Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A nation divided

I had returned from my studies in New Zealand. Our family friend, the late Senator Colin Weaver, was to stand for the forthcoming Fiji elections for the National Federation Party. He asked me to be his campaign manager, to which I readily agreed. This meant my relocation to Suva for the substantial part of 1982. There were four seats that were going to decide the outcome of the elections. These were all around the Suva-Nasinu area. With Ratu Osea Gavidi's Western United Front as a partner of the NFP for the elections, my expectations were very high. Also by this time the unpredictable Napoloni Dawai was standing for the WUF, so anything was possible. Having been away from Fiji for some years, one day out of blue, I decided to go to the national archives to have a look at some of the old editions of the Fiji newspapers. I also decided to look at some of the Pacific Review editions. This was published out of Nadi and its editor was the late Ratu Mosese Tuisawau, a high chief from Rewa. He had frequented our home to borrow two dollars and also to talk about his Pacific Review days.
Pacific Review had ceased publication by then but Ratu Mo, as we fondly called him at our home, had substantial opinions about the Prime Minister of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who happened to be his brother in law. During my conversation with the archivist (Margaret Patel), I mentioned to her that I was staying in Suva with my uncle to help out the National Federation Party in the elections. It was then she told me, that she had some Alliance Party material for archive. This they had given to her at her request. Likewise she wanted me to give her some of the materials from the NFP for archive as well, which I promised to do but was never able to fulfil. I asked her to show me what the Alliance Party material was. This she obliged. This by virtue of being given to the national archives by the Alliance Party made it a public document. I was totally stunned, by what I read. My jaws dropped. It was a meticulous description of what were the strengths and weakness of NFP leader Jai Ram Reddy as perceived by the Alliance Party.
Most astounding was that the Fijians liked Jai Ram Reddy and had total faith in him to look after their interest. This came hardly as a surprise to me. I am not sure if Margaret Patel ever realised what these documents meant. To my recollection she was taking a political role. She was doing a job as an archivist who was merely collecting things for future reference. The negative perceived by the Alliance Party was the Koya-Jai Ram Reddy tussle of 1977. This was to play upon Hindu versus Muslim divisions. Again, this was hardly a surprise, as the Alliance Party had already unleashed its infamous Carroll Report by this time. I had a set of photocopies made and later made some more copies for distribution. One copy was sent to Jai Ram Reddy, who was in Lautoka at that time and I also gave another copy to Irene Jai Narayan who happened to be the deputy leader of the party and to Senator Colin Weaver. I always felt that Mr Koya in his capacity as the leader of the party, had not treated Mrs Jai Narayan fairly. I also believed and also believe now that by Mr Koya not handing over the leadership to the late Julian Tonganivalu a unique opportunity was lost by the NFP to govern the country.
Much later I also later lost faith in Mrs Jai Narayan when she stood for the Alliance Party. The Carroll Report was commissioned by the Alliance Party and stated the strategies to exploit Indian versus Fijian sentiments. Also the report told of how to exploit the various Indian groupings that were based upon the different Indian languages such as Gujarati, South Indians, and North Indians etc. Among it all was thrown another religion hand grenade - Hindu versus Muslim. I had accompanied Ratu Osea Gavidi, Jai Ram Reddy, the late Sharda Nand and Colin Weaver to a Fijian village next to Man Friday Resort, as it was known then. Here I was stunned, that the normal Fijian customary protocol was not followed. High Serua chief Ratu Mara instructed it to be directed it to Jai Ram Reddy rather to himself that should have the case. Having been just one of the few to witness this event it has always been embedded in my mind, likewise the material that I obtained from the archives.
Jai Ram Reddy spoke in English and this was translated into Fijian by Ratu Osea Gavidi. When Sharda Nand spoke in Fijian and that in the Nadroga dialect as well there was a stunned look in the face of the audience. This ceremony and also the stunned look of the audience gave hope that we were breaking all the barriers and taboos between the Indians and the Fijians that were artificially established by the British and later by the Alliance Party. When Ratu Osea Gavidi, Dr Epeli Nailitikau, Jai Ram Reddy and Senator Colin Weaver toured Kadavu the reception was outstanding. We were expecting substantial votes from Kadavu as a result of this. It was from the Kadavu booth that the first vote counting started. In theory all the votes from all the booths should have been mixed but this had not taken place. Within ten minutes of the vote counting I realised that there was not going to be a change of government. I had totally misjudged the mood, like the rest of us within the NFP, of the Fijians. The ABC'S the Four Corners programme which was shown around the country, had an opposite effect. Instead of causing concern in the manner the Alliance Party had implemented this divide and rule policy amongst the people of Fiji, the Fijian votes consolidated for the Alliance Party.
We have seen four coups in Fiji. I am often left to wonder how successfully the predators of the first three coups have exploited the seeds of division and mistrust planted by the Carroll Report. They have used divisions to further their aims like the Alliance Party did, for a short-term gain. I for one do not doubt for one minute, even though Sir John White exonerated Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of any knowledge of the existence of the Carroll Report, that justice was ever done. All those highlighted in the Four Corners programme went to become very powerful players in the Alliance Party and thus the Fijian Government. I have not read or heard of any critique of the manner in which Sir John White reached his conclusions and the manner in which the investigations were carried out. This is for the likes of Victor Lal of Oxford University and or the other doctorate students to do. I do not have the capabilities. To me if any clean up that is required now it is 1982 that should be used as the reference point.

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