SUVA, Fiji (Mar. 4) - Every visitor and every traveler returning to Fiji is reminded that racism is inbuilt in our society before he or she leaves the aircraft or ship.

Each and every one of them is required to state their race.

It is an offensive process that, unfortunately, merely reflects the attitude that exists in our society – that race is relevant in all that we say, do and think.

The abolition of this question on the card that all those arriving must complete before entry would be a small but important step towards the kind of Fiji envisioned by the chair of the National Reconciliation Council, Dr Akanisi Tabualevu.

In her remarks to The Media Council yesterday, Dr Tabualevu spoke of her vision of a Fiji where all are treated equally regardless of race or religion.

Her words will strike a chord with all who love freedom and respect human rights.

Yet she faces a task of Herculean proportions.

Many indigenous Fijians see themselves as disadvantaged in their own land, victims of a history that has denied them commercial and professional opportunity. For the most part they have a solitary asset – their land - and they often fear, or are encouraged to fear, that the ethnic Indian population has designs on it.

The Indian population on the other hand increasingly sees their future as migrants in a foreign land, driven away from their homes by fear if not of dispossession then of discrimination.

It remains a matter of amazement that, even after sharing this tiny fragment of God’s creation for three generations or more, the two communities have such a restricted understanding of each other’s hopes and fears.

But the misapprehensions are genuine and they go deep.

Nevertheless, they must be addressed in a constructive manner if the vision of Dr Tabualevu and many others is to be fulfilled. It will take time and a 10-year plan is a sensible and realistic approach.

But the hateful arrival card (already ignored by many) could be amended tomorrow and the Ministry of Reconciliation could become the Ministry of Nation Building at the stroke of a pen.

All it needs is commitment. 

March 5, 2004



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