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“Spurning Amartya Sen and getting Bob Marley in 1976”

24/07/2016

“Spurning Amartya Sen and getting Bob Marley in 1976” 

By mid-1976, with all the political work I was doing with my USP and YWCA friends, I had become interested in economics. I did a course or two at USP, which became pretty much reading courses for me (and helping the lecturer Sebastian Green with bits of it), and also helped Professor of Economics Ashok Desai with the mathematics in his economics papers. He obtained a Masters degree place for me at London School of Economics to be supervised by a friend of his. Vice Chancellor James Maraj obtained a Commonwealth scholarship through his links, but I turned both of them down, in order to go on my own to the University of West Indies in Jamaica, where I thought much radical work was being done. Dr Maraj did try his best, casting his unwavering eyes on me in despair (“Wadan, whose advice do you take?” he asked sternly).
But my close friend then, John Samy, had just gone to the “radical” Institute of Development Studies, while another friend, Jayant Prakash had gone to the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanazania.  We were part of a radical study group seeking to “save Fiji”  and we had decided to spread our learning experiences globally.
The Economics Department at UWI Jamaica was like any other small Third World economics department, and ironically,  set up by LSE economists.  But the political environment in Jamaica was electrifying and dangerous. Michael Manley was parading on the world stage with his anti-imperialism rhetoric, the US Government was placing trade restrictions on Jamaica, Manley’s socialist planning and price controls were emptying the supermarket shelves and even the produce markets (where I learnt the phenomenon of “twinning”).  I also learnt the hard economic lesson that ordinary Jamaican people did about Manley’s brand of socialism: ideology does not fill stomachs.
Also obvious was the horrible fact about unethical corporate interests keeping their bread buttered on both sides. There were about a dozen powerful corporate families on both political sides whose leaders were also related, while hundreds of supporters on either side were murdered senselessly in their battles for power.
In Kingston, it was unsafe to even sit in your house with your window open, as someone would point a gun through the window “Maan, open the door”.  The color spectrum was all important, and I learnt a new word “redskins” to describe the privileged Jamaicans who had some white blood in them (a bit like the kailomas in colonial Fiji). Bob Marley caused a scandal in Jamaica when he shacked up with redskin Miss World Cindy Breakspeare.
Anyways, I am probably the only Fijian (however defined) to have heard Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, live in the Kingston Football stadium, protected by soldiers with machine guns on the ramparts (Marley had suffered an assassination attempt a few months previously). Marley sang his new song (“One Love”) for the first time, to try and get the two political leaders Michael Manley and Seaga (??) together, they hugged each other on stage, the hundred thousand spectators roared their appreciation and felt very warm and good, helped along by an atmosphere laced with ganja- you inhaled it whether you liked it or not (unlike Bill Clinton).  A week later, the supporters of Manley and  Pete Seaga were killing each other again. I spent two years in this violent Jamaica, besides which the 1987 coup in Fiji would be somewhat mild.
b UWI letter  It was a most interesting MSc in Economics, with the Head of UWI Economics informing USP what a good graduate I was (see attached).  That reference did not help me be appointed as a lecturer in Economics.
Despite my having been told that I would be appointed in the Economics Department after teaching satisfactorily and end of the contract of an expatriate, and there being no regional economics lecturer, I was refused appointment, because the incumbent Australian (friend of the Acting Head) had nowhere to go, and so he was renewed. I fought my case to the USP Council where the expatriate Acting Head of Economics, denied to Council Members, that he had promised I would be appointed upon satisfactory teaching performance. USP Council took no action.
It mattered little. Even though I was still designated as Lecturer in Mathematics, I had the pleasure of teaching economics from 1978 to 1981 to some of the best economics students and graduates I have ever had- like Taiwanese James Lin, Anil Kumar, Dr Ganesh Chand, and Proefssor Biman Prasad- whose undergraduate project papers were better than some of the masters theses of today. There were also one or two other students who I taught, including one prominent lady today, who caused me no end of grief, after the Bainimarama coup.

Oh, did you ask who was Professor Ashok Desai’s friend at London School of Economics, who had offered to supervise my MSc in 1976?

Amartya Sen. Later to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Hmmmmm.

Was I a dope or was I a dope?

I have always been a dope, says my Senior Legal Adviser and Home Minister.

 

 

 

 

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