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Fiji must stand firm

Fiji must stand firm
by Doctor Robert Wolfgramm

EVERYONE including the Qarase government - wants Fiji to return to democracy. Yet far from receiving encouragement for this expressed desire, Fiji's former friends and neighbours appear to have rejected its interim administration' s two-year, two-step proposal.

The problem seems to be about timing. Despite Qarase's plan receiving wide- spread endorsement within Fiji itself, leading forums of the international community such as the Commonwealth heads meeting and the European parliament have said that it is unacceptable. They have been encouraged in this thinking no doubt by bitter voices within Fiji who have lost out in the events of May 19. Fiji must resist these international bullies at all cost.

The European parliament which has just proven itself utterly impotent in its attempt to sanction the quasi-Nazi character of the Austrian government in its own backyard, now wants to flex its neo-colonial muscle against fat-flung Pacific minnows such as Fiji.

Its demand that Fiji return to democracy by November is not only out of touch with reality, it is thoroughly contemptible. As are demands from that other neo-colonial club called the Commonwealth. Where former colonies of the British Empire should have run as far they could from their former masters and lords, the late 20th century has found them back in a forum designed to keep them at heel and under the control of rich and powerful players under the aura of British royalty.

I found much to disagree with in the late Sakeasi Butadroka's political agenda, but he was consistently right about one thing: Fiji's leaders have too easily let Britain off the hook in its responsibilities to post-independence Fiji. And the Commonwealth has helped. Britain should have been called to account for creating Fiji's 20th century racial problems when it introduced 19th century indentured labour.

Has it ever apologised to the Fijian people for setting up a potentially explosive situation which it has just-walked away from (since 1970)? Has it ever accepted a duty to compensate the struggling Fijian economy for its own colonial economic folly of the past? Has Britain ever funded a long-term, national, post-independence programme to promote racial unity and harmony in Fiji?

Of course not. Britain lives in a world of denial. And departing British High Commissioner, Michael Dibbens is proof of it when he again reiterates the official line that Fiji's problems are of her own making.

What a furphy; what an abrogation of history. It is a pity Fiji has not pursued compensation from Britain to de- fray the cost of its racial policies over the past thirty years, in an international court. The people of Fiji know that theirs is indeed a knotty problem of someone else's making.

The rich and powerful have walked away, from their moral if not legal obligations to the historical damage they inflicted on Fiji. Now they stand askance at what has happened in the past thirteen yeas and offer no other solutions other than imperious demands, sanctions and the 'special envoy'. What a lot of globalised hypocritical jokers they are!

Fiji must remain committed to solving its problems in its own sovereign way. Fijian indigenous interests are at the heart of the national interest, and until this is recognised by critics within and without the country , and resolved according its own protocols, no one in Fiji will rest easy.

When it respects that process, and recognises its own complicity in Fiji's critical domestic politics, the voice of the international democratic community will have some authority among Fijians. Until then, Fiji's critics and their local lackeys should go take a cold shower.

* Dr Wolfgramm is the head of the Sociology Department at Monash University. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers.

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