The NFP has trapped Indo-Fijians into a Bottomless Past

Victor Lal

The NFP has trapped Indo-Fijians into a Bottomless Past

By Victor Lal

The great Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore once wrote that, ‘The bond of kingship that prevails within the community not only protects it from wanton cruelty and injustice from inside but is the natural nerve channel through which we directly feel our own race in its entirety. But the stranger from outside can easily be unjust, owing to the fact that he has not to pay for his conduct in his own feeling and be checked by that deeper sensibility which goes directly beyond the miscellany of facts into the heart of living unity. And for the sake of his own benefit and other’s safety he must bring with him his inner light of imagination, so that he may feel truth and not merely know facts’.

 In many respects, the National Federation Party (NFP) was founded in the 1960s to protect Indian interests in Fiji. Some would even argue that it was founded to protect the bourgeoisie and big Indo-Fijian mahajans (businessmen) in the country. Whatever the aims and objectives of the original founding fathers of the NFP, the Indo-Fijian community, like its Fijian counterpart, is heavily fragmented. The lines of cleavage are many. There are divisions into formal political parties; there are ethnic divisions between the descendants of ‘girmitwala’ and khula (free) ‘bombaywallah’. Indo-Fijian politics is further fragmented by immunerable clashes of personality between leading political figures. Inevitably, on each major issue facing the Indo-Fijians a united response is difficult to achieve, even in times of grave Fijian provocation, violence, and political vandalism.

 Moreover, in the current political climate, there is a deep division between Indo-Fijian leaders who comfortably set in front of their TVs eating their favourite chicken curry and roti, and between their rival Indo-Fijian political counterparts who suffered for 56 days at the hands of the pseudo-Fijian nationalist George Speight and his Nazi-like storm troopers, including the mysterious ten Indo-Fijian businessmen and countless others who backed the overthrow of the Peoples Coalition Government of Mahendra Pal Chaudhry.

 In view of this, the NFP’s crude attempt recently to lay the blame on Fiji’s racial, economic and political problems on the shoulders of deposed Prime Minister Chaudhry smacks of cheap, crude, mischievous, and gutter politics.

 The disguised attack, tantamount to calling for the political and even personal ‘assassination’ of Chaudhry at the recent annual NFP convention, is a case in point. The former NFP leader Harish Sharma told the political gathering that the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) was a sinking boat and it would do everything possible to stay afloat. He said the FLP was telling voters that the NFP was behind Speight’s civilian coup. Sharma called on voters to think wisely about whom they wanted as their leaders after the August elections. According to the Fiji Times, Sharma called on sufferers of the political crisis to get rid of such leaders. ‘One man above can destroy a nation. If there’s a man amongst us, we should get rid of him. I won’t name him but I guess all of you know who I am referring to,’ Sharma told supporters at the party’s annual convention in Suva.

 He also said the biggest problem faced by the Indo-Fijian community was the expiry of land leases and that the only way to resolve the issue was through dialogue. ‘If you are going to annoy the landowners, then what hope will leaders have to solve the problems? In their 12 months of leadership, they (FLP) were not able to give any tenant even five days lease.’ Sharma also claimed that after 30 years of independence, the country was still divided into racial compartments and the progress of the nation had been disregarded. The NFP president Joginder Singh spoke on the 1997 Constitution, saying the party was instrumental in providing leadership for the negotiations. ‘We delivered the Constitution and I believe we would have delivered a solution to the land problems to resolve the land problems,’ he said. ‘We will work with Fijian leaders to resolve the land problems after the elections’. He warned politicians to do away with racial politics, saying Fiji was home to all people, regardless of race and religion. Bauan chief and former High Court judge Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, who also spoke at the convention, supported him. Ratu Joni, however, failed to berate his hosts, the NFP leaders, for the state of racial affairs in Fiji. It is they, and their party, of all the Indo-Fijian leaders, who kept the two major races - Fijians and Indo-Fijians-apart since the 1920s.

The Wolves Among the Hawks

 It is surprising that some of the cheerleaders at the NFP convention included Adi Kuin Speed of the FAP, Filipe Bole of the SVT, Tupeni Baba of the New Labour Party, former Cabinet ministers David Pickering and Meli Bogileka, former parliamentarian Ofa Duncan and former senator Dalpat Rathod.

 What a motley gathering to endorse the NFP sermon on multi-racialism at a pre-dominantly Indo-Fijian political party. It was not long ago, in 1999, when Adi Kuini tried to lay claim to the Prime Ministership of Fiji over the head of Chaudhry on the grounds that the FAP was the largest Fijian political party in Parliament. Baba, on the other hand, as he made a failed bid to oust Chaudhry from the FLP leadership, told the world that Fiji was not ready for an Indo-Fijian Prime Minister and that he should lead the nation as an ethnic Taukei to reassure the rent-a-mob Fijians who had helped depose his own Peoples Coalition Government of Fiji. And still going further into the dark and violent recesses of history-1987- Bole played a leading role as a Taukei to help the Father of the Two Coups in Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, to overthrow the Timoci Bavadra-Harish Sharma’s FLP-NFP Coalition Government of Fiji. Rabuka was aided and assisted by the leader of the New Labour Party, Ratu Meli Vesikula, the most ruthless fanatic and fearsome leader of the Taukei Movement, and now a born-again multi-racialist.

 The truth of the matter is the 1997 Constitution, which Chaudhry and others, including the international community, forced Rabuka to promulgate, was designed in such a way to ensure that the SVT-NFP Coalition was returned to power in the 1999 general elections. Rabuka was to continue as Prime Minister and the former NFP leader Jai Ram Reddy, was designated as his Deputy PM. The election result, as we all are aware of and which does not need repeating here, went the other way: to the FLP and its Coalition partners. Now, the NFP leaders who failed to win a single seat in the last Parliament are blaming Chaudhry for all the ills afflicting the nation.  

Sharma toppled as Deputy PM in 1987

Can the former NFP leader Harish Sharma explain to the nation why he was overthrown by the racist pseudo Fijian supremacist Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987 as Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji? Was it because he was the ‘one man who alone was hell-bent on destroying the nation’ in 1987? Is Sharma saying that George Speight and his thugs were absolutely right to overthrow Chaudhry as PM? Why was it that the 1999 Peoples Coalition Government of Chaudhry was overthrown in 365 days, and the 1987 FLP-NFP Government of Sharma was overthrown in only 33 days? Was it because of the presence of Chaudhry as Sharma’s Minister of Finance in 1987? Or was it because Sharma was ‘a danger to Fijian culture, chiefs, land and language’ in Fiji?

 It is time the likes of Sharma and the NFP parliamentarians stopped playing cheap politics with the lives of Indo-Fijians in Fiji? It is time the NFP answered some long-hard questions. It is time for the NFP to explain why after 30 years of independence Fiji is still a divided nation.

 We will try and answer some of the questions. One is the opportunistic politicians in the NFP and the Fijian politicians in other parties. Another reason is that the NFP and the Alliance Party, and later the NFP’s newfound bride Sitiveni Rabuka and the SVT, manipulated race and ethnicity to perpetuate the politics or race and hate in Fiji. The NFP is, broadly speaking a racist Indo-Fijian ethno-centric party, which manipulated Indo-Fijian fears and helplessness to remain on the political scene for over 30 years until the Indo-Fijians woke up from their ‘coolie mentality’ in 1999, and drowned them in the political bathwater. Now, the NFP leaders are once again using religious forum, temples, and holy occasions in the name of multi-racialism to manipulate ethnicity and whip up the politics of fear in the Indo-Fijian community. It is time, therefore, to stop blaming Chaudhry. Its time for the NFP leaders to look into the skeletons in their own political cupboards. It is time the NFP came out of the bridal underpants of the so-called moderate Fijians, some of whom have blood on their hands and racial exclusivity feelings in their hearts.

NFP and Land Problems   

It is absolutely appalling and mischievous to blame Chaudhry and the Peoples Coalition Government for the land problems. The land problem facing the Indo-Fijian community is the result of the politics of the Alliance Party and the NFP ‘ALTA Gangs’ makings. During one the parliamentary sessions in the late 1970s Ratu Mara, then Prime Minister of Fiji made a curt and pertinent remark on the behaviour of the Indo-Fijian leaders. He reminded the House that on the Opposition benches were some of the best legal brains in the country, and if they really wanted to, they could solve the land problem amicably. Instead, what we witnessed was the pathetic infighting among the NFP politicians on the land issue.     

ALTO breaks NFP

In 1976, to allay Indo-Fijian fears, the Alliance government passed the Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act (ALTA), which guaranteed Indo-Fijians 30-year leases, but, unlike the specification of the 1967 ALTO’s three 10-year periods, the 1976 Act specified an uninterrupted 20-year lease, plus 10 years. This Act split the National Federation Party (NFP): a group of NFP parliamentarians including Harish Sharma, defying their colleagues’ demands for 99-year leases, supported the Alliance which, constitutionally, needed 39 votes, including that of the Speaker, to push the Act through Parliament. Mrs Irene Jai Narayan and Karam Ramrakha, along with Messrs Hargovind Lodhia, Isikeli Nadalo, Anirudh Kuver, Sarwan Singh and Captain Atunaisa Maitoga, favoured the Bill. Siddiq Koya and his trusted lieutenants, Messrs Chirag Ali Shah, Apisai Tora, Ujagar Singh, Chandra Pillay, Ram Jati Singh and Edmund March, led the anti-ALTO movement. Koya’s main objection to the Bill was what he sincerely believed to be a dangerous rent-fixing mechanism in it.

 Many Indo-Fijians rightly concluded that the passage of the Bill spelt the end of their fight for long-term security. The opposing faction charged the NFP ‘ALTO Gang’ with selling out the community while the Alliance faced similar charges from the Fijian Nationalist Party (FNP), which claimed that the extension of the leases robbed the Fijians of their land rights. And once again the land issue emerged as a source of conflict. As K.C. Ramrakha put it: ‘No matter what Mrs Jai Narayan would have said on the ALTO, Koya was determined to oppose her and the party broke into two pieces over this Bill. Please do not forget, it was not Karam Ramrakha who broke the party, it was an issue, the ALTO bill.’

‘Blood will Flow’ - Ratu Mara

Similarly, an attack by Ramrakha on the NLTB provoked the then Minister of Fijian Affairs, Ratu William Toganivalu, into stating that the Board would lease no more land to the Indo-Fijians. But it was the then Prime Minister and now President Ratu Mara’s statement on land matters that took the Indo-Fijian community by storm.  On 1 March 1978, while the House of Representatives was debating a government sponsored motion to grant $1,27000 to the NLTB, Ratu Mara warned the country of the Fijians’ response if their land rights were trampled upon. In his statement to the House, claiming that he had been provoked by an Indian MP’s ‘malicious, insulting and provocative statement on the NLTB’, Ratu Mara said: ‘Why do the Fijians feel so emotional when questions of their land is discussed in this House? If people, the citizens of this nation, do not understand the deep emotional feeling of the Fijians, they should know now because if they tread on it and hurt it, blood will flow in this country’.

 Others, notably Sakeasi Butadroka, saw a peaceful and bloodless solution to the land issue: the mass deportation of the people of Indian origin at the expense of the British government. The Indo-Fijians worst enemy was the NFP itself: it had divided the Hindus and Muslims into Dove and Flower Factions in 1977 as the opposing leaders fought for the control of the NFP leadership and its mango tree symbol.

Reddy’s Toilet Remark

In the 1982 general elections, the then leader of the NFP, Jai Ram Reddy, had successfully negotiated with the Western United Front (WUF), led by two western chiefs, Ratu Osea Gavidi and Ratu Napolioni Dawai, to fight the election as NFP-WUF Coalition. Reddy presented the Coalition as Fiji’s ‘first truly multi-racial coalition capable of responding to the wishes of all communities’.

 But the election followed what London’s influential The Financial Times described as ‘a bitter campaign dominated by racial issues and marred by smear tactics’, and a major official inquiry opened in March 1983 into the conduct of the campaign. What was supposed to be a clean 1982 campaign characterized by promises of providing one kind of amenity or another broke all rules of the political game. The personalization and vituperation disrupted the clam of a ‘budding democracy’ and revealed all the political depravity and often-ugly competitiveness characteristic of a plural society in which restraint imposed by traditional values was ignored.    

  The pettiness and character assassination took an ugly turn when Reddy, with uncharacteristic rashness, told a political meeting in Labasa that Ratu Mara would even open a toilet to shake a few more Indian hands to get their votes. The Alliance Party branded Reddy ‘racist’ and claimed that this remark had insulted the Fijian people and the chiefs.

 As a result, a group of villagers, led by a ‘touchy’ chief, demolished a temporary building where Reddy was holding a political meeting. In another incident, a chief banned Coalition candidate’s holding meetings in the Yasawa Islands. He later claimed that all political parties opposing the Alliance Party had been similarly banned.

NFP and Fijian cannibalism

Not to mention the introduction by the NFP-WUF into Fiji the Australian Four Corners Programme which pointed out that the Fijian leaders were descendants of cannibals ‘who ate and clubbed their way to power in these islands centuries ago’, and that ‘the democratic chief of Fiji for the past 12 years is such a descendant: a Ratu, a Chief, and a Knight too, Sir Kamisese Mara’.

 The end result was the hardening of the position of the Great Council of Chiefs attitude towards the Indo-Fijian leaders, and indirectly, towards the Indo-Fijian community. Shortly after the 1982 election results, the GCC began calling for the change to the 1970 Constitution and that Fiji should be led by a Fijian Prime Minister in Fiji. Some Fijian politicians, who set the stage for Rabuka to overthrow the Bavadra-Sharma Coalition Government in 1987, thus manipulated the lingering fear and loathing of the Indo-Fijian leaders to the extreme. Captain Savenaca Draunidalo, Adi Kuni Bavadra Speed’s ex-husband who was recently dismissed for allegedly improper sexual activities in a public place, assisted Rabuka in his illegal act. Ironically, the NFP had alleged in the 1982 elections that Clive Speed (now the husband of Adi Kuini), the former Australian journalist, was ‘churning out election propaganda for the Alliance Party’.

 In the 1987 elections, the Fijian nationalists, in a similar language that they deployed against Chaudhry last year, had claimed that Jai Ram Reddy was the ‘bullet’ and Bavadra, the late husband of Adi Kuini, was a ‘gun’. In other words, and despite the fact that the vast majority of important and sensitive portfolios in the Bavadra-Sharma government was held by ethnic Fijians, the Indo-Fijian leaders were secretly planning to takeover Fiji.

 So, it is time the NFP stopped playing the ‘Speight Card’ in reverse to blame non-NFP leaders for the tragic and sad state of others in Fiji, notably the plight of Indo-Fijian farmers.

The Tale of Two Chiefs and Land Problem

 The district of Ba has an historical anomaly. It has two tui or kings and both are called Tui Ba. One lives in the village of Nailaga and the other in Sorokoba. Rival claimants to the Tui Ba title could not claim outright victory and thus resulted the anomalous co-existence of two tui. The senior line lives in Nailaga and the new line lives in Sorokoba. The historical rivalry between the two lines persists in contemporary power struggles. The Ba district formed a political party, the Party of National Unity (PANU), and became a minor but important partner of the 1999 governing coalition.

 The Tui Ba in Sorokoba (also known as Tui Ba 1 Bulu) was the current patron of PANU and an influential member of the Fiji Labour Party/Fijian Association Party/Party of National Unity (FLP/FAP/PANU) government coalition ousted by rebels in May 2000. He is also a personal friend and supporter of the deposed Prime Minister Chaudhry. The other Tui Ba titleholder in Nailaga is a staunch member of the Soqosoqo Vakavulewa Ni Taukei (SVT), which lost power. The political significance of Ba lies in economics. The district lays in a province, which is the location of some of the largest tracts of agricultural land under sugar, Fiji’s largest export earner. It is also home to a large number of mostly Fiji-Indian (Indo-Fijian) cane farmers. The formation of PANU has had its fair share of internal dissension the cause of which can be explained in terms of the power struggle between the two chiefly lines.

 A major issue fuelling this tension was the loss by political maverick Apisai Tora (PANU’s former General Secretary) at the May elections to a Labour candidate and coalition partner. Tora claimed Chaudhry had reneged on a deal which saw the two coalition partners fielding parallel candidates for the same constituency. Tora’s loss was also related to the different political affiliation of the two leading tui of Ba.

 A major casualty was the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Agreement (ALTA). From June to September this issue sparked bitter debates in the nation’s boardrooms, Parliament and media. Eventually, at PANU’s annual general meeting, Apisai Tora was removed, a move that was endorsed by the two tui, and replaced by cabinet minister Ponipate Lesaivua as party leader. Without their joint agreement, Tora’s removal would have been a slow and costly affair.

 This perceptive analysis of Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano in the recent issue of the Journal of Pacific History, we think, neatly captures the recent and perennial infighting inside the Fijian leadership, and also starkly demonstrates why the Chaudhry government could not solve the issue of leased land to the Indo-Fijians. Most recently, the FLP again alleged that Tora was threatening the Indo-Fijian cane farmers over the expiry of land leases.

 Fiji’s racial and political problems are complex and intricate, and the blame for the racial gulf that divides the nation lies at the doorsteps of the NFP and the Alliance Party, who had for many years been able to attract big Indo-Fijian businessmen and Gujarati merchant votes in successive general elections. The Gujaratis, particularly the big businessmen, flocked to the Alliance in order to protect their financial interests in the country. We must not forget to remind ourselves of the contribution of the Indo-Fijians in the Indian Alliance, including my late father who was for several years the President of the Tailevu North Alliance District Council.      

The Indo-Fijian mahajans, money, and ‘Mother India’

Sadly, some Gujarati businessmen still behave as if they are still living in the Fiji of the 1920s, when they first arrived here, rather than living in the country in the 21st century. Even some of their own kith and kin have called for the public flogging of some who allegedly funded the overthrow of the Chaudhry government. In the eyes of the descendants of Indo-Fijian coolies, the behaviour of some of the Gujarati’s can be characterised as a tale of divided loyalties and shame as our own refugee children had been going hungry in the camps in Girmit Centre in Lautoka.

When the devastating earthquake struck the Indian city of Gujarat on 26 January of this year, it’s after shocks were felt millions of miles away in the remote islands of Fiji. The Gujarati community of Fiji suddenly woke up to share the pain and suffering of their countrymen in ‘Mother India’. It was time for communal solidarity with their kinsmen, both in prayers and monetary contributions. We are not privy to any statistics about how much money was funnelled through the Bank of Baroda, if any, to assist the earthquake victims.

 But what we do know from press reports is that the Interim Government contributed $20,000 towards the rehabilitation and assistance of the victims. The question one needs to ask is whether the money reached its intended beneficiaries. Or was is swallowed by the upper caste Gujaratis and Jains who refused to move in and share even sleeping tents with the Dalits (the so-called Untouchables) in the village of Adhoi.

 Our Gujarati friends, the ‘Gujis’ or Bambaiyas, have every right to be irritated with us, for after all; death and disaster is no respecter of race, class, creed, religion or caste. God’s adversity is man’s opportunity to come together in one grand wheel of humanity. Why are we even bothered to raise the issue in our column?

 The answer is three fold: first, there is an old worn-out saying that ‘charity begins at home’; secondly, the Interim Government sent the money that was our taxpayers money, and thirdly, we are raising the issue because of a small but significant story that appeared in the respectable British newspaper, The Guardian, and which might have escaped the notice of our readers and the authorities, not to mention the bambaiyas of Fiji.

 On Saturday 17 February 2001, the Guardian’s India correspondent, Luke Harding, filed the following story from the town of Adhoi: ‘In a dusty field in the village of Adhoi, white tents flap emptily in the wind. Near by, young boys fly kites, cows graze in the dirt and the sun beats down. In the days after the devastating earthquake that wrecked this part of western India, soldiers arrived and erected the tents as emergency shelter. But the village’s influential upper caste Patel community refused to move in. There was nothing wrong with the tents. The problem was the new neighbours 15 metres away: Adhoi’s Dalits (Untouchables) who had already set up a makeshift camp using old bed sheets and bamboo poles. As the days went by the tents the army had set up remained eerily vacant? Eventually the soldiers took most of them away. Three weeks after the quake ripped across the state of Gujarat, killing at least 30,000, it is clear that in the village at least, shared adversity has done little to break down old prejudices. From lower caste Hindus and poor Muslim families there are mounting accusations that much of the aid that has cascaded into Kutch, the worst affected district, has been withheld from them. In the hours after the tremors reduced Adhoi’s main street to rubble, burying a parade of small girls, villagers worked to retrieve more than 400 dead. But, the poor and their leaders, allege, when the first aid trucks appeared the next day members of the dominant Jain and Patel communities diverted them towards their own people.’

 ‘For the first three days we had nothing to eat,’ a Dalit villager, Pravin Bharward, complained to the Guardian: ‘They told the trucks to avoid us and said we were disease-ridden.’ The Jains started a relief kitchen, but only the upper castes were encouraged to eat, he said. Two days later, a swami (holy man) arrived at Adhoi with three trucks and began a separate camp for the ‘backward’ castes. ‘If it wasn’t for the swami we would have died of hunger,’ Bharward said. Though Adhoi is completely destroyed, the Guardian found that the Gujaratis refuse to live next to the Dalits. The Dalits camp is to the north. Next door are the Kolis, another ‘backward’ caste.

 The Patels and the Jains have set up camp down the road, close to the village’s shattered and pigeon-infested temple. The shepherd caste is somewhere else. Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, who fought against the evils of caste. He gave the Dalits, the name Harijans- The Children of God.’

 Gandhi also played an influential role in the ending of the Indian indentured labour system throughout the British Empire.

 In fact, the last Indian coolie was technically freed on 1 February 1920 in Fiji.

 But three-quarters of a century later his or her descendants are still ‘coolies’ in 21st century Fiji Islands, in part because of the behaviour of the Indo-Fijian businessmen, and the NFP politicians who preached and practised the politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’ since the 1960s.

 It is not surprising, therefore, that ordinary Fijians have been brainwashed into believing that Indo-Fijians commercially own Fiji, and politically have no desire to integrate and make Fiji their home. The vast majority of Indo-Fijians tried to break free from the stereotype by voting for the FLP in the 1999 elections, and what one of the most high-profile Indo-Fijians in the Alliance Party, Dr Ahmed Ali, pointed out in 1973 still holds true in 2001: ‘The prosperity among the Indians is largely in the hands of ‘free’ migrants: the Gujarati merchants who dominate commerce. Among the non-Gujarati Indians, wealth lies in the hands of the few who own large construction firms, monopolize the transport industry or have other large business interests.’

 The Royal Commission on Voting made a similar observation in 1975: ‘The ordinary men, seeing the extent to which shops and other commercial activities are in Indian hands, believe that the economic power of the Indian population as a whole is very great. In fact, it is not so significant when compared with the international companies in Fiji.’

 It is time, therefore, that the NFP woke up to the truth. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, the seeds of Indo-Fijian misery, which now also is affecting the Fijians and other minority groups, is the handiwork of one, and only one man- Sitiveni Rabuka. Instead of bringing him to legal books, the NFP had been strangely, shamelessly, and soundly politically sleeping with the destroyer of the country’s chequered history in multi-racialism, and was willing to be a junior partner if the 1999 elections had been won by the SVT-NFP Coalition.

 As the veteran politician and columnist Sir Vijay Singh once remarked that Sitiveni Rabuka did no favour to the Indo-Fijian community by promulgating the 1997 Constitution of Fiji. He gave back to them what he had stolen in 1987 under the pretext of indigenous rights, and that the likes of Harish Sharma, a devout Hindu of public standing, was a pagan who should be converted to Christianity.

The Ghost of Koya for Sharma

It is worth reminding Harish Sharma of the events of 1986, when he as NFP secretary, along with Shardha Nand, and Navin Patel prepared the ‘Appraisal Report’ on revitalising the NFP. The Report argued that unless the NFP took drastic action the Alliance Party would win the next (1987) general election by a large party. It noted that the needs and demands of voters had changed considerably since independence and questioned whether the NFP had adapted to those changes. Among the recommendations was the change in leadership. Siddiq Koya led the NFP.

 Koya, however, addressed a public meeting in Nasinu. He warned that the NFP would be crushed in the upcoming (1987) election and that the ‘Indian people’ would be ‘finished’ if they failed to unite behind the NFP. Referring to the prospect of the Alliance Party winning enough seats to change the 1970 Constitution, Koya stated that the ‘Alliance people will do legally what Mr Butadroka is trying to do now’ and referred to racist statements made in Parliament by NFP defector to the Alliance- Apisai Tora.

 Koya, as the historian Michael Howard, formerly of USP points out, then launched into a series of personal attacks in which he accused members of the Fiji press and supporters of the newly formed Fiji Labour Party of diving the Indo-Fijian community (‘you are responsible for destroying’) and stated, ‘I am after your blood and I will fight you. You will be without jobs soon’. Some NFP members had to apologise to the reporters for Koya’s outbursts: ‘We did not know what he was going to talk about. If we had known we would have stopped him before he began. But we could not stop him once he had started making a public speech, as it would have led to open conflict between us. But the rest of the new NFP does not feel the same way and do not have the false fears he carries’.

 The following day, the previous Fiji Sun editorial commented: ‘The drumbeat of racial politics is on the march again as Siddiq Koya tries to rally the fragmented National Federation Party. Mr Koya’s reversion to the politics of race is a sign of just how desperate he has become.’ The Sun asked whether the NFP continued to function as a viable opposition party. Harish Sharma as the new NFP leader replaced Siddiq Koya.

 In a telling reminder to the NFP leaders, as Michael Howard (Race, Class and Politics in Fiji) points out, the secretary of the Navua branch of the NFP, Vijay Kumar, reminded: ‘We do not regard Labour as our opponents but as a brother party.’ According to Howard, it was sentiment that was shared by many rank-and-file members of the NFP, but not by party leaders who continued to see Fiji Labour Party as a threat. If anything, Sharma’s recent outbursts at the NFP Convention reveal that after 15 years following Koya’s Nasinu speech, the FLP and Mahendra Chaudhry still remain a threat to the NFP.

 The NFP jumped into the political bed with the FLP as a junior partner in the 1987 elections, and surprisingly, Harish Sharma was appointed Dr Bavadra’s Deputy Prime Minister, the first Indo-Fijian to ever do so in independent Fiji.

 But after 33 days in political office, the Bible-bashing lay preacher, obscure colonel and Fijian saviour-Sitiveni Rabuka-and his bogus, violent, and fanatical defenders of Taukeism overthrew Sharma and his government in the name of indigenous rights.

 For the next twelve years the NFP shamelessly consorted with the political rapist and would have continued to do so if the voters in the 1999 elections by the FLP and Mahendra Chaudhry had not decisively rejected the SVT-NFP Coalition.

NFP and Rebuff to President

The NFP, as we have already shown, is the principal manufacturer of the plight of the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji.

 It is time it owned up to its past sins.

  Its most recent contribution to bad race relations was its rejection of the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo’s apology on behalf of the Fijian community for the pain and suffering that the Indo-Fijians suffered at the hands of George Speight and his thugs.

 Even Chaudhry, the principal victim of Speight’s brutality, had told the nation to move on, for he held no grudge against George Speight. He left the law to take care of the hostage-taker and destroyer of Fiji.

The NFP leaders should stop trying to hold the Indo-Fijians and non-Fijians in the bottomless trapdoor in which they have been past masters before and after Fiji’s independence in 1970.

 We live in the 21st century. 


People's Coalition Government - Fiji Islands
Last update: August 27, 2001