‘The Three-legged Stool’

Fiji Sun - - Political Column - Save­naca Narube Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Save­naca Narube was the former Gover­nor of the Re­serve Bank of Fiji and Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary for Fi­nance. He also worked at the World Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) in Wash­ing­ton DC. The views and opin­ions ex­pressed here in the ar­ti­cle are those of Save­naca Narube and not of the Fiji Sun.

Build­ing a na­tion is an im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity of Govern­ment. My def­i­ni­tion of na­tion build­ing is to build a coun­try where ev­ery cit­i­zen lives in peace. I con­tinue to em­pha­sise peace as I be­lieve that peace will de­liver us our full eco­nomic po­ten­tial.

We are fa­mil­iar with Ratu Sukuna’s three-legged stool of the Vanua, Church and Govern­ment. The three legs sup­port a plat­form which is the na­tion. In the con­struc­tion of the stool, the three legs are strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned to bear the weight equally. While the Vanua, Church and Govern­ment have dif­fer­ent roles, they come to­gether in part­ner­ship to prop up a na­tion. To be suc­cess­ful, na­tion build­ing must there­fore be a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity. When the three legs play their right­ful roles, the na­tion comes to­gether as one to live in peace and happiness.

A stool with only two or one leg will fall. The three-legged stool there­fore de­picts strength and sta­bil­ity. It de­picts fair­ness, re­spect and har­mony. These are ideals that we all as­pire to ir­re­spec­tive of race and re­li­gion. The legs are also of the same length. Oth­er­wise, the stool is un­even and can top­ple over. To me, this means that the Vanua, the Church and the Govern­ment must treat each other as equals and with re­spect. Eq­uity is also an imp­prtant component.

I am in­trigued by of the in­ter­play of the roles of the Church and Govern­ment. We can re­call the dif­fer­ences be­tween the Methodist Church and Govern­ment some years back. It led to the Govern­ment ban­ning the an­nual con­fer­ence of the church. This was un­prece­dented. The re­la­tion­ship ap­pears to have been mended. But what was the un­der­ly­ing is­sue? I think that the ma­jor con­tention was that the Govern­ment de­manded that the church be in­de­pen­dent of pol­i­tics.

I have of­ten won­dered how one op­er­a­tionalise this ide­ol­ogy that the church must not med­dle in pol­i­tics. I be­lieve that the Church, in this con­text, is de­fined as an in­sti­tu­tion. There­fore, as an in­sti­tu­tion, the church must not med­dle in pol­i­tics. The in­sti­tu­tion con­sists of all its or­gans which are the ad­min­is­tra­tors, the preach­ers and the con­gre­ga­tion. These or­gans are made up of peo­ple. The ad­min­is­tra­tors are peo­ple, the preach­ers are peo­ple, and the con­gre­ga­tion are peo­ple. As peo­ple, they have the fun­da­men­tal right to be in­volved in pol­i­tics un­der Sec­tion 23 of the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion. Pol­i­tics is about peo­ple. The ques­tion there­fore be­comes: How do we sep­a­rate the peo­ple from the church? The sim­ple an­swer is--we can­not.

The free­dom of re­li­gion is in Sec­tion 22 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The is­sue per­haps is whether the peo­ple in the church es­pe­cially the preach­ers can use the pul­pit to preach po­lit­i­cal mes­sages. Does this breach the right of the con­gre­ga­tion to make their own po­lit­i­cal choices? Some may ar­gue that a con­gre­ga­tion at­tends church to hear re­li­gious mes­sages. I agree. But if a govern­ment pol­icy is against the fun­da­men­tal be­liefs of the church, how can the church, as an in­sti­tu­tion, re­act? I of­ten watch Pas­tor John Hagee on TV and he can be very vo­cal against the poli­cies of govern­ment that are not in line with the church prin­ci­ples. There­fore, why should govern­ment be­come in­volved at all in what the church chooses to do or say? Shouldn’t this be a mat­ter of the church to de­cide?

Let us try to find a mid­dle-of-theroad so­lu­tion. Per­haps the church should limit it­self to preach­ing prin­ci­ples that are im­por­tant in mak­ing wise po­lit­i­cal choices such as truth, re­spect, fair­ness, eq­uity, unity, tol­er­ance and ser­vant lead­er­ship. These are univer­sal fun­da­men­tals that no one can op­pose. It is then up to the con­gre­ga­tion to choose the po­lit­i­cal party that fits those prin­ci­ples. The preach­ers are how­ever free to share their per­sonal views on pol­i­tics out­side the pul­pits. I don’t see any con­flict in this. Let me bring in the Vanua at this point. The Chiefs are the lead­ers of the Vanua. They are of course free to make their own po­lit­i­cal choices. But as Chiefs, their po­lit­i­cal choices may in­flu­ence the choices of their peo­ple. Is this wrong? I don’t think it is. The peo­ple, how­ever, are free to make their own choice. In any case, their votes are con­fi­den­tial. Should Chiefs stand in elec­tions? Of course, they can. How­ever, the game of pol­i­tics is played un­der its own rules which may not be­fit the chiefly role. Chiefs should of course de­ter­mine if they can play the game un­der those rules be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics. The other in­ter­est­ing ques­tion is: Are there any im­pli­ca­tions if the votes for the Chiefs in their own Vanua are less than an­other can­di­date? Does that im­ply that the Chief does not com­mand the sup­port of the Vanua? I per­son­ally do not think so. The sup­port of vot­ers should not be trans­lated into the sup­port of the Vanua.

I am sure most of us will agree that pol­i­tics must stay out of the ap­point­ment of chiefly ti­tles. Govern­ment must stay neu­tral and al­low the Vanua to make their choice. We can bor­row a lot of pow­er­ful mes­sages from Ratu Sukuna’s three-legged stool. The Church, Vanua and the Govern­ment must at least lis­ten to each other. They may have dif­fer­ent views, but they must find com­mon grounds to work to­gether to build a na­tion that is free, fair and hon­est. The con­cept of a three-legged stool can also be ap­plied to fi­nance and lead­er­ship.

To be a leader, one must first have the will­ing­ness and be ready to lead; sec­ond, the knowl­edge and the skills; and fi­nally, the mo­ti­va­tion and pas­sion to lead. A great leader will have all com­po­nents.

My prayer is for Fiji to find that leader in this elec­tion.

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