Friday, June 12, 2015

THE UNION JACK & THE LION

Image result for fiji flag
AN OPINION BY MICK BEDDOES
June 12th 2015
Image result for mick beddoes fiji
Now that we have 23 mediocre finalists for the new Fiji Flag competition, I wish to reiterate an opinion I gave on Face book about the controversy over the Fiji First Government’s plan to impose on the country its own national flag. There is a clear consensus emerging against this. Check the torrent of opposition on social media and the negative public response as reported in the newspapers.
It is astonishing though that some people are still missing the point. They are arguing that democracy is at work because the Government called for submissions from the public for new flag designs.
It is too late! The decision to change the flag had ALREADY BEEN MADE by Prime Minister Bainimarama and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. The people, who should have made that decision, were shut out. That’s how things work in this modern nation state the two of them are always talking about.
Let me comment further on the National Flag Bill No 4 of 2015 and in particular it’s Explanatory Notes:
says quote 'Fiji gained Independence in 1970 and was declared a Republic in 1987. Since that time the Fijian Flag has not changed and continues to carry symbols of our colonial past that has been marred by injustice and oppression'
says quote 'The Union Jack, including the Cross of St George and the golden lion on the coat of arms are symbols which belong to our former colonial ruler, the United Kingdom.
1.3 says quote 'These symbols are predominantly featured on the Fijian Flag and do not represent Fiji's status as a truly Independent and sovereign nation and at the same time allude to Fiji being a colony or dependency.
1.5 says quote 'A new national flag that reflects our present state as a nation and will include truly Fijian symbols of identity that we can all honor and defend'
I say that whoever wrote the Explanatory Notes and those in Government that sanctioned their publication have a narrow and incomplete view of our history. They lack any sense of gratitude or respect for the families who allowed their loved ones to risk and sometimes sacrifice their lives to defend Fiji during the First and Second World Wars.
From 1874 till 1970, the Union Jack was the flag under which they fought and shed their blood in defense of the Empire, which Fiji had voluntarily joined. The emotional importance of the Union Jack to Fiji is written in their blood and the memories of the relatives they left behind.
It was the banner of those who died, and it became ours.
John 15: 13 Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends. That is why I support it’s retention as part of our present noble banner blue.
A lot of Fiji families have a story or two to tell about the sacrifices their forbears made in conflicts in many parts of the world. Permit me to relay some from the history of my own family.
My father joined Fiji's naval contingent with one of his brothers and was part of the New Zealand Navy that took part in the Solomon's campaign. My uncles joined the Army and took part in the Malayan Campaign and my grand uncle George Beddoes [father of the late Ted Beddoes] ,when he was just 21, became part of the First Fiji Contingent as Rifleman/Sapper Reg No R10192 of the 1st, 2nd & 4th Kings Royal Rifles.
Joining the Fiji Contingent was not always easy due to the prejudices of the times. My grand uncle was initially refused enlistment because of a ‘whites’ only recruitment policy. Not one to be easily put off, he went to Suva by boat from Taveuni to join other Kailomas planning to sail to New Zealand to join up.
His friend Robert Taylor was waiting for him in Suva and to his surprise he was driven straight to Government House to meet the then Governor [1912 -1918] Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escort, who had learnt [through Robert Taylor] of my grand uncle’s determination, with others, to go to New Zealand and join the New Zealand army. The Governor was impressed with this fierce desire to serve, so made arrangements for him to enlist as a member of the First Fiji Contingent.
After just two weeks training he and his compatriots sailed on the SS MAKURA on Dec 3tst 1914 for Vancouver Canada. Then they went by the Pacific Railway to the Eastern Canadian Port of St John’s for the voyage across to Liverpool on the SS Scandinavia. They travelled by train to the Kings Royal Rifles base in Winchester. All this took six weeks. On March 31st they arrived in France and were posted to the front lines in Belgium.
The flag they marched into battle under was the Union Jack.
They took part in the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915, the 1st battle of Somme in 1916 and the 2nd battle of Somme in1917 and finally Peromme - Bapaumer on the Western Front. Grand Uncle George was wounded four times and finally became a stretcher- bearer.
The first Fiji casualty my grand uncle recalls was on April 22nd 1915. It was Cecil Williams.
In a British led counter attack in the battle of Ypres from May 8th to 10th 1915 my grand uncle was one of only three members of the approximately 46 member First Fiji Contingent that survived. Forty three of his colleagues, including his best friend Robert Taylor, were killed in that battle. Such was the carnage.
On July 1st 1916 in an attack by 60,000 British troops in a battle North of Somme, 30,000 men were killed in the first hour of the fighting. My grand uncle survived. He came home in August 1919 after his honorable discharge.
The Union Jack was flying in Fiji when he returned.
This is just one story from my family that underscores strongly the bonds to our Colonial past and the Union Jack. There are many other war stories within my own family and from numerous other families in Fiji that are similar.
Yet here we have a Government, led by a former Military Commander no less, that either can’t see or does not care to see ,that erasing the symbol under which all those brave men of Fiji died in the cause of what was right, is not only hurtful to many. It is absolutely shameful.
The symbolic inclusion of the Union Jack in our national flag is emotional and deep- rooted and must be honored and not scorned. Perhaps part of the problem is that some of those driving the flag change, did not have family members who served in war.
I say to members of our military that they should not so eager to forget the sacrifice of those who served before them by agreeing erase their memory as symbolized in our banner blue. Lest we forget.
The government of the day needs to think carefully about its decision to injure and violate the memories we carry of those who served and died defending our freedoms. Shame on them, I say. A big shame on them!
The Lion is the emblem of royalty and the monarch to whom Fiji was ceded – not conquered – and from whom our Independence was achieved. This is what it represents. There was no struggle or ‘coups’ to bring about our sovereign nationhood. It was achieved through dialogue and a willingness to face the future together. The United Kingdom has remained in support of us ever since.
As for our colonial past, the promoters of this absurd Bill demonstrate a greater level of hypocrisy than their woeful lack of identification with and appreciation of our history. If they are determined to rid us of all links with colonisation, what then is their attitude to that splendid game, Rugby? After all is it not a relic of colonial times?
If they want to finish the job will that mean all Members of Parliament have to stop speaking in English, the language handed down from our former colonial masters?
And while we are at it we might as well remove the two marble tablets at the entrance to Parliament that lists the 22 Governor Generals from Sir Hercules Robinson KCMG in 1874 to Sir Robert Foster KCMG;KCVO 1970. We don’t want real history; we want a ‘trumped up’ one that avoids the truth of what really happened.
Do we rip out the sugar cane because it too is a product of our colonial past?
And how about the Military, will it be disbanded, and re-established in some other form? Because its roots are most firmly anchored in the colonial past they now scorn? Or are we going to be hypocrites and be selective in what we claim to be ours and what we toss away?
I think the only thing more pitiful than ignorance is stupidity.
Mick Beddoes.
SUVA

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sir: Fiji needs economic democracy to reduce the huge and ever-widening gap in the4 distribution of economic power along ethnic lines. The few employed Fijians have been systematically terminated by the racist dictator kayum and the Indian control over the cost of living, rent rate, food, transportation and wages of the Fijian people allow them to arm themselves until they out-arm the military, starve the Fijians and change the flag when the Fijian voice has been loud, clear and unambiguous in opposing any new flag. Leaders like the Honourable Mick Beddoes need to put your foot down and say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH" Let us draw the line between right and wrong and stop the flag change right now. Focus on jobs and scholarship and education, not the flag.

Anonymous said...

Everything is happenig now in the govermment its all a bullshit, I fully support Mr M Beddoes, amd that's the TRUTH