FIJI’S TORA AND COMPANY DRIVE FEAR INTO INDIANS

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FIJI’S TORA AND COMPANY DRIVE FEAR INTO INDIANS

By Mesake Koroi

SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 8, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---The name Apisai Mohammed Tora alone is enough to rouse suspicion among some members of the Indian community. Associate it with the Taukei Movement, and you are driving the devil's fear into them.

That is exactly the feeling among members of the Indian community I spoke with in the greater Nausori area yesterday.

"Where have they all gone?" a worried Mohan Lal asked, as he surveyed the trickle in the number of shoppers coming to buy groceries at his shop. His small, but well stocked shop, at Vuci Road outside Nausori, is usually a hive of activities every morning, with children rushing in to buy breakfast. But, since Apisai Tora launched the revival of the Taukei Movement early this week, the scenario has changed.

What used to be a mad rush has now trickled down to a limited few.

"People are not spending as they used to," Mr. Lal said. "They are scared. They are saving what little money they have, in case they have to pack up and go at a moment's notice.

"My discussions with the people around here confirmed they are scared, the Indians particularly.

"Fijians who are on leaseholds are also scared."

Landowners are now very aggressive in their approach, since Mr. Tora's revival of the Taukei Movement. With the events of 1987 still fresh in their minds, the Indians particularly are worried. They are not investing or spending and most are not seeking further extension to their leases.

"Everything is on hold," Mr. Lal said.

Mr. Tora was one of the Taukei Movement leaders who got agitated soon after Dr. Timoci Bavadra's Labour coalition government swept into power in April 1987, ousting Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's Alliance government. Not long after the Bavadra Government was sworn in, the Taukei Movement was formed with Mr. Tora in the forefront. The movement carried out a concerted civil disobedience exercise, aimed specifically at the Indo-Fijian populace. There were marches, demonstrations and deliberate willful violence against the Indo-Fijian community. It culminated a month later in Col. Sitiveni Rabuka's military coup on May 14.

"We are worried because the revival of the Taukei Movement carries the hall mark of the same civil disobedience that occurred in 1987," Mr. Lal said.

"The only question left with us now is why should we spend. This is not our country. If we are told to go we just have to sell and go."

Mr. Lal, with the agreement of those with him, remembered how Indians had to sell their property at half the value to get out after Rabuka's military take over.

"I think Rabuka was good compared with Mr. Tora," he said.

While many Indians have understandably withdrawn into their cocoons, Opposition Leader Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has cautioned that the rush in attacking the Taukei Movement is premature and contrary to the spirit of democracy.

"It is the FLP government's arrogance towards Fijians and its display of contempt for respected Fijian institutions which has resulted in the revival of the Taukei Movement," Ratu Inoke said.

He attributed the revival of the movement to the manifestation of Fijian dissatisfaction with an arrogant and insensitive government. He said lawful expressions of dissent cannot be suppressed in a democracy. Ratu Inoke described Ministers Bogileka, Bune and Cokanasiga's attempt to smother Mr. Tora's movement as a laugh.

"They have themselves lost touch with their Fijian base and their clamor against the Taukei is purely pandering to the arrogance of a leader to whom they dare not speak the truth.

"The right of the Fijian people to organize express their will as the constitution allows must be permitted," Ratu Inoke said.

How has the revival of the Taukei Movement affected the business community?

President of the Retailers Association, Himmat Lodhia, said while it has yet to pose a direct threat to business, its repercussions are worrying.

"It has already spread like wild fire internationally. It will keep visitors away," Mr. Lodhia said.

"We have already had a lot of cancellations, which is not good for the economy.

"My members are concerned and we can only hope that we can resolve our political differences amicably," Mr. Lodhia said.

Immigration officials in the various embassies in Fiji indicated yesterday that it is perhaps too early to expect an influx of applicants wishing to migrate because of the instability caused by Mr. Tora's Taukei movement.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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