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Fiji's chief system debated

After a local academic argued that Fiji's chiefly system holds back the country's democratic progress because it could allow certain people to grab resources for themselves, Luvei Viti: Children of Fiji counters the organization of chiefs binds society together and offers solutions for handling disputes, especially at the village level.

5 comments

  • John,
    This topic is indeed a sensitive one for the Indigenous Fijian & one cannot help but pick out that this academic is performing an act of ‘Racial profiling’. To a point as an academic he is informing the public to shape their views on Traditional Chiefs from within the Melanesian groups, Fiji included. This is dangerous and can incite further unrest in a country thats already so divided due to Fiji being declared a failed state by the rest of the world.

    At this point of difficult times in Fiji, one can comfortably say that it is the Traditional Chiefs that are acting as barrier for their people not to break out into lawlessness & riot. As in one of your postings about ‘Moltov Cocktail bombs’ be made & used, one only need to look at who are the target victims to get an idea who are behind these thugs carrying these act of lawlessness. It certainly not the Traditional Chiefs as if anything they are the ones appeasing their people.

    I will share with you a short blurp of an incident that occurred in a village on one of the islands approx 15 or so years ago. A young Native Fijian man, married with children decided to join his Indian mates for a Saturday night social ‘yaqona’ drink at the Indian men’s house. This was a routine Saturday night event for them as these Indians and their families resided and had an arrangemnt with the Chiefs & people that owned the land they had their dwellings on just outside the villge belt.

    Trouble broke late that night during this social session and because the young Fijian man was on his own with no other Fijian mate, he was was hacked to death by these Indian men. By virtue of God the news reached the village at wee hours of Sunday morning. As a result the whole village came out in full force with spades, machetes, stick etc with the intent to totally wipe out these Inidan men that had killed the young Fijian man who now lay dead on the side of the public road into the village.

    The fury & anger of these dead man’s relatives & the whole village of men. women & children were only appeased at the voice of their Traditional Chief who had been woken up by one of his men to try and pacify the whole village.

    No further bloodshed occurred and the outcome was a peaceful exit of these Indian men and their families out of that village for good. Justice took its course and the men were charged for the murder of this Fijian man.

    Up till today, thE late Traditional Chief has left a legacy as he was able to gain control of his people at such a critical & difficult time. This was one of the worst would be riot in a Fijian village where the Police, Law & order were another 20 miles away on a dusty country road.

    This is a true account as I was a young person at the time it happened and was there in this village.

  • Frank

    As the world’s societies and cultures have grown and evolved throughout the ages, various forms of group leadership models have come and gone as their time passes. Such an evolution is being faced by all the indigenous groups of the South Pacific, not just Fiji.

    As these island members are becoming part of the global population, old forms of governing are becoming ineffective. Old ideas and ways are holding back the members from growing in new directions. True this can be a good factor, however mostly it tends to mire the people in the past.

    There are times to look back and say, \This is where we came from.\ It is good to be proud of your past. In the same light, one must look ahead and say, \This is where we are going.\ Being part of the global community requires changes that go beyond tribal thinking.

    As Europe has done away with (mostly) their Kings, Lords, Earls and such, India and China have done away with their Rajahs and Emperors, so too the South Pacific Islands should look to the future and see their culture evolve to other means and forms of self-governing. A self-governing that looks outside the rigid village system that only accepts the indigenous people. A governing system able to accept other members of the neighbourhood as part of the community. For try as they might, Fiji and the other islands can never go back to their isolated island cultures.

    The past is never the future. Old ways always change with the passage of time. Cultures that grow and survive adapt to new ways and adopt new ideas. Fijians and other village systems are at this crossroad. Which path they follow is their choice. That they choose wisely will determine the growth of their country.

  • Anti-Trust

    It is predicatable for Adi Samanunu to defend the chiefly system, as she is part of this aristocracy.
    Her argurement that chiefs are effectively holding the people back from committing lawless behavior may be right in one regard. It is true that, the control has a double edge, seen in the aftermath of the 2000 coup, where the exact opposite was done by chiefs.

    The irony is think in Adi Samanunu comments as with the blog which this issue was taken. In cyberspace, the realm of technology which is suppose to empower people, here we have traditionalists who won’t even leave their chiefly title aside, and use a generic user name.

    Those who want to keep chiefly system, due so because of cultural excuses that prevent people from moving forward out of this feudal system designed to dumb down their subjects. After all, what is chief without his subjects?

    There is no larger oxymoron, than having chiefs dabble in the political sphere and those who subscribe to that premise, are only fooling themselves.

  • In response to two (2) comments above i.e Frank & Anti- trust

    The world map can be viewed through many lenses one of which is the Indigenous Lense as opposed to the Western lenses or any other for that matter. The world at this point in time is what the expert calls the McWorld v Jihad!! You can deduce for yourself where the problem lies in today’s society before we try and cast the stone too far into what matters to the Indigenous Fijian people.

    Over the years so many land & Indigenous people have suffered the onslaught of Colonisations. It has the good and the ugly sides to it. Colonies are still reeling from the after effects. These nations are now marked in the world’s racial map as the 3rd world or the poorer nations through the lenses of a Western model. Why is it that it has to be always the top -down approach and not ‘bottom up’ for once thus allowing these people who are constantly being oppressed by arrogant views as posted above. These echoes the familiar attitudes of ‘the Brahmins v the Untouchables’. ‘These people are humans and they have a say to their way of life and livelihood. At the very least if all else fails most them especially so in the Pacific , Fiji included, they still have their land to hold on to.

    As noted in the two posts above, the Western Ideology or bureaucracy seem to be used as an escape by many which ultimately seems to dictate the social order. Those who cannot see beyond these perhaps find it too comfortable in their glass houses.

    These idea that we need to move forward is true but not at the pace dictated by technocrats, bureaucracy & the Western world. As Indigenous people we too will move at our pace in our time & not be coerced by forces that are agitated by the slow rate of our development. More and more of our people are getting educated just like everyone else and given time we will be better equiped to take on the challenges of changing time. Meanwhile we do not need to be rush through or be gagged if we want to tell the world about what makes us tick. After all that is why we are debating these sensitive issues in a social forum for the simple reason that we ain’t blind and we need to prove to people that finds our existence irritable to just get on with their lives and leave us to ours to try and work through our issues.

    As the saying goes, “people who live in Glass ‘technocratic’ houses houses shouldn’t throw stones. They should be stoned.”

    Thank God, other peoples right of existence are protected under United Nation Declaration, International Human Rights Commission & UN declaration of indigenous peoples’ rights etc.

    Otherwise if left to the perils of those that cannot look beyond their own little glory glass houses then we might as well bring back what Eichman did during the Holocaust or what actually happened in Ayti before its people revolted against the wannabe land grabbing settlers

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