Dec 14, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

Winds of change

From colonialism to democracy, coups and a fight for the Earth

I WAS born when Fiji was under colonial rule on January 30th 1961; nine years before Fiji gained her independence from Great Britain. During the years leading up to her independence Fiji experienced an atmosphere of racial mistrust between iTaukei’s and Indo-Fijians.

I recall my childhood days walking in the night either to church or the store and we would jump off the road and hide in the grass at the sound of an on-coming vehicle. At that time Indo-Fijians owned most vehicles.

Our folks told us that IndoFijians would readily use knives to attack people. Despite the racial mistrust and prejudices between the iTaukei and IndoFijians they shared a common historical reality, namely British colonialism. Fiji Independence Day celebrates our nation’s history, hope and commitment. Internationally influential Roman Catholic Biblical scholar Raymond Brown states that God writes on the crooked lines of human history. Theologians now consensually agree that there is only one history of salvation and it takes place in human history. 

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THE statement in the media by the Chief of Staff of the Fiji Military Forces, Colonel Jone Kalouniwai, in September criticising the speech of National Federation Party MP Parmod Nand, has again raised the question of the role of the army in the political and constitutional system of Fiji. This Essay poses the question whether Fiji, is evolving towards the situation of a “controlled democracy” like in Pakistan under an imposed 2013 Constitution. Does recent history answer this?

This question was first raised by Colonel Kalouniwai’s article July 24, 2017 in the Fiji Sun that provided justification for Section 131 (2) of the Constitution: “It shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and wellbeing of Fiji and all Fijians”. This provision did not exist in the 1970 and 1997 Constitutions that were passed by our Parliament. There was a similar provision in the decreed Constitution of 1990 but it was repealed under Section 195 of the 1997 Constitution.

It then resurfaced under the decreed 2013 Constitution. The Pakistan situation is where the military and intelligence services are the actual long-term rulers of the country and usually decide how long an elected government can be tolerated in power?

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Truth and justice

Bishop stands firm on environmental issues

AS the Pacific and global focus turns towards COP 23 and the Oceans Summit, the region continues to face challenges with climate change, extractive industry and development. How much should the region give up in return for development? Are global development models applicable in the Pacific? Those are just some of the questions which challenge leaders, industrialists and the people of the Pacific. In his Easter message, Archbishop of Suva, Reverend Reverend Dr Peter Loy Chong, spoke about the link between God, creation and development.

Peace — Shalom! (May you have fullness of life). Peace is the first word uttered by Jesus to his disciples after he rose from the dead. Jesus greets the disciples who were still traumatised by his humiliating and brutal death. Easter celebrates the most important event of the Christian tradition, namely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the writings of the New Testament have no record of Jesus’ actual rising from the tomb. Instead it only has accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. This means that the disciples’ knowledge and experience of the Risen Jesus was given to them. In other words revelation is a gift from God. Therefore, to understand what happened on that original Easter and to reinterpret its meaning for Fiji today we turn to the disciples’ experiences of the risen Jesus.

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Costly price of conflict

Solomons rises again from the ruins of the past

THE United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include peace-building as part of a changing paradigm of how to achieve “development.” As a set of guiding principles that cover a broad range of issues, it is hard to interpret the SDGs as 17 stand-alone goals; the keys to “sustainable development” are difficult to isolate.

Hence why the SDGs have expanded beyond pure economics. In particular, Goal 16 is “dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” Starting in 1978, the Solomon Islands achieved and sustained peaceful postcolonial independence for two decades. But by late 1998, uneven economic development had aggravated ethnic animosity on Guadalcanal Island. Approximately 1000 firearms were looted from local police armories and between 2000-2003 ethno-tribal conflict escalated into a civil war.

In 1999 economic installations and infrastructure were also targeted, such as Goldridge Mine and Solomon Islands Plantations Limited’s palm-oil plantation. In the ensuing violence, approximately 200 people were killed and 30,000 people were displaced. According to estimates from Amnesty International, at least 100 child soldiers took part in the conflict.

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PACER-Plus

A wedgie in regional geopolitics

from the recently concluded Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, or PACER Plus, raises some interesting questions about the changing geopolitics of the region and whether Australia is adopting a divide-and-rule approach.

PACER Plus was meant to be an opportunity to help Pacific Islands Forum countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration. Its key objectives were to provide long-term opportunity to create jobs, enhance private sector growth, raise standards of living, and boost economic growth in Forum Island Countries. Another element of the agreement was to enhance trade capacity building and trade development assistance to strengthen the Forum Island countries’ ability to trade.

Both, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have, over the years, expressed reservations about some of the objectives of the PACER Plus trade agreement and in particular whether real benefits would accrue for the islanders or for Australia and New Zealand. Following eight years of negotiations, an agreement was reached mid-April between Australia and New Zealand on one side of the table and 12 Pacific Islands Forum countries on the other – minus the region’s two prominent countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea which, together, represent the South Pacific’s largest economies.

Australia’s Trade Minister, Steven Ciobo, dismissed Fiji and Papua New Guinea’s non-inclusion in the final talks saying they had elected not to sign the agreement. Fiji’s Trade Minister Faizal Koya, however, argues that Fiji was in fact “excluded” from the final negotiations.

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