“Rewriting history” (edited version in FT, 7 May 2016)
Rewriting history- through newspapers
When it comes to recording history, academics and their journals and books, are the tortoises in the race: submitted articles or books can take a year or more to come into print, and some never. Rebuttals and debates may then take another year.
One can see this very clearly in the treatment of the 2000 coup by outputs of even good universities like Australian National University (ANU) who nevertheless are head and shoulders above the three universities in Fiji, who have yet to devote any journal or book to that momentous event.
In contrast, a newspapers like the Fiji Times is the “Usain Bolt” in recording history, and with the online digital and pdf editions, reaching readers in the entire globe, with articles recorded for posterity, like any journal article or book.
But newspapers record history instantly as they occur, and allow rebuttals the next day.
Even before he became an Oxford University academic, good journalists like Victor Lal (editor of Fijileaks), have recorded some Fiji history more accurately and more truthfully than historians with PhDs after their name.
Today, Fiji people have a wonderful example right in front of them, where not only is history being recorded, but history is possibly being “rewritten” after the event.
The Fiji Times of 29 April 2016 is a splendid example of “history being recorded” and “history being rewritten” (“two history lessons for the price of one newspaper”) BUT readers can question these writers of history, and understand the difference between the two phrases.
In this one edition there are major statements about the Great Council of Chiefs made by Fiji’s current leaders, Ro Temumu Kepa (Leader of SODELPA and Leader of Opposition) and Voreqe Bainimarama (Leader of Fiji First Party and Prime Minister).
Questioning Kepa’s History
Ro Temumu Kepa, Roko Tui Dreketi, is quoted saying, that “The GCC has never in its history organized or facilitated a coup” and that when the GCC was dissolved by the Bainimarama Government “This was the price the GCC had to pay, for standing up for democracy”.
Of course, some secondary school students might be scratching their heads that an elitist organization whose membership is/was strictly limited to chiefly indigenous Fijian families (regardless of merit), could ever claim to “stand for democracy” (although commoner Rabuka did become a “life member”).
But readers of the Fiji Times should be asking Kepa:
Q1. Did not the GCC, including virtually all the leading chiefs of Fiji, support the 2000 coup and the removal of the Chaudhry Government?
Q2 Did the GCC “stand for democracy” only when a government led by an indigenous Fijian (Qarase), was removed by the 2006 military coup?
Q3 How many of the leading lights of SODELPA (including many current MPs) were openly supportive of the 2000 coup?
Questioning Bainimarama’s History
In the same Fiji Times edition and a full page article, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is recorded as giving Kepa and Opposition MPs a “basic lesson in history” about the role of the GCC in the coups of 1987 and 2000.
Quite correctly and with great relevance, Bainimarama asks Kepa to explain (and I quote):
“Why did the GCC allow the removal in 1987 of Dr Timoci Bavadra, the elected Prime Minister of Fiji — the first iTaukei commoner, the first ever non-high chief and, from the Western Division. The burning and looting of Suva. The shameful attacks on innocent people in 1987 and 2000. What did the GCC do to prevent that?… why did some prominent chiefs actively participate in these events”.
But Fiji Times readers, committed to truth, can also ask Bainimarama several questions based on the evidence given by several witnesses to the RFMF’s own Evans Board of Inquiry (EBOI) whose report is easily available on the Internet (just google it).
For example, the evidence by Lt-Col Seruvakula (EBOI Report pp. 938-949) stated that army intelligence and the Commander, already knew six months before the coup, which senior army officers were meeting, with which civilians, in which “safe houses”. Bainimarama was even told a week before, that the coup was to take place on 19th May.
Q4 As he asks of the GCC, why did Bainimarama and the RFMF not stop the coup even before it began, but he went off to an unimportant low level meeting in Norway?
Q5 why did the RFMF senior officers (and who exactly?) allow arms, ammunition and rations to keep going into the Parliament after the 19th May coup had taken place and hostages were being held in Parliament?
Q6 after Speight’s group were arrested, why did Bainimarama not restore the democratically elected government of Chaudhry, the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister of Fiji, also a historical first for Fiji, like Bavadra?
Q7 why did Bainimarama, the most senior army officer during the 2000 coup, refuse to appear before the RFMF’s own Evans Board of Inquiry?
Q8 How many persons in the current Fiji First Party Government were actively supporting the 2000 coup?
If answers from these two leaders, can also appear in the Fiji Times, preferably on the same day, it would indeed be of great help in clarifying what is “truthful history” and “history being rewritten”.
Truth will eventually come out.
Bainimarama’s frequent allegation about being the “saviour of Indo-Fijians” in 2000 will be shown to be pure propaganda, embellished by Aiyaz Khaiyum (and with the assistance of American propaganda company Qorvis) for their own selfish ends.
The truth about the 2000 coup (and mutiny) is far more sordid than the current illusions held by the majority of Indo-Fijians in Fiji and abroad, some of whom anonymously (and one openly) threaten me personally as being a “threat to Indo-Fijians”.
Indo-Fijians are a bigger threat to themselves than others can ever be.
Some readers (including my most trusted but annoyed legal adviser), can rightly question why I am appearing in this FT column again, having declared to the contrary only two weeks ago.
I weakly reply that I am merely responding to requests from many readers, and to Fiji Times itself.
But I proposed to the Fiji Times a year ago, that with old dogs bound to disappear into the shadows, this venerable newspaper needs to encourage a new generation of feature article writers by giving out annual cash prizes (of say $500 each) with joint sponsoring organizations in the important areas that Fiji Times would like to foster serious contributions.
The annual Fiji Times awards, with much pomp and ceremony, and propaganda by the sponsoring organizations, could be gives for solid articles (between 800 and 1000 words) on economy, business, education, health, environment, science, mathematics, technology, agriculture, climate change, foreign aid, media, sports, religion, entertainment, family, etc.
I suspect that if employers rewarded the prize winning authors with salary increments or promotions, there would be a flood of entries.
I call on organizations out there to write to the publisher of the Fiji Times (firstname.lastname@example.org) to offer to co-sponsor or fully sponsor one or more of the awards, so that they can co-operate
- in improving the media as a good and reliable information highway for our people,
- including the very important task of dynamically recording true history, and
- for fostering their own public relations agenda and stakeholder interests.
These organisations would get a “bigger bang for their buck” and it would not cost Fiji Times or these organizations much at all, far less than what they spend on lawyers’ fees or the occasional costly full-page newspaper advertisements.