Sunshine of hope brightens prospects in Fiji

Fiji’s ailing sugar industry has received a shot-in-the-arm with the election of Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama as Vice Chairman of the International Sugar Council (ISC).

FSC Executive Chairman Abdul Khan, who attended the ISC meetings in London with Mr Bainimarama, said they were “positive and tremendously encouraging.”

“The Prime Minister raised pertinent issues on the sugar industry in Fiji, including the changes being implemented and the future of this sector. He reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the industry despite a lack of funding assistance from the European Union,” he said.

Credit to Government

Although maligned and ridiculed, the military-installed Government has turned the tides with the sugar industry making a turnaround.

Australia and New Zealand initiated smart sanctions to bring Mr Bainimarama and his Government down but both have withstood the onslaught, largely because they have won the hearts of a majority of the people in Fiji.

The nationalists were the real power behind the deposed Laisenia Qarase Government, which violated democratic values with reckless disregard for the nation and its citizens. The displacement injured the feelings of the purists, particularly Australia and New Zealand, who seem to believe that persecution of citizens based on race was justified as long as the pursuers were democratically elected!

Australia rebuked

Mr Bainimarama, his Government, Army officials and their families cannot enter Australia and New Zealand.

But the UK Government allowed Mr Bainimarama to attend the ISC meeting and be elected as its Vice-Chairman. This pragmatic approach would work in favour of Fiji and UK, which has earned the respect of Fiji.

Meanwhile, US is fuming at Australia, claiming that it has failed to secure the Pacific, as China’s influence has increased substantially. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has retained a rigid stance against Fiji and may have to swallow his pride, as he cannot ignore the voice of Washington.

The West fears

The West is fearful of China’s growing influence in the Pacific, with Fiji becoming an ally. Regular exchange visits of Government officials have consolidated bilateral relations. Fiji may never again come under the influence of Australia and New Zealand and neither country would have the courage to compete with China in getting Fiji back in its fold.

China came to Fiji’s aid in times of need, while Australia and New Zealand adapted disruptive and destructive policies to harm Fiji. Both countries have found it difficult to dictate terms to Mr Bainimarama, who took a tough stand.

Fiji’s membership to the Pacific Islands Forum was cancelled at the instigation of Australia and New Zealand but Mr Bainimarama emerged victorious, consolidating his position in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a strong arm of the Forum.

Unity at work

Fiji will begin its preparation for registration of voters in 2012 for the proposed elections in 2014. Work on a new Constitution is also expected to begin, discarding the earlier practice of allocation of seats based on ethnicity.

All citizens will be known as Fijians and any form of racism, which was the norm of previous Governments, will be illegal. The principle of ‘one person, one vote and one value’ is being vigorously pursued.

Already there is a remarkable change in race relations in Fiji, as unity in diversity is truly at work. The goodwill of people was always there but was shadowed by the mischief of racist politicians who found that the silage of racism helped them secure their power, position and perks. In a new Fiji, politicians of such quest will retain their place in the wilderness of politics, as the new Constitution will render them irrelevant and redundant.

Needless suffering

Fiji has suffered needlessly and it should not be allowed to do so. Much water has passed under the bridge and the sunshine of hope is beckoning Fiji.

Fiji has no choice but to take a new road, ascend the mountain of adversities with courage, wisdom and vision. A united Fiji will be a formidable force in the region.

It has the ability to regain its pride of place as the jewel of the Pacific.

It should not ignore the past, as the past is a repository of valuable lessons that can help to tread the path that promotes unity, tolerance and goodwill among all its citizens.

Let us hope that a new Fiji will have the benefit of leaders who will instill values of unity in diversity and protect and defend Fiji from those whose interests run contrary to the national interests.

Rajendra Prasad is author of ‘Tears in Paradise: Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.’ Website: www.tearsinparadise.co.nz

Email: raj.prasad@xtra.co.nz

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