NORMALITY REIGNS IN SUVA, STILL A GREAT CITY

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COMMENTARY

By Laisa Taga Pacific Magazine

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 6, 2001 - Pacific Magazine/PINA Nius Online)---Across the region this month parents are busy packing their kids off on planes to Suva to attend the many regional tertiary institutions to which Fiji's capital city proudly plays host. Some of these students are returning for the first time since the May 19 coup. Should their parents be worried? What's life like in Suva these days?

Actually, very normal. No more curfews, no more gun carrying soldiers on the streets, no more checkpoints. Definitely business as usual as shops open, and people go about their daily life.

I recall meeting an old classmate of mine in one of those many watering holes that help give Suva some of the liveliest nightlife in the region. She was with a friend from Samoa who was in Suva to attend a workshop.

The Samoan friend was told by her folks to be very, very careful while in Suva because it was no longer the safe city it once was. In fact, her folks were on the verge of refusing to allow her to travel to Suva for the workshop. Only her insistence that her friends in Suva would take very good care of her and that she would return home in one piece finally persuaded them to let her come.

Well, she did return home to Apia in one piece and definitely glad to have been to Suva to see that life in the capital was business as usual and nothing to worry about. It was, she said, far, far different from the many stories she was told prior to coming to Fiji. One bit of advice she left behind was: "See for yourself. What you actually see on the ground is totally different -- very different -- from what is being written."

What would you see? During the day, people of all races happily going about life as usual. The air-conditioned Downtown Boulevard shopping mall is crowded with people shopping, eating at its cafes or just walking and talking. The only people in uniform patrolling the streets are unarmed police officers. Cautionary note to visitors: Don't forget to be tidy. Those smiling police officers on patrol include special constables from a new unit whose task is to catch litterbugs.

As day turns to night along Victoria Parade, famous nightspots such as Traps, the Golden Dragon, Lucky Eddies and O'Reilly's come alive. In fact many Suva bars and nightspots never stopped being alive, even at the height of the curfew. They and their patrons just adjusted their hours. They opened at midday and by late afternoon they were full of patrons.

Even back then Suva's people were quick recovering. They joked about the expatriates who were being "evacuated" to supposedly safer places. One young Canadian volunteer I know literally had to be dragged to the airport to be "evacuated" out. She didn't understand why the big panic by agencies such as hers to get people out of Suva. Of course, she had the advantage of knowing Suva and its people a lot better than the person who was telling her she had to leave.

But that was then. Back to now. Suva's many restaurants are open and busy. From the upmarket Cardo's steakhouse looking out across the harbor to the many Chinese and Indian restaurants, and the bustling main street McDonald's restaurant.

Further along the main street the Village Six multiplex cinemas are again jam-packed with cinemagoers wanting to see the latest movies from Hollywood and Bollywood. They continue to be a favorite of regional visitors to Suva.

Suva did have some dark days last May. But the people of this lively, friendly, very cosmopolitan city I call my home recovered quickly.

Don't believe what you might read on certain Internet sites. Come and see for yourself. Suva is open for business and pleasure. It's still one of the great cities of the Pacific Islands.

For additional reports from Pacific Magazine, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Pacific Magazine.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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