RACE-BASED POLITICAL PARTIES A DEAD END FOR FIJI

Editorial

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 6) - The wish of indigenous Fijian political leaders to unite in one party to speak for all Fijians is understandable. But it is unlikely to be achieved in any lasting way.

It would, of course, be convenient for those leaders if one party spoke for all. But the notion too glibly assumes that all ethnic Fijians think the same, want the same and say the same.

One might as well say that all Englishmen think the same, that all Welshmen want the same or that all Australians say the same. Of course they do not.

And before comparisons are drawn to show that the Fijians are in a unique position, it should be considered that the number of speakers, readers and writers of, for instance, the Welsh language is broadly the same as those whose first language is Fijian. Yet within that language group can be found a very wide range of political opinion.

So the notion that Fijians will vote together as a means of identity for a culture besieged by a rapidly shrinking world does not survive careful examination.

The urban Fijian, for example, has a different agenda from his or her cousins in the bush. They have different needs and ambitions. Why would they not have different likings for political ideology and different voting intentions?

This is not to say that a coming together of the indigenous Fijian parties would of itself be a bad thing. It would certainly make for a much tidier political landscape.

But people will always seek out alternatives and politics has a way of making them available. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum and creates parties as quickly as constituencies become apparent.

Thus, even if the present Fijian parties combined under one banner it would not take too long for other banners to emerge, each claiming to represent this or that section of the ethnic population.

At the same time genuine progress towards multiculturalism and reconciliation will not be achieved by race-based parties of either side. And while we have communal electorates, we will always have race-based political parties – of varying number and complexity.

January 6, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

 

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