LIKE a Hollywood mafia script on vengeance killing, we unfortunately now find ourselves caught in a cycle of vengeance, vindictiveness and recrimination between the SDL and the military-backed interim Government.
A manifestation of this was the recent public exchange between interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, and the Naitasiri high chief and strong SDL supporter, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata.
The disagreement was more than just a matter of opposing opinions.
It was a reflection of the deep-seated personal and political contradictions and psyche of vengeance which now characterise our post-coup political culture.
Politics of divergence
Ratu Inoke and the Naitasiri Provincial Council rejected the proposed People's Charter and in turn Commodore Bainimarama rejected Ratu Inoke's proposal for reconciliation.
Very straight forward.
Simple logic would probably suggest that if Ratu Inoke had accepted the proposed People's Charter, Commodore Bainimarama would have looked at his reconciliation proposal sympathetically.
Politically and symbolically, both men represent the two opposite ends of the continuum as well as the two major fragments of a divided nation.
Ratu Inoke and many coup opponents saw the proposed People's Charter as another political gimmick by the interim Government to consolidate and legitimise its power and rejected it outright, despite the fact that it contained some very constructive and appealing proposals for national unity.
On the other hand, although Ratu Inoke's proposal contained some attractive concessions for the interim Government such as the granting of amnesty for the 2006 coup makers, it was rejected outright.
Commodore Bainimarama probably saw it as another political trick by Ratu Inoke to re-assert his presence, power and legitimacy and divert attention away from his recent conviction.
In addition, both men saw each other in terms of who they were and what they represented.
To Ratu Inoke, Commodore Bainimarama was a usurper of indigenous rights and an illegal coup maker.
To Commodore Bainimarama, Ratu Inoke was a murderous mutineer (he was convicted of inciting the 2000 mutiny) and extremist nationalist of dubious political ambitions.
The respective proposals by the two men were rejected outright by the other because they (proposals) happened to come from the wrong people.
The importance of the message was undermined by the nature of the medium.
This is one of the biggest political bottlenecks now.
Some political and business interests opposed to the coup and its aims would no doubt be behind Ratu Inoke and some would have even helped him draft the controversial advertisement, which former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and others have referred to as a tactically nave and insensitive approach. Although Ratu Inoke, as a person may be serious about his reconciliation intent, there is serious worry that there are other hidden forces which are propelling him forward and using him and his influential status as their frontline soldier to articulate their demands as well as absorb the incoming flak.
Laisenia Qarase's presence in Suva will no doubt provide a morale boost for Ratu Inoke but I doubt if Mr Qarase, who appears to be in reconciliation mode, is in a mood for more confrontation.
However, on the other hand, Commodore Bainimarama's unpromising stance, while helping to consolidate the regime and the reform process, has the potential to exacerbate differences and prolong the stand-off.
There is a worry that some within and outside the interim Government may be using Commodore Bainimarama's powerful position to sustain and drive their agenda forward.
Inability to listen
Of concern is the fact that we no longer listen to the good things others say and propose.
We are too pathologically fixated on listening only to what we want to listen to and if we listen we are only listening to negative things and use them to design and articulate our political strategies to outshine our political adversaries.
This is precisely where the problem lies.
Our capacity to listen and identify the good in others is waning fast.
No one seems to be listening any more.
Both sides are out to exert their will and claim the moral high ground.
This has thrown the nation into confusion.
The problem is not so much the lack of political will to reconcile because everyone is itching for it the military, the interim Government, the Great Council of Chiefs, the SDL Party, the employers, the unions and in fact the entire nation wants it and is ready for it.
But the problem is differences over how to reconcile, who should define what reconciliation should be and the conditions under which it should take place and who should determine the shape of the reconciliation process. The differences in approach started after the 2000 coup.
The SDL, vanua and the Methodist Church wanted reconciliation using the political, traditional and religious approach.
Instead the military and the Fiji Labour Party leadership wanted the legal process to take its course.
After the 2006 coup the situation reversed.
The SDL, GCC and the Methodist Church wanted to follow the legal process while the interim Government through the proposed People's Charter wanted to address the problem through political means.
During the 2004 national reconciliation week, the SDL, churches, GCC and the vanua were deeply involved but the military, Labour Party and other political groups refused to be part of it.
Now the situation has reversed.
Those who were involved in the 2004 reconciliation have refused to entertain the proposed People's Charter and its reconciliation framework.
We have come full circle in our vengeance politics.
We have reached a political deadlock out of which we need to wriggle ourselves.
How do we do that?
The way forward
Firstly, we have to shift our minds away from the narrow, exclusivist, partisan and self-serving political agenda and begin to see the interest of the nation as paramount.
That is the bottom line.
We all have our party, religious, organisational, vanua and personal loyalties and interests, however, at this point in time, these should be subservient to the common national good.
Despite official optimism, our economy is not doing well, investor confidence is down, socio-political relations are at their lowest and national moral is in tatters.
Yet despite all these we are still trying to win political and moral points over our adversaries as if that will solve our collective problems when the opposite is in fact happening.
Secondly, on a more practical note, we need to identify the good suggestions from both sides and synthesise them into a common proposal for national reconciliation.
Both the proposed People's Charter and Ratu Inoke's proposal contain points worth considering and discussing.
Thirdly, we urgently need to put in place a reconciliation process as well as a framework for political stability for the future before the election.
To do that after the election, although constitutionally legitimate, would be politically too late.
Since the hurt and pain are very deeply embedded, the election could become an arena for expressions of anger, vindictiveness and vengeance and these have the potential to rear their ugly heads again after the election.
Historically, political instabilities in Fiji have only happened after elections.
The pre-election differences, antagonism and volatility will haunt us once again after the next election if we are not careful.
That's why it is important to put in place a reconciliation and post-election governance framework we all agree on well before the election.
We must remember that the reconciliation process must not be merely an exercise in public expression of remorse and apology, although these are very important components, but must be embedded in principles and practices of good governance.
As part of the reconciliation process we should agree on having a government of national unity and put in place mechanisms to promote good and meaningful governance.
We must not allow a single party to rule but establish a power sharing system to ensure sustainable future stability.
Fourthly, as part of the framework for future stability and reconciliation, we urgently need to address the question of coups.
How do we ensure that we eradicate the coup culture? What type of governance structure, development policies and security mechanisms should be put in place to achieve this?
One of the sad things is that since the coup, middle ground politics has disappeared as people began to shift to either side of the divide.
Even religious organisations and churches have taken sides and contributed to more tension.
Both sides are trying to occupy the moral high ground and in the process breed antagonism. It's time to start thinking positively and imaginatively about our future. Let's transform our negative feelings that we express meticulously and exuberantly in letters to the editor, TV interviews, press releases, internet blogs, pub debates, kava sessions and pulpit sermons, into positive spirit to unite and save our country from disintegration.
We only have until the election to work something out. If we can't then chances are that we might miss the boat again!
Dr Steven Ratuva is a political sociologist and these are his personal views and not of the University of the South Pacific where he works