NFP President, Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo will be the Chief Guest of the Fijian Community Association Victoria who will be celebrating Fiji Day this weekend in Melbourne.
The theme of their Fiji Day Festival is “Multicultural Fiji”.
For more details of the event, view their website.
Text of Speech (Please check against delivery)
The President, Executives and Members of the Fijian Community Association of Victoria, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I also wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land where we are today, the Kulin nation and thank them and their elders..past and present- for sharing this place with us.
I want to also say that we are all very proud of the Bulldogs in winning the AFL premiership – Go the doggies!
I wish to acknowledge too the Australian government for the very able assistance with my travel documents at the short notice of the invitation and my acceptance.
I mention them too here because ANZUS has been on my political radar as much as the Fijian government.
The difference of course is that one group believes in free speech and the other doesn’t.
Before I go further I wish to remember at the outset of this speech a great statesman and dear relative who was given a state and chiefly burial last week on his beloved home soil- Bau- Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.
If he could hear me now he’d be twitching and groaning because he loathed self admiration which includes the admiration of relatives.
I will say though that he was totally a man of peace, matched only by his very fine intellect and great and equal love for his neighbour – which was everyone he came into contact with directly and indirectly.
I could never get near his love for peace and peaceful means but the Turaga knew that well and as if to drive the point home a few years ago – he gave me what he opined was a fitting gift.
He brought back some very heavy and beautiful, traditional wood carvings from a neighboring country where he worked.
The Turaga said he acquired two types. The carvings would be fixed to the front end of canoes on various past voyages of our Melanesian brothers and sisters.
He told me that he would keep the carving with the ancestral figure holding the symbol of peace. In the old days, all those approaching a canoe with that carving knew that the occupants came in peace.
He gave me the other carving which would in bygone days signify that the occupants of the canoe did not come in peace.
They were on a voyage to war.
That was the Turaga’s bad humor for you but sharper observation still.
And so in remembering him today ladies and gentleman, I will be as peaceful as I can be.
On that note, I say again, thank you all very much for the thoughtful invitation and hospitality today.
It is very thoughtful of you (FCAV) to invite a Member of the Opposition from the Fijian parliament especially a suspended one whose voters have been denied their right to representation in parliament and especially too in light of the various restrictive laws back in Fiji.
Even parliamentary privilege does not allow for free speech as it is known in the developed world.
My voters, supporters and I should know- I’ve been suspended for the remainder of my parliamentary term (for words uttered in the House) before we even got to the half way mark of the four year term.
Some noise was made by the government at the time about my having uttered words that could incite ill will in the community (they used the same terms I believe with the recent and similar suspension of another Member for the Opposition (Ratu Isoa Tikoca) but that is laughable of course ladies and gentlemen because the only time we have ill will in the community is in times of usurpation- that is, when the Fijian military interferes with the orderly and lawful governance of our country on the back of personal, political ambition.
No other person or place ever brings us that level of destruction which has damaged Fiji so much in the last twenty nine years.
So, for a group who originally took power through use of the military – to overthrow the elected government and the rule of law – it is indeed laughable and a disgrace for them to feign concern about ill will in the community.
It would be best if those who come to power through ill will to promote ill will, keep quiet. They sound silly and annoying, creating further ill will.
I’ll get back to the issue of the military.
But back to the restrictive laws I earlier alluded to, I want to mention in particular the media decree and the use of the archaic laws of contempt that have been watered down and virtually rendered obsolete in countries where they have true democracies (which allows their citizens to say all manner of things towards each other and towards their government).
Developed countries allow that because free speech is the cornerstone of not only democracy but the benefits of democracy which include flourishing private investment and basic government services and infrastructure (water, electricity, schools, roads, pensions).
Those are things that are taken for granted here in Australia and are considered basic rights.
No Australian government would dream of failing to allow or provide those basic rights and services as it would invite thousands on to the streets or on email and the national media to protest such action.
Sane governments fearing electoral backlash would immediately back down. That’s what true democracies look like.
Some of you may ask why? Why am I going over such basics – the things that are considered basic rights and services in this country?
I do so ladies and gentlemen because your holiday destination or your former residence, country or home which is a five hour flight from here (our beautiful Fiji) is beset with the lack of the very basics in human rights, free speech, representative democracy and the benefits that come with that.
A few days ago I posted in Facebook that the summary of the news that day included:
About 75% of all Fijian workers with FNPF, about 400,00 Fijians have only about $10k or less in the compulsory superannuation scheme;
The Leader of the Opposition toured the red zone area affected by TC Winston which hit Fiji eight months ago but the pictures tell a different story – as if the cyclone only hit us a week prior;
The Leader of the NFP was visiting depressed areas of in the Suva-Nausori corridor where there is a concentration of the population and poverty and crime was rife there;
The Charity ‘HOMES OF HOPE’ started collecting funds to keep women and children away from prostitution – which they had turned to for survival; and
From that same day in the news – the elected prime minister was getting ready to travel to Australia for some engagements then to NZ for the rugby and he will paid generous per diem rates for that which was just increased by his government in parliament. He’s hardly ever in Fiji and recently appointed himself Minister for foreign affairs too.
FNPF The compulsory superannuation scheme which this government plundered before the elections to fund various things and to which members, all Fijian workers turn to for financial relief for basic needs.
Ladies and gentlemen, those grim things back at home which I’ve only slightly touched on and summarized is not how Fiji has always been.
Those of us who are little older, recall stories from the olds or indeed read modern Fijian political history will know that this is not the Fiji that was.
We have a noble and classy modern political history from cession
A group of Fijian Chiefs ceded Fiji to Great Britain. Not all Fijian Chiefs but enough did.
The British took their system of governance with them to Fiji which importantly for the indigenous people – preserved what was dear to us (land/ NLTB, fisheries, kin/VKB and way of life) as much as they could in a modern system of government.
Instrumental to that work was Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. He was the older brother of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi’s father Ratu Dovi.
The British also took an indenture system to Fiji to help grow the economy and I think that all right thinking Fijians would be grateful for this as our brothers and sisters that came from India for that indenture system and beyond have contributed so much to the economy, social and political fabric of Fiji.
Without them and their input, Fiji would be less developed economically, socially and politically.
That indenture system was of course not good to our fellow countrymen and women, Fijians of Indian descent. It was harsh and largely inhumane to them and their families.
That they freed themselves from it with dignity and peace to contribute what they have to Fiji is worthy of great gratitude and love.
Their great political leader of the time was Mr. A D Patel, the founder of the National Federation Party.
And he worked closely with the great Taukei leader of that time, Ratu Sukuna to steer Fiji towards the 1970 constitution and independence.
Both great leaders died before independence but their mantle was very ably carried forward to independence by Mr. Siddiq Koya of the NFP and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of the Alliance party and all of their colleagues.
Fiji was the jewel of the pacific in so many ways for seventeen years from independence.
Since 1987 of course, there has been a steady deterioration in the governance of Fiji. Elected and civilian governments have of course come in to try to steady and move the ship forward after every coup but no, sooner or later – the military has seen it fit to intervene and take us backwards for decades.
The Coup culture has replaced and is replacing/sidelining all cultures in Fiji. Be it Taukei, Indo Fijian, Chinese or whatever- the military culture is the dominant culture.
Like it happens in Burma, Egypt and Sub Saharan Africa. Is that what we Fijians are aspiring to – from our classy and noble, modern political history pre coups?
This is why I have been and will continue to be vocal against the prominence and power given to the Fiji military and their favorite sons ie. the coup makers.
There have been two and those who served in prominent positions under them.
This is nothing personal against any coup maker. But they’re a symbol. They are not them, the man and his personality which may be likeable or very very like able. No, nothing to do with them personally. What they are – are the wrong symbols to the governance of the nation.
The story of the Khan of Mongolia. The Khan’s advisers told him that he must kill the recently captured Emperor of China (a child that he was getting attached to like an older relative).
The advisers told the Khan that the child was a symbol and so long as he lived, hope lived with his people that they could defeat the Khan and battles and the war would ensue everywhere all the time.
The same is true for our coup makers, they’re a symbol and so long as they hold positions of leadership – hope lives with future coup makers in the military and we must not give that hope. We must not endorse coup makers to positions of leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen, quite simply – coup makers and military personnel are not trained for civilian rule hence their great misjudgements in this area in Fiji.
They are trained to lead in the fields of war, peacekeeping etc and we thank them very much for their contributions there but usurping civilian government and running civilian government is not what they’re trained for.
It is estimated that both coup makers from that institution and the institution itself has cost us about $10b each (total of $20b) in losses to the economy over twenty nine years.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a lot of money even by Australian and New Zealand standards.
Imagine what $20b wisely invested or much better invested in the Fijian economy and people plus interest woe have done to our country. We would be the envy of Australia and New Zealand today.
As it was, I was told that the Fijian economy and the dollar was stronger than our big neighbours in 1986.
Imagine if the military served the elected governments of Fiji loyally and without military intervention since 1987?
If they just allowed the people of Fiji the freedom to choose and un-choose their governments peacefully and lawfully at the ballot box..
That’s a lot of imagining and what if/s
But going forward, what can or should we do?
We have to say no to the militarization of the state. They are not loyal to the people of Fiji.
In 1987 and 2000 they were used to say that they promoted the indigenous people over other communities but in their haste and incompetence in civilian rule the military, their coup makers etc didn’t realize that those actions were attacking the roots of the Taukei identity.
All of the things we value- land, fisheries, kin/ VKB under the separate Fijian administration is underpinned by the rule of law.
Attack the rule of law and you’re attacking what we Taukei hold dear.
Since 2006 the military and their coupmaker said that they were pro equality. But that’s also a lie.
All coups only benefit one group – the military. To the great detriment of all Fijians, Taukei , Indian descent, Chinese descent.. Yellow, black or red..
What can and should we do about it?
We must look back to our noble and classy pre and post independence, modern political history.
We must work together to remove this tyranny and militarization and get back to working together peacefully in harmony for all of our interests.
Remuneration and other bad governance issues – Where is the $100m? What is PAC doing to tell Fijians how much and how the post 2006 coup Cabinet was paid?
If we don’t work together to remove the militarization of the state – there will be further hardship, inequality and lack of basic rights and services to our people and our beautiful Fiji.
In a twist of irony, the militarized state has given itself (the military) overwhelming and overarching powers under the imposed 2013 constitution.
The supreme law actually encourages the state and all of its citizens to ultimately look to the military for the overall welfare of the people – over and above the elected government and parliament.
And so in my peaceful and lawyer mode, it maybe that the supreme law encourages all Fijians to unite across races and various faiths and communities to peacefully petition the military to peacefully advise the elected government that it needs to change course (policies, laws, consult opposition more) for the benefit of all Fijians especially the great majority who are poor, marginalized and struggling in many ways – every day.
In true democracies like Australia and New Zealand – the military have no such role but they don’t have our S. 131(2) of the constitution.
The supreme law actually encourages us to look to the military to police the elected leaders and that is what we must do.
Thank you all very much again for today, God bless you and your families and God bless Fiji.