Monday, August 08, 2011

Weakened State Centre Good for Fijian Development



by Sai Lealea
08 August 2011



Recent actions by the illegal regime in Fiji to muzzle and in fact eradicate unions are now resulting in increased underground efforts to oppose the regime of Bainimarama. This may well be the sign of things to come as citizens of Fiji increasingly face restrictions to, and removal of, their democratic rights. Let us hope it will gather pace to finally result in a popular revolt that eventually removes from power the regime that is no doubt terrorising the people of Fiji. 

As we watch Fiji descend further into a dictatorship hole, native Fijians have somehow become, it would appear, immune to any sort of counter efforts to stop the regime. Those Fijians we would have expected to play a key role in returning Fiji to democracy from within the regime, by virtue of their heritage such as the happy-go-lucky President, or enlightened educational accomplishment, like the illegal Minister of Education, have proved to be monumental disappointments. This will reverberate deep into Fijian psyche as it grapples with leadership from among its own especially at a time when they have increasingly become suspicious and even  spiteful of the role of the State in protecting their interests. 

If left to fester by virtue of a prolonged authoritarian government, it may well manifest in local acts of sabotage and terrorism against the State. The existence of a unitary state could then come into question and notions of provincialism emphasised.  Given Fiji's coup culture over recent times, this may perhaps not a bad development as focus and governance will be directed where it's most needed. 

A weakened State centre will in fact force a full reappraisal of how Fiji is governed and the efficacy of current state institutions, including importantly, the role of the military. If it takes a tyrannical dictatorship to bring this about then any form of opposition to the current regime will be well worth the effort and should be encouraged because Fijians have never had the opportunity to properly discuss how they should be governed in light of understanding what the role of the State should be. I say this because there has been, over the various periods of leaderships, a deliberate tendency to merge the state  and government of the day as one of the same, resulting in Fijians having a strong state ideology. 

As Fijians, we therefore have tended to substitute the government (a temporary entity with a mandate) for the state thereby the reference to "my/our government" to affirm that unitary connection. This has also been a default reference because of the existence of native Fijian statehood or Vanua.

A decoupling of the regard by Fijians for matters of government and those of the State will have a number of implications such as:
  • government is only a temporary entity to engage/partner with to realise Fijian aspirations through political means;
  • Fijians no matter which political party they join can still achieve Fijian well being; (various means justifying shared end - could also de-emphasise racially based party system);
  • Fijians can oppose government while being loyal to the State thereby deal with awkward situation of non-criticism of chiefs in political positions;
  • promotion of other types of Fijian responses to political crises (e.g. more focus of gaining economic clout than seizing back government whenever there is a coup)
  • end to generous gifts by Fijians to subsidise State and better able to obtain fair economic return on natural assets used by the State. (a full balance sheet of government and of Fijian assets would inform this plus a look at resolving long standing ownership issues of Fijian assets "acquired" by the State over the years) 

The flip side to all this is Fijians will have to realise that they no longer have to control government in order to control the State. They should be confident enough to assert their self independence outside the ambit of modern day government and especially since they have existed as natives of Fiji with their own forms of government well before current forms drifted on to their shores. There is therefore no reason why they can't recapture this. Especially at a time when recent ones have only been purveyors of misfortune, poverty, erosion of identity and even cultural genocide by the current illegal regime. 

I for one just can't wait for this to happen as I know it is probably what has been lacking in order to unleash the often dormant Fijian potential.

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