I RECENTLY had the pleasure of presenting a paper titled, "Colonial Structures — Understanding the Experience of the iTaukei" to the Attorney-General's 14th Annual Conference. The paper summarised the implications of colonial structures and their links to Fiji's racially motivated coups of 1987 and 2000, plus, the iTaukei's unfortunate predicament with owning a bulk of the poor population, despite a major ownership of natural resources in the country.
I was met with discomfort from the floor, except for those, who posed questions during the panel discussion, and, those whom I later had the pleasure with, in dissecting the subject further. The blogsites had a field day with my reference to a possible iTaukei+Indian connection.
Supported by the anonymous bloggers, whose choice of communication reveal iTaukei lawyers, with low self-esteem, laced with delusion, and, easily capable of inciting a "coup", if it means, becoming the next prime minister.
So, with this in mind, I pondered, what is the holistic quality of the legal profession today?
Given Fiji's experience since Independence in 1970, it has been shocking!
Perpetrators of Fiji's "coups" have always been engineered with the support of members of this esteemed profession. Likewise, misuse of funds in provincial councils always involved them. And, there is the general client dilemma of trust in the lawyers.
From a regional perspective, promoters of change in the Pacific, such as universities, have a major responsibility in ensuring peace and progress in a vulnerable region. They might like to follow the lead of regional University of the South Pacific (USP), which equips its students with knowledge, relevant to the practicality of the real world. For example, USP's law students learn legal history inclusive of colonialism in the Pacific. This suggests, USP law graduates have a good appreciation of Fiji's colonial history and its implication on the indigenous society.
In an unfortunate incident, the qualification of a master's degree holder from a NZ university was questioned by USP, when he applied to undertake doctoral studies. His research was on iTaukei origin. His research method was limited by a lack of skill in in-depth research. As a result, his findings supported the Colonial version of the iTaukei origin. The USP rejected his application to undertake doctoral studies. The fault was not his, but that of the supervisory process of the NZ university.
It is important to note that an increasing number of universities are now recognising USP's lead role in Pacific history, tradition and practice. USP's academic staff is snatched by universities in Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Paul Geraghty, USP's Head of iTaukei Language Department recently refuted the Colonial version when he said, "â€¦.the migration stories of Lutunasobasoba, travelling to Fiji in a canoe known as the Kaunitoni was fabricated. These were stories made by the early missionaries who taught at Richmond and Navuloa School and believed by native students to be the truthâ€¦" (The Fiji Times, 11/12/12)
A question posed to me by a lawyer in private was, "â€¦if the iTaukei has been regulated for 92 years, psychology teaches that it will take another 92 years to deregulate itself..." She is probably right. Regulations were lifted in 1968. We are now in 2012, so there are 48 years to go! I wonder if it would help if we compared our respective responses to colonialism and what it represents, with how our Pacific island cousins, proudly claim their history, without much prejudice, and, with truth based on their tradition.
For example, the tradition of our Maori cousins tells us their ancestors of 161 generations ago (approximately 1500BC), migrated from a hot country named Irihia, which is an ancient name for India. This was a time of turmoil which caused exodus from this original homeland.
On the other hand, our cousins from Papua New Guinea (PNG) remind us that along with the Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, we all originate from them, PNG.
The Koi Vuda documented version of Lutunasobasoba's arrival complements theories of Pacific occupation and as custodians of their story, they say, his origin is Africa, via India, Australia, New Zealand, PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and finally in Vuda. Not exactly in this order, but the story appears to suggest, Lutunasobasoba's ancestors arrived in the Pacific thousands of years ago. Anthropological and oral records however suggest Lutunasobasoba might have arrived in Fiji, in the 17th century.
On his arrival in Vuda, the Lutumailagi people welcomed Lutunasobasoba and his entourage. The Lutumailagi appeared to be a distinct race, of tall, white, strong, handsome, visionary and skilled people. They gave Lutunasobasoba's oldest son, Sagavulunavuda, land and a wife. Lutunasobasoba and the rest of the entourage continued with their journey into other parts of Fiji and Rotuma, where Bulouniwasa, his younger daughter resides. The current Tui Vuda is a descendent of Sagavulunavuda. The Lutumailagi people of Vuda acknowledge there are others like them in other parts of Fiji. Interestingly, there is a claim by a clan in Wailevu, Cakaudrove, that their ancestors were Saumaibulu or, Lutumailagi (The Fiji Times, 11/12/12).
Given the existing depth in oral history and documented records in Fiji and overseas, we should make a concerted effort to reassemble the pathways of our ancestors, who arrived from different origins over a span of thousands of years. It will not be perfect but some semblance should be sufficient. We owe this to the young and unborn, so as not to be tainted by historical lies, which have shaped our society, into what it is today.
(References: www.polynesian-pre-history.com, Racule, R (2010), Ko ira na Vuda, The Fiji Times, 11/12/12, Daurewa (2012), Presentation, AG's 14th Conference).
* This is the personal opinion of the author who is a frequent writer of this column and not of The Fiji Times, nor, any organisation she is involved with.