A public forum presentation on “Empowering Women: Dismantling Boxes”

The  ACS  gang  and  my  gang :  A Need  for  PNGPs (Principled Non-Gang Persons)

As presented by Professor Wadan Narsey

“For a number of reasons, I was reluctant to speak at your forum.  But I thought a bit more about the request from Dr Sereana Kubuabola where she stated (and I quote).

    “The last 18 months period has been a very challenging time for our members some of whom have been directly impacted through loss of employment, loss of family incomes, and a sense of being lost in Fiji.”

The “sense of being lost in Fiji”, struck a chord, interestingly, as it could also be used to describe the state of mind of many Indo-Fijians who have opposed the 2006 coup. Sereana went on  to say that while the ACSOG would like to become involved in the development of the nation, their good intentions had been overtaken, and I quote again, “by the lack of self confidence and proficiency”.  That I quite disagree with.

No one really knowing the persons and professional lives of Amelia Rokotuivuna, Suliana Siwatibau, Taufa Vakatale, Susanna Tuisawau, Dr Esther Williams, Dr Eci Kikau or Markareta Waqavonovono would ever conclude that ACS Old Girls lacked confidence or proficiency. Indeed, looking around, I am asking myself, is USP being controlled by ACS Old Girls mafia (except for a few blokes here and there)?

But, given the huge depth of talent they clearly have, why on earth should ACS Old Girls feel discouraged from “becoming involved” in national decision-making?  Why on earth should they have any sense of being “lost in Fiji”?

Your theme “Empowerment of women: dismantling boxes” is appropriate.  But what we do need to question is that very ambivalent concept of “silence” – supposedly an intrinsic part of  Fijian “culture”, and further, its gender dimension.

We could also usefully examine the interesting phenomenon of  “male gangs” which never feel lost and which very overtly have always seemed to empower Fiji’s men-folk.

I will begin my personal and somewhat bitter-sweet experience of “gangs” I have known over the last three decades, and how differently affected they were by the coups of 1987 and 2006.

The 70s Radical Gang

My first real gang developed in 1973 when I got involved in a project organised by the USP Student  Christian Movement, to document the dominant control of Fiji by foreign mainly Australian capital.  We produced a booklet called Fiji a Developing Australian Colony. and spoke on it throughout Australia and in Fiji with unions and other NGOs. That gang was seen by Ratu Mara and his ministerial colleagues as dangerous and possibly communist.  Who else was in that intrepid gang?

A leading light was your great ACS alumni, the late Amelia Rokotuivuna, then the Director of the YWCA.   While others in that gang have dropped out of sight, some are very very visible today: Rev Akuila Yabaki,  Jone Dakuvula,  and John Samy.

Three decades later, these three are in a totally different gang from me.  You can guess which gang Amelia would have been in, had she been alive today. But one lesson I have certainly learnt, if you stick to your principles, your gangs will have a habit of changing- you are an “insider” today, Albert Camus’ “outsider” tomorrow. One effect of the 1987 coup was that it pretty well broke up that gang.

A QVSOB coup in 1987?

Soon after the 1987 coups, I was joking with a very prominent QVSOB civil servant (married to a sadly now-deceased ACS Old Girl) “You QVS Old Boys are behind all these coups”. I was only half-joking.  Because there were QVS Old Boys springing into high places all over the place, even civil servants suddenly appearing in uniforms.

But my friend growled back “What about your Marist gang that has controlled Fiji for the last twenty years, with the help of Ratu Mara?” Well, I had never thought about that.    Was there really a Marist gang in the 70s?

A Marist gang?

In hind-sight, I could see that in the 70s there were an unusually high number of Marist Old Boys in high places- in Government, in statutory organisations, and semi-private sector companies like Air Pacific. No doubt partly because the first Prime Minister of Fiji, Ratu Mara, was a Marist Old Boy and a Catholic.

No doubt also, in those years there would have been many capable Old Boys and Old Girls from QVS, RKS, Natabua, Xavier, Labasa College, MGM who were turned away from jobs they deserved, because some Marist Old Boys were favoured. But I also know that many Marist Old Boys coming from poor, uneducated, unimportant non-Catholic families received no advantage as “Marist Old Boys”.

For me, the myth of a “Marist Old Boy solidarity” was sadly exposed after the 1987 coup. Those who opposed the 1987 coup were seen as enemies by those in power, then including not just Rabuka and the army, but also Ratu Mara and his ministers, some also Marist Old Boys. I also felt a great sense of alienation then, when many Marist Old Boy friends (through cricket, soccer, or squash, or even teaching colleagues) would cross the street, rather than be seen talking to me.

A few part-Fijian Marist Old Boys changed their ethnic identification, as it became useful to be a Fijian, and not a kailoma or a part-Chinese. Many ensured that their part-Fijian children were registered in the VKB, while a certain Savenaca Siwatibau, the great Fijian icon (and a QVS Old Boy), was facing expulsion from the VKB, on suspicion that he had Indian or kailoma blood.

For me, the supposedly multi-racial glue of Marist Old Boys disappeared into thin air, when challenged by the racism and politics of the 1987 coups and its aftermath.

And a Marist Catholic coup in 2006?

In 1987 and 2000, the Methodist Church faced a lot of public criticisms – no doubt because of the very visible involvement of the Methodist Church hierarchy. But in the last two years, the blog-sites have been alleging that the 2006 coup is a Catholic “Marist Old Boys” coup.

Perhaps because the Commodore, some Interim Ministers, and new board appointees are Catholics.  Perhaps more so because the Head of the Catholic Church and some of his priests have taken a very prominent role in publicly justifying the NCBBF, the Charter, and the alleged need for electoral reform- all of which are coup-related initiatives.

But while easy, it would be factually quite wrong to conclude that the 2006 coup is a Catholic Marist coup, or that the 2000 and 1987 coups were Methodist or QVSOB coups. While it is very human to label any group doing something together, as a “gang”, gangs are often not what they appear to be.

The truth is that all the coups have been supported by mixtures of all kinds of people drawn from different religions or Old Boys networks.

The 1987 coup may not have succeeded if Ratu Mara and other Ministers of his (some Catholic) had not supported it.

The 2006 coup would not have survived to this day without the support also of the Fiji Labour Party and the Hindu organisations, like the Arya Samaj.

Equally, we can also say that coups have also been opposed by people drawn from different religions and Old Boy or Old Girl networks. And whenever individuals oppose a coup that their normal “gang” supports, there naturally arises the feeling of “alienation”.

Why alienation?

When Amelia publicly opposed the 1987 coup, she also went against her chiefs, the hierarchy in her religion, her community, numerous of her friends, and even many members of her family.  She was physically traumatised.  In 1987, your famous ACS alumni may also have felt a sense of being “lost in Fiji”.

But the hall-mark of a great individual is the strength of moral conviction to say “let us stay on this track, let us not give in to political expediency”, when everybody else is saying “let us go off the track”.

After this 2006 coup, there are many Indo-Fijians also feeling “lost in Fiji”.  They face a cold shoulder from the majority of Indo-Fijians and their leaders, and indeed other former friends of all races, who actively support the 2006 coup.

But today, I take comfort that I do have an invisible college which opposes the 2006 coup.  You can call it an “intellectual  gang”, because it hardly ever gets together socially. And this “intellectual gang” is drawn from all religions, ethnic groups, professions, and rankings in life. It contains Old Boys and Old Girls  from Labasa College, St Josephs, QVS, RKS, Ratu Sukuna, ACS, Grammar, and yes,  still the odd one from Marist.

I do not “feel lost in Fiji”. So why would some ACS Old Girls feel “lost in Fiji”?

Culture of Silence or Cunning?

I suspect that there are two inter-related reasons- one because the ACS Old Girls are largely indigenous Fijian, and second, that they are females. I am sure that there is no consensus amongst  ACS Old Girls on the 2006 coup.  Nor should there be one.

But what should be of concern to the ACSOG Association is that while the majority of the Fijian community oppose the 2006 coup (for whatever reason), there are so few ACS Old Girls who publicly stand up for the principles of constitutional law and order.

It was so much harder for Amelia when she opposed all the powerful people in her community, including her friends.

This “silence” from your Fijian elite is often defended by anthropologists, often with implicit sympathy,  as an element of   Fijian “culture”.

But there are critical sociologists and observers, who point to other very Machiavellian reasons for this “culture of silence”:  prominent would be elements of convenience, cunning (euphemistically called “strategizing”) , and perhaps even cowardice.

Do the Fijian rank and file remain confused and “feel lost in Fiji”, because the Fijian elite are strategically staying silent , not taking a public position on a controversial issue in case they are punished, just waiting to see which side wins, perhaps before joining the band-wagon? Historically, such cunning behaviour was associated with male Fijian leaders .  Read Derrick’s history of pre-Cession Fiji- it also explains a lot about today’s Fijian politics.

At the QVS Old Boys Forum last year, in the aftermath of the suspension of the GCC by the Commodore, I listed ten criteria by which the chiefly system could be judged. The Fiji Times published a full article- “A Wake-up Call for the Chiefs”. No Fijian leader publicly responded.  Ironically, the only response was from the Commodore’s Task Force who asked me to help in their Review of the GCC.

A good question for ACS Old Girls to ask: are the Commodore and his military personnel so dominant today in public life, only because of the huge leadership vacuum left by those who should be Fijian leaders and are not? Today, we also have to ask these questions of female Fijian leaders, including the elite from ACS Old Girls, who no doubt suffer from an additional burden.

The gender burden

While QVS Old Boys or the Marist Old Boys have been readily accused of coups, why has the ACS Old Girls not shared in this dubious honour?

Well, firstly, ACS Old Girls have had to marry Old Boys of other schools- in the early years mostly the dominant men from QVS, RKS, Ratu Sukuna, and Lelean.  Within their households, their husbands views, and the “male gang” views, would usually prevail.  The ACS Old Girls are merely “servers of other agenda”.

Secondly, ACS Old Girls within the Fijian community, regardless of their education or professional seniority are simply not allowed equality in decision-making alongside males.  It does not matter whether they are Education Ministers or USP Vice Chancellors.

Not surprisingly, ACS Old Girls have probably never explored their potential to be a “political gang”  having an impact on national politics or development debates, or doing coups. But, surely that is a good thing.

The challenge today

As in 1987 and 2000, today there are ACS Old Girls who actively support the 2006 coup. Just as there are those who vehemently oppose it.  Perhaps the relative numbers have changed over time. The real challenge for ACSOG as an organisation is to encourage your Old Girls potential leaders to come out of their “culture of silence” and to assert their views- whatever they are.

I am sure that part of the reason why many ACS Old Girls feel “lost in Fiji” is the failure of the ACSOG elites to be “intellectual beacons”, of whatever colour and whichever direction, in the way that Amelia was.

ACS Old Girls should not be asking “how did ACS produce someone like Amelia”.  They should be asking “why are there so few Amelias?”.

ACS Old Girls need to not just exercise their full political rights as equal citizens and voters in this country alongside the males, but to also provide political leadership, to “stand up and be counted” on critical issues. They do not need to dwell on how special they are as “ACS Old Girls”.

They need to express their solidarity, on shared principles and beliefs, with the Old Boys and Old Girls of any other school, not as a united ACS Old Girls “gang”, but as PNGPs- Principled Non-Gang Persons.

That is what would lead to sustainable empowerment of women, bringing them out of their “boxes”, for the good of Fiji”.

Well put Professor Narsey!

19 Responses to “A public forum presentation on “Empowering Women: Dismantling Boxes””

  1. Isalei Says:

    Agree with Wadan Narsey, the vacuum is there to be filled, no one gonna do it for you, you gotta do it yourself. Stand up and be counted. Don’t be like that guy who swam a pool full of sharks. No one wanted to take up the challenge, until “splash” wow, who’s this brave guy swimming accross as fast as his legs and hands could propel him to the other side. Once there, and first Q asked: What were you thinking as you were swimming across? Ans: To kill the bastard that pushed me into the water.” Feel sorry for the ACS crowd if they are feeling lost in Fiji. E warai Buna, e da tucake, vosa, cakava! Na empowerment cava tale se waraki tiko? Sa rauta mada na socialise time to politicise!

  2. Katalina Balawanilotu Says:

    Yes
    Well said indeed Mr Wadan.
    F/T editorial today speaks tot he same — tekivu mai vale — and both Fijian and Indian communities not to mention its accompanying cartoon.

  3. Striker Says:

    And yet, some shining lights have since faded for good; Taufa Vakatale for example, have in her old age joined the coupsters. What are the driving forces; dementia, revenge (against the democratic processes that deposed her), personal gain or what?

  4. Jon Jon Says:

    NZ Immigration kicks Rupeni’s Nacewa’s son out
    13/11/2008
    A New Zealand university has allowed the son of the Fiji President’s private secretary to sit his exams in Suva after he was sent home last month.

    George Nacewa, the son of Rupeni Nacewa, was into his third year at Massey University when the New Zealand Immigration Department denied renewal of his student visa, forcing him to return home.

    Fairfax Media reports the reason given was that his father was on the “Fiji Banned List”.

    The “Banned List’, part of New Zealand’s sanctions on Fiji, bars all current members of the Fijian interim Government, military and police service and their immediate families from travelling to or getting visas to New Zealand.

    “The list is wrong. It’s supposed to only include permanent secretaries and my dad isn’t one; he’s just a normal secretary, he’s a civil servant,” Nacewa said.

    Massey University has allowed him to sit his exams with extramural students at the University of the South Pacific this week.

    Nacewa Junior says unless his father presents his case before the Fiji High Court and applies to have his name removed from the list he can’t return to complete his final semester of study.

    “It makes me really sad that my dad either has to quit his job so I can have a better education in New Zealand, or we wait for an election here,” he said.

    “It’s my home but there’s no future for me in Fiji the way it is.”

    Sitting his final exam this week, Nacewa says he is going to try his best even though he missed three weeks of lectures because he had to leave so suddenly.

  5. Jese Waqalekaleka Says:

    Well as an ex-Marist,

    I am in the same gang with Dr. Narsey.

    I know for a fact, other ex Marists like suspended Chief Justice Dan Fatiaki, Colonel Meli Saubulinayau & Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka are in the same gang as well and countless many others including our very own ‘Duana.’

    Vinaka Red Fire, keep the fire burning to fume out those in the other ‘gang members’ including disgraced ex Marist students like the bastard Vore and Steve Ratuva.

  6. Striker Says:

    The sins of the fathers are visited on their children. Very sad!

  7. Jese Waqalekaleka Says:

    BTW,

    Nacewa Junior is sadly mistaken about his dad. It is one thing for children to look up to their parent’s, but his dad is far from being ‘a normal secretary.’

    If anything, he is an abnormal one who feeds the world with drips and drabs on the excellent health of incompetent President Iloilo.

    Rupeni Nacewa is a fraudster and I am happy the NZ Immigration Department has seen through the bullshit he has been up to.

    I know it may seen unfair to the young Nacewa, but the lesson he will draw from this experience is that children are held accountable and face disastrous consequences because of the ‘sins’ of their parents.

    I only hope that when he grows up and has his own family, that he learn from this experience and remain steadfast to the rule of law, so his own children don’t suffer the same fate.

  8. Isalei Says:

    Wise words from all of the above, and whatever ex* we all are, much will depend on the principles set from the first school, the home. The school may only add on but the core values from home remains. This is what makes the difference when everyone is sitting down, these stand up, when everyone is standing, such stand out!

  9. Katalina Balawanilotu Says:

    Wadan Narsey just one small addition if I may🙂

    (Sorry I was rushing to check out SV website it is awesome guys! well worth the wait I must say)

    Anyway back to the topic :

    The late Turaga (Rt Mara) was also an Old Boy of QVS

  10. LUVfiji Says:

    Indeed @Isalei.. well said! Each one’s upbringing makes the person; education is added value.

    Nonetheless, another great article by Wadan Narsey.

  11. LUVfiji Says:

    THANK YOU NEW ZEALAND.. God Bless the land of Aotearoa!

    “Its my home but there is no future for me in Fiji the way it is” so says this self-serving sonnova-b. Try and say that to yr father. There is no future for anyone, in case you hadnt noticed! This chap is studying at Massey but has the wrong idea about his father’s job, saying he is not a PS – whats the difference, pisshead?

  12. soro Says:

    Well done NZ and John Key … I have emailed John Key when he was elected giving him my family’s view on whats going on in Fiji and why he shouldnt slack off the pressure that Aunty Helen Kluk first put on this regime ….. so please do the same peeps .

    John Key – Prime Minsiter Elect of NZ email is : john.key@national.org.nz

  13. Katalina Balawanilotu Says:

    Well WN if they do as you suggest then Fiji’s future generations have a fighting chance. Someone and some people have to bite the bullet and fight the good fight for what is right. We should stop all the playing it safe attitude. It is lame. Always waiting around for someone else to take care of things, singing the same old tune “oh why me? don’t want to be inconvenienced, someone else will do it for us, no need to lift a finger and risk pointed at”, on and on the litany of excuses piles. It is this mentality that breeds our coup culture SINCE the bullies count on us engaging those thought processes — IT IS OXYGEN that keeps their agendas alive.

    I am sick of it and sick of the troublemakers. Speak up, stand up and push them back.

  14. Kingrat Says:

    we need to be careful how we use the word “Marist”. If misinterpreted then whoever has misinterpreted its meaning does not know its history.

  15. Isalei Says:

    @Kingrat, so enlighten us with the meaning! Is it pronounced “Maoist?”

  16. Kingrat Says:

    Isalei
    it is not worth it explaining it in this blogsite. wake up man, the core bussiness of this site is to share on the fucken regime that is taking us down the drain drau fire kei Vore

  17. Isalei Says:

    @Kingrat, sobosobo, pardon me why so righteously warn to “be careful how we use the word as it can be misinterpreted,” if you are not prepared to satisfy ignorant people like me? Tch, tch, vavei mo vamacala la mai? Drau vini yani kei vore!!!

  18. Kingrat Says:

    kaila Islaei!!! Vore the bastard

  19. CharlesFosts Says:

    I hope no one tells anyone about this outside this forum–but the best way to find jobs is to investigate jobs on employer websites. This is where most of the jobs are and I found this far more effective than other means.

    I started using a research jobs site called Hound that I do not think anyone knows about because it is run by a small company that does not advertise. I

    All Hound.com does is show you unadvertised job openings that are not publicly advertised and are located on employer websites.

    Very few people realize that most employers post their job on their own sites and not on job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. because these sites charge employers up to $500 to post a single job. In my experience (I am getting more interviews that I ever have), your chances of getting interviews and hired are much better when you are applying to jobs that are not advertised that no one knows about.

    I have gotten a ton of interviews through the Hound site . If you are looking for a job I would highly recommend using Hound . What most people do not realize is that most jobs are found on employer websites and not job boards. Hound puts all of the jobs it finds from employer websiste (every Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and other company it can locate) on its site.

    I hope no one tells anyone about this outside this forum–but the best way to find jobs is to investigate jobs on employer websites. This is where most of the jobs are and I found this far more effective than other means.

    I started using a research jobs site called Hound that I do not think anyone knows about because it is run by a small company that does not advertise. I

    All Hound.com does is show you unadvertised job openings that are not publicly advertised and are located on employer websites.

    Very few people realize that most employers post their job on their own sites and not on job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. because these sites charge employers up to $500 to post a single job. In my experience (I am getting more interviews that I ever have), your chances of getting interviews and hired are much better when you are applying to jobs that are not advertised that no one knows about.

    I have gotten a ton of interviews through the Hound site (http://www.Hound.com) . If you are looking for a job I would highly recommend using Hound . What most people do not realize is that most jobs are found on employer websites and not job boards. Hound puts all of the jobs it finds from employer websiste (every Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and other company it can locate) on its site.

    When you start seeing sites advertise themselves a lot that should be a warning sign of sorts because that means that lots of people will start going and applying to the jobs. I really trust Hound because it does not advertise.

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