Lost In Paradise

What will happen when negotiations fail? I mean in our life, in politics, in a relationship. The consequence of failed negotiations has been played out live from Fiji, an archipelago in South Pacific with less than one million residents. Whether the events in Fuji has implications for other countries or regions, I don’t really know. I just wish people negotiate more. That’s all.

Fiji is a tropical paradise with tourism as their most profitable industry. Such a place is usually connected with relaxed life style, lay back politicians, and the leading cause of death being falling coconuts from trees. At least in my imagination. Ever since its independence from the British in 1970, the ethnic conflicts have plagued the country’s politics. The country is about 60% native Fijians and 35% Indo-Fijians who were brought to the islands by the British from India as laborers, just like what happened in Malaysia and Indonesia where Chinese and Indians were brought in to work in the plantations. Since the independence, there are a lot of policies that are in dispute: the political power of chiefs of Fijian tribes, the land allocation, the fair distribution of government positions. The fact that the minority Indo-Fijians dominate the economic life of the country causes discomforts in the majority who are Fijians.

As an immigrant and a minority myself, I sympathize with the Indo-Fijians. However I also have to say I can see how poisonous identity politics is to this little country. Identity politics stiffens people’s positions and makes negotiation difficult, if not entirely impossible. When an Indo-Fijian was elected the prime minister, the first ever Indo-Fijian to hold that position, in 2000, the majority revolted, led by a native businessman. It’s a coup and it succeeded in toppling the government.

Now two decades, two more coups later, the country is still under Frank Bainimarama, the military ruler who started a coup in 2006 to topple the previous coup. The Indo-Fijians are so frightened of the majority that they voted for Bainimarama even if they don’t really like him. At least Bainimarama is against the native Fijian chiefs even if he is a native himself.

Where one is from, or how one looks like has a disproportional stake in a person’s life and thoughts. It really shouldn’t be this way. I’d rather be grouped with people who like to read and write, including people who like to read and write romance stories. As an Asian immigrant, I am surrounded by engineers and businessmen in the community, which can make a person like me feel rather lonely. I know being an Asian and being an immigrant is my identity, but that’s an identity I am naturally relegated to, without much effort. Do human effort mean anything?

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