S’Pacifically Speak­ing: The Ides of March

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Here’s a bit of trivia for you for no rea­son at all ex­cept that this is the month of March and since my school days rec­ol­lect the say­ing ‘Be­ware - The Ides of March.’ In this in­stance it’s not the book or the TV se­ries but sim­ply the day on the Ro­man cal­en­dar that cor­re­sponds to the 15 March 44 BC when Julius Cae­sar was as­sas­si­nated in Rome. Gaius Julius Cae­sar, known as Julius Cae­sar, was a Ro­man politi­cian, some say a dic­ta­tor, a gen­eral and an au­thor of Latin prose. He played a crit­i­cal role in the events that led to the demise of the Ro­man Repub­lic and the rise of the Ro­man Em­pire . I love his quote: “As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can.” Hail Cae­sar! I had the sad and un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion of hear­ing the chair of one of the boards I vol­un­teer with say the rea­son a male em­ployee was pro­moted to a newly cre­ated po­si­tion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion was that the other two highly qual­i­fied fe­male em­ploy­ees, with masters’ de­grees in their dis­ci­pline, were al­ways get­ting preg­nant. I know that inequal­ity still ex­ists big time in the work place with un­equal pay and op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­mo­tions, but to hear it said was like pour­ing hot wa­ter on my head. Short of a lovely up­per­cut to the chair in ques­tion, end­ing up like Julius Cae­sar men­tioned above, (un­for­tu­nately the per­son is older than me by 10 years and sickly, and there­fore it would be highly un­fair on my part), colour­ful lan­guage of the first de­gree fol­lowed, re­sult­ing in the po­si­tion be­ing scrapped to­tally. Tak­ing this mat­ter to the Fiji Hu­man Rights and An­tiDis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion would be a lengthy process re­sult­ing in more un­rest in the work­place be­tween staff, the pos­si­bil­ity of time off from work for all par­ties con­cerned and then usu­ally at least one per­son re­sign­ing af­ter all the stress in­volved both at work and at home. Mov­ing to have the idea and po­si­tion scrapped was eas­ier. Dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place con­tin­ues, many will say it has de­creased, but de­crease or not, it still ex­ists. Is it be­cause we are not so loud any­more? Once upon a time NGO’s and even in­ter­na­tional and re­gional or­gan­is­tions held work­shops on these is­sues and lob­bied strongly in the me­dia with aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paigns around these con­cerns – now not so much. Has it be­come un­sexy or have we moved on to more lu­cra­tive is­sues like cli­mate change which has a lot of mit­i­gat­ing funds avail­able. Sad but true. Whilst on the topic of the work­place, train­ing seems to be lack­ing in all ar­eas de­spite all the or­gan­i­sa­tions now ram­pant in the coun­try train­ing young peo­ple for all mat­ters of work. Phone man­ners and over the counter cour­tesy are truly lack­ing and when I get a per­son who is ex­tremely civ­i­lized on the phone or in a ser­vice out­let, I thank them pro­fusely and con­grat­u­late them on their cour­tesy, and I hope it makes their day. Top of the list are the gov­ern­ment min­istries – phones aren’t an­swered pe­riod so there’s lit­tle one can say about the phone man­ners there. Ask­ing re­tail stores about prices or avail­abil­ity of prod­ucts would have to be next on the list, with an ex­cit­ing ar­ray of grunts and groans as af­fir­ma­tive or neg­a­tive answers. I some­times feel that some com­pa­nies have hired go­ril­las to an­swer their phones - the sounds are so sim­i­lar. Well, sci­ence re­minds us that our jour­ney to present day sta­tus as homo sapi­ens had us in the trees for sev­eral mil­lenia and although I pre­fer the bib­li­cal ex­pla­na­tion on cre­ation, some­times when I hear these spec­i­mens on the phone it makes me won­der again. Com­pa­nies and busi­nesses, please in­vest in some form of train­ing for your staff if you are ser­vice providers or have any con­tact with the pub­lic at large. It’s off-putting if you have bad ser­vice in a restau­rant or re­sort es­pe­cially. It would be worth your while train­ing your staff – hire your fa­ther or mother in law if you have to. Very sad to see large ar­eas of land in parts of Suva and Viti Levu that were cleared to make way for so called sub­stan­tial over­seas in­vest­ment. It takes cen­turies to get clear­ance for po­ten­tial over­seas in­vestors in Fiji from the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties and not the ‘one stop shop’ fa­cil­ity of­ten-touted. One won­ders how the due dili­gence is con­ducted as the card­board prom­ises on the pro­posed devel­op­ment do not, in any way, match the large holes in the ground or mounds of dirt now vis­i­ble along Mac­Gre­gor Road, the old Bar­rack prop­erty in Princes Road and thank heav­ens Div and his fam­ily have se­cured the devel­op­ment of the pro­posed 24 storey ho­tel/mall mon­stros­ity devel­op­ment that was promised along Gran­tham Road near Rai­waqa. What a pity those houses were pulled down as the Bar­rack place, though old, was a land­mark prop­erty. If only we were as dili­gent with our long term vi­sion for the devel­op­ment of Suva and her sur­rounds – our city could eas­ily be a show piece for the rest of the re­gion. It’s like an Ides of March kind of month so sorry about the whinges above, but hope to have brighter news next month – or per­haps not, April Fool! Pax Vi­tia.

Mrs BER­NADETTE ROUNDS GANILAU is a for­mer ra­dio per­son­al­ity and Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. Now re­tired, she con­tin­ues with her NGO work and runs her own busi­ness.

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