoil.

It polarised the two major ethnic groups (iTaukei and Indo-Fijians) and caused bitter racial and reli­gious acrimony.

It gave rise to egotistical and radi­cal extremist elements in our soci­ety to promote their racist and divi­sive agenda.

Many people, particularly from the Indo-Fijian community, were hurt.

They were used as scapegoats in a political battle to fight for iTaukei rights and interests.

Many iTaukei jumped on the band­wagon and joined what they be­lieved was a liberation movement.

They believed they were going to shrug off the shackles that bound them for decades from advancing in education, business and commerce since the colonial period.

But they waited and waited in vain.

In the meantime, the economy had spiralled downward. Many of the ordinary people suffered, iTaukei, Indo-Fijians and other races.

Many left our shores looking not only for greener pastures but for a peaceful and stable country to live in.

All these things happened because we were seemingly living our ideals of democracy – that we were allowed to express our feelings even when things turned violent and people were terrorised and hurt. Never mind what happened to the victims.

This was the climate that prevailed in 1987. It set in motion a string of events including subsequent coups.

Is that the type of democracy we want? Many right-thinking people who want freedom, peace, toler­ance, stability and prosperity, will say no.

There was an electoral system that sowed seeds of racial tension be­cause of the communal seats.

Today that has gone. We have learned from the past. There is now one constituency, equal citizenry and a common identity. The bar­riers that divided us have been re­moved.

We have a government, the Fiji­First government, chosen by the people in the 2014 general election.

Next year we have another chance to choose a government. The people will decide.

We should accept the outcome of that election to prove that we truly embrace the democratic ideals we were crying for before 2014.

It is sour grapes to complain that there is no freedom or there is a restriction and things are not democratic. The FijiFirst Govern­ment has the mandate to introduce changes that will protect people and create the environment for people to grow economically and socially.

If National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad or SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka win the next election, then they will have a simi­lar mandate to make changes that they feel are good for the people.

As the Opposition they have the liberty to scrutinise the Govern­ment.

Their push for a bipartisan ap­proach to addressing national is­sues is really up to the FijiFirst Government to decide.

The fact that the FijiFirst Govern­ment feels confident about dealing with these issues alone should be accepted.

At the end of its four-year term, voters will judge it at the ballot box. This is democracy. If it isn’t then what is it?

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj


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