Words That Rip Us Apart
~The "So Boring!" Fiasco~
Opinion Piece published in the Fiji Times
11 June 2022
BY SENI NABOU
Not a week goes by, without (yet another) episode of colossal political faux pas's by the ruling party.
We entered this week with the Fiji Times headline screaming "Racial Politics" on Monday morning.
This is because a current Minister of the ruling party apparently took to a podium last Saturday evening, mouthing off some strange theory, in front of an audience all gathered at Wairuku Gangamma Temple for annual firewalking prayers.
His words in colloquial Hindi (and also considered to be inappropriate for "religious" delivery), were:
"Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was born so Fijians of Indian descent could be granted equal citizenship"
The Sanctity of our Mother Tongue
The Hindi language is not my mother tongue so I am largely unqualified to comment. But even my novice ear (that has heard many Hindi speeches in both formal and informal settings), and upon hearing the audio recording, shuddered at the tone, the colloquial words and just the illogical flow of why the Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment felt the need to throw his own Prime Minister under a tractor?
Why would anyone announce to temple devotees that they basically owed their lives to the birth of a god-like status symbol like the Prime Minister, who bestowed upon them, the eternal gift of equality?
In a Hindu temple, the current Minister made proclamations that another "messiah" like figure was greater than all other God/s and born as a mere mortal, just to give them equality. The Minister is said to have said:
"On Saturday morning I spoke to the Prime Minister and he told me to pass on the message that Indians have equal rights only after 2013, since we are all Fijians."
Why would a Minister talk about politics and bestow God-like status on the PM when the occasion demanded inspiration and reference to Hindu religious scriptures?
I am the first to admit that my capabilities in the rich and poetic formal delivery of my mother tongue, is not the greatest. But I also know that I am not going to disrespect any audience with my limitations and fumble through, pretending I'm not sounding like an idiot, to an audience that does not owe me the honour of their time, if I cannot measure up.
In our iTaukei worldview, using colloquial words and tones in a formal setting as known as "vosa vaka varada", or using outside, verandah language that is unfit for "inside" a dwelling. It is highly improper and frowned upon.
If one tells chief's to go drink homebrew under a mango tree, that is an eye-watering, setting teeth on edge, example of verandah language.
There are ways, times and places to say things. Each opportunity wrongly applied, holds you forever judged and remembered.
Is it any wonder that a female devotee is distinctly overheard in the audio recording shared on social media by intrepid and veteran journalist, Mr Anish Chand, exasperatedly muttering "Aye Bhagwan!" or "Oh God!"?
Any politician or public speaker will tell you, that that is a death knell response to any public speech.
But it got worse as the sitting Minister droned on.
The sitting Minister not to be outdone meanders on to tell devotees my understanding of what is in that audio recording in the english language, as follows:
“We are all born here. If we don't get accepted as citizens here then which country?
"We were born here and this is where our birthright should be“
This Prime Minister had to be born to give us equal citizenry which he gave to us."
"You go to any country... if you are born there you have rights there whether you are Australian or New Zealander, American or Canadian... but for us it took us 137 years to be recognised as Fijians."
It is however, the running commentary of the brutally honest female devotee at the temple captured on the audio recording, that is bound to floor any listener, with fits of laughter.
Not only has she already lamented "Oh God!" in response to the Minister's odd ministrations, she adds "So boring!" to that instalment.
As he continues, I have heard another audio recording from that same event where she adds, "Chalo, khana kao", or "Let's go, go eat" to someone she is with. Obviously the Minister's speech was that captivating, that a meal suddenly took precedence!
If I ever overheard someone in the audience say all that at a meeting I am supposed to be speaking at, I would be praying fervently for the ground to swallow me alive, while making rapid calculations as to how many prospective votes I would have lost, because of my own sheer stupidity.
This Minister has a track record of blurting out things that he should not. He keeps creating these ruckuses in Ra for some strange reason.
Colloquially one could say, a loose canon, or a political liability, even.
For his efforts, he was FICAC'ed in 2017 for allegations of bribery and undue influence, to influence the vote of Waisea Lelobo, the Manager of Ra High School, whom he allegedly directly conferred or offered to confer a benefit, namely a steady water source for Ra High School. Luckily, he won his case.
During the 2014 session of Parliament, he was roasted in the House because he self-righteously proclaimed himself to be "a Topper" or a high achieving scholarship student, as compared to other MPs. Such a bold call to make at a time when "Topper" scholarships weren't even available in his day!
Indeed, the only matter he may be "t(w)ops" at these day's, is insolent arrogance.
Religion and Politics
This is why there is a time and place for the right words.
On sacred ground, where the Minister was clearly campaigning using a religious platform to drive a wedge in order to rip us apart as a people, one female listener has clearly already given her verdict.
Trying to be a smart alec and skirting around the campaign rules will not get any of us anywhere.
Hopefully, the Minister was in a private vehicle and upholding, as he should, as an upstanding citizen, the electoral laws.
All religions extol the virtues of love for our neighbors, humility, compassion, forgiveness, and actions that amplify holy distinctions of godly character, such as those contained in all our sacrosanct scriptures. However, it is an exercise in pure folly for any mere mortal to think they can run a game on God. Karma bites. Whatsoever we sow, we will as assuredly there is night and day, reap.
Any stunts that try to capitalize on religion or a misguided understanding of history, is about as useful as campaign billboards blaring abstract sky-blued words, heralding a vain attenpt to virtue-signal to the electorate.
We All Belong To Fiji
We all belong to Fiji. The Father's (and Mother's) of our nation who led us through our hard and formative years, right through to Independence and beyond, saw to that.
Our belongingness to Fiji and to each other, is not monopolized by one man. It is blasphemy to even suggest it.
Therefore respected voters, if any of us political sorts come across your periphery with high-handed hypocrisy, or language that does not unify or is untruthful, please feel very free to tell us, that we're "so boring!!" too.
Political party's like NFP are the least bit interested in getting graded by the ruling party. We are all getting graded and rated by the electorate -- who are judging by what they see and feel in their everyday lives, and what they pre-empt their futures to be.
A very telling example of this rating, would be if enterprising young TikTokers or DJs took it upon themselves to anthemize or remix those blunt reactions by that brave lady.
As the week's whizz by, bringing us closer to election day -- whenever that may be -- there will certainly be more crosses marked against personalities from the ruling party, by the electorate.
And possibly more direct vocalization of those who are sick and tired, of being sick and tired, at campaign convenings.
As Matthew 11:15 says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Seni Nabou is the General Secretary of the National Federation Party