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EDITORIAL: Move Away From Race-based Politics If We Want Peace And Stability

Racial prejudices and discrimination have been the root cause of the coups in Fiji. Yesterday the Fiji Sun launched the first in a series of articles highlighting the horrors of
18 Sep 2017 11:00
EDITORIAL: Move Away From Race-based Politics If We Want Peace And Stability

Racial prejudices and discrimination have been the root cause of the coups in Fiji.

Yesterday the Fiji Sun launched the first in a series of articles highlighting the horrors of 2000 and testimonies from victims of the critical role played by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in restoring order.

Maciu Navakasuasua, one of the key people who played a lead role in planning and executing the George Speight coup, said if the RFMF had not intervened and crushed the rebellion, Fiji would have plunged into serious civil unrest and anarchy.

“We would have gone down the road of no return,” he said.

“It was fortunate that the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, then the RFMF Commander led the military to restore peace as we have it today.”

The Fiji Sun series reveals the untold stories of Indo-Fijian families being attacked, tormented and terrorised. The women were raped and humiliated in the name of a cause to give iTaukei political supremacy.

For some it is difficult to revisit that terrible time. Traumatised, families who could afford the cost moved to live abroad or in safer areas around Fiji.

It is absolutely sad to learn that the 2000 memories will remain with them forever.

As a child, I remembered how we as students were asked to go home in Nausori because something had happened in Suva.

All we could hear were whispers among the teachers of a ‘coup’.

The roads were empty, no bus, no cars in sight, families locked themselves indoors waiting for some kind of news to come through. We feared for our lives. We feared for the worst.

At home, families sat around the table or in the living room talking about how George Speight had taken over Parliament and Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the first Indo-Fijian PM was held captive with other Government members.

A Police officer was shot dead and a television station was ransacked when a mob ran riot through Suva.

Two soldiers and a TV cameraperson were shot during a confrontation between soldiers and Speight’s supporters.

The mob then attacked Fiji One Television station and the Great Council of Chiefs wanted an interim government run by a council of advisers under Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

They also wanted the 1997 constitution revised to guarantee that only an indigenous Fijian can be prime minister.

The 1987 coups were bad. This 2000 coup was worse.

Racism and greed drove coup supporters to commit serious atrocities.

For 58 days, Indo-Fijians living in areas such as Wainikoro in Labasa, Muaniweni in Naitasiri, Dawasamu in Tailevu suffered the worst brunt of the violence. Homes were looted and burned. Farms were pillaged.

While some families ran and hid in sugarcane plantations, others were rescued and protected by nearby iTaukei villagers.

I recall, family members making a phone call, to my own grandparents in Dawasamu, Tailevu asking if they were safe.

Granddad, an Indo-Fijian and grandmother, an iTaukei, were lucky enough to have the iTaukei side of the family stay with the elderly couple during the time of the coup.

The question remains as to why Fijians still have not learned to live peacefully among one another.

More inter-racial marriages are happening and we have children who are part iTaukei and part Indo-Fijians.

Politicians who whip up emotions because of their racist rhetorics must take the full blame for causing the mistrust and tension in our communities. The racial division led to the 1987 and 2000 coups.

Fiji cannot afford to have another coup. To prevent it we must move away from race-based politics.

LOSIRENE LACANIVALU

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

 

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