This topic is closed for discussion, although pertinent items published elsewhere may be posted. Anyone wishing to continue the discussion can do so via personal email.


It is unfortunate that Victor Lal has chosen the issue of Rotuman indigeneity as a "straw man" to beat in his pursuit of justice for Indo-Fijians. While Lal makes a strong case for the contributions of Indo-Fijians to Fijian society, and the injustice of treating them as second-class citizens, his attack on Rotumans is both offensive and misguided.

The question of whether Rotumans are indigenous to Fiji is quite irrelevant to the treatment of Indo-Fijians; it is at most an indication of the concern of the current Fiji government that the indigenous population of Fiji be clearly defined for political purposes.

Lal makes the mistake of confounding ethnicity with nationhood. While Rotumans can be considered ethnically distinct from central Fijians, so can the people of Lau, who have close ties with Tonga. However, the Lau Islands, like Rotuma, are part of the nation of Fiji and its residents are therefore indigenous. The logic is simple: Rotumans are indigenous to Rotuma; Rotuma is part of the nation of Fiji; therefore Rotumans are indigenes within the nation of Fiji. The situation of Rotumans is clearly different in this regard from other Pacific Islanders, and from the Chinese, European, and Indo-Fijian residents of Fiji.

How Rotuma or Lau came to be part of the nation of Fiji is not relevant to the question of their populations' indigeneity, nor are their respective contributions to Fiji's economy.

A parallel situation exists in the United States vis-a-vis ethnic Hawaiians. American Indians are indigenous to the U.S. mainland, and when Hawai'i was made a state in 1959 the indigenous Hawaiians became indigenes within the United States, as did Alaskan natives when Alaska was admitted to the union.

Lal would do his own people greater justice by forcefully presenting the merits of their case for equal treatment rather than by flagrantly attacking the integrity of the Rotuman people.

Alan Howard
Submitted 6 August 2006

I would like to categorically reject the claims that my views on Rotumans and the question of their indigenity to Fiji is offensive and misleading. I still cannot understand how Rotumans could claim that they are indigenous to Fiji, and therefore had every right to join the Fijians, as the Prime Minister seemed to be suggesting at the United Nations in 2000, to beatup Indo-Fijians and burn and loot Suva with George Speight.

If Alan Howard's analogy with Hawaii and Alaska is to be accepted, the Indo-Fijians could equally argue that once they renounced any claims to Indian or British citizenship in London in 1970, and opted to become Fiji citizens, than they also became indigenous to Fiji. Lets be honest, we cannot compare Lauans with Rotumans in Fiji. I hope any debate on this issue will be clean and healthy.

As I pointed out to some Rotuman friends of mine, I do not have any personal agenda against the Rotumans - some of them are related to me through blood and marriage. I sincerely hope aggrieved Rotumans will treat the whole issue in the context of widespread racism against the Indo-Fijians in the name of indigenous rights, and whether Rotumans want to go down that road with the Fijians in snuffing Indo-Fijians from the map of Fiji. So far, neither individual Rotumans nor the Rotuma Council of Chiefs have expressed dissenting opinion on the treatment of Indo-Fijians in the country, many of whom have no physical, familial or economic ties with India. Even my paternal family cannot trace their roots in India; for them there is no other home but Fiji.

Victor Lal
Submitted 12 August 2006

Response to Jioje Konrote by Victor Lal (From the Fiji Times, 20 August 2006)

When racism and indigenous rights come into play

THE Minister of State for Immigration and Ex-Servicemen, George Konrote, while refuting the views expressed by me has raised a number of issues and has called me a racist, insensitive, and an ignorant individual.

He has also challenged me to match his 42 years of contribution to the service of the country.
I am, therefore, obliged to rise to the challenge and to reply to his article titled 'The birth of Viti kei Rotuma' (ST 6/8).

Mr Konrote says that since 2000, I have been determined to discredit, embarrass, and blatantly insult the chiefs and people of Rotuma.

He also says that some of my views are that of a racist as they have been consistently offensive and insulting.

His own reply, especially the historical background, has been largely extracted from his Rotuma Day 2005 address which he delivered as Fiji's High Commissioner to Australia.
In that address, celebrating the 124th anniversary of the cession of Rotuma to Great Britain, Mr Konrote had taken a swipe at me without deliberately identifying me by name.

I do not think I am racist, arrogant, insensitive, nor have I insulted the Rotuman chiefs.
What I merely stated in those articles was that the Rotumans and their chiefs, whose islands had been joined to Fiji for administrative purposes, should have distanced themselves from the naked racism that was being practised by some misguided Fijian racists, and also perpetuated in the Constitution.

What I challenged, and which I am still challenging, is that there is no grain of truth or evidence that Rotumans are indigenous to Fiji, and therefore they must have a pride of place in the Constitution, and be entitled to all the goodies in the Affirmative Action programs.
What is racist about such a contention? Will the Rotumans be also included in the contentious Qoliqoli Bills?

Was Governor Sir Harry Luke also a racist and insensitive British representative when he wrote in his diary on July 21, 1939: "Arrived at Rotuma, an island of fourteen square miles, hilly and picturesque, which politically is a dependency of Fiji although it is over 400 miles by sea route from Suva. The Rotumans, who number about 4000 including a colony of them in Suva, have no connexion whatever with the Fijians by blood or language. They are of Polynesian stock with an admixture of other strains ranging from Mongoloid to European, the latter derived from escaped convicts from New South Wales."

Even acting Governor Sir George William Des Voeux, to whom the first attempt was made in 1879 to annex Rotuma, noted in his autobiography that the Rotumans "though much resembling in appearance others of the light-coloured Polynesian races, seem to be nevertheless of different origin".

Mr Konrote has produced a long historical tract on Rotuma's Deed of Cession and asserts that the Rotumans were given a raw deal at the talks in London leading to Fiji's independence in 1970.

As I have recently pointed out, if the Rotumans got a raw deal, it was from Fijian chiefs, who felt that all that the Rotumans deserved was one seat in the Senate.
The late Dr Lindsay Verrier had even suggested in London that Rotuma should be merely federated with Fiji after independence.

I have no quarrel with Mr Konrote's historical narrative, for it was precisely on that basis that I had argued that Rotumans are not indigenous to Fiji and are therefore not entitled to stand in the front queue ahead of non-Fijians.

He condemns me on the issue of sovereignty, calling me wrong, insensitive and an ignorant individual. I have never questioned Rotuma's sovereignty.

What I noted in the previous articles, instead, was that Rotumans have some legitimate grievances, especially bureaucratic red tape with the Fiji Government and the erratic nature of shipping, and therefore see independence as a way of assuming more direct control of their destiny.

Many are apprehensive about being dominated by Fiji.

I also noted that their desire for two seats, one for Rotuma, and one for Rotumans in Fiji, should be considered as a necessary corrective for the injustice in London.

I also noted in a 2000 article that "Rotumans have done very well in Fiji, disproportionately attaining positions at the upper ends of the occupational ladder. They have made solid contributions to Fiji as a whole through their work in government and business".

What is racist about such statements?

And yet Mr Konrote brands me a racist, while pointing out that the Rotumans have been "punching well above our weight" in Fiji.

Well, here one can make two points.

If the Rotumans are doing so well, despite their minority numbers, than why should they be considered as in great need of the affirmative action goodies in the blueprint?
Second, Indo-Fijians could equally reply that the reason the Rotumans are "punching well above their weight" is because some of the best and brightest Indo-Fijians have been shut out of those top jobs and rewards on the grounds that they are not "indigenous" to the country.
Meanwhile, I would point out to him that Des Voeux, in his autobiography published in 1903, discloses that he had disagreed with Governor Sir Arthur Gordon on the question of annexation to Fiji.

He disagreed with Gordon that Rotuma, "a solitary island, distant some 200 miles from the nearest portion of Fiji, and inhabited by a people totally distinct from the Fijians in race, language, and social organisation, was naturally a part of Fiji".
Des Voeux also disagreed with Gordon that Rotuma's annexation would be in any way an advantage to Fiji.

Mr Konrote asserts that "The preamble of our (Fiji) Constitution clearly reflects and legalises the wishes of our chiefs and forefathers that we should share a common destiny with our Fijian brethren as indigenous people and one nation".

Well, in 1970, the Indo-Fijian leaders at the Constitutional talks in London categorically rejected any claim to either British or Indian citizenship.

An overwhelming 98 per cent of Indo-Fijians (except a handful of Gujarati merchants) accepted Fiji citizenship, cutting any legal links with India.

They wanted to share a common destiny with all the citizens of Fiji.

If one were to accept Mr Konrote's contention that since his chiefs had renounced any claim to Rotuman separateness and should, therefore, be considered indigenous to Fiji, than in a similar breath he and his Fijian counterparts should also accept Indo-Fijians as natives of Fiji, for they had also accepted to be governed by the new leaders of Fiji, and still do.

Mr Konrote has challenged me to state what service I have done to the country.
Well, I will tell him. He should go to his political boss, the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, and ask him what I did to save Fiji in 2000 from George Speight, a copycat coup treasonist in the footsteps of Mr Konrote's former military boss Sitiveni Rabuka.

What else did I do?

I wrote a book showing how he, as Rabuka's second in command after the 1987 coups, helped to destroy democracy and freedom in the country.

What else?

Oh, yes, I persuaded a group of his 1987 Indo-Fijian victims now living in Australia not to file a civil suit on his arrival as a diplomat to that country, based on the Pinochet precedent, when the Chilean military dictator was arrested and charged in London with human rights violations in his country.

Since Mr Konrote is boasting about his UNIFIL days, others and I also persuaded the oppressed Indo-Fijians and some Fijians not to plunge Fiji into another Lebanon a civil war with the 'Guns of Lautoka' that the Indo-Fijians had acquired in the face of rape, assault, intimidation and death threats in Rabuka's Fiji.

In any case, he is well aware that he was promoted to a colonel during the illegal seizure of power in 1987.

He is equally aware that as Rabuka's official biographer claims, that in the 1990s the late President Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau had rejected Rabuka's recommendation that Mr Konrote should replace him (Rabuka) as army commander.

The military leadership went to Ratu Epeli Ganilau, later the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs.

Finally, I also notice that Mr Konrote writes that, "As a Christian, I will ask my chiefs and people to forgive Victor Lal for the great injustice he has done against us and hope that he is more sensitive, fair and considerate in future".

As to Rotuman chiefs, all I noted was the observations of Howard and Rensel, who observed that there was lack of communication between the Rotuma Council and the people they serve, about the council's ineffectiveness in formulating and carrying out development policies, and about the alleged self-serving behaviour of the council.

I have done no injustice to the Rotuman community, and therefore, do not expect any forgiveness. If anything, I have praised them and highlighted some of their genuine grievances.

I have only spoken out against the injustice that is being done to non-Fijians and non-Rotumans over the affirmative action programs.

What prompted me to open the debate on Rotumans and their claims to indigenity in Fiji?

The germ of the idea was planted into me by some very prominent Fijian chiefs in the Great Council of Chiefs who were not happy with the inclusion of the Rotumans into the Affirmative Action blueprint.

The same chiefs again want to know if the Rotumans will be included in the Qoliqoli Bill?
Second, it was the speech of Laisenia Qarase, as Interim Prime Minister to the UN General Assembly in 2000, where he had once again justified the violence and bloodshed of the 2000 coup in the name of Fijian and Rotuman indigenous rights.

It was in response to that statement that I set out in 2000 to challenge the Rotumans right to burn, loot, assault, and rob the Indo-Fijians of their economic, social, political and religious rights on the mainland of Fiji.

I felt the Rotumans, like the Fijians, had no right to join in the orgy of destruction in the name of indigenous rights.

What is my individual legacy to Fiji?

I stood up for human rights, freedom, justice and democracy in Fiji. This I consider to be my greatest achievement and contribution to Fiji and Rotuma.

"If the Rotumans got a raw deal, it was from Fijian chiefs who felt that all that the Rotumans deserved was one seat in the Senate."

The author read law and international relations and politics at the University of Oxford in the 1980s where he specialises in race politics conflict and constitutionalism in multi-ethnic states. He is completing a commissioned Historical Dictionary of Fiji for publication. He was previously a senior sub-editor on the old Fiji Sun.

Wow Victor, your Oxford tag following your name seems to appear in every article you've written, while that may seem impressive, and the might of your pen overwhelming to some, you claim in the response to Konrote's article that you saved Fiji from George Speight? Quote"He should go to his political boss, the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, and ask him what I did to save Fiji in 2000 from George Speight."

Explain to us what you did. Shed some light on the matter as we're all ears to your so called claim of salvation. Did you provide relief to the thousands abused by George Speight’s men, did you provide a shoulder to lean on in those troublesome times? Liase with the Military or Police and prevented the whole event from occurring? Shoulder a rifle in the final takeover of Kalabu School? Doubt it huh? My guess is you sat comfortably behind your desk, (in Oxford obviously), pen in hand/or fingers on your laptop keys, warm cuppa and typed your way to save Fiji from George Speight right? Wow Victor, how dramatic! Awesome victory to you alone in "saving Fiji." THE COUP DID HAPPEN, HELLO!

So think before you write nonsense like that. I've never read such nonsense from "An Oxford Law Reader." And you compare your pen to the actions of a serving soldier of 42 years? Thats a laugh! "For God and Country" are words that you can never understand, let alone your pen can handle in the heat of conflict. You sit there and write your views disregarding whether or not you hurt people or a whole race for that matter. If you feel so strongly about your views, you should call a meeting where you can debate the issue till your face goes blue. At least you'll be in the presence of the ones you're referring to, instead of being thousands of miles away behind a desk launching attacks. Maybe then your conscience will tell you that you're wrong or the facts be put before you and you decide for yourself whether pursuing the matter is beneficial.

You claim that we, the Rotumans, should not be in front of the line with Fijians. What a way to put it; sounds like grade school politics. We all know that Indians have been oppressed for a while now, but attacking a third party(Rotumans) won't solve anything. You should be addressing the source of the problem, you're a smart guy, I’m sure you'll figure it out.

Good on Konrote to lash out at your previous articles. At least someone had the "guts" to challenge your misleading pieces on the Rotumans. And regarding Alan Howards reply, how can you reject someones comment, isn't refuting or replying the correct word for it?

Victor, you turn a blind eye to the truth that’s staring you in the face. Rotumans are indigenous, and with your response, you will question why, how and when. While the question you should be asking yourself is, how can I genuinely help create my father’s multi-racial vision of Fiji? Yes, I read your article about your father’s vision of Fiji. Do you really think stirring the racial pot and creating unhappy Rotumans (who are a part of your father's vision) is going to get anywhere? You claim that your views aren't racist, but picking on one race and challenging them as to why they're doing well compared to your own (race), surely borderlines the racial boundary. Indians are doing very well in Fiji. Come back over here, look around you; Fiji has put the past behind them and so should you. Being a victim of both coups, it's a miracle that Fiji is doing well despite our problems(poverty etc) in comparison to other places in the world with atrocities and civil war. I suggest you put your selfish claims and opinions in the bin, get behind your desk and write something thats worth reading. Something that will save yourself, compared to your claim on saving Fiji. On that note, it seems that your opinion and views on our not being indigenous is one you share alone. Enuff said.

Jessica Bain
Submitted 24 August 2006

Hello everyone; where are all the other voices of concern from our Rotuman people? Aren't there any others out there who disagree with this Victor Lal? Is it just three of us out of the many people out there who frequently write? Have a read of his articles. They're downright insulting to our people. Please, if you're a frequent writer to this forum, try posting your concerns and views on the matter, He's claiming we're not an indigenous people, we're free riders on the Fijians, we helped the Fijians pillage loot and destroy during the coup and we don't deserve to be called indigenies. Are we going to let this person get away with this? So come on Rotumans, lets join hands and tell him he's wrong. Gou airot'ak ne is famor Rotuma la te'agesea e' te te' is.

Jessica Bain
Submitted 27 August 2006

Dear Jessica,

I implore you to get your facts right. I have never questioned Rotumans indigenity as a people of Rotuma. As to the last claim, I hope my part-Rotuman nephews and nieces were not part of these disgusting mob of Fijians and Rotumans who had joined George Speight to burn down Fiji. Here is what the Prime Minister had told the UN in 2000:

‘The crux of our political crisis in Fiji is that indigenous Fijians and Rotumans communities felt threatened by certain policies which non-indigenous leadership of the Peoples Coalition Government had implemented following their decisive victory in our national elections in May 1999. It was this fear and anxiety about their future that led to mass demonstrations and ultimately the coup d’etat on May 19th this year. It manifested itself also in the mass looting of shops, destruction of property, and threats to people and their families, and unfortunately and tragically, the victims were mainly members of our Indian community.’

Victor Lal
Submitted 29 August 2006

In regards to the previous commentary by Victor Lal, I have observed that his latest reply shys away from the questions I wrote earlier concerning "Saving Fiji." So sir, I implore you, to answer the question. Enlighten us. Oh, and about the latter part of your statement, "hoping" your nieces and nephews weren't involved and "certainty" stand on either side of a very thin line. So which one would it be? And disgusting? How about misguided as a substitute? C'mon Victor, you're sure borderlining racism now. You said that they burned down Fiji? There goes the generalising again. You're getting caught up in your words...I'd be more sensible about what I write next time. Looks like you're using a six-year-old speech to front your agenda on equality here, Victor. Like I said earlier, you should be addressing the source of the problem; you're a smart guy, i'm sure you'll figure it out. Thank you for not using your "Oxford" tag; we all know where you're writing from now.

Jessica Bain
Submitted 30 August 2006

Response to Victor Lal by Dr Tukaha Mua (From the Fiji Times, 2 September 2006)
Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fiji and Rotuma

I REFUSE to believe Victor Lal's revelation (ST 20/8) that he was coerced to highlight the above by "a very prominent person in the Great Council of Chiefs who was not happy with the inclusion of Rotumans in the affirmative action blueprint".

My perception of the GCC is that it should promote understanding and mutual respect, veirokorokovi, veidokadokai, vakaturagataki, vakavanua as its modus operandi.

I refuse to believe that instead of voicing their disapproval sincerely, honestly, respectfully at the GCC meeting, some chiefs chose to channel their dissent through distasteful avenues.

I was the lone Rotuman member of the non-government team which co-authored the affirmative action blueprint.
The team included Chinese, Indian, part-Europeans and Fijians.

One Fijian, no less a PhD graduate, asked in my presence how Rotumans came to be included as indigenous Fijians.
My respect for such people is steadfast because they are not nameless, faceless, gutless citizens cowering behind a sari.

Fiji and Rotuma were two separate island states. When the Fijian chief, traditional owners of Fiji, and Rotuman chief agreed to merge their islands states, they called it Viti kei Rotuma.

For convenience, the world refers to it as Fiji. Fijians are indigenous to Fiji and Rotumans are indigenous to Rotuma.

Every square inch of Fijian soil falls under a matanitu (confederacy) and Rotuman people belong to the Kubuna confederacy.

In 1942, when the Japanese marched on Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna sent Rotuman chief Josefa Rigamoto to recruit all able-bodied men on Rotuma to help stem the Japanese sweep into the Pacific.

As a child, when I realised that my father was going to die in the Solomons, I cried openly.
Our contribution and commitment to the Kubuna confederacy is an indelible bond which today's young chiefs trample on as trivia.

The over-riding fact is that the two island states merged to form one nation.

The merger or marriage can be severed if and when one of the partner decides that it has had enough of the other.
Until that day dawns, allow Fijian and Rotuman values of veirokorokovi, veidokadokai vakaturaga to prevail.

Tukaha Mua (Dr)

Mr Lal,

Your comments do not answer the question by Jessica Bain.

I too would like to know how you saved my home country. With a pen and paper--are you serious? What did you write to change George Speight's mind?

This is unheard of. Maybe My families overseas shouldn’t have been worried cause you were there to save us! Who are you, Superman? Because no one knows of what you have done to save this country during the events of the 2000 coup.

Please just answer Jessica's question, as this will bring answers to me as well as others reading in this Forum.

I look forward to a reasonable reply.

Daryl Leslie
Suva, Fiji Islands
Submitted 4 September 2006

Dear Daryl and Jessica

I think it is time you two and others who are preparing to follow suit took a deep pause and reflected on the question about my role in 'saving Fiji'. As to George Speight, do you think that I would have had anything to do with that treasonous traitor who hails not very far from my village in Tailevu, and also his media spokesman Jo Nata, with whom I went to school with at RKS and later worked on the old Fiji Sun which was forcibly shut down by Sitiveni Rabuka after the 1987 coups. Come off, I am sure you two have more intelligence than you seem to be displaying. During the height of the 2000 crisis, did you ever read the three options that I put forward in the Daily Post to resolve the hostage crisis? Did you read my lengthy legal tract in the Post on why the Muanikau Accord was invalid and Speight could be charged with treason. Did you read my long tract that the President should dismiss the captive Mahendra Chaudhry as Prime Minister under the Doctrine of Necessity and take Fiji to the polls? If so, maybe you should put two and two together and figure out the course of events, and if I had played any role in them. This was the public face of my role. As to behind the scenes role, do you chaps really think that I would be discussing it on a public chatline? If you are so obsessed, I suggest you walk up to the Chief Justice's office in Suva and ask him more about my role in the hostage crisis and also in putting Speight behind bars. The CJ and I have been acquaintances for over 25 years and I am sure as a fellow Rotuman he might be able enlighten you all. I repeat, this chatline is not a place for me to divulge any further details. I had made a similar suggestion to the Rt Hon Jioji Konrote, which was to go to the Prime Minister, for he is also acutely aware of what transpired behind the scenes during those traumatic 56 days in the name of bogus indigenous rights. I had refused to allow my ethnicnity and the terrible violence and brutality that was inflicted on the Indo-Fijian family of mine in Tailevu by Speight's hoodlums to come in the way in helping to steer Fiji on the road to democracy. Even my mother was injured when she was caught in the cross-fire when Speight's thugs tried to storm the Samabula Police Station. I feel very strongly against those misusing indigenous rights claims and the violence and brutality that my family endured both in 1987 and 2000 coups. I take it that you, as indigenous to Fiji, were spared by the Fijians spared from the same punshiment, whether in 1987 or in 2000? You two also have no clue what I went through over the years, so stop dreaming of my ivory-tower lifestyle. I hope the matters you have raised is effectively closed. I repeat, a Rotuman chatline is not the place for me to defend, explain or expand on my initial remarks. You are however free to continue with your banters but do not expect any further comments from me on the matter. I feel very strongly about Fiji and our own family is a microcosm of what the country should be - through blood and marriage we have in the Lal family the Indo-Fijians, Rotumans, Fijians, Fijian Chinese and Part-Europeans. Whenever there is a family gathering, we feel sorry for the Fijian and Rotuman family members who are always apologising for the events of 1987 and 2000 on behalf of their fellow kith and kin. As I have always protested, I have nothing against the Rotuman people nor for that matter against any other races in Fiji. I hope you are now satisfied.

Victor Lal
Submitted 4 September 2006

Concluding Remarks by Alan Howard

Because I believe the basic arguments have all been made, and to avoid having this forum deteriorate into a series of personal attacks, I am closing the forum to discussion. I leave it to readers of the forum to decide for themselves whether Victor Lal’s arguments are persuasive or confused and logically flawed. In my humble opinion the latter is the case. As I pointed out in my earlier commentary, Lal confounds ethnicity with nationhood. That Rotumans are not indigenous Fijians is not at issue; that Rotumans are indigenous to the nation of Fiji is clear by virtue of the fact that they are indigenous to Rotuma and Rotuma is an integral part of Fiji.

In response to my comparison of the Rotuman case with that of Hawaiian and Alaskan natives, Lal responded that "if the analogy of Hawaii and Alaska is to be accepted, the Indo-Fijians could equally argue that once they renounced any claims to Indian or British citizenship in London in 1970, and opted to become Fiji citizens, than (sic) they also became indigenous to Fiji." This remark suggests that Lal is using a very different concept of indigeneity than the one used by everyone else. No 5th or 6th generation descendent of European migrants in their right mind would claim to be indigenous within the United States or Canada. That distinction belongs to descendants of American Indians, and to the descendants of aboriginal Hawaiians and Alaskans. By no acceptable logic can Indo-Fijians be considered indigines within Fiji.

The tragedy of Lal’s tirades against the Rotuman people is that they appear to be so counterproductive to what should be his main goal—fair and equal treatment for Indo-Fijians. There are ongoing debates in many countries today concerning the rights and privileges that should be afforded indigenous populations, or peoples who have been historically abused, such as African-Americans. Opposition to special treatment for selected groups is based on an appeal to the universal rights of all citizens for fair and equal treatment. The debate in the United States concerning affirmative action is one manifestation, the debate over government’s blueprint in Fiji is another.

There are powerful arguments for both points of view, but by choosing to focus on the issue of Rotuman indigeneity Lal goes off on numerous, unproductive tangents. As a result of his undisciplined rhetoric and often insulting generalizations, he has antagonized and deeply offended the Rotuman people. To me this is particularly tragic, because in my forty-seven years of doing research among Rotumans, I have never heard a disparaging remark made about Fiji Indians. Never! To be driving a wedge between Indo-Fijians and Rotumans at this juncture in Fiji’s history is politically irresponsible.

Ironically, by diverting attention to the question of Rotumans’ indigeneity, Lal’s argument seems to affirm the right of Indigenous Fijians to special treatment under the blueprint. This is surely not what he thinks is in the best interests of Indo-Fijians, but that’s where his chaotic discourse leads us. The fact that the Rotumans are such a small minority within Fiji means that even if they were excluded from special treatment it would have no significant effect on the welfare of Indo-Fijians.

A well-informed, articulate debate concerning the government’s blueprint is needed in Fiji. One just hopes that someone more astute than Lal is able to make the case for universal justice and equal rights.