Posted By

Tags

Envoy ousted for supporting Indo-Fijians

The fact that India is the only country that has stood by Fiji and fought for the betterment of Indo-Fijians is well documented, but not widely known. In the following article, T P Sreenivasan, former High Commissioner of Fiji writes about the rough sailing that he had with then Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and the meeting that he had with him last fortnight in Fiji. The man who ousted him from Fiji offered no apology, but instead tried to shift the blame.

Rabuka instigated the 1987 coups that curiously paved the way for one more in May 2000 and started an era of uncertainly for almost 20 years, until Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama sized power overthrowing Laisenia Qarase on December 5, 2006.

Mr Sreenivasan stayed on for two years after the 1987 coup, fighting for the rights of the people of Indian origin. His struggle was relentless until Rabuka ordered him out of the country but ‘graciously’ allowed his wife to stay for a couple of months. Rabuka also closed down the Indian High Commission in Suva.

Mr Sreenivasan writes about his visit to Fiji.

Meeting Rabuka was an uneasy decision. The man had overthrown a democratically elected government; discriminated against Indo-Fijians, brought untold humiliation and suffering and tried to disenfranchise them; ordered me out of Fiji; and closed down the Indian High Commission.

Mission closed

Many people in India may remember Rabuka, a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College based in Wellington, Tamil Nadu and the third ranking officer of the Fiji army.

As the High Commissioner of India to Fiji at that time, I was instructed not to recognise the military regime and to fight for the rights of Indo-Fijians.

After two years of diplomatic battle, Rabuka asked me to leave Fiji in 72 hours. The Indian High Commission and the Indian Cultural Centre were closed down within six months thereafter.

Fiji, having lost its innocence, had at least three more coups since then, one even by a civilian. There were many constitutions and elections loaded against Fiji Indians whose strength has been reduced to 37% of the population because of migration.

Indian support

Even today, Fiji has a Government headed by a former Navy Commander Frank Bainimarama, who has been Prime Minister since December 5, 2006. He has worked with the communities to adopt the first non-racial constitution under which elections will be held on September 17, 2014.

He apparently has the support of a majority of Indo-Fijians, but his Party and that of Rabuka are yet to take shape. The National Federation Party may become a multi-racial organisation.

The Fiji Labour Party, which won the elections in 1987, appears to have lost its prominence. Mr Bainimarama is poised to win the elections, although the scene is not yet clear. The outcome of the election is unpredictable.

Golf meeting

My meeting with Rabuka occurred over a game of Golf at the Suva Golf Club.

I thanked him for not declaring me persona non grata (in 1989) so that I could visit Fiji again. He was defensive saying that he did not order me out and that he was overruled by former Prime Minister Ratu Mara.

Rabuka also revealed that it was not my pro-Indo-Fijian speeches that provoked them to action intelligence reports, which alleged that I was holding meetings in my house to collect money to smuggle arms into Fiji. I said that while India had not recognised his Government and got Fiji out of the Commonwealth because of its racist policies.

I assured him that India does not support any armed struggle anywhere in the world.

Modernising India

I told him that his coup occurred as the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was counting on overseas Indians to participate in building a modern India.

Mr Gandhi felt that his new policy would not be credible unless he stood by Indians in trouble anywhere in the world.

It was for this reason that he had instructed me to stay on in Fiji and fight for the rights of the Indo-Fijians even at the risk of expulsion.

The mistake I made was that I listened to politicians,” he said repeatedly and suggested that he did not have his heart in the coup. But once he was asked to do a job, he did it with conviction, just as I had done. In other words, he absolved both of us of personal animosity.

Another interesting observation that Rabuka made was that two people who were actually against me had come to grief — Ratu Mara and his intelligence chief. He said as a believer, he held the view that God would punish those who did harm to those who did their duty. He said he was able to survive because he had no ill will even to those whom he hurt.

He was aware that he hurt many people in the course of his duties, but offered no apology. He admitted that Fiji lost time and resources in disturbances since May 1987.

Rabuka about India

Rabuka was nostalgic about his days in India, particularly the Staff College.

He said that he had a great time in India and that he had many friends in the Indian armed forces. Soon after the first coup in 1987, he had called the Indian Army Chief General Sunit Francis Rodrigues, who was his commander in the Staff College, to assure him that he would not harm Indians in Fiji.

Rabuka was ecstatic about a Gujarati doctor who operated on both his knees and looked after him in Baroda in 2007. He said his knees were perfect and that his quality of life had improved since the operation.

As for his own political future, Rabuka said he had his political party, but since he was not a paid member, he may not be given a ticket. He said that he was mulling forming the Republican Party, as he was the one who declared Fiji a Republic.

He was not against the introduction of the common roll as long as it did not result in the loss of the rights of the indigenous Fijians.

As Sitiveni Rabuka, who appointed himself to every high position in the country, including head of the council of chiefs, without being a chief, took the wheel and drove off, I felt pity for him for the first time for being powerless and friendless.

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement