Love must guide our thinking - Opinion by Leba Seni Nabou
Early this week, I was among many others crowded into a court room to offer what little moral support that we could, to a defendant who many know to be just a damn decent and honourable human being.
As the verdict was read out, there was audible shock and disbelief in that court room. A few broke out in sobs.
The defendant himself, showed unbowed steadfastness despite what he was just told.
That is leadership.
This is why people must have leaders we can trust and stand with. Because when the chips are down, these kinds of leaders keep us focussed on the journey before us, and the ultimate baseline of political change that we all must usher in together.
Both party leaders of the National Federation Party and the Peoples Alliance, offered their views after the court case through the media, and we all heard their rallying call, doubly determined for us all to rise the occasion and focus on elections to create political change.
Since 2006, we have seen festering wounds of a sick democracy under the 16-year Fiji First rule. But this will end at the ballot box on December 14.
Because this is not how reasonable or wise public discourse elevates and uplifts an already downtrodden electorate shackled by almost $10 billion in dinau (debt), dry taps, flickering electricity (and internet), connectivity, a healthcare system gasping for oxygen, and almost every basic public service as per the social contract, in complete disarray.
This is not what the electorate deserves for every cent taken from their paychecks weekly, fortnightly or monthly to keep Government operational through taxes.
Turning the other cheek
Perhaps some solace to be taken from genuine wisdom.
And that is the idea promoted by the Peoples Alliance Party leader, and echoed recently by the National Federation Party leader up in the majestic mountain ranges of Namosi village, that love must guide our thinking.
As strange and foreign as such an idea is, especially in the cut and thrust of politics during this last stretch of the campaign period, the spirituality and class of such a notion deserves to be reflected upon.
After all, Ben Ryan, our own fondly locally renamed Ratu Peni Rayani, must have discovered that magic formula when he led our Sevens Olympic gold medal champions to victory with his veilomani ethos.
He wasn’t preaching anything new. Ben Ryan simply but astutely moulded what he observed was natural and inherent in all our hearts as sons and daughters of Fiji, and made that the unifying, rallying chant that stomped Fiji’s sevens rugby boots as a marker of global chiefs of sevens rugby.
In the heat of the moment in politics, when words are intended to maim and wound, it is instinctively human nature to respond with the same intensity and fire.
But it is the greater man and woman, who finds it in themselves to find a veilomani way to respond directly, firmly and factually, but led by love.
This is why we have leaders who we trust and who exemplify higher levels of thought and exude dignity and wisdom -- that we must follow.
This is the veilomani modus operandi. We must learn to turn the other cheek, and maybe even be tongue in cheek instead!
Adding fuel to the embers of anger, desperation and thuggery sparked by the other side simply cheapens us. That is why answering back with love, veilomani, prem will set us apart.
It is easy to aspire to, but challenging to do. When we surround ourselves with mentors and political leaders who teach us in deeds and not just words, it begets a new generation of understanding and of being.
At a joint pocket meeting in Barotu, Ra an elder took to the floor of a joint meeting of PAP and NFP, to express his deep disappointment and offence at the level of gutter and vosa vakavarada language, spoken by Fiji First in Rakiraki town.
So when the insults fly cheap and fast against the PAP and NFP partners, there is minimal need to defend ourselves. Because the truth, like a lion, when set free, needs no defence.
The "I, I, I" delusion
As soon as a serving minister during the election campaign period begins to waffle and insist that, "I did this", or "I did that", you know they’re drowning.
Firstly, no serving minister who should be in election caretaker mode does anything reactively just because he had a sudden brainwave in the middle of the night.
Any development for the people should be planned for, based on ground- up and phased needs assessments. Not a random dump of fishing boats and engines, harvesters, tractors, mechanical ploughing machines, sports equipment, water tanks and Walesi wifi just because elections are around the corner.
Why should taxpayers pay for incompetent and inefficient planning for things needed long ago, when the cascading infrastructural woes only worsens the living standards of our people? There is no veilomani guiding any of these mismatched priorities.
Secondly, that minister did not reach into his personal pocket or his possibly inflated taxpayer-funded bank account to pay for these developments. The people pay for it themselves. It’s their money that pays for ministers and their allowances.
It’s their money that pays for development projects. Not the FFP prime minister.
Every taxpayer who buys a product or service, whether its for a packet of chewing gum, or peas or travels by bus, pays through VAT for the ministers and whatever ‘they’ develop for the people.
Yet taxpayers who are also voters continue to be disrespected by servants who should be working for them, and have forgotten their place in the pecking order.
Political leaders should be servants of the people. They are not elevated and given a mandate by voters to rule personal fiefdoms.
Smile and wave
As the leaders of PAP and NFP shepherd us together, exemplifying genuine mutual respect and trust in each other, turning their cheeks in humility and veilomani, this fresh unifying vibe is what the nation has been yearning for.
The juvenile stunts attempting to seed fear with thoughtless words by the FFP shatters against the national wave of veilomani and togetherness.
The defendant from the courtroom earlier this week is heroic in his humility and turning his cheek in veilomani.
Veilomani binds us together. We are more united in our hearts, minds and spirits and will to be free, more than we can ever know.
Let us make that written on December 14.
• Leba Seni Nabou is the General Secretary of the National Federation Party.
As published in the Fiji Times - Saturday 26 November 2022