Elections galore !

bainimirama

Frank Bainimarama

By Karam Ramrakha

While India has remained steadfast in ‘clean’ elections, what intrigues us are the promised September elections in Fiji. For eight years, Military commander Frank Bainimarama has ruled Fiji with a hand-picked Cabinet without elections. As promised he has renounced his military position, and will now form a political party and offer himself to the people in the hope that he can garner enough support to become Prime Minister. with political parties having to begin from scratch, Frank has upper hand and I predict he will win a majority come September…

There is today a worldwide belief in democracy symbolised by the power of One Man, One Vote, One Value – the  old Latin tag: VoxPopuli, Vox Dei. But with the results we are getting I doubt that the Voice of the People is always the Voice of God. The world today, especially Australia, is awash in elections. We had two in South Australia and Tasmania, not to forget the Senate elections re-run in Western Australia.

What intrigue us also are the promised September elections in Fiji, my birth country, and the looming May general elections in India, my Soul Country. Since 6 December 2006 Military Commander Vorege (Frank) Bainimarama has ruled Fiji with a hand-picked Cabinet without elections. That’s almost eight years. As promised he has renounced his military position, and will now form a political party and offer himself to the people in the hope that he can garner enough support to become Prime Minister. While Frank has stifled dissent, severely censored newspapers, with some dissidents subjected to excesses, his “rule” has been largely accepted by the people, especially the Indians.

In eight years Frank’s most memorable achievement has been free education at all levels possibly a world first. He has shrewdly brought in infra-structure. But his most memorable achievements has been end of racial discrimination, giving the people of Fiji a common name “Fijian” and ending racial electorates.

Absence of Parliament did not seem to worry most Fijians. The Indians as a whole welcomed Frank’s rule. But his most severe test will be the indigenes or i-taukei as they are now called. What of them. The deposed Prime Minister Lasenia Qarase wanted to vest all land and sea in the hands of the indigenes. Frank bravely opposed that as one of the reasons why he seized power.

Whatever you may think of the size of Fiji, it is a small but powerful country, with rich soil and resources and can become an agricultural powerhouse in production of rice, sugar, vegetables and other crops. After 1987, Rabuka’s indigenes refused to renew sugar cane leases, forcing the Indian farmers to flee to urban areas and now live in ghettoes. Frank is working hard on land reform: land lying idle helps neither the owner nor the lessee farmer. But many Indians do not want to return to the hard grind of sugar farming, especially the arduous and long hours of harvesting the cane.

The current constitution maintains racial electoral rolls but with Fiji as one constituency returning 25 members elected by Fiji as a whole; 23 registered as Fijians; 19 registered as Indians; three registered as General and finally one registered as Rotuman. Frank has some six months to form his political party and campaign.

The crucial question is how will the average Fijian view Frank. Will he be seen as the one undermining what they call their Vanua (i-taukei) which embraces their land rights, their culture and traditions. Will two bold moves by Frank abolishing the “Great Council of Chiefs”, a British creation, and marginalising the Methodist Church and outlawing and preventing its Conference, so loved by the Fijians, rebound against Frank.

The simple answer is that Chiefs and Church may well have become irrelevant in average i-taukei eyes. Already, Frank is coming out of the cold, with our own Julie Bishop rushing to embrace him with a gift of her team shirt. Yes, with political parties having to begin from scratch, Frank has the upper hand and I predict he will win a majority in September.

To turn to Bharat that is India which Churchill scoffed was mere “geography” but hardly a nation. Apart from Mrs Indira Gandhi’s hiccup in 1975, India has remained steadfast in “clean” elections.

That land has been notorious for divisions and dissent. Indeed, when the British left India, it left a legacy of 569 kingdoms left to decide which country they will join. Mahatma Gandhi said that no one ever conquered India but ruled by bullying one faction against the other. How true. So India teems with divisions of caste, class, region and religion.

It is customary for us to think that since the Moslem/Mongol (or Moghul) invasions of India it was Hindu vs Moslem. Far from it, if you study the history of that period it was largely Moslem v Moslem, often with Indian partnership on both sides. The recent creation of Telegana demonstrates how divided India can be.

What are the forces at work and how many so called ‘Barsati Mendak’ (those who frequently change, opportunistic) have emerged. The Old Congress which after independence held almost universal sway is gone and its successor (or remnant) led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul is in dire straits. There is the Bofors scandal and allegations that Sonia-jee has a hoard of billions in overseas banks. Rahul struggles bravely to offer himself as Prime Minister.

Two elections ago Atal Behari Vapayee’s Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) tried to sell its economic advances as “India Shining” but Sonia-jee, despite her faltering Hindi, gazumped BJP. Today the BJP has another leader Narendra Modi who has brought about an economic miracle in Gujarat. Modi enjoys a world- wide Hindu putsch led by veteran Dr Subrahmaniam Swamy, and core Indians of New York who support a uniform civil code.

Modi is widely tipped to become Prime Minister. There is also a new contender Kejriwal who has formed Aam Aadmi Party and has routed Congress and captured the constituency of Delhi.

The Indian voter can be volatile, distrustful and unpredictable. The real issue is how the newly emerging middle class will vote. Modi is confident with “Shining Light”, the new BJP slogan and a promise of a bright economic future looms for India.

 

Karam C Ramrakha, an ex Fiji MP, now a practising Barrister and Solicitor. He may be contacted on (02) 98082760 or email karamcramrakha@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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Posted by on Apr 9 2014. Filed under Australian News, News India, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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