Thursday, December 01, 2016

Apisai Tora proud of being a friend of Castro

Fiji's 'Castro'

Margaret Wise
Friday, December 02, 2016  from the Fiji 'times
DEFINED as a radical for his militant and outspoken brand of politics, it comes as no surprise that Apisai Tora affectionately refers to bearded cigar-toting Fidel Castro as a revolutionary icon of the 20th century. Mr Castro, 90, was cremated after he died last Friday.
The fiery former trade unionist and Cabinet minister has framed photographs of his meeting with the Cuban revolutionary leader hanging on the walls of his Natalau, Nadi, home.
Mr Tora, who turns 83 in five weeks, also liked to light up, and was rocking an afro when he first met the dictator on October 17, 1974.
He was in Cuba for a meeting, as the president of the "rebel" Fiji Council of Trade Unions (FCTU) which was affiliated to the Soviet Union-sponsored World Trade Union.
In his 2006 book, Islands of Turmoil: Elections and Politics in Fiji, renowned Fijian political writer Dr Brij Lal referred to Mr Tora's confrontational trade unionist style of the 1960s as "a cigar chomping, self-styled Fidel Castro of the Pacific".
Mr Tora said his achievements paled in comparison to Mr Castro.
The octogenarian, however, recalled that he was instantly impressed with Mr Castro during their first meeting because of his knowledge of Fiji.
"Oh, he knew about Fiji," Mr Tora shared.
"He said to me, 'Oh you have Mr AD Patel and Mr SM Koya, and your prime minister, he is doing a very good job with the sugar industry, with the Lome Convention'."
"At that time I was a member of Parliament for the National Federation Party. And he was very sharp when it came to the question of the sugar industry, because it was also a significant industry for Cuba.
"I was really impressed. There were about 200 officials attending the meeting in Havana and yet he knew about Fiji. AD Patel had died in 1968 and he knew about him. I was pleasantly surprised.
"I said to him, 'Your excellency, you have a very good grip of the history of my country', and he said 'it's part of my job' through an interpreter, and he winked at me."
A law graduate, Mr Castro was the leader of the Cuban Revolution which overthrew the unpopular and brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
He held on to power for almost five decades and drew admirers and detractors both in Cuba and around the world.
He was a pariah to the west for 47 years, brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere and survived half a century of US trade embargos and hundreds of assassination attempts before his natural death.

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