Ex-Indo-Fijian politician's book sparks controversy
A yet-to-be-launched book by a former Indo-Fijian politician is brewing a storm, with Fiji's Methodist Church and the New Nationalist Party calling for its boycott.
Speaking Out by Sir Vijay R. Singh, a former cabinet minister who had also served as the country's attorney-general, contains his thoughts on Fiji in the period 1995-2005, including the pre-coup nationalist protest marches of 2000 against the then Indo-Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
Reverend Iliesa Naivalu, assistant secretary for social services of the Methodist Church, has called for a ban on the book by the government, according to a report on the website of Radio New Zealand International.
The book, scheduled for launch Wednesday, suggests that the marchers in 2000 were hypocritical in disapproving of an ethnic Indian prime minister while showing devotion to the Biblical precept of brotherhood of man.
"Such a statement simply incites both racial and religious hatred among the people," the website quoted Naivalu as saying.
In May 2000, Fiji witnessed a civilian putsch by hardline Fijian nationalists against the elected government of Indo-Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
Chaudhry had to subsequently resign after serving only one year in office.
"I'm questioning the timing of the launching of the book, which is a very important time in the country when the indigenous Fijians open their hands wide and embrace the Indo-Fijians in their strides to share power," Naivalu said, referring to the multi-party government currently in power, which includes the Fiji Labour Party led by Chaudhry.
He said Sir Vijay has failed to understand the fear of extinction, which brought the Fijian people together in the 2000 marches.
Fiji has been witness to simmering tension between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, who are mostly descendants of Indians who had come to Fiji in the 19th and 20th centuries to work as indentured labour in sugarcane plantations.
Indo-Fijians now comprise 44 percent of Fiji's population of around 900,000.
The Methodist Church's protest comes in the wake of similar calls by the New Nationalist Party (NNP), a political party which argues for indigenous Fijian interests and of the Christian faith.
A report on the Fiji TV website quoted NNP president Saula Telawa as saying that excerpts of the book were insensitive to Christians.
Sir Vijay, who is in ill health, has said that he loves Fiji and the Fijian people.
The website quoted him as saying that he had only a few months to live and that people should read his book in totality.
Sir Vijay, the first Indo-Fijian to be knighted and a lawyer by profession, held cabinet office in the 1970s. He served in Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's government in a variety of positions before being appointed attorney-general in 1977, a post he held till 1979.