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Foreword to Fiji Developing (by the late) Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi


Foreword by (the late) Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi

[Address at launching To Level the Playing Fields, 2005]

Key words: culture of silence, decision makers, empowerment, globalization, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi,  Adi Lusi Tuivanuavou, Wadan Narsey, policy, politicians, To Level the Playing Fields, small people.


Author’s note: More than a year ago, the late Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi had agreed to write a foreword for these 4 volumes that I have now compiled as Fiji Developing. He had asked if it was urgent, and to my everlasting regret, I had replied that there was plenty of time. Sadly, time ran out for Ratu Joni due to illness. I am grateful to his wife (Adi Lusi Tuivanuavou) for her permission to use the address the late Ratu Joni gave some twelve years ago, when he launched a much smaller compilation of my articles (To Level the Playing Field). It is sad but fitting to include in Volume 3, my eulogy to Ratu Joni, as one of Fiji’s great icons.
– Professor Wadan Narsey (November 2017)


Wadan Narsey is no stranger to many of us.  He is an economist with a refreshingly multidimensional view of society. More importantly, Wadan is one who believes that social, political, economic, religious, cultural and other issues which affect everyone need to be placed in the public domain in a form we can all understand.  He has fulfilled that ambitious undertaking in “To level the playing fields: developing our small people” which renders the complexities of our lives in a way that empowers. For it informs, educates and entertains.

            The publication is a collection of essays and articles that have largely appeared in the print media in recent years. A few consist of specific lectures to select audiences. Whether in discussing the constitution, the electoral system, the merits of globalization, the damaging effects of monopoly, rugby, education, employment opportunities, the role of the military, deregulation or corruption, Wadan brings to the subject clarity and fresh perspectives.  What I particularly appreciate is his capacity to engage the reader.  While not necessarily agreeing with the views expressed, they encourage one to at least be open to the possibilities.

            We live in a very small society. We also live in a hierarchical environment where our leaders have significant influence and authority.  The clear and simple manner in which the issues are presented, discussed and expressed speak directly to the ordinary person.  Understanding is the genesis of empowerment.  For when one has some knowledge of the matters which affect them, they are in a better position to contribute to those ideas.  When that eventuates, the consequences also resonate to society’s greater good.

            This is not an academic or learned work. That is its strength and great advantage.  There are enough unread academic and learned treatises sitting in the USP library already.  What I would like to see, and I am sure that it is also the author’s fondest wish, is that it is as widely distributed as    possible.  Only so that it encourages inquiring minds.  Issues of national or public importance, whatever they are, are not the preserve of the elite.  By definition, they must concern everyone.  No one group, whether they are its politicians, its intellectuals, its private sector, its entrepreneurs, its professionals or however, has a better claim.  For there is the over-riding national interest that subsumes us all.

            Wadan expresses his fondness and affection for this country by inviting us to consider options that would ease globalization while retaining some measure of ourselves. Simply put, it is about how we can make the difficult choices that are best for us. While some of it speaks to the great and powerful, it is largely directed at people of Fiji of all communities. Those law-abiding, hardworking folk of all communities who quietly struggle and make sacrifices in the hope of a better Fiji for their children.  The work is not prescriptive.  It is, as was said elsewhere, meant to promote reflection, discussion and debate.

            I believe the articles and essays will find a ready following with the ordinary men, women and children of Fiji.  It is about them.  How they might, with the assistance of larger players as the State, find a niche in an increasingly competitive open market.  And it is in large part about what roles they might or can play in a country that has to adapt in some manner or form to a globalized world.  While it would be foolish to deny our options are limited, Wadan demonstrates that we yet have the capacity to make choices.  These consist of offering to the international community skills and resources it seeks from us in a form beneficial to both sides.  However, these will not happen by default.  They require commitment, discipline, intelligence and teamwork which past and present demons dissipate all too readily.

            There is another level at which these writings will be profoundly useful.  Any person in a position of some influence or authority will welcome it as throwing much needed light on a variety of issues that will remain current for quite some time.  Because they concern matters or subjects which have compounded over time and circumstance, aided by our seeming inability to make the structural reforms or adjustments required.  For that reason, the publication will become a convenient and handy reference for some time to come.  The content of some of the writings reflect the less suffocating society we have evolved in the last two decades.  There was a time when criticism or social observations were made in much more muted terms.

            Wadan once criticized the “culture of silence” that obliges many of us to remain mute in deference to cultural and social norms that perceive making waves as bad form.  Attitudes change slowly.  I acknowledge that.  This collection is in its own way a reflection of the author’s wish to replace that pattern of thought with a culture of openness, as distinct from one of uniformity.  In “To level the playing fields: developing our small people” Wadan has done that and more, broadening our horizons and the possibilities for us to consider in challenging yet practical ways.  I salute him for that and warmly commend the publication to the audience.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have much pleasure in launching To Level the Playing Fields: developing our small people.


Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi
Vice President
The Republic of the Fiji Islands


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