OPINION: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of 2000

This past week, the Fiji Sun has been publishing untold stories from the 2000 political turnmoil. The Good was the act of courage and compassion by Gusuivalu Village Turaga-ni-koro Timoci
25 Sep 2017 10:50
OPINION: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of 2000
Gusuivalu village leader Timoci Dakamoivi (right), with turaga ni koro Navitalai Matanawa outside the home that was refuge to displaced Muaniweni farmers in 2000. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

This past week, the Fiji Sun has been publishing untold stories from the 2000 political turnmoil.

The Good was the act of courage and compassion by Gusuivalu Village Turaga-ni-koro Timoci Dakamoivi and his fellow- villagers in protecting Indo-Fijians fleeing from a rampaging mob of iTaukei men. The mob supported the George Speight coup which deposed then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry in the name of political supremacy for the iTaukei.

The Gusuivalu villagers represented many iTaukei who did not support the violence and terrorising of innocent Indo-Fijians who became victims of a failed coup. They went against the tide of extreme nationalism by fellow iTaukei and risked being attacked.

The Bad was the involvement of some prominent people including some chiefs and business people in the political unrest. The propaganda that spread through parts of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu swept gullible iTaukei to a movement that promised them all the solutions to their economic problems. That if the iTaukei attained political supremacy, it would translate into economic benefits.

The Ugly was the outbreak of violence that targeted Indo-Fijians. Homes were looted and burned, occupants were attacked, farms were raided and women were raped. The use of religion to justify these atrocities was beyond comprehension. Racism reared its ugly head in all its manifestations.

Some of the victims are still feeling the trauma of their 2000 experience. Those who were able to flee, left for overseas. Many stayed with a fervent wish for a more peaceful Fiji where they can live without fear.

The future

The events of 2000 reinforce the lessons that should have been learned from the 1987 coups.

The biggest lesson is that there is no place for racism and religious bigotry in Fiji.

If we want lasting peace then we need to promote racial and religious tolerance. That is why the 2013 Constitution is the document of our time. It addresses all the concerns we have, particularly the causes of the political turmoil since 1987. Racial profiling must stop. We cannot continue to be looking at issues from a racial perspective. It used to be the practice in the past. We need to change the mindset. The 2000 events did not happen spontaneously. They had gradually being built up over time by the various public utterances that were divisive and created racial tension and animosity.

They just needed a trigger to explode. The Speight coup provided that trigger. It’s abundantly clear that racist comments in Parliament and other forums had sowed the seeds of racial discord. The equality provisions of the Constitution, equal citizenry, common identity and the secular state give us a platform to build a new Fiji that stands for peace, tolerance and unity.

Politicians must stop appealing to the base instincts of the people. In as far the iTaukei are concerned, the claim that they would lose their land and rights under this Constitution is false and simply preposterous.

Some politicians are using the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs and the scrapping of the iTaukei Affairs scholarship programme as the basis of their attack on the Constitution and Government policies. They argue that these are legitimate indigenous issues and should be treated separately. They give the impression that this is a deliberate attempt to weaken iTaukei rights and institutions. Despite the removal of the GCC, the chiefly institutions are being strengthened through the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs initiatives via the villages, tikinas and provinces.

The provincial councils are in a better position to articulate iTaukei issues because of their close connection with ordinary iTaukei. This is evident that the protest over iTaukei matters is coming from only a few politicians who have lost touch with the ordinary iTaukei. In fact the Constitution explicitly protects the customary rights and land ownership of the iTaukei.

No other race has a separate ministry as the iTaukei and that has been strengthened. They still own most of the land in Fiji and have not lost an inch of it.

Preferential treatment, as some are advocating, will not be good for iTaukei in the long term. They need to learn to compete on a level playing field. It’s an insult to the iTaukei intelligence to say they cannot compete.

Many have succeeded in the past without special treatment. It will benefit them considerably in the long run if they run on their own steam. They will learn to be independent and be self reliant and eliminate the mentality that led to the 2000 political turmoil.

  • This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say on last night’s FBC’s 4 The Record programme.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj


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