Book Review by Thakur Ranjit Singh
Rajendra Prasad’s second book on Fiji’s untold history was launched by Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli at New Lynn Community Centre, Auckland on Sunday, August 12, 2018.
‘Enslaved in Paradise: A History of Mammoth Betrayals of Fijians by the British, Chiefs and leaders of Fiji, 1876-2006,’ attempts to restore, reclaim and retell Fiji’s history from the perspective of victims.
Mr Prasad fearlessly and boldly speaks about the wickedness of the Colonial government and chiefly collusions. He tells of many self-serving, self-centred and arrogant leaders, who had ravaged Fiji’s political landscape, but escaped scrutiny.
They eventually degenerated Fiji permanently into the ‘coup, coup land’ label.
Sabotaged Indians’ return
The book also tells how the British sabotaged the return of Indians to save the sugar industry and Fiji’s economy in the early 1920s and discredit a historical lie that Indians opted to stay back and that the British were magnanimous in granting them the right to live in Fiji.
The book is an eye-opener on the biggest lie ever told. It reveals how indigenous chiefs, in 1963, concocted a lie to unite the Taukeis, misleading simple common ITaukei about non-existent fears of the Indo-Fijian threat to land ownership, customs and customary rights.
The book also gives an opportunity to Indo-Fijians to objectively evaluate how the failure of leadership denied them respect, justice, equality and dignity, and also how their own folly and wrong choices has been the reason for their sufferings.
It provides irrefutable evidence the Taukei chiefly system, did incalculable harm to the social, economic and political development of the Taukeis and Fiji. All the while, the blame for their poverty was mischievously attributed to Indo-Fijians.
It is a must reading for ITaukei, especially the new generation, to get an appreciation of how a system of Chiefly rule was the biggest shackles to common ITaukei, and how their poverty and lack of economic progress was deceitfully blamed on Indo-Fijians.
The book, in ten chapters makes a gripping reading, and reclaims Fiji’s history never told by any author in that language and passion.
In the first chapter, appropriately titled ‘My Quest for Justice,’ Mr Prasad reproduces three self-explanatory letters that he wrote to Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR), Australian and British governments respectively, and their replies.
They eloquently sum up the pain, suffering and sacrifices of Girmitya.
The haunting question
The question that arises, is, why this was not done by those famous Girmitya lawyers who became rich from an infighting and litigious community? How about University Professors, doctors, academics or Girmitya businessmen? Why it took a simple, poor but passionate author from a sleepy rustic village to the unthinkable?
The book also answers many questions.
Was Ratu Mara really an advocate of multiracialism? Who was the best or worst of ITaukei leaders: Ratu Sukuna, Ratu Mara, Rabuka or Qarase? And among Indo-Fijians: A D Patel, Koya, Jai Ram Reddy, or Chaudhry? Was the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) really that great? What and who caused racial tensions and political instability in Fiji?
You will be shocked at some of the answers this very well-researched book gives and substantiates.
The 2006 Coup
And where does Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama stand?
The book tells what happened in 2006 through extra-judicial means could not be done through democratic process.
Mr Bainimarama’s initiative liberated Indo-Fijians from state-sponsored racial discrimination and granted them equal citizenry.
In addition, it stopped the exploitation of the commoner Taukeis by chiefs who benefited hugely through the entrenched legislations.
Significantly, the dissolution of the GCC in 2012 meant it could no longer interfere in Fiji politics, leaving its governance to the elected representatives.
The author’s plea in the final chapter sums it all for the forthcoming Fiji election:
The 2018 election is the watershed, which would decide the political trajectory of Fiji.
If Mr Bainimarama is not elected to form the next government, Fiji could resurrect the politics of ethnicity, which would be disastrous for Fiji.
In him, Fiji had a true indigenous Fijian leader who cared for everyone, irrespective of race, religion or culture, lifting Indo-Fijians, in particular, from the ignominy of being the second-class and being the most despised citizens of Fiji.
I sincerely hope that Fiji overwhelmingly rejects those who profess restoration of ethnic seats, ethnic voting and the Great Council of Chiefs, including politicians and parties that masquerade as champions, hiding their villainous deeds and intents.
The history of Fiji was manipulated and conveniently missed all atrocities.
The British treated Indians as economic slaves and threw them in front of ITaukei when they left. Indians were also treated as derelicts of the Empire, used as scaffolding in building, and abandoned when the building stands up.
This book tells of all those missed stories and thus fills this vacuum.
A must reading for all Fijians. You will be enlightened, shocked – and angered.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist, media commentator and runs his blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; He supplied the Book Cover.