SUVA, Fiji (Oct. 5) – The Fijian nation – and the Fiji Labor Party – have little to gain from a boycott of Reconciliation Week.

Of course the party’s wounds inflicted in 2000 still run deep and will take time to heal – if they ever completely do.

But the healing process has to begin somewhere. And the concept of healing has been understood and acted upon by the people at large while the politicians on both sides have continued to regard it as a political opportunity rather than a healing process.

The FLP has said it won’t take part in Reconciliation Week because it has been orchestrated by the government – which, of course, it has. If the Government hadn’t taken it on, who would have?

But there may be some grounds for the wider criticism that it is a political ploy aimed at producing a "feel good" factor in time for the 2006 elections. For there may well be political mileage for the Government in presenting itself as an agent of reconciliation thus taking the edge off its image (deserved or otherwise) as a one-race coalition.

But even if that were true, surely the FLP gives it further credence by refusing to take part and presenting its own version of reconciliation.

If Reconciliation Week is politically driven, the major party of opposition has conceded that it lacks either the will or the policies to counter the Government’s agenda with something of its own.

A boycott will command a few headlines, but as the week wears on, the FLP will find it increasingly difficult to make its voice heard – and its voice needs to be heard. But it can only fire the boycott cannon once. And the boycott does nothing for a nation that long ago embraced the notion of reconciliation and is now weary of the bickering that accompanies all talk of it at the political level.

The party’s stance sends an unfortunate message. It tells the nation: We were badly hurt and we don’t want to hear any apologies – not now, not ever. It gives the impression of a political group sulking in a corner while the nation goes about the business of getting together again. In fact that is not the Fiji Labor Party’s message. But it is the one that people will understand the boycott to convey. Neither the party nor the nation is well served by this strategy.

October 5, 2004



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