Lessons We Can Learn From Our Past Po­lit­i­cal Ex­pe­ri­ence

When it comes to lead­er­ship, po­lit­i­cal par­ties should be mak­ing gen­uine ef­forts to recog­nise the role that young peo­ple play in na­tional de­vel­op­ment The late Laise­nia Qarase’s po­lit­i­cal in­sights are in­ter­est­ing. One thing is rel­a­tively clear. The fu­ture o

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The late Laise­nia Qarase’s po­lit­i­cal in­sights are in­ter­est­ing. One thing is rel­a­tively clear. The fu­ture of this coun­try lies in the hands of our younger gen­er­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to him.

He is not alone on this. The Fi­jiFirst Gov­ern­ment has been say­ing it all this time and has taken con­crete steps to ad­dress the is­sue.

When it comes to lead­er­ship, po­lit­i­cal par­ties should be mak­ing gen­uine ef­forts to recog­nise the role that young peo­ple play in na­tional de­vel­op­ment.

Many of our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are tainted with the dark­est days of our past. They should make way for young blood to come in and take the coun­try to the next level. We need fresh minds and new ideas to move our na­tion for­ward and strate­gi­cally po­si­tion our­selves to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that will open up.

If we are to progress, we need to dis­card the pol­i­tics of old which has caused us pain, suf­fer­ing and mis­ery in the past.

Democ­racy is great.

It gives us the freedom to ex­press our views and make choices.

But the law en­sures that we do not go into ac­cesses that cause ha­tred and divi­sion and un­der­mine peace, se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

De­spite that, look at what hap­pened in 1987 when we had our first coups. They woke up a prover­bial mon­ster that still haunts us to a cer­tain ex­tent to­day.

Some of the racist rhetorics that were preva­lent then are still be­ing heard to­day. They are en­cour­aged by politi­cians who have not let go of their warped views and ex­trem­ist ide­olo­gies.

In that dark past, it plunged our coun­try into chaos and eco­nomic cri­sis.

We have turned our back on that past, an­chored by the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion which has elim­i­nated all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion in­clud­ing racism.

We can­not af­ford to re­turn there. There is so much at stake, ex­ac­er­bated by cli­mate change re­al­i­ties, COVID-19 and the re­sul­tant eco­nomic cri­sis.

The coun­try needs more young lead­ers who are pre­pared and to­tally com­mit­ted to step up and take us for­ward. Mi­nus the coun­ter­pro­duc­tive po­lit­i­cal sideshows that some of our older politi­cians are en­gaged in for cheap po­lit­i­cal gain. A lot of words are spo­ken in th­ese po­lit­i­cal ex­changes that are frankly a ter­ri­ble waste of en­ergy and time. They do not do any good.

All they suc­ceed in achiev­ing is cause ha­tred, hard­ened feel­ings and negate ef­forts to find the pos­i­tive mid­dle grounds.

From time to time we hear of some politi­cians de­scend­ing to gut­ter level pol­i­tics in a game of up­man­ship. They may pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment on na­tional tele­vi­sion and ap­peal to the base in­stincts of their fol­low­ers. But that’s how far they go. They do not ap­peal to the wider cross sec­tion of the com­mu­nity be­cause their state­ments lack sub­stance. They talk about bi-par­ti­san­ship in and out­side of Par­lia­ment.

But it is not re­flected in their other ut­ter­ances. It is point­less to con­demn your op­po­nents and their is­sues pub­licly and ex­pect to sit at the ta­ble in one room to dis­cuss those is­sues.

It is sim­ply hyp­o­crit­i­cal.

The other crit­i­cal is­sue is see­ing things from our racial lenses. That was the un­der­ly­ing is­sue that sparked the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in 1987. It will al­ways cre­ate ten­sion, sus­pi­cion and con­flicts. We need to change the racist mind­set.

Any de­vel­op­ment or as­sis­tance must be pro­vided on the ba­sis of need not on race.

If more de­vel­op­ment dol­lars are al­lo­cated for mar­itime zones and vil­lages in ru­ral ar­eas they are done on the ba­sis of need not be­cause the ma­jor­ity are iTaukei.

Con­versely, if aid is di­rected to a set­tle­ment pop­u­lated by a ma­jor­ity of Indo-Fi­jians, it is not done be­cause they be­long to a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic­ity but on the ba­sis of need. The same prin­ci­ple should be ap­plied in other facets of na­tional life like op­por­tu­ni­ties and em­ploy­ment.

The best can­di­date should fill a job va­cancy. It is based on merit not on race or who you know.

If we can get that into our na­tional psy­che, we will progress a lot faster. This con­cept will be more easily ac­cepted by the younger gen­er­a­tion than the older folks.

And that’s prob­a­bly why Mr Qarase had pinned his hopes on the younger politi­cians to carry for­ward his vision of a united Fiji.

Photo: Inoke Rabonu

The cas­ket of the late for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Laise­nia Qarase in Ma­vana Vil­lage, Vanu­a­bal­avu, Lau on April 29, 2020.

Ne­mani De­laibatiki

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