I am flabbergasted by Tomasi Baleiwai's letter to the Editor that was published in the Fiji Times of 19/3/05. Selina's done well to rebut Tomasi but allow me to say my piece.
What Tomasi wrote not only offends me but portrays him as uninformed. Tomasi appears to be ignorant of the history of Fijian migration (Bulou Ni Wasa's and Hani Te Ma'usu’s) as well as Fiji’s subsequent association with Rotuma.
Since 1881, our colonial masters saw fit to group Rotuma together with Fiji for mutual benefits. This allowed Fiji to benefit from the natural resources that extended beyond Fiji's immediate exclusive economic zone. Given the distance between Fiji and Rotuma, Fiji now has a further 500 kms economic zone from which it has benefited. Besides this vast resource, Rotuma also exports its copra and other root crops to Fiji. Also, through its long association, Rotumans have joined forces with Fijians and have faithfully served alongside them in wars, in peacekeeping efforts, and in every facet of life in Fiji. We may be small in numbers but our sacrifices and contributions to country in proportion to our numbers are enormous, especially in manpower in areas of specialised and skilled labour.
At the Constitutional talks in London prior to Fiji's independence, It was through Ratu Mara's insistence and our chiefs’ acceptance that Rotuma became part of an independent Fiji. Furthermore, Ratu Mara made Rotuma part of the Prime Minister's portfolio (where it remains) for him to look after Rotuma . Also, it was Ratu Mara who made provisions for Rotuma to benefit from the Fijian Holdings Limited. This showed that he cared about Rotuma, and the post-coup constitution promulgated and epitomised the fact that Rotumans in the main are grouped together with the Fijians for mutual benefits, which enshrined that historic decision made in Rotuma's cession to Great Britain in 1881. The powers to be knew that without a doubt there would be mutual benefits, and we Rotumans will always back the Fijians to the full.
It is clear to me that Tomasi ignores these facts when he mentions that honourable man, the late Ratu Kamasese Mara. Besides Saddiq Koya, Ratu Mara was the architect of Fiji's independence and became prime minister for about seventeen years through the Alliance Party. His party stood on a platform of multiracialism with the aim of making Fiji a true multicultural country for all its people. The Alliance Party was for everyone, and it focused on all the people and not just the Fijians and the Indians.
So my advice to Tomasi is to look, and know your facts, before you leap into contentious issues.
My name is Akata (nee' Toma). I am Rotuman and want to address the 21 March Fiji Time's letter to the editor penned by the misinformed Mr. Tomasi Baleiwai. Mr. Baleiwai, I encourage you to read the history of your country--our country. Fijians and Rotumans have co-existed as fellow countrymen during all the years of British rule and long before that. We were at one with Fiji in many ways long before the British started the indentured labor system and brought thousands of people from India to work the sugar fields. We share political alliances, culture and even our bloodline runs in common with the people of Fiji. As for your remarks about our "small contributions," we are but a small group of people only counted in the low thousands throughout Fiji. How can you possible make a comparison between us and a people who count in the hundreds of thousands? However, if you were to count the largeness of our contributions by percentage of people, you would be embarrassed for even opening your mouth. Among our few numbers in towns and cities around Fiji are doctors, teachers, high level government officials, airline pilots, corporate administrators and a lot of hard working service people and laborers. Rotumans take pride in their education and believe in hard work. This is not just bragging--it's a statistical fact. And we believe strongly in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.
Another way in which you misconstrue the facts, you say that we should go back to the days of Ratu Mara. Indeed, we should. Ratu Mara was a fair man, a leader admired around the world and a friend who was loved by all of the people he represented: Indo-Fijians, native Fijians and Rotumans alike (not to mention other diverse groups living on our shores). He was not a prejudiced man and would never speak in terms of division the way you do, Mr. Baleiwai. If a division has occurred between Indo-Fijians and native Fijians, it was not as a result of Rotumans asking to become more recognized by the government. It was the result of the Fiji government (run largely by Fijians), making a decision to place more emphasis on indigenous peoples. If Indo-Fijians have suffered as a result of this, then that is not right. But again, our numbers are small in comparison to the 350,000 Indo-Fijians. We account for only about 10,000 of Fiji's population, hardly enough to make a significant dent into the livelihood of either the Indo-Fijians or the Fijians.
Do your math, read your history. You speak as someone who is concerned about divisiveness, but you words promote it. The Indo-Fijians, native Fijians and Rotumans attend school together, they work together and many Rotumans go on to marry Indo-Fijians and native Fijians--and spend their lives together. I've lived in the United States for twenty years and give parties and attend parties across the United States. These are often lovo style get togethers, and we eat the delicious mix of Rotuman, Indian and Fijian food that has been brought by people representing each of those races. We all play guitars, drink kava and dance into the night. No one speaks of division. My experiences while growning up in Fiji and on my returns there are no different.
Rotuma is a very rich Island in natural resources and blessed with an intelligent and hard working people. The geographical position of Rotuma allows the government of Fiji or anybody governing Rotuma to reap huge financial benefits from its 200 mile nautical economic maritime zone, largely from its natural resources such as fish stocks and other mineral/oil and gas deposits if any are to be developed in the future.
So it is rightful for any Government of the day to recognise Rotuma as an economic asset and to distribute resources of the state fairly and equitably.
Mr Balewai is barking up the wrong tree. When you take away fear and educate yourself to be the best in what you can humanly do yourself and contribute to your country, then Fiji will continue to be peaceful and people, whether Indian, Rotuman or Fijian will have no time to stage another coup.
Capt Fuata Jione