Madam Speaker,please allow.me to begin by apologising to you and all of the Honourable Members of this House for arriving a little late this morning.
I meant no disrespect to any of you, i apologise.
Next Madam Speaker i wish to join the other Honourable Members in warmly congratulating you on your appointment.. Your qualifications and work experience in the civil service and the region is well known but i also warmly recall other ties including your tenure as senior and supervisor to my mother at the Adi Cakobau School. Congratulations, Madam.
I am indeed honoured and privileged Madam Speaker to have been elected directly and indirectly by many other citizens of the Fiji Islands – and through that election – to be here today to speak to the address by the Head of State, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau who opened this term of Parliament last week.
As this is my maiden speech, i shall stick to the English parliamentary conventions with regard to maiden speeches. Key words for those include moderation and – that they are relatively uncontroversial, often consisting of a general statement of the politician’s beliefs and background rather than a partisan comment on a current topic. I shall do my best and leave the fireworks for later.
Speaking to His Excellency’s address at this time would suit the maiden speech description very well.
Also, maiden speeches begin with personal thank yous.
On that note, i wish to thank all those who voted for me and the party i represent. All of your votes earned these three seats, they are yours and they belong to other citizens as well.
I take this opportunity to also thank the Leader, Executives, Members and Supporters of the National Federation Party for giving me the great honour of being President. Thank you.
I thank my fellow candidates, siblings, cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grand Aunts & Grand Uncles, nieces, nephews and god children who were quite busy promoting my candidature to their friends in their schools and swim clubs and the like.
I thank my relatives in Noikoro, Beqa, Nakorosau, Moala and other parts of Fiji. I also thank my dear long suffering friends. They all know who they are. One or two may be here today. They are very private people, high achievers in their own right and i know they would prefer not to be lowered by association. Thank you all very much.
I will make special mention of my little brother for his efforts in keeping me in check over many years and ensuring that i got some votes at the last elections. Ratu Qoro or Tuks as i would call him – thank you.
Moving forward to His Excellency’s speech – it sounded very good and it said all of the right things about moving forward and ending the coup culture. Two great things that i hope i can make a positive contribution to in this term of parliament.
But as we all know Madam Speaker, words without action are empty things that produce nothing.
I am very interested that His Excellency’s speech produces great, positive things for Fiji. And so i shall make some suggestions as to how that may occur.
We cannot move forward by doing the same old things and worse, doing those same old things to a worse degree.
After the coups of 1987 and 2000, significant portions of the population of this country felt alien and ostracised in this their country of birth to which they and their forebears had made significant contribution.
I was made aware of this and was very sensitive to it from a very young age because my late stepfather Dr. Timoci Bavadra and my late mother, Adi Kuini Teimumu Vuikaba Speed led the political parties that fought hard to stop those acts of alienation and ostracism.
Citizens felt alienated and ostracised like they did not belong and their values and their roots made to feel inferior – something to be hidden away for the sake of avoiding unwanted attention.
I truly believe that those that agreed with the cause and/or action taken in 1987 and 2000 would not have understood the depth of the deprivation of their fellow citizens. Why am i so sure, Madam Speaker?
Although my late stepfather and mother were also leaders in non racial politics – they were nevertheless children and grandchildren of some of the oldest and conservative families in this country having roots in many chiefly houses around Fiji.
Those roots were in our homes, daily and we heard them – daily. Their apprehensions, fears and views. We know what motivated them and what they wanted to guard against. We also know that they were your typical hospitable Fijians. After all, hospitality is the preserve of chiefs first and foremost.
And I know from that experience, that not very many if any of those who supported the cause and/or action in 1987 and 2000 knew of the depth of the hurt and deprivation that they supported.
But it was obvious that they were certainly cocooned by their political beliefs into believing that everything was just fine and there was no need for discussion and/or reform of most things.
Again, i know that those that experienced the feelings of hurt and deprivation from 1987 and 2000 felt and feel it very deeply. It would have hurt them to their very core. Very few strong and unique people can ignore all that and come out of those experiences unfazed in their commitment to the greater good.
Very few indeed, Madam Speaker.
Very many carry that hurt for a very long time if not forever. We are all human, these are very human emotions – some may get over their hurt once they feel justice has been served, others may carry it for life no matter what ‘reparation’ is made.
This is very relevant to where we now find ourselves, again at the crossroads after the last coup. Its impact is best assessed by the favoured term of His Excellency’s government in describing it – a revolution.
I therefore urge His Excellency’s government to take care that it does not continue to alienate and ostracize another significant portion of the population because the end results in this country have been military coups.
I invite His Excellency’s government to look deeper into the maze to see that from their own analysis – about 60% of the Fijian race did not vote for them.
His Excellency’s government should take care not to further alienate or ostracise that number. And if they started doing the right things by that proportion of the population – they may even win their votes too over time.
That would mean that i and others lose votes but that is fine if the greater good is ultimately served.
Into the details, Madam Speaker – the first question then is what acts of the revolution by His Excellency’s government are contributing to this process of alienation and ostracism and then, how can that process be halted for the greater good?
Madam Speaker, many Fijians now know that the entrenched constitutional provisions in the 1997 Constitution with regard to native land does not exist in the 2013 Constitution.
No one needs a degree in constitutional law to work that out. One only needs to read Chapter 13, Group rights of the 1997 Constitution versus Sections 27 and 28 of the 2013 Constitution to see the marked difference.
This factor causes feelings of apprehension, fear, alienation and ostracism viz many indigenous Fijians. They believe that this land is the source of our identity as Fijians separate and apart from all of the beautiful people and races from different lands who have their own unique and rich cultures rooted in other lands.
Removing entrenched constitutional provisions with regard to native land is thus an alienating and ostracising act.
For the first time, native land is subject to the State’s powers of compulsory acquisition. Previously, this power in this country could only be exercised over land that was not native land as alll laws affeting native land had to pass the requirements of the entrenched constitutional provisons. This is no longer the csae.
Madam Speaker, the removal of a symbolic institution like the Bose Levu Vakaturaga is an alienating and ostravising act. Yes, i am one who thought it could have been improved as nothing in this world is perfect.
But to promote peace, harmony and the greater good especially with the 60% i have referred to, dialogue, consultation, compromise and agreement as to reform would have been the much better route.
Again, this name was used for the indigenous race for very, very many years. Our community perceived it, rightly or wrongly, as part of our identity as a race not as a citizen. His Excellency’s government could have spent very little time and resources to show sensitivity on this issue and take all of us together to the promised new Fiji under a common name. There was no need to display arogance and insenaitivity again. It did not help.
There are other factors which alienate other members of our country like the appearance of disrespect to their leaders in this House and elsewhere. I therefore urge His Excellency’s government to be big people. Have big minds and big hearts. Be magnanimous in your electoral victory. Show due respect and decorum to all members of this House whether they are in your party or not. Extend the same to those who voted for them. Do not be punitive. Show courage and leadership to achieve what you say you desire.
Broad Political Dialogue and Agreement
Madam Speaker, this brings me to this last heading of achieving broad political dialogue and agreement. It requires leadership on all sides, dialogue, and agreement,
Our former leader, the Honourable Mr. Justice Jai Ram Reddy and the former Prime Minister Rabuka who began this military coup culture in Fiji achieved this great dialogue and understanding viz the 1997 Constitution.
They managed to achieve the great political statement of unity of our time, the 1997 Constitution.
I have hope that it can be done again. That is why i am here, if i had no hope i wouldnt have participated in the general elections.
On that note Madam Speaker, i urge the leaders of this House to take up the challenge and take the whole country with them to ensure that we understand the past very well, reconcile our misunderstandings and differences and move forward agreeing to disagree on topical issues but in mature agreement on the fundamentals.
On this note i wish to pay personal tribute to my late father Colonel Draunidalo. He would like to have left me with one political advice that he voiced once “All of the flowery socialist principles that your dear mother espouses will come to nought if you do not know the art of war”.. That advice accords with what his wise Uncle also advised me once “Caution my dear, it is better to be the king maker than to be the king”.
I know my father made quite a few kings and queens in his time, past and present. I understand that and am happy to play my part in the back room to help in any way possible for the words of His Excellency to bear fruit for all of Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu. God bless Fiji.