Suva's young intellectuals lament youth apathy in Fiji
Political apathy among Fiji's young people is the biggest hindrance to revving up opposition to the regime's draft constitution. That's according to a group of young professionals who meet regularly in Suva to air their views.
Political apathy among Fiji's young people is the biggest hindrance to revving up opposition to the regime's draft constitution
That's according to a group of young professionals who meet regularly in Suva to air their views.
Sally Round met some of the group on a recent trip to Fiji.
ROUND: They are representatives of Fiji's smart young urban population - teachers, lawyers, researchers and other professionals -and they meet around the kava bowl to express their opinions.
Such a meeting would not have been possible under the Public Emergency Regulations lifted last year.
But this evening the young speak frankly about their frustration at the regime's moves to push through its constitution.
MAN: It is really frustrating and it seems like we've been participating in the processes that they've been putting and sort of legitimising it. And they get happy about it and then they don't like the end result, they change it again. And then yet we still participate by sending our text messages or tweets.
WOMAN: Maybe the problem is we're playing by their rules. I feel like that donkey and I'm, like, okay, so the carrot, it's almost there, it's almost there.
ROUND: But they're just as frustrated at many of their contemporaries' lack of interest in the issue.
MAN: We sit down and we talk about this apathy that we have. And we feel sad, depressed. When you start a political conversation with them, they just turn off. This morning we were talking about discrimination and human rights, how it's linked and whether it's ethical or not. And then I asked them, so has anyone dared to read the Draft Constitution and the Bill of Rights? They just put their heads down. I asked, anyone out of the 32 students I had. There were just none.
WOMAN: There are students who are interested, that we know for sure. And for those who are not, I believe it's because they haven't made the link between this political crisis and their future.
ROUND: They say many students just want to keep their heads down, get good qualifications and leave the country.
MAN: This is going to contribute to the brain drain, in my opinion. But that is the general view in the Indo-Fijian community, that this has never really been our country. There's been so many coups, so many people have left. There's been no improvement ever since '87. Why should we now stay to try to improve it?
MAN: They're actually brought up in this whole situation, where in high schools and primary schools, they're not allowed to think outside the box.
WOMAN: But we...
MAN: Yeah, we came from the same system, but we dared to branch out and ask and we dared to talk about these things.
ROUND: There's agreement in this multiracial group that the draft is widening the gap between races.
MAN: At least in the urban areas you get to mix. I'm seated amongst Indo-Fijians who speak along the same political tone or otherwise, and I can understand their frustration. But when we go back to our villages it's different. You still have the same song. The Indo-Fijians will always be blamed. Religion is number one. And we have to own everything. There's still have that mentality from within and outside. So even from within our own different families or relations, we're still divided from within.
ROUND: They say fear and intimidation is a daily reality living under Fiji's military-installed government.
MAN: Today we had military personnel in the school compounds. Yesterday we had police personnel asking everyone if we were having unlawful assemblies, even though we're allowed to actually convene political discussions.
MAN: Yeah, exactly. But, even still, it's intimidating. Even the student that has a small amount of interest loses that interest very quickly, it just evaporates.
ROUND: These young people say there is too much division and fear among their contemporaries to create an effective political force.
WOMAN: When we do come together and have a strong voice there's interference from the government, but it's also us standing witness to what has happened before. It's lessons learnt and what we know of democracy, what we know about what happens to people who speak up. It's that internal fear that's been grown within us. Why would you enter politics in Fiji? Why would you become a parliamentarian? Why would that be your ambition, knowing very well that you'd have more of a successful career if you're on the side of the coup perpetrators.
ROUND: They're cynical about the older guard of politicians who have recently united against the regime.
MAN: It's kind of strange to see all these people next to each other, sitting and trying to get along, even though at times they wouldn't even be in the same room.
ROUND: The young people say the international community needs to have smarter policies towards Fiji.
MAN: Don't only be Big Brother when it suits your agenda.
OTHERS: Yes, Yes.
WOMAN: But also with the sanctions that they did place on us, it affected the young people. People who wanted to go to school in New Zealand and Australia, have scholarships, they couldn't apply because their father was in the military, their mother was in the military or whatever.
MAN: They didn't really target the root people inside.
WOMAN: It affected the innocent people. And obviously you're going to stay in Fiji. What are you going to do? Your father is in the military. Why don't you just join the military? You can't go and pursue your career.
MAN: This is the problem. For a lot of young people, military was the only option.
ROUND: Another member of the group feels it's not all pessimistic.
WOMAN: We are not back in 2007 or 2009 when everybody was quiet on the abrogation, or 2008. Even the media, they could have just run with their censorship one-side story promoting government. Maybe once a week or once every two weeks they will actually project or report the other side of the story.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: