Race politics may be a political embarrassment for Fiji, but it is not worse than the current national quagmire that Frank Bainimarama has got Fiji into, with the National Council for Building A Better Fiji (NCBBF) and the courts are keeping us in.In this life, you cannot get everything you want, and no arrangement is ever going to be perfect. But it is the people who should be able to decide for themselves what priorities they want to have, and which compromises they are willing to make, and what imperfections they are willing to bear. The way they decide those things for themselves is through periodic votes at the ballot box – to vote people in or out.
What the regime and the NCBBF have done though, is to usurp that right by deciding for everyone else that the Bainimarama version of the perils of race politics is worse than any other possibility, and damned be the consequences! As a result, we are all experiencing actual suffering now in order to avoid the hypothetical suffering of race politics that we have somehow been able to put up with anyway, ever since independence.
The reason the regime is prepared to make such extra-ordinary sacrifices (apart from the burning need for self-preservation, that is) is because they have greatly over-hyped the harm of race politics (by equating it interchangeably with coups)! First of all, if that was true then the current coup must have also originated out of race politics, since the two are apparently indistinguishable.
Second of all – the solution to coups is not to destroy everything else today, in order to avoid any hint of what may or may not happen tomorrow. Political dissatisfaction is a fact of life. In fact the only way things change in politics is because of dissatisfaction. So in the world of politics, no dissatisfaction today, no progress tomorrow! But the attitude behind the Charter is so bizarre and manipulative that it is approaching a philosophy of trying to control even peoples’ thought lives.
Even the most basic conception of democracy and democratic principles should have tossed that attitude out from the start. Nothing is so bad that it requires that level of interference and intervention! As I mentioned before, it is possible to influence peoples’ thoughts with ideas, or to inspire them with a noble life. But if you lack those, please don’t resort to political victimization, or perish the thought, secret police intimidation.
The very fact that the NCBBF is so increasingly resorting to manipulation and cheating should be setting off the alarm bells of illegitimacy. These are bordering on attempts to control the thought life of the people! And that is something they should be rejecting outright by definition, if they understood one of democracy’s most fundamental precepts that government is about finding out and delivering what the people want – not telling them what they must think and want!
The regime is avoiding this obligation by constantly harping on about how everyone else doesn’t understand the unique situation in Fiji, or that we are blinded by race politics. It is like the regime is saying “We’ll listen to you if you agree with us, but if you don’t, we’ll keep going through with these Charter ‘consultations’ until you do!”
No legitimate government should ever fear the verdict of the people. You may still disagree with them. But you must respect it if they don’t agree with you! Sooner or later the Regime is going to have to face up to the fact that in the end, the people will make their own minds up on all this. And when they do, they will not be using the regime’s criteria for making a judgment – they will be using their own, based on what they’ve seen and heard in their own lives! No amount of sincerity or effort or good intentions by the regime will change this fundamental fact.
In the end, democracy is about what the people think and that is what the leaders think! But what if the people are wrong? Well, what of it? They will see and decide that for themselves at the next elections! Or even before it through the media, or lobbying parliamentarians, or strikes or street protests! Their judgment may not be perfect, but it’s the best we have. And it is far better than a bunch of over-rated under-achievers in a no-account council beholden only to undemocratic leadership still suffering delusions of grandeur, tilting at windmills, and obsessed with the vanquished demons of 2000!
So I repeat, the solution to coups is not trying to remove any trace of dissatisfaction or discourse that could be interpreted as racial.
The solution is the same simple one practiced in every other nation on earth. Namely, if someone does commit treason, the army and police must oppose that traitor, and ensure he faces the consequences of his actions in a competent court. Another simple fact of life that is devoid of any mystery or grey areas. Why then is this so hard for the regime and the NCBBF to understand?
Finally, the last reason why the regime and the NCBBF have blown the perils of race politics out of all proportion, is because that’s exactly how bad it is in their own minds. And the reason for that is because, like all bad generals, they are still fighting the last war. Their minds are still stuck back in 2000 fighting George Speight.
They were so traumatised by the ugliness of 2000, that they still see it everywhere, without realising that Speight and most everyone else involved in that misadventure are reformed people today, and have long since acknowledged and admitted their errors.
The 2000 coup was wrong, and should never have happened for any reason. But the regime’s obsession with it, and with fighting the ghosts from that past, has led to the whole nation being turned upside down because they lack the equilibrium and perspective to see what is really going on in our nation, or to tell the plain difference between 2000, and the years that followed.