Saturday, April 14, 2012

Life on the Ground in Fiji

Bula all,

By now most of you would have noticed that my posts have been few and far between over the last few years. Believe me, I wish I could still crank it out like I used to, but it's kinda hard now, because I'm just overwhelmed by what I see happening here, in Fiji.

Forget the floods. Ok, bad choice of words. We all know about the floods, and the damage that has been done repeatedly by these natural disasters. What I would like to bring to your attention are the other things, things that don't get reported in the media, things that, however, point to the steady demise of our nation, as a growing, viable country.

The Justice System

The courts in Fiji are a farce. Cases are not being heard in a system that is independent, a whole raft of our brightest legal minds have been "blacklisted" and cannot practice in Fiji, merely for not being on good terms with the current regime (since when was a lawyer required to pander to the feelings of the government, or anyone other than their client), one cannot take the Government to court (I thought this was why King John signed the Magna Carta), and if your case has anything to do with what the regime has done, forget it. What this results in is crap like this that obviously can't be true...must be that thing about stats being able to say whatever you want it to say. Boo Hoo!!!

Downtown Suva at COB

Downtown Suva at close of business on a weekday is dead. Now if you remember Suva's hustle and bustle from when school finished until when the working crowd got home, that is no longer the case. Think Sunday afternoon, and you'd be closer.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a symptom of what is happening in Fiji. Disposable income is much harder to come by these days, meaning that there's no more money to give the kids to buy bean and the bean carts, to pay for fares, food, school fees etc. The fact that a lot of funding that used to come in as aid before has been stopped too doesn't help.

Life Being a Grind

Life, in general in Fiji, is just such a grind now. A struggle for survival. Pay is not increasing, cost of living is just going up, water, electricity everything just costs way more (and if you're going to say that that is just normal inflation, tell me how the installation costs for 1 water meter can go from FJD$32 to FJD$500 in just one adjustment), school books are way more expensive (especially now the Government doesn't print them cheaper anymore) and school sandals ($110 for a pair of Cebos) don't even get me started!!!

On top of the floods and the rest of it, we, the people of Fiji are just being ground underfoot. We are not living, we are surviving. We are sending ore, ore from Bua no less!!! to China to process. Why couldn't we do that here? When the floods hit in the last 2 weeks, Australia and NZ, the countries the regime loves to hate gave over a million each in assistance, not to the regime but to the Red Cross, to assist with the efforts to get things back to a better state in the flood-hit areas. What has China given? As a fellow grog swiper quipped in a yaqona-inspired moment of lucidity, "China can only give us loans".

Brain Drain

This is happening at an alarming pace. And it's the cream of your people that are leaving. PNG now has a sizable Fijian expat community. A former senior Government official in Fiji choose to head Solomons Islands Civil Service reforms rather than take up a senior diplomatic posting for Fiji. NZ is taking a lot of our professionals expecially in the ICT and finance sectors.

This is not a good sign. The people who we have invested in as a country, as a community, are now spending the most productive years of their lives building some other country, when we sorely need their efforts to rebuild our own. If anything is an indictment on how our trained professionals view their individual futures in Fiji, none is more emphatic than that.

I hope that by this you'll realise that we cannot continue in this vein, not if we want a Fiji worth leaving to our children. We need to stop this. And a lot of foreign Fijians will return home if they see the chance to get a fair go, where rise is on merit, and not because you are an officer or are related to someone in the regime.

I sincerely hope we are better than this.

For Fiji...


Anonymous said...

Vinaka vaka levu for the frank commentary of life in our beloved nation. A soul-searching and mind-bogging story of the reality we have. As one who has decided to cultivate a new life elsewhere from home with my family, I must admit it was heart-breaking to think I would one day make the hard choice of making life for my children elsewhere. As you may realise we all are faced with circumstances beyond our control (i.e. the greed and dillusions of some citizens that fuel Fiji's coup culture)which prompts us to make choices for the sake of our children. I pray that children growing up in Fiji today are thinking globally in their aspirations and in so-doing will work as hard as they can to boost their chances of finding better life for themselves elsewhere if Fiji does not give that to them. In essence, we owe them a good environment where they can explore and exploit their full potential socially and economically but have failed them badly so they really deserve a chance elsewhere if home is no longer desirable to them, and we ought to do our best, whatever that may involve, to enable them meet their goals.

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