FIJI: HISTORY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

September 21, 2001

There’s more at stake here than meets the eye. The current debate on Fiji is about more than just the recent election and its racially loaded politics, but also about how the history of Fiji and the entire Pacific is being written and interpreted.

Unfortunately there are not enough indigenous Pacific islanders writing and publishing in history and politics. In fact, a brief glance at a bibliography will quickly reveal that most of Pacific history and politics is written by non-Pacific islanders. Some of this is objective and sympathetic and some is biased and antagonistic. With a few exceptions we continue to see the Pacific primarily through the eyes of non-Pacific islanders. Whoever writes the history gets to say how it "really" was. But the stubborn fact remains that there are always at least two sides to every story. Pacific history needs some reconstruction.

The "facts" of Fiji’s 20th century history are interesting and subject to differing interpretations depending on your point of view. However, what is indisputable are the end results, the outcomes. And these outcomes clearly show a process whereby space, economic opportunities and power were taken up by British and Indians. Colonization is colonization, whether it’s from the top down in the case of the British, or from the bottom up in the case of imported Indian immigrants. And that is not mythology; it’s a social, economic and political reality.

Our ideologies determine what we see and how we interpret it. Through whose eyes will the history of Fiji and the rest of the Pacific be seen and written?

Robert Churney Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia Email: rchurney@comfsm.fm 

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