Part of a speech given to a Suva School, MGM, by Wadam Narsey:
What would Mahatama Gandhi have been supporting in Fiji today?
I believe: Gandhi would be a strong supporter of democratically elected governments and opposed to military coups.
He might agree with certain measures such as ethnic equality of all races and a common name for all Fiji citizens; he would agree with the fight against corruption; he might even agree with the need to reform institutions like the Great Council of Chiefs. BUT he would totally disagree with using a military coup and guns to force changes down people’s throats. Gandhi believed in using peaceful rational arguments to change people’s views- and not try to coerce them.
He would be a passionate seeker of the truth: the truth behind our military coups, the truth behind our economy, our society, our religious organisations, our politicians. He would disseminate his findings and his views to the people, without fear; without concern for media censorship, without fear of laws that might imprison him for seeking and speaking the truth.
He would support organisations such as the Women’s Crisis Centre and its leading light, Shamima Ali, who also stands bravely for human rights of all citizens, including those of escaped prisoners, however much misery and fear they might cause us.
Please stand up, Ms Shamima Ali, so our students here can see what brave fighters look like.(applause from audience for Shamima).
Gandhiji would probably ask working men and boys to share equally in household work, so that working women and girls are treated fairly and also have time for their own personal development (as I explain in the books on Gender Issues in Incomes and Employment in Fiji, that I have given to all the senior economics students in this school). In this day and age, Gandhiji would probably even cook for the family, to the delight of his wife Kasturbai.
Gandhiji would support studies which seek the truth about the exploitation of vulnerable workers in Fiji, such as the books Just Wages in Fiji, funded by ECREA, which have been given to all MGM economics students.
Gandhi would support those who fight for just wages for our workers, like Father Kevin Barr here (who I disagree with on the legitimacy of the military coup in Fiji but produced the report for ECREA, on which his Wages Council work has been based). Father Barr, please stand up for the students. (applause from audience).
On a contrary note, when the Methodist Church was recently being unfairly treated, Gandhiji would have called on the religious organisations of Fiji (the Catholics, the Hindus, the Muslims and Sikhs) to stand up for the rights of their sister religious organisation, even if he did not agree with their call for Fiji to be declared a Christian State. Gandhiji would have been disappointed that these organizations missed that opportunity recently. But there is hope yet for them, the Yash Ghai Commission is still meeting.
He would be pleased to see the strength of our environmental movements, and Forestry Department initiatives such as “plant a million trees” that is taking place in Fiji (although run a bit out of steam at the moment, I think).
He would be pleased to see the thousands of children from the poorest of back-grounds, for whom their “caste” is of no concern any more, and who, through this MGM High School, have achieved the highest of goals in their lives.
Among them is a friend of mine for forty years (Mr Kishor Chetty, former Deputy Government Statistician) who was in the very first cohort to attend MGM High School, and who still remembers his great intellectual conversations with Mr Gopal Bhai Patel, the first Principal. Please stand up, Mr Chetty. (applause from audience).
And so also was his brother Mr Krishna Samy, former head of Datec, who was in the first class to do University Entrance from MGM.
Gandhi would be a firm supporter of the education and empowerment of women: he would be pleased to see Mrs Kailash Rajput sitting there as the first female Principal of this school. She is also a great product of this school.
Mahatma Gandhi would have been pleased to see how many women this school has taught and who have moved on in the world to higher callings. Among them would be my four sisters, who are all alumni of MGM High School and have achieved great things in life: Dr Padma Lal (first USP gold medalist in science and environmental economist in Australia and the Pacific region) Champa Chauhan (business woman in Fiji and Australia) Dr Mangi Tauh (paediatrician in Canada) Saras Narsey (health economist in Australia and a classmate of Principal, Mrs Rajput)
The Chairman of Gujerat Education Society, in the name of my four sisters and my mother (Maniben Narsey), I would like to donate this cheque to assist MGM High School with a tree planting program for this and all the other schools you manage. Of course, I am not just an economist but a “Gujerati economist”, so I hope my sisters repay me when I next visit them.
Perhaps you might like to give each class their own trees to plant and look after. And it there is money still left over, then you MGM students might plant trees in all the streets around your schools. I would be happy to co-ordinate with Department of Forestry to obtain as many indigenous Fijian trees as we can get- so that our children know what a dakua, vesi, yaka, kaudamu, kauvula, buabua, and many other endangered indigenous species, actually look like. Most of our students do not know our own indigenous trees. I think Mahatma Gandhi would have been pleased to see this initiative that would reinforce the greenness and sustainability of our environment.
Gujerat Education Society Board and Principal of MGM High School, I thank you indeed for the privilege of being the Chief Guest today at your Gandhi Day celebrations.
Vinaka vakalevu and dhanyabaad.