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Mixed Poll Feelings In Speight Stronghold

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by Peter Emberson, Pacific Journalism Online (USP)

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Saturday morning in the Fiji capital Suva's airport town Nausori - a colourful and chaotic noisy scene with people thronging its streets in the buildup to this month's post-coup general election.

Chinese farmers and Fijian villagers from Tailevu and Rewa provinces - coup leader George Speight's stronghold - offload their produce from the hundreds of "carriers" with blue, yellow or green tarpaulins advertising Fiji Bitter beer.

Indo-Fijian shop owners take down wooden or iron shutters from their display windows for a another day of business.

Behind this picturesque postcard setting attracting shoppers and market vendors from the greater Suva area, there is mixture of different political views resonating from Nausori.

Many Fijian villagers - who travel to Nausori town from Rewa and Tailevu to sell their produce - called for the Fiji Government to see that development reached the rural areas too.

They want better education and scholarship for their children.

Other Fijians had different visions for Fiji after the vital election on August 25-September 1.

"I want all government officials at all levels to be indigenous Fijians," said one Fijian man, who sat proudly in front of his bundles of taro.

However, many Indo-Fijians asked to comment on changes they would like to see were reluctant to say anything.

Undercurrents of fear and a sense of hopelessness seemed to be mounting among Indo-Fijians in the area. Many of them shied away, saying they were either fearful or weary of the questions, fearing repercussions.

They still refused to be quoted, even after this reporter told them they would not be named.

However, an Indo-Fijian newspaper vendor who braved the fumes and dusty narrow streets of Nausori daily said: "Just look what happened to our last Labour Government … what do you want us to say?"

He would not comment further.

The Labour-led People's Coalition government was seized by Speight's gunmen in Parliament on May 19 last year and held hostage for 56 days.

Many people who were asked whether they had studied the contents of the party manifestos said they trusted the candidates and parties they were voting.

Many Fijian villagers, mostly from the Rewa and Tailevu area, were only too happy to comment, calling for national unity.

They said the current land issue and reconciliation could be resolved through the creation of a Christian state.

* The general election is from August 25-September 1.


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