The huge debt of Fiji Airways, the bankruptcy of Fiji Sugar Corporation and the slowly sinking ship of the FNPF all mean nothing to this blockhead. So long as Khaiyum tells him it’s all OK he doesn’t give any of it a second thought.
Much time has been wasted in the offices and corridors of Canberra and Wellington and in the High Commission offices in Suva about the response (or lack thereof) of Fiji’s population to the 2006 coup. Diplomats and intelligence personal cannot understand that Bainimarama’s military dictatorship could go on for eight years without even the smallest signs of resistance or even dissent. How is it possible that an entire nation nodded when a man labelled as mad by the US ambassador Dinger declared that henceforth he will be the boss? How can an entire nation, urban professionals, former leaders and everyone else accept to be ruled by two narcissists supported by a small group of thugs? How come that anyone seems to accept that the AG and the PM steal waste amounts of state assets behind a cloak of secrecy, while talking cynically about transparency and accountability? These questions are important in the run up to elections designed to confirm autocratic rule.
The answer lies in the national character of Fijians and its three major philosophical pillars: Kerekere, lamusona and liumuri. The principal of kerekere is the expectation of unearned income, the desire to obtain handouts without investing any effort. From the very beginning Bainimarama played to this aspect of Fiji’s national character. Price controls, reduction of electricity tariffs below supply cost, subsidised bus fares, sewing machines for the peasants, electricity and water supply for villagers etc. With little of no dignity the masses keenly lap up the crumps that are thrown by the rulers who have gorged themselves on state money.
Closely related to the desire for unearned income is the deeply ingrained fear of authority and the general cowardice that is so evident both amongst the general population and their rulers. The legendary cassava patch sprint of Bainimarama in 2000 is as impressive as evidence as the runner done by Mara who had the chance to change the game as commander of Fiji’s largest military unit the 3FIR. In line with lamusona philosophy he decided to run to Tonga. Sure, he made some noise for a couple of days and promised to disclose everything. We are still waiting. Lamusona is perhaps the strongest single characteristic of Fiji’s population, which is quite obviously not prepared to take even the smallest risk in return for some dignity or self-respect. No matter how blatantly the regime abuses power the entire population has cowered down and hopes that somehow, someone from Australia or elsewhere will change things around. When Qarase had the chance to mobilise the population against military dictatorship, he begged Australia for an intervention instead of taken up the fight.
The third pillar is so vividly described by the term liumuri, the desire to backstab when it is save to do so. Liumuri is the safety valve for the pressure that automatically builds in a subservient population prepared to bend over for the rulers on a daily basis. While the average Fijian does normally not have the opportunity to do some serious liumuri, the members of the elite have. Those urban professionals who have lost their jobs and their influence under the Bainimarama regime hold high hopes to get back to the ones that have taken away so much from them. Unfortunately the desire to back stab when it is safe to do, paralyses any possible leadership and prevents the ill feelings of the urban elite to manifest itself. It is tempting to see race as the key to Fiji’s political instability. The large Indian community has remained culturally distinct from the ethnic i-Taukei community. As a result, most institutions are either predominantly i-Taukei or predominantly Indian, creating a divide across Fijian society that is prone to widen in times of political and economic stress. But the reality is more complex. At the community and individual levels, Indo-Fijians and i-Taukei coexist harmoniously. There are historic tensions within the Indian community based on income levels that echo the religious, regional, and caste differences in their country of origin. The desire to backstab a competitor is as strong in the Indian community as amongst the i-Taukei. Tensions within the indigenous Fijian community come not just from historical rivalry of clans and confederacies, but also from the stresses of a communal society that is adjusting to the pressures of a modern economy by trying to backstab competitors and opponents. It is clear that the socio-cultural fabric of our society provides the most attractive environment for military coups and dictatorship. It will be interesting to observe the up-coming elections and the multitude of efforts by the regime to rig its outcome. Will the blatant stealing of the peoples voice build enough pressure and trigger resistance. It is not impossible, but from my point of view it is very unlikely. Kerekere, lamusona and liumuri will prevail.
Lamusona your analysis is spot on! I still remember when Qarase begged the Australian government to send troops to save his sorry arse. I am so fed up with the ubiquitous mendicant mentality of Fijians. The Australian taxpayer is supposed to hand out everything to those scroungers including their pride and dignity. It is true that every people has the government they deserve. And Fiji has a greedy kleptocrat supported by a bunch of moronic thugs.