Politics is a vicious game`. Its players change according to circumstances and convenience, often forgetting the fact that their main job is to protect the rights of the people, especially the minorities and promote a cohesive and peaceful society.
Fiji is a beautiful country of beautiful people, trying to carve its own destiny through self-determination and self-respect. Indians have been true partners in the progress of this South Pacific nation since they anchored on May 14, 1879 brought from India as indentured labourers. They suffered physical and mental hardships, endured humiliation and discard, initially during the infamous Girmit period (1879 to 1920) and later under the colonial rule. They endured through trouble and turmoil hoping that the life and times of their future generations would be good.
Indians in Fiji are known for hard work and ability to meet challenges. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of them have made their mark as businesspersons, academics and professionals in Fiji and in all the countries to which they migrated.
While the contributions of Indians to the progress and development of Fiji are often acknowledged and appreciated, they continued to suffer inequality in a number of areas, the most significant of which was the country’s peculiar voting system.
In a bid to rid the country of such blatant discrimination, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama overthrew the previous Government of Laisenia Qarase (which was also accused of corruption and other irregularities) and set to usher in major reforms that would change the face of Fiji forever.
Incessant to sanctions and ultimatums to restore parliamentary democracy from the developed world including his powerful neighbours Australia and New Zealand, Mr Bainimarama and his Government have worked over the past seven plus years to make Fiji a more inclusive polity and economy. They have given the country a new Constitution, which promises the long-cherished political and economic equity, making all Fijians eligible for equal treatment.
While his announcement several years ago that elections would be held in September 2014 was perceived with scepticism in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada and US, there is belief and relief as Fiji switches to election mode. Among other popular democracies, India has been the only country that has continuously stood by Fiji, offering its support and assistance. While Delhi has desired Fiji to follow democratic ideals, it has always respected the country’s right to choose its own form of Government through its own processes.
There is no template for democracy as the concept and practice differ between countries. That said, Fijians in Fiji and elsewhere with the eligibility to vote, must exercise their franchise in the coming election, which would steer the country towards calmer seas and progressive future.