The Power of #Together
by Seni Nabou, NFP General Secretary.
Opinion piece published in the Fiji Times on:
Saturday 9th April 202
Did you see that?
Within a week the Fiji First Government has, true to form, and ever predictably, stepped up its campaign of fear and divisiveness.
They capitalised on their parliamentary airtime, with their regular suspects from the media in tow, to make a big dramatic production out of it.
Just this recent parliamentary week, when taxpayers were waiting for some semblance of genuine concern to cushion their inability to fill their shopping baskets, compared to before the fake budget, they are disappointed by the diversion and distraction by the Government.
Taxpayers have to suffer through more goose-stepping cop-outs blaming Russia, Russia, Russia, and the eternal global supply chain issues impacting food, fuel and now fertilizer prices.
As usual, someone else is thrown under the bus.
But these are not things that taxpayers want to hear, when the vast majority is already chained by poverty, unemployment, debt, ill health, dry water taps and electricity supply fluctuations.
Regardless of the uncouth and bizarre posturing, promoting snakes and mongeese by the Prime Minister outside Parliament, the law of unintended consequences took root even before covid-19.
Since the pandemic, it has only escalated public resentment and Fiji First fatigue.
The Fiji First Government's pride and obstinate refusal to show regret or genuine concern in the budget laws just passed, is stimulating a surge of #Together arrangements, keen to sack them all, at the upcoming polls.
Rikki Tikki Tavi
At some point in our primary schooling life, one may have come across the famous 1894 "Jungle Book" (Nai Tukuni ni Veikau) by Ridyard Kipling, and made famous by Walt Disney.
First by Disney's little golden book series, and as recently as 2016, immortalized in a Disney production film.
One such short story anthology of the famous "Jungle Book" book by Kipling, was that of Rikki Tikki Tavi.
It's a story of a young Indian mongoose called Rikki Tikki Tavi who saves his English human family from the anger of Nag and Nagaina, two evil cobras who are angered by the human's presence on their territory.
Anyone watching that FBC interview of the Prime Minister, would feel rightfully flummoxed as to why a mongoose and a snake is even remotely relevant at a time when the cost of powdered milk has inched upwards, instead of downwards after the fake budget?
Was the Prime Minister drawing on the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi? Was it meant to cast racial aspersions?
There is no other logical way to determine a link between the Prime Minister's ghetto commentary about the National Federation Party and People's Alliance intentions, by the derogatory labelling of us as mongeese and snakes, then to go back to Rikki Tikki Tavi.
But anyone with half a wit knows that the invasive mongoose was introduced in Fiji, to manage the rats damaging the sugar crops.
Additionally there are no poisonous snakes or cobras in Fiji, other than the human variety that exists in certain political groupings.
So if the Prime Minister has to draw anecdotes from primary school literary works to make a point, he cannot be faulted. As that would be like expecting a donkey to be able to run with the lightening rod winds of speed of a Black Arabian stallion.
In the final analysis, all these infantile barbs will come to naught. Taxpayers seethe and swear when certain political personalities monotonously monopolize parliamentary conversations, and they are waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
They will billow #Together to express their reckoning of who is worthy of representing them, very soon.
Inciting Communal Hatred?
What else did we see this week?
When the Government stokes the embers of 1987, they're hoping to seed fear among the Indo-Fijian electorate.
They're hoping their self-righteous bluster will cover their own sins as chief paapi of the 2006 coup.
This is not in any way intended to downplay the hurt that remains from 1987, and there is a very real need for closure and release for every coup. But it would be naive to expect it from this Government.
There has been no genuine appetite ever shown by them to try and engender healing and harmony. All they know is to sow discord and chaos, because that is the genesis and legacy of their political machinery.
They thrive on conflict and schisms to keep the minds of the electorate on edge: helpless and reactive.
It's almost similar to a despotic and cruel scenario where a warlord would keep his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) militia soldiers constantly fueled by alcohol, money, women and drugs to keep them "on edge" and trigger happy.
Such a warlord has no sympathy for the domino effect on his loyal foot soldiers, and how they offload their trauma to their kith and kin.
By now, it's almost predictable for us to observe the same old tired playbook, and re-runs of fear mongering stunts being triggered every election year, both publicly and most especially through under-the-radar coconut wireless mode, such as instigating Chinese whispers and fake news campaigns at the markets.
Who can forget the desperation of the Fiji First Attorney General when during a campaign meeting before the 2018 elections, he is on camera telling the predominantly Indo-Fijian crowd that if they do not vote for Bainimarama, it would be like putting a dagger to their necks?
It should be pretty clear now to all and sundry, that this Fiji First Government has kept that dagger on all our necks since the 2018 elections, and sliced our pockets open to talase (raid) what little purchasing power remains!
Who can forget how the Fiji First Attorney General expounds on his being circumcised on a MaiTV interview, even while Stanley Simpson asked to avoid the graphic details, but he pressed on anyway?
Who even cares about that when the road to Nabukebuke village in Serua is a constant deluge of mud and muck during heavy rain?
Who cares about his circumcision status, when the people of Nabukebuke have continuously pleaded to their Provincial Administrator and Ministers about the state of their Nacegacega bridge, which is integral to their connectivity to work, university, hospital and markets?
The reason why he made circumcision a "thing", is because it puts Hindu men in a box, as if to infer they are different from the vast majority of men in Fiji. It was a snide, underhanded slight using the most perverse and stupid of examples.
Fear and Terror
Another stunt that we could expect is more sacrilege and desecration of places of worship among the Indo-Fijian community. It came to the fore during the 2018 elections when a couple of temples and mosques were attacked. One of them involved red paint.
Since then no further details about those offences were heard of again, until, interestingly enough, early this year.
However social media chatter was already ahead of the curve, across the demographics, laying the blame of that incident squarely on political motivations.
Curiously no Christian place of worship has faced the same intensity of attacks.
On the main polling day in 2018, I distinctly recall hearing the Police Commissioner on the radio warning the public about rumours of faceless (of course) "rogue groups".
Since then, radio silence on these "rogue groups", until (of course) the Fiji Sun whips out a convenient exclusive on 22 March 2022, where the Police Commissioner once again blasts "potential elements who could cause unrest".
Only in Fiji does a Police Commissioner warn the public about a hypothetical situation with hypothetical villains, as if to paralyze us into a perpetual state of fear.
Courage Over Fear
On Wednesday evening, the roof of NFP Headquarters which also houses a residential property was pelted with 2 fist-sized rocks, at around 8pm.
Naturally we have placed our police report to the authorities to deal with. We will be surprised if it gets anywhere.
We know that these acts of intimidation and threats, of itself, are rooted in fear. We are not the one's afraid though.
With the litany of incidents of political persecution, assault, intimidation, investigations, misogyny and defamation that the NFP has been subjected to over the years, we take all this in stride.
We can stride through this as a party, only because we are #Together. By now we have a protocol of sorts, to handle such situations.
It is almost an occupational hazard of politics in Fiji, whereas it should never be the case.
However these risks call for us all, to be the frontline barriers of protection around each other. We must, in the first instance, exemplify a #Together bubble for each other wherever we live, learn or work.
The coming official campaign period in 19 day’s time. It is our season to be unfazed, audacious and fresh. Every step, and every pause builds upon our #Together blitz.
To paraphrase the lyrics of a song by King and Country:
When we rise, we rise together
Together we are dangerous Together with our differences Together we are bolder, braver, stronger
*Seni Nabou is the General Secretary of the National Federation Party. She intensely dislikes fear and merchants of fear.*