OPINION: BRIJ LAL AND PACIFIC DEMOCRACY

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OPINION

BRIJ LAL AND PACIFIC DEMOCRACY

by Tavenisa Diri Wolfromm

Brij Lal's writings of his version of democracy (see: http://166.122.164.43/archive/2002/September/09-12-11.htm  and http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2002/November/11-14-16.htm) serve two purposes: First, Lal uses it to engage in the systematic distortion and falsification of Fiji's social, historical, cultural, political, economic and constitutional facts. Second, Lal uses his ramblings to evade, dodge, avoid, deny, and apply quick cosmetic cover up of his own published words and to marginalize voices different from his own.

Lal's writings are part of the larger orchestrated Indian moves to legally push out the Fijians into the peripheries of their nation’s mainstream society and to legally dispossess, marginalize and silence the Fijian voice in Fiji.

Unlike most historians, political scientists and academics, Lal has little regard for the truth or evidence or for verifiable facts. Lal began his response to my article titled: Democracy: Whose Version? ( See http://fijilive.com/news/news.php3?art=05/05n.htm )by accusing me of attacking him personally without substantiating his statement.

Like other readers, I was not able to find any evidence of Lal's accusations. A careful look at Lal's claims about his critics reveal that Lal is using pure misrepresentation and innuendo, counting on the fact that most readers will not bother to read my reply before reading his. Lal tries, therefore to trivialize and marginalize the voice of his critic right up front, then put on one of his many masks  by presenting himself as a humble "Fijian" and protector of women.

Lal not only put on a different mask, but also adopted a tone and tune very different as a cosmetic cover up for his first article. In that article Lal, as usual, belittled and criticized the Fijians of all walks of life, beginning from the Great Council of Chiefs, to the parliamentarians to the academics, civil servants, grassroots rural dwellers whom he calls maritime Fijians. Lal then reminded the readers that he was not trying to be funny. In his second article Lal denies all that, assuming of course that he can persuade his readers to believe that his words are more valid than his deeds.

Entangled in his own writings and trapped in his own words, Lal makes a feeble and laughable attempt to crawl out of his diatribe, which he fiercely denies by changing his mask. Lal, however, neglected to mind his words in order to make his mask fit and the misfit between the mask and the real Lal oozing out through his own words makes Lal appear more like a fool than a comedian.

After living side by side with Indians in Fiji, I have come to love and respect all things Indian. I am particularly proud of the Indian deepawali message that truth will triumph over evil. In the light of this deepawali message, I took a careful look at Lal's declaration of his ethnicity and I am disappointed not only at Lal's deficiency at logical thinking but also at his severe lack of respect for the truth, for himself or for anyone else.

Now, let's take Lal's ethnicity argument to its logical conclusion. First, Lal claims that he does not know the meaning of "identity-theft". I asked my ten year old what the term identity theft meant to her and she said, it means stealing someone else's identity. I asked her what she meant by that. The ten year old explained it means you are using someone else's name and pretending you are that person. There you go professor Lal.

Identity theft means hijacking and stealing the official constitutional name of a distinctive ethnic group (in this case the Fijians) and using it for yourself (Indo-Fijian) in order to deceive the masses (international community) into believing that you are a member of the ethnic group whose identity you have stolen simply because the name "Fijian" is not yet legally protected.

Lal makes a very weak, illogical and unconvincing attempt to justify his theft of the ethnic term "Fijian". Lal describes his ethnicity as a three-legged stool. Lal writes that his mother tongue and his appreciation of music are Indian. Here Lal uses the term "Indian" specifically. "Indian" is a specific ethnic identity so Lal's argument is valid to this point. However, the next two terms "Western" and "Oceanic" that Lal uses in his description of his personality and his beliefs turn his entire argument into hot air one does not expect to hear from a professor, least of all from one at the Australian taxpayers' National University.

Lal's lack of respect for the Australian taxpayers off whose blood, sweat and tears he is now feeding, is evidenced in his refusal to mention Australia specifically in the shaping of his so called "western" democratic beliefs. How ungrateful to be grazing in greener pastures without acknowledging the owners of the paddock. Similarly, Lal's lack of respect for the truth and for the Fijian people made him use the term "Oceania" instead of Fiji or Fijian. If it is ok for Lal to specify India, why is not ok to specify Australia and Fiji?

Lal's inability to see his self contradictory assumptions and assertions is free entertainment for the student of social science. I wonder if he is teaching his students analytical skills or parroting skills.

Now let's continue to take Lal's identity theft justification to its logical conclusion: Lal claims that his ethnicity is the combination of what he calls "Indian", "Western" and "Oceanic". Then logically, the term that captures accurately who Lal is could not logically be "Indo-Fijian" but would be a combination of the three terms he used to define his ethnicity: "Western-Oceanic-Indian" or "Oceanic- Western-Indian" or "Indo-Oceano-Westerno".

To conceal his Indian origin by pretending to be Indonesian (Indo is more easily misinterpreted to mean Indonesia than India) , and to totally ignore what he claims to be his western origin be not including it in his ethnic identity and to steal the distinctive constitutional ethnic identity of the Fijian people, is not only a disrespectful thing to do, it is also a crime against the Fijian ethnic group and a disgraceful disregard for the ancient and proud nation of the Indians who fed his forefathers and the taxpayers of Australia who are now feeding him.

Now, here is the most important impact of Lal's public act of identity theft and mass deception. Lal is taking advantage of the fact that the government of Fiji has not yet legally protected the Fijian peoples' distinctive constitutional ethnic identity. The onus is now on our government and the Attorney General of the Republic of Fiji to legally protect the term "Fijian". This is our moral duty and our sacred obligation to our ancestors and to the unsuspecting future generations of Fijians.

According the United Nations conventions, one of the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples of the world is the right to a distinctive constitutional ethnic identity. Lal violates this indigenous Fijian peoples right because, as he stated in his writings, he does not recognize the Fijians as indigenous peoples of Fiji. Second,  his team is actively re-defining the Fijians as Melanesians in order to strip the Fijian people of their ethnicity, nationality, citizenship and their indigenous rights. As the identity thieves re-label the Fijians as Melanesians they hijack and claim the term Fijian for themselves, claiming that it is their right to steal the Fijian ethnic groups’ constitutional identity. The ball is now in the court of Fiji's  Attorney General and the government of the day. They must legally protect the term "Fijian" now as part of the protection of Fiji’s sovereignty and her people. Indian distortion and falsification of reality motivated by greed and lust for politcal invasion of Fiji is like wild fire and Fiji must wake up and legally counter-act the anti-Fijian movement.

Now, I wish to briefly address some of Lal’s outrageous claims relating to the current economic disparity between the Fijians and Indians.

Unlike most historians, political scientists and academics who passionately search for factual social, historical, political, economic and cultural contexts of present day human conditions, Lal propagates the standard Indian lies and deceitful falsification of the facts that brought about the present day economic disparity between the Indians and the Fijians.

Lal accuses the majority of the Fijian people of having what he calls a dependent, handout mentality, which Lal says is corrosive to the quest for excellence.

Lal and his team are actively documenting in all their publications the great Indian myth of Indian excellence and Fijian dependent handout mentality. The function of this myth is to conceal the verifiable facts of history and to deceive the Fijians and the international community into thinking that the present day economic disparity between the Fijians and Indians is due to Indian excellence and Fijian dependent, handout mentality.

Now, let's take a look at what Lal has consistently and persistently concealed in all his writings about Fiji: a brief history of the social and historical context that created the economic disparity between India's untouchables and Fiji's indigenous population. When the Colonial Sugar Refinery brought the untouchables from India, the Colonial government built roads to link every Indian home to the local and overseas markets for their sugar and other agricultural products.

The same colonial government did not build roads or provide safe, affordable and reliable sea transportation to link every Fijian home to local or overseas markets for their agricultural products.

The government connected electricity to every Indian home. Many rural Fijians still do not have electricity to this day.

The government bought every Indian farmer's sugarcane and sold it to the European Economic Community for the Indians. The same government did not buy any agricultural product from the Fijians and did not help the Fijians to sell their agricultural products to the EEC or other overseas buyers.

The government provided every Indian with a secure, reliable and regular source of income throughout their lives. The same government did nothing of the kind for the Fijian people.

The government dependent Indian cane farmers were exempted from paying income tax and were given a free government handout rice allowance. Indians also enjoyed first mover advantages in business particularly those enjoying licences. Thus taxis were virtually all Indian until 1987 and so long as the licensing regulations remained the same, it would be impossible for Fijians to break in. Since then there has been much flak over first Rabuka and then Qarase’s endeavours to increase Fijian participation through extending more licences. The same is true of bus routes –  you need a licence and virtually all conceivable routes were already allocated so that it was impossible for Fijians to break in. And when Fijians started using the mini buses, the Indian taxi and bus operators lodged formal complaints.

Similarly, Indians often learn their business skills through being employed first in another company. Not surprisingly, Indian companies often choose to hire only their own kind –  just walk down any street in Suva or Lautoka or any town in Fiji or look in some of the big supermarkets. Private sector economic discrimination adds to government economic discrimination against the Fijians.

So right from the moment they arrived with nothing but the rags on their backs, the Indians have had a dependent handout existence from the government.

The colonial and succeeding governments have been spoon-feeding the Indians and giving them access to all the resources necessary for any social group to attain social and economic empowerment since the day they set foot in Fiji.

The same governments discriminated against the Fijians by neglecting their needs and by denying them access to resources for social and economic empowerment that they abundantly supplied to the Indian population.

Government denial of roads, electricity, water supply, safe, reliable and affordable sea transportation and denial of government assistance in exporting Fijian agricultural products led to the ever-widening economic gap between the Indians and the Fijians leading to the present day situation.

With the length of time and with the quantity and quality of Indian dependent handout existence from the British and Fijian governments, any social group would have excelled over all the other social groups the government neglected.

The present day economic disparity between the Fijians and the Indians has little to do with the great Indian myth of Indian excellence and Fijian dependent mentality.

The truth lies in the fact that Indians lived a dependent, handout existence from the government in their first 100 years in Fiji during which time the same governments neglected and thereby denied Fijian people access to resources for social and economic empowerment.

So Lal's argument for meritocracy is more valid for the government neglected Fijian population than the government dependent Indian immigrants. Any Fijian who excelled economically or otherwise in Fiji did so out of sheer merit and not out of government dependence and government handouts as the entire Indian population did.

Lal's explanation of present day Indian economic paramountcy reminds me of the Indian school where I spent some years of my education. In a class of 44 students, I was the only Fijian and I was always given the 44th position in class. The Indian students actively disseminated the Indian myth that I was the 44 th in a class of 44 students because I was the only Fijian student and therefore the dullest in class. When the external examination results came out, where the Indian students' Hindi scores were not counted, I turned out to be the first in class having scored the highest examination marks. That Indian school is the microcosm of Fiji and the myths surrounding Indian excellence and Fijian dependent mentality. Given a level playing field, Fijians can do just as well as any other ethnic group.

The great Indian myth of Indian excellence and Fijian mediocrity is also disproved by many research findings. One such research is an eye-opening study carried out at the University of the South Pacific (Wolfromm, 1989 available at the USP library) in which the grade point scores of students of different ethnic groups were compared. The study is eye-opening because it disproved the much publicized Indian assumptions of Indian academic superiority. The results of the study showed that the mature in-service Fijian students systematically had the highest grade point average than their Indian counterparts and all other ethnic groups at the USP. The study shows again, that given a level playing field, Fijians can do just as well or even better than any other ethnic group. Mature Fijian in-service students, like government dependent Indians in earlier years, have a secure, reliable and regular source of income and they do not suffer the inconveniences faced by economically disadvantaged younger Fijian students.

Former head of the University of the South Pacific's School of Education, Professor William Maxwell's research in IQ revealed that Fijians consistently scored higher IQs than their Indian counterparts.

Mangubhai and Elley's research on English language proficiency among Fiji's student populations revealed that Fijians do better in English language than Indians. English language proficiency, they found, was the most reliable predictor of academic success at the University of the South Pacific. Imagine if Fijians had been given equal access to the resources for social and economic empowerment that the Indians enjoyed as government handouts in the last 100 years. Fijians would do just as well as any other ethnic group in all spheres of social and economic life.

To conclude, Lal and his team need to be reminded that the truth about Fiji will be oughted for the whole world to see. Sooner or later they will have to face the truth and deal with it. The truth is eternally true and the truth will set us all free. Free from the consequences of mass deception and free from mental slavery. Those who are participating in the dissemination of the great myth of Indian excellence and Fijian dependent handout mentality are the mentally enslaved and their masters of mass deception.

Indians are the dominant social group in Fiji and the Fijians are the dominated social group. The Indians in Fiji have control over the economy, the trade unions and they dominate the mass media industry. The Fijians have control of the government. The Qarase administration is the first Fijian government to fearlessly address the needs of the Fijians who have been economically discriminated against since colonial times. As usual, the non-Fijians are loudly, consistently and persistently attacking the Qarase administration for giving the Fijians equal access to resources for social and economic empowerment in Fiji, the ancestral land of the Fijian people.

Goodwill and not greed or lust for power or political and ideological invasion of a sovereignty and its people will ensure political stability in Fiji. Lal has to look in the mirror and be proud of what he sees. Honor your ancestors and do not deface their reputation by changing your ethnicity for political purposes.

Tavenisa Diri is a school teacher writing her PhD thesis in the area of Mass Communications Research. She is presently in the United States of America.

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