Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I’m so immensely excited about having the chance to vote in the first Fijian elections in more than a decade. I’ve never had the chance to vote! And I’m absolutely uninterested in voting for the lesser of two evils in the U.S.
These are the parties seeking registration under the new decree:
- Fiji Labour Party (originally multiracial but now predominantly Indo-Fijian; led by Mahendra Chaudhry)
- National Federation Party (NFP) – predominantly Indo-Fijian; once a major political party
- Social Democratic Liberal Party (SDL) – a renamed and reformed Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua
There is much controversy about the registration of political parties but hopefully, things will be sorted out. I’m neither a fan nor foe of Commodore Bainimarama’s regime, which is currently in power. I supported overthrowing Laisenia Qarase’s racist regime in 2006, while I also criticized Bainimarama’s deportation of Fijian academics, abolition of the judiciary and censorship of the bar. His stance against guaranteeing sexual orientation rights in the Constitution is also simply homophobic, even though Fiji was the first country in the Pacific to decriminalize homosexuality and only the second country in the world to provide affirmative protections for LGBTQ people in 1997.
I am hopeful to see Fiji returned to democratic rule, even though I’ve always been suspicious of how well democracy would work in such a racialized electoral system. Bainimarama’s staunch advocacy that all Fiji citizens, regardless of our ethnic groups, should be called Fijians should go some way in bringing about much-needed social change. However, the new Constitution suffers from serious defects, and I’m not too confident that it will prevail in the long run.
We seriously need to return the Fiji Labour Party to multi-ethnic roots, though it makes sense why a labor party in Fiji will be predominantly Fiji-Indian–we make up most of the labor force. My parents were staunch supporters of the FLP, and my Dad participated as an overseer of the electoral count during the 1998 elections. His cousin’s husband, Mr. Chaudhary, was elected as the first Fiji-Indian Prime Minister of Fiji. It all went downhill when in May 2000, George Speight kidnapped thirty-six government officials and held them from May 19, 2000 to July 13, 2000. The rest is the history of a true banana republic.
I was already in the United States when Speight abolished the Constitution and instituted military rule in Fiji and never witnessed any of the coups. But the 2000 coup brought about the exodus of thousands of Indians from the country, who are now settled in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.
Fijian nationals living in the U.S. can subscribe to a newsletter issued by the Fiji Embassy for updates. Contact info for the embassy:
EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF FIJI
2000 M Street, NW, Suite 710 | Washington D.C. 20036 | Tel: (202) 466-8320 | Fax: (202) 466-8325 | Email: email@example.com
More details will be posted here once registration of overseas Fijians begins.
The latest press freedom index rankings released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has Fiji plunging 73 places to 152 after a crackdown on the media by Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama.
No criticism whatsoever is allowed of Commodore Bainimarama or the military regime. Under Section 16 (1) of the Emergency Regulations (titled “Control of Broadcast and Publications”), if the Permanent Secretary for Information (Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni) “has reason to believe that any broadcast or publication may give rise to disorder … or promote disaffection or public alarm, or undermine the Government” then he “may, by order, prohibit such broadcast or publication”.
As a consequence of this policy, Baimarama moved soldiers into newsrooms for weeks to censor stories. Foreign journalists were deported, including Rex Gardner, publisher of The Fiji Times. A Fiji One TV reporter, Edwin Nand was thrown into jail for reportedly transmitting information overseas. Recently, a Mother Jones reporter doing an investigative piece on Fiji Water was kidnapped, questioned and almost raped.
When the Permanent Secretary of Information was asked whether censorship regulations of Fiji media would be relaxed, he replied that if it was up to him, it would be kept in place for another 5 years.
In response to the fourth coup in the Fiji Islands in as many as seventeen years, the international community demanded the restoration of democracy and order in the country. While Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji’s first coup leader, expressed regret over introducing the concept of military takeover in the country, Dr Brij Lal—an architect of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution—said that Fiji has a ‘coup culture’ in that there is little respect for law and order, and coups will continue because the people responsible for them are never really brought to justice. Coupster and leader of the current illegal regime, Commodore Bainimarama has exploited the problems in Fiji to grab and retain power, while doing little to alleviate the suffering of the poor and working classes. He is yet another opportunist with little understanding or answers to the deep-seated problems plaguing the island nation.
‘Fiji, the way the world should be’ is an advertising slogan from the late Pope John Paul which has met its demise after four and half coups. The idea that this place is a Paradise has penetrated the Euro-American imagination. This is supplemented in a large part by the tourist industry in Fiji, making slogans and myths that paint a romantic picture of Fiji, hiding the grim difficulties that the multi-ethnic nation is trying to resolve. The National Geographic website states that “the Fiji Islands comprise 333 islands in the South Pacific, with beaches, coral gardens, and rain forests.” It forgot to mention that Fiji also includes people that have survived European colonization and are now struggling with European concepts like multi-ethnic democracy, sovereignty, parliament, and law amidst fresh colonization from tourists.
Alright, so I promised some changes and here they are –
I took a job as a blogger at Change.org for their Immigration cause so it is likely that all my immigration blogging would go there, primarily. You can subscribe to the feed here. I do have a Wednesday blogging duty at DreamActivist and Friday ones at the Sanctuary that I need to learn to juggle.
Duke released some principles for a progressive immigration reform that got front-paged at Daily Kos and published at Alternet. I suggest everyone should check them out and spread it around (http://j.mp/immigrationreform). It’s the single-payer of #immigration reform. I don’t expect Congressional advocates to be moved by it, but we can have some serious and meaningful discussions in the progressive blogosphere to move the legislation to the (real) left.
And I am launching a collective of pro-democracy Fijian bloggers in the coming few months. When Commodore Bainimarama ousted Laisenia Qarase in 2006, I was relieved and considered joining the government. I am not a fan of democracy, since I do realize that a parliamentary democracy is a colonial manufactured concept that may not work in the interest of the islands. Alas, his military reign has continued and he seems to be a know-nothing opportunist, who has sold Fiji out to Fiji Water, deported journalists, censored the media and now rules over Fiji with an iron fist. Enough is enough.
If someone wants to hire me as a new media consultant or communications and outreach coordinator, I have an impressive resume. Really, I am among the best, but don’t let me tell you that. Find out for yourself.
Commodore Bainimarama’s speech to the UN General Assembly last month:
Fiji has suffered more than 20 years of mismanagement, corruption, and nepotism. Our infrastructure, our judicial system, and our systems of accountability have all remained underdeveloped and unproductive. Many of our finest brains have left the country to migrate, because they could see no future in a country governed by ethno-nationalism, corruption and greed. In order to ensure that democracy has a real chance of survival in Fiji’s future, serious, and principled reforms must be implemented to build roads, institutions and values.
Here’s the sad thing Commodore. I am probably one of the brightest Indo-Fijians around, not to mention one of the most educated ones. And I neither chose to leave Fiji nor stay in the United States. However, how are you going to encourage people to come back and the bright minds from escaping with your dictatorial regime in place? We want to work in a democracy, not under some power-hungry demagogue.