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USP Journalism Programme

By Patrick Craddock
@ USP Journalism Programme

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SUVA: A question for you from Fiji. There's a special prize. Who said:
"We don't care about the modern world, we don't have to abide by what
the modern world wants. It is right for the Fijians."?

Now, I don't intend to tell you the answer yet. Wait awhile. It's at the
end of this article, but please don't cheat and look, will you?

There has been enough cheating in Fiji since May 19 and the terrorism of
George Speight. But now, he is out of Parliament and at the last check
he was seen at the biggest and best hotel in Suva, a mere three-minute
walk from my house.

I was worried for a while. I recall George's Indigenous Theatre Company
walking past my flat firing guns in the air as they went on their way to
the opening night of "Trash the TV Station".

It was a big success. The performance silenced most of the critics, but
not the articulate and brave Jone Dakuvula.

But this show was less impressive that the looting and burning of the
central Suva shops and the multi-millions dollars worth of damage . "See
Suva Burn " had a huge cast of actors and a large audience of police
officers who watched the drama unfold with a quiet unassuming interest.

The next terrorist production was "Murder Most Foul" with the shooting
of an innocent policeman. There were several arson plays.

One occurred at the office where George used to work. Another was in a
chicken factory. A third was at a Suva waterfront restaurant. Then
there was a long running serial saga called "Hostages in our House" with
a large cast of government actors including the legal Prime Minister,
Mahendra Chaudhry.

Don't be hard on George. He's having a bad press this week. He and his
fellow gangsters left Parliament with stolen goods and possibly a few
army guns . Within hours there was an eyewitness account saying his
supporters looted most of the fish and root crops at a nearby market.
But George is planning to compensate this generous community by getting
foreign aid from an unusual source.

"We will be asking India for assistance in relation to how we implement
such policies on behalf of the Fijians." (Fiji's Daily Post July 22).

George is also asking the media to refrain from using words like
"terrorists" and "rebels." Instead he says (The Fiji Sun 22 July) "I
would prefer if we are called The Fijian Crusader or something as we are
fighting for the indigenous cause."

George is in Suva at a hotel. My insider contact says the crusader and
his team don't have any time left to talk about cost of living increases
imposed yesterday by the non-existent government of Fiji.

A luxury item like a pack of tea costs 42 cents more, and the kerosene
to boil the tea water is up by four cents.

I'm hoping to absorb this cost, but I note that Sushila, Bobby, Arun,
and Rosalind of the poor Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa who lost their
jobs on May 19 will have to forgo some of their luxuries to support the
search by the crusaders for the indigenous Holy Grail .

Before the coup Sushila earned $40 a week in a garment factory. It was
enough to feed her children. Now that money has gone.

Thankfully Sushila didn't say anything rude about George as he's in his
62nd day of confusion.

After his takeover of the legitimate government of Fiji, he said, " I am
the Head of State of Fiji as by the will of the indigenous people of
Fiji, consequently there is no such position as the president of Fiji at
this moment".

George had already nominated a cabinet lineup with himself at the top
plus a group of supporters who would fill the cabinet posts. Apparently
Mahendra Chaudhry was not attending his office anymore, nor were any of
his ministers. So someone had to do something, eh?

But as Fiji still had a President by the name of Sir Kamisese Mara,
there was a problem. So George immediately sacked his nominated Prime
Minister, saying that he was taking over that position.

Apparently there was confusion about that post too. Then there was his
problem about who knew how to make a new government, and to also make it
acceptable to all Fijian citizens.

Even today there is doubt. A reporter today is writing that Fiji is
making history as the first country in the world to witness the
appointment of seven Prime Ministers and two interim governments in two

The confusion goes on. And the Fiji newspaper proofreaders are not
helping him at all. How will George feel when he reads the Fiji Sunday
Post of July 23 and sees a paragraph that starts " UN secretary-general,
Kofi Annan George Speight ..."

The new but ailing President Ratu Josefa Iloilo who suffers from both
Parkinson's Disease and heart problems is saying that the reputation of
indigenous Fijians as being hospitable, friendly loving and caring
people is being threatened. I would have thought the President has more
to do with his time than philosophise on the obvious.

Early in the week he said he was creating a new government and it didn't
happen. What a shock.

Five minutes before the ceremony he began to feel ill and whole affair
was put on hold and it still is.

I think that Ridike Qereqeretabua is feeling ill too. He's saying the
chiefs have to "demonstrate that they are truly deserving of the title
of the Great Council of Chiefs." Tough talk there!.

He seems angry, saying that is not enough for the Great Council of
Chiefs to simply appoint a President and Vice President, and to go home
and leave the hard work to these two men. Ridike is the manager of Fiji
Resorts Limited. Perhaps, he's lost some tourist customers, eh?

As a result I am in a dilemma. Monday, July 24, is a public holiday and
the whole country is having the day off to celebrate Constitution Day.
But we don't have even have one anymore. Where have they gone as we have
had three in the thirty years since Independence?

The international community will say we are careless about protecting
our valuables. They are thinking that if they give Fiji any money it
will be lost too? So, it's being stopped.

What is even worse to contemplate is the lie I may decide to tell my
children in my old age when they ask "Pa - why did you have a Fiji
Constitution Day in the year 2000".

Now for the answer to the quiz. If you thought the statement at the top
of the article was by George, you are wrong. It was by another coup
leader - Sitiveni Rabuka.

Never mind - if you got it wrong, it was a long time ago when he said
what he said, and perhaps he didn't mean it.

Here is your prize, a poem written on the third day of the coup by an
angry but sad man who still loves Fiji.

Rabuka's Children

George, oh George
Wine from past vintage requires
A ripeness
Not just a love of the fight.
Today you shamed. Have I not taught you to cut
Heads of communicators, tails of transporters.
On Friday our crystallnacht began
George, oh George
Know your season's discontents
In winter winds
I too played the soldier's life.
We talked of golf
Talked of wives and mothers
Guns I know. You did not.
You hinted I would be a great president.
I dream of a hero's life.
George, oh George
My son, our bread is burning
Our beds never again will
Hold arms and breasts of molten girls
George, oh George.
Let me hold you in my embrace.
Oh, Suva son
Let me teach you to kill.
You require one bullet, one prayer
Lie boldly before the canoe of warriors
Lie boldly. George, oh George my son.

Title -- 2856 FIJI: Commentary: We don't care about the modern world
Date -- 24 July 2000
Byline -- Patrick Craddock
Origin -- Pasifik Nius
Source -- USP Journalism Programme, 23/7/00
Copyright -- USP/Craddock
Status -- Unabridged


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last revision July 26, 2000