Sunday, November 25, 2007

Downgrading from ministry to a department

from w
Many people are shocked by a decision of the Interim government in Fiji to change the Ministry of Fijian Affairs, to a Department of Indigenous Affairs, lumped in with two other departments, all under the Interim Prime Minister. It shows that the the word 'Fijian' will mean something other than describing those who descend from the native Islanders. The want it to be inclusive of all citizens - a topic that has been around for some time. Fiji National, Fiji Islanders aren't good enough terms apparently.

An editorial from the Fiji Times is about the change - without consultation. The fear is that this is a confrontational stance against Fijian isntitutions.

Indigenous affairs
Monday, November 26, 2007
THE downgrading of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department will not go down well with the indigenous community. Already we are beginning to see signs of Fijian chiefs and individuals stirring and murmuring against the interim Government's decision to convert the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to the Department of Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs.

This department, under the portfolio of the Prime Minister, will most likely have a State minister and will cover the affairs of the indigenous people as well as the Indians, part Europeans and everyone else who falls under the multi-ethnic banner. Many Fijians will see the downgrading of their ministry as a reflection of how the interim Government perceives the indigenous community and their concerns, interests and rights.

And, by extension, it will also reaffirm their belief and suspicions of the interim Government's opinion of the Great Council of Chiefs. It will also reaffirm the suspicions of many indigenous Fijians that this coup is supported by non-Fijians and aims to water down the powers and interests of their community.

Since December 5, 2006, indigenous affairs have been subjected to a whirlwind of change starting from the top the council of chiefs going all the way down to land. The GCC was suspended by the interim PM after the chiefs refused to endorse the President's choice with the blessing of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama for Vice-President. Like an errant child, the council was punished with a review commissioned by the ministry to look into functions and its membership.

And the changes haven't ended there. As announced in the 2008 Budget, the Ministry of Lands will receive a mandate from the People's Charter to conduct land reforms including a review of ALTA.

As the leader of the interim Government, Commodore Bainimarama needs to explain why he downgraded the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department.While his motives appear unclear at that stage, he owes the people, especially the indigenous community, an explanation. He must also be prepared to face the backlash of his decision and there will be backlash from individuals, provincial councils and chiefs and he should not ignore the concerns of the indigenous community. They deserve to know why.
And FijiTV tonight;
Even the linguist Paul Geraghty has his say:
Mixed reactions to Ministry name change 27 Nov 2007 00:52:58

The recent name change of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs continues to received mixed reactions. At least two USP academics have called on the interim government to explain the reasons or motives behind the change in name from the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to Department of Indigenous Affairs.

The recent announcement by government for a name change for the Ministry of Fijian Affairs TO Department of Indigenous Affairs has been met with more criticism. Academics are now calling on the government to openly explain their latest move.The political analyst says, the name change will create more political ripples adding the ongoing debate of the term 'Fijian' has now moved to a concrete direction.

Ratuva agrees that consultations on the matter should have been conducted first.

USP linguist Paul Geraghty agrees likewise saying the English word 'Fijian' has been in use for more than two-thousand years since Captain James Cook visited the Pacific and it now seems strange that people want to change it now.


laminar_flow said...

I have addressed your concerns about FAB and rebutted the FT editorial including other naysayers in my latest post.

Warning: It might permanently change any previously held convictions.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

The perception is that the card-shuffling with people's jobs is not just wishing for an ideal society but a deliberate dismantling of institutions. These planned changes needs to be debated and discussed by eminent persons within Fiji rather than a few guys -without the mandate of being elected - making hasty decisions. That's why Parliaments have Opposition benches - to look at pros and cons.

laminar_flow said...

Deliberate as it maybe, the lack of accountability of these native institutions is the main concern here.

When accounts for provincial councils are not audited as per law; do you think a Parliament sitting would have rectified that? Certainly the last Parliament did not investigate those criminal acts.

Hasty as you said, but effective.