Common in name only

BY PROFESSOR BIMAN PRASAD

NATIONAL FEDERATION PARTY LEADER

On 2nd August 1967 during debate on the Interpretation Bill in the Legislative Council during the 93rd of a total of 96 years of  Fiji’s Colonial rule, there were many references to the interpretation of “Fijian” in  the Interpretation Ordinance.

The Ordinance, while containing interpretation of various laws in Fiji, also defined the various races. Fijian was interpreted as the ethnic description for the indigenous or the original inhabitants of our land. The National Federation Party’s position that all inhabitants of Fiji be called “Fijians” was not well received.

During the debate, this was strongly opposed by  predominantly the indigenous and European Members in the Council with one  Member saying if an “European born in Arabia appeared in Fiji and said he was an Arab”,  he would be suspected of being an imposter.

NFP’s proposal in 1967

During the debate, the then Leader of the Opposition and founder leader of the NFP, Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) strongly advocated “Fijian” to be a common name for all inhabitants of Fiji.

Patel said the indigenous should be known as the “Taukei” saying “they described their language as Taukei with pride. Patel said “Taukei” would be more appropriate as an ethnic description for the indigenous. He said if “Fijian” was used to describe certain inhabitants. It would have a psychological effect on nation building.

However, Patel also acknowledged the difficulty at that time of changing the definition of “Fijian” to include all inhabitants as it was legislated by the United Kingdom Government and only that Government could change it by revising the laws and putting it in the local legislation.

In the end Patel said given the circumstances “it would be better to leave the definition out and let them remain where they are in the hope that later they will be put right”.

Reeves Commission

The Report of the Constitutional Review Commission titled “Towards a United Future” of September 1996, the basis of the formulation of the internationally acclaimed 1997 Constitution to replace the imposed 1990 Constitution, focused comprehensively on National Identity and Shared Goals.

“Fiji Islander”, as the Common Name was recommended, but the Commission said there was no need for the new Constitution to authorise  its use but people must be encouraged to use it to describe themselves.

The Commission noted from the submissions that “Fijian” should be used to describe the indigenous people. “Fiji Islander” was recommended and linked to other recommendations on national identity and shared goals.

It must be noted that the recommendation wasn’t imposed but done so following the widest possible consultations over a year throughout the length and breadth of the country.

2013 Constitution

The 2013 Constitution stipulates “Fijian” as the common name. We believe this is invariably tied to the provision of Common and Equal Citizenry  in the Constitution.

But unlike the 1997 Constitution abrogated by the Bainimarama regime on 10th April 2009 following a Fiji Court of Appeal ruling declaring  both the 5th December 2006 military coup and the regime as illegal and unconstitutional, the 2013 Constitution  was   imposed upon the people of Fiji through a Decree,  similar to the imposition of the 1990 Constitution.

The 2013 Constitution is supposedly based on written submissions received through text messages and emails and visitations of the  regime’s Attorney General on supposed consultations, which never were consultations but enforcement of what a new Constitution would be like.

And this was done following the trashing of the Ghai Commission  Constitutional Review Report, which ironically was commissioned by the regime. Most importantly,  the 2013 Constitution as drafted by the regime in the absence of any submissions from political parties that were restricted from operating as political parties and forced to re-register under the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding, Disclosures)  Decree.

Imposition

A Common Name cannot be imposed. This was also recognised by A D Patel. Patel had strongly advocated for “:Fijian” to be  the common name for all Fiji citizens irrespective of their race, religion or simply, ethnicity. He had also recommended that the indigenous population of Fiji should be known as the “Taukei”.

One must be reminded that “Taukei” became the buzz word in the lead-up to and after the 1987 coups in the form of the Taukei Movement – remnant(s) of which are in the current Fiji First Government in the form of either the Movement’s supporter(s) or leader(s).

Patel was talking in the national interest – of  inculcating the use of  “Fijian” as a common name to build lasting and genuine national unity, harmony and togetherness. Simply, pride and patriotism in being a “Fijian”, whether or not one is the descendant of an indigenous or a migrant race that Fiji its home – and only home.

But Patel did not want a common name imposed upon all the people of Fiji, unlike what the 2013 Constitution has done. In a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, impositions only harden attitudes.

We are sure that “Fijian” would have been unanimously accepted as the common name had it been the subject of wide public consultations, recommendations and enacted by Parliament as the highest court of the land.

NFP’s current position

The NFP’s position of a common name remains unchanged as that of our founder leader A D Patel. Which is “Fijian” as a common name or the nationality of all  citizens and inhabitants of our nation but done so through widest possible consultations and enacted through a People’s Parliament.

But not imposed. Imposition of a common name does not promote common and equal citizenry. Imposition of a common name does not promote or achieve equality, dignity and justice for our ordinary people. Imposition of a common name does not promote meritocracy in recruitment and appointment to positions, particularly in the civil service and our security forces, equal opportunities and a sense of pride and patriotism. We only achieve this as a nation when our 7’s rugby team either wins or loses.

Simply, we are united, not by the imposition of a common name, but by triumphs and tragedies in  the rugby paddock or our national front.

This is the sad, but the unmistakable  reality.

Let’s be all proud FIJIANS – united and marching forward in harmony and unison – NOT  in name only.

“Law of the jungle”

National Federation Party Leader has hit out at the disrespectful arrogance of the national security agencies, the Fiji Police Force and the RFMF, and the manner in which they swooped in to take Bau Chief, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, from his home early this morning.

“This is the height of insolence when public funds are used to intimidate individuals in a traditional customary law setting, with no word all day on what Ratu Epenisa Cakobau has done that justified such thuggery.”

Why has the Fiji Police Force involved itself in what appears to be a civilian matter? What circumstances justified such a dramatic show of brute force?

Will taxpayers be happy with this unnecessary antagonism during the upcoming 2018-2019 Budget announcement only 20 days away, and be comforted that the use of their taxes is justifiable in the national security allocation?

We call on the Minister for Defence to explain this highly unsatisfactory situation with urgency.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

Speech by Professor Biman Prasad, Leader of the National Federation Party at the launch of “A Musical Journey” by Mr. Sattvik Dass

                                                     Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Shri Vishvas Sapkal, High Commissioner of India, Mr Sattvik
Dass, Mrs Shraddha Dass, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to speak and launch Shri Sattvik Dass’s “A
Musical Journey”. Mr. Dass in many ways is a living musical
legend who has inspired mentored and trained so many
musicians in Fiji. Personally, I marvel at his energy, passion
and continued interest in Hindi music. While this book is written
in English for a broader audience and I am glad Mr. Dass chose
to write it in English. The trials and tribulations of writing a
book and especially an autobiography is not an easy one. This
book therefore is going to be of interest to a broader audience
and not just lovers of Hindi music.

The book is summarised very well by Mr. Vijendra Kumar,
former Editor of the Fiji Times. It is appropriate for me to read
that summary.

Sattvik Dass had a burning passion from his earliest childhood
days. In this engrossing book, he tells of his journey in pursuit
of a dream to study and become an accomplished musician.
This magnificent obsession took him to India, the land of his
ancestors, on a scholarship to a famous music academy where
he mastered the intricacies of Indian music and then learnt at
the feet of an eminent guru to play the sitar, an exotic and
most complex instrument to master. His story is one of
ceaseless struggle, of finding love, of losing a love one, of joy
and sorrows and eventual triumph and fulfilment of his
childhood dream.

The book is well presented with both short and interesting
chapters with stories and details full with passion. From the
hills and rivers of Qeleloa and Vuniyasi the author takes a
breath-taking journey detailing carefully chosen experiences in
the chapters that follow. I note that as a young student Mr.
Dass participated in many musicals contests and he proudly
talks about Swami Rudranandji and A.D Patel as judges in one
of the contests. A.D. Patel who later formed the National
Federation Party became its founding leader in 1964. It is
interesting that Mr Dass had a close association with Swami
Rudranandji through music. Swami ji together with A.D. Patel
was at the forefront of the struggle to bring dignity, respect
and justice to mainly Indian sugar cane farmers as well as our
ordinary people. Therefore, Mr Dass is well versed with the
struggles of Mr Patel who was a giant amongst men and most
importantly, the founding leader of the National Federation
Party which is now 55 years old and the oldest political party in
Fiji.

In the ‘land of music’ chapter Mr Dass explains his encounter
with musicians and religious leaders from India. It is very
interesting to note that unlike other British Colonies where
Indian indentured labourers were sent, Fiji was fortunate to
experience and benefit from the arrival of many religious and
language teachers and musicians. This is probably one of the
significant reasons why even today Indian culture, religion and
language are very much alive and kicking. The preservation of
Hindi as a language has given us a diversity of languages which
include I-taukei and English. Unfortunately, for both Hindi and
I-taukei, the 2013 Constitution, section 31 (3) says that
“Conversational and contemporary iTaukei and Fiji Hindi
Languages shall be taught as compulsory subjects in all
primary schools”. I am not sure if this means that in future
formal Hindi and I-taukei teaching will not be a priority in
primary schools. I believe that a non-focus on formal I-taukei
and formal Hindi in primary schools will in the long-term
destroy the ability of students to read and write both I-taukei
and Hindi languages and could lead to language loss.
This constitutional provision in my view is an example of an
overbearing stench from the 2006 military coup, just as the
stench from 3 other coups since May 1987. I see Mr Dass also
recalls the political struggles after 1987 and the work of our
leaders in the restoration of genuine democracy.

The Dass family has directly or indirectly been associated with
politics for more than 50 years. They have been closely
associated with our former leaders. I am pleased to note the
continuation of this legacy by Mr Dass’s nephew, Bala Dass,
who is a stalwart of NFP and the general secretary of Fiji Cane
Growers Association for the last 17 years. In fact, Mr Satvik
Dass has composed many songs on the life and struggles of
our cane farmers and on NFP.

Mr. Sattvik Dass also talks about his Indian roots and how he
was able to explore that. Many years after he did that, today
we still have large numbers of descendants of Girmitya
searching for their roots in India. Off course it is much easier to
do that now.

Writing about one’s life journey is not an easy task. Professor
Subramani who has been acknowledged by the author for
helping him steer the writing of this book, aptly sums of the
struggle faced by Mr. Dass. I quote “So behind the song is
another story: the struggles to write a book. What started as a
simple chronicle of his achievement gradually became a
searching account of how an artiste finds his identity and
vocation. A Musical Journey is a record of what could have
been a grave loss. The journey in the book will surprise and
give courage to those who dare walk a different path”.
Mr Sattvik Dass remains a living legend. Thousands have gone
through him and have made their mark in Hindi music, tabla
and other instruments. I highly commend his book and
recommend “A Musical Journey” by Savttik Dass to not only
those who are interested in music but all those who are
interested in the history of Hindi music in Fiji and indeed the
History of Fiji.

I thank you all.

Response to the Prime Minister ‘s comments against NFP made at the commissioning of the MLC Veivueti

The fact that the Honourable Prime Minister can use a taxpayers funded event to stoop to gutter-level and launch vitriolic attacks at the National Federation Party and its Leader sums up his political morality, character and credibility.

He reads whatever  is given to him by his spin doctors, Qorvis mercernaries led by Australian’s, and American’s who from the safety of their vantage point evade the public ridicule and scorn levelled at their client, while they get paid from the public coffers.

This is sign of desperate despair from a government and its leader to remain in power on the face of rising tide of change. The haphazard implementation of the CARE for Fiji program that has lost its objective of providing rehabilitation for flood victim, is another sign of a government gone berserk.

The Prime Minister may have been a good captain of a navy boat during his career in the Fiji navy, but he is least qualified to be at the helm of the nation. He has been leading  both  a rudderless regime and the Fiji First government since December 2006 with grandiose words that keeps changing when their objectives cannot be achieved.

He has been steering a ship full of fat cats and cronies  resulting in the widening gap between the rich and the poor. And we will be showing evidence of this in Parliament during the Budget session.

Flat-out lies that the PM accuses us of preaching has in fact been the hallmark of the Bainimarama regime and Fiji First government. A clear  example of this has been the re-imposition of VAT on 7 basic food items and prescription medicine by this Government from 1st January 2016 when Fiji First through its 2014 election manifesto promised to keep these items VAT free. This is an example of strangulating our poor and ordinary citizens.

The NFP is a 55 year old political party with unshakeable foundations and is an impregnable principled fortress. All our leaders have and are giants of their time in their ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji.

NFP’s founder leader Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) who said in 1964: “It is easy to be a ranting politician. It is difficult to be a statesman. A statesman has got to  look at the next generation. A politician usually looks to the next election”.

Therefore, the Prime Minister should stick to his policy of election campaign being a battle of ideas instead of mudslinging.

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

June 1, 2018

NFP Leader – Response to PM June 1 2018