A Valuable Insight Into Complex Fijian Way Of Life

Although he now lives in Brisbane, Vijendra Kumar, the first local editor of the Fiji Times newspaper still loves the country of his birth, Fiji. As you flip through the
31 Dec 2016 11:01
A Valuable Insight Into Complex Fijian Way Of Life
A Fiji Diary

Although he now lives in Brisbane, Vijendra Kumar, the first local editor of the Fiji Times newspaper still loves the country of his birth, Fiji.

As you flip through the pages of his book, A Fiji Diary, Reminiscences and Reflections of a Newsman, you get the feeling that, like all other Fijians who have moved overseas since 1987, they have not completely given up on Fiji.

They see a new hope in the direction that the Bainimarama Government is taking Fiji to.

Mr  Kumar was a great journalist and editor. He was widely respected for his fairness and balance. The book captures some of those poignant moments in history when his qualities as an editor came to the fore.

He became editor of the Fiji Times in 1975, at a time when the country was experiencing the realities of modern democracy after it became independent from Britain in 1970.

I was then working for the Fiji Times and we all admired the way he led the newspaper in covering the defeat of the Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance Government by the predominantly Indo- Fijian dominated National Federation Party.

He was also respected by the political leaders, although some politicians tried in vain to link him to their racial agenda. He maintained his integrity and stood his ground in some of the most difficult periods in the country’s political evolution.

In the book he talks about some of the painful experiences he went through after the 1987 military coups by Sitiveni Rabuka. He described the coups as racist and disenfranchised the Indo-Fijian community

He said it was to be expected that an Indo-Fijian editor would be viewed with considerable suspicion.

He wrote: “I was harassed and threatened by the coupmakers and their cohorts in numerous way, including being dragged to the military barracks for interrogation and intimidation.”

Referring to the Ministry of Information then, he continued “we were warned and threatened with closure or other unspecified dire consequences.”

After four years of working under such oppressive conditions, he decided it was time to move.

He summed up well the feelings of Indo-Fijians who left Fiji after the coups. He said: “I left Fiji in 1991 sad and disillusioned. Sad because the country of my birth, where our ancestors’ bones lie interred, no longer made me feel welcome. Disillusioned because a nation once internationally hailed as a peaceful paradise and a showcase for democracy and multiracial harmony turned out, in the end, to be a purgatory for half its people.”

Since 1991, Mr Kumar has been  closely following the events in Fiji. In the book, he reproduced an article he wrote for the Fiji Sun in 2012. In it he foreshadowed the rise of Voreqe Bainimarama as a New Age Leader of a democratic and progressive nation.

He likened Mr Bainimarama to Jerry Rawlings of the West African state of Ghana. Mr Kumar said both were reluctant politicians and seized power because they were appalled by the level of corruption, cronyism and general maladministration that had become endemic in their countries. Mr Kumar would be happy with the progress the country has made since 2012.

Mr Kumar, is a proud descendant of the Indian indentured labourers, the Girmitiyas. He traced his roots back in India and said in the book “I had accomplished an important mission.”

The special chapters on the late Irene Jai Narayan of the NFP and the late Ratu Sir Kamisese demonstrated the high regard he held for them. He described Mrs Narayan as “a bright star on the Fiji political front.” He called Ratu Sir Kamisese as a  good Prime Minister who dedicated his life to his people and country.

This is a must-read book. It contains a valuable insight into the complexities of the Fijian way of life which are often misunderstood and misinterpreted by overseas journalists.

Edited by Maraia Vula



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