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Another voice from Fiji

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COMMENTS

16 September 2011 13:59

Paul Cotton, a regular Interpreter correspondent on Pacific issues, forwarded our Fiji opinion poll to a family member, Dr Subramanian Pillai, who lives in New Zealand but visits family in Fiji every year. Dr Pillai happened to be in Fiji in August 2011, around the time the poll was in the field. He sent us these personal reflections:

I had not been to Suva. My time was spent between Nadi and Raki Raki. I met people in nearly all walks of life. The poll certainly seems to reflect the views of the majority that I have encountered. I did not ask any pointed questions, but I got the feelings that things were heading in the right direction and generally people were comfortable with it.

There are fewer disruptions to electricity and water supplies, buses run to time, and there are stringent regulations on transport safety. Corruption is being weeded out, while there still may be isolated pockets of it left but the Bainimarama govt is doing its best to eradicate it all levels. As a consequence, there is now more confidence in the law and order agencies.

On the land question too I was getting positive feedback. The old Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) has now been replaced with the Taukei Land Commission. The land is still in the firm grip of the Fijian landowners, but gone are the days of corruption, when underhand payment at all levels had to be met before any land was leased out to non-Fijians (and Fijians as well). Now a lessee can rely on a 99-year lease on an agreed term! 

The govt is also encouraging agriculture, and it is very pleasing to see entrepreneurial native Fijians are taking advantage of the new opportunities. I have been a regular customer at Ba markets for the last 40 years, and it is very refreshing to see that more than half of the vendors now are native Fijians, who sell their own produce! They are now less dependent on hand-outs (previously handouts were swallowed by the people distributing it).

I don't think Bainimarama cares two hoots about what Gillard and Key think about him or the developments in Fiji. He is on course to do the things he wants. He is also on record saying that he wants one citizenship for all in Fiji, the title of Fijian should apply to all and who can quarrel with that?

The current regime has taken up the fight to the Methodist church. All of the 3 coups in Fiji were instigated by Methodist hierarchy as you may well remember. The Rabuka coup was sponsored by the Church, they were behind the Speight coup and were also deeply involved when Qarase took power. The Methodists have their mumbo jumbo version of Christianity and talk as if it is the chosen Church of God. As Fiji's largest Christian denomination, the average Fijian is gullible enough to swallow it all hook, line and sinker. Until the Methodists come down to earth there is not going to be any peace in Fiji.

All Fiji's school children have free bus passes, that is more than I can say of the situation in Dunedin. The elderly enjoy subsidised bus fares, and the disadvantaged get a kind of dole payment. All this has been made possible by streamlining of the laws on tax evasion! No other previous government in Fiji has been able to carry out the reforms. How many other Island nations from the PIF can make such a claim?

There is still poverty, and people are leaving for greener pastures overseas. But the overall trend is of a picture of stability and gradual improvement in economic conditions. Cutting off aid has had a positive effect. At this rate of progress Fiji will emerge better and stronger if left alone to find its way in the South Pacific.

I must also admit that it took me several years since the 2006 coup to come to this conclusion. It's a picture of stability now. Again I must emphasize that my observations are based on the west side of Viti Levu, which is the mainstay of the economy. Suva may be different.

 Photo by Flickr user thaths.

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