Peceli and I are having a small holiday in a country town in Australia for my birthday - I am still trying to find out who I am - doing some nostalgia stuff by revisiting my hometown, Swan Hill. Really we are all citizens of the whole earth. Peceli's home town of course is Labasa. Through the years we have moved house a few times, and finding friends and a warm community in various places.
Rabuka gets onto the bandwaggon on naming and identity. I haven't read the 80 pages of the 'charter' yet, but it's in our email box to read. Too costly to print out at a country town library at 20 cents a page! It's my birthday. O8 08 08 is rather special when you are seventy! So old!
So what is in a name?
Friday, August 08, 2008
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Different people, one name
The media is abuzz with what may come out of the interim Government's decision to call everyone in Fiji 'Fijian'.
Some people will probably say; "So what?"
Some will definitely say; "Why?" while others may shudder with revulsion for being called a name they had been taught and have despised all their lives.
The indigenous people should celebrate, because for the first time, they will be officially called what they have always been, in their own language.
Some people, who have generally perceived the Fijian people as a lazy and criminally inclined people, will probably find it difficult to accept that new classification which now includes themselves!
What's in a name? What is in a name is what people see as the meaning of the name. A rose, by any other name is a rose.
What are the possible implications of this name change?
First, the Interpretation Act will have to be amended to reflect the effect of the change.
Secondly, the Constitution will have to be amended, also to reflect the new meaning of the word 'Fijian'.
The parliamentary provisions and electoral provisions will have to be changed as also the whole electoral processes which our new Supervisor of Elections may find daunting.
The whole administration and laws of the indigenous people will have to be amended to incorporate the new name given to the indigenous people, 'i Taukei'.
The name of the Fijian Affairs Board will have to be amended to be the 'i Taukei Affairs Board' or simply 'Matabose ni Veika-Vakaitaukei'.
The Fijian Affairs Act may have to be changed to 'Lawa ni Veika-Vakaitaukei', etc.
Regardless of how he has felt about being called 'Fijian' in the past, Vijay Singh, our national golfing hero, will have to accept being officially called 'Fijian' according to law.
Fijian villages will have to include all races, or change their names to 'i Taukei villages' or native settlements or native reservations.
One aspect of this development that many i Taukei will welcome is that there will be no longer a need to have 'Indian' as an adjective in Fiji except for the High Commission representing the Republic of India and those from that country working therein and goods and food of or made in that country.
Another aspect of the changes to the electoral and parliamentary provisions will have to be the removal of the 'Others' classifications.
Mr Beddoes et al will have to be satisfied with the 'Fijians' group classification and even forget their former special significance that had justified their special reserved seats.
Some of these have 'standby' names like Samisoni T. and Ilikini N. and some even enjoyed dual registrations like our supernumerary knight.
The change will also simplify the language problem in the country.
The people must, after the change, essentially have only two official languages, Fijian and English.
Our Immigration cards will have to be changed and the 'race' line taken out.
Now, that can be a problem.
While we will all be Fijian, what about my race?
What will I be? Will I be a Melanesian? Will I be a Negroid Fiji islander? Or will we be a race-less nation of Fiji citizens only? Does race-less mean non-racial?
So, maybe, those who are unsure of what benefits the change in name will bring can be justified in their anxiety.
No matter what the government calls me, I know what I am.
Calling a hibiscus a rose is wrong and does not make it a rose and calling a rose a hibiscus is also wrong and does not stop it being a rose.
So, what's in a name? Why call something a change if it changes nothing?
Change for the sake of change. Sounds like a political slogan of a party we all know!
(added on August 11 from editorial of Fiji Post - a sensible discussion, unlike Rabuka's all over the place rant.)
Taking a name, Fijian that is already in use and applied to one of our racial groups and generalising it may not be the best way to go. Right or wrong, the name Fijian is already captured, monopolised, copyrighted and trademarked by one people-group to the exclusion of all of the world’s others. To try to redefine it by giving it a wider meaning than is already the case in law minimally needs permission from the copyright holders - surely. The Fijian people, not a council or committee of unelected delegates or ministers or office-holders, must be the minimum source of permission for copyright sharing of a national identity-name.
A Fijian person is not like an Australian, Canadian or American. Those latter names are ethnically neutral and shared by all ethnic groups or races that fall within their boundaries. But a Fijian is not a Tibetan or a Bosnian, and a Tibetan or Bosnian cannot simply be called a Fijian without some corresponding explanandum. The better option for determining a unifying name would surely be to obtain suggestions from the public by means of polling or by means of a competition. But it needs to be an ethnically-neutral name, and a new name - for a new beginning for Fiji.