The evidence by former Minster for Fijian Affairs, Ratu Timoci Vesikula, that he was scared when he saw that “Fijian families” owned 80% of shares in FHL is the most amazing yet. He implied that he thought the contribution of $50,000 by each Provincial Council would make them the largest shareholders.
It’s hard to know where to start with a display of such ignorance or obfuscation.
The Provincial Councils were free to contribute more, the fact that they did not reflects only the fact that they did not have the funds or the expert advice needed to make the decision.
The idea that the 80% were all families is also false. We know that many were communities such as Mavana, not to mention a host of other Tikinas. Ratu Timoci said that “indigenous Fijian are born into a tokatoka, vanua, tikina and their life as an ethnic group is guided by the communal systems”. He should know that many of the companies purchasing shares do represent such communal groups. His community and others from Tailevu might not be numbered among them, but that’s due to short-sighted leadership, not lack of opportunity.
But the biggest sign of ignorance by a man who should know better is the idea that buying shares in FHL was like the votavota at a feast. It was not. It involved sharing the contributions to a project, not the fruits. It’s about building wealth, not dividing the spoils. This was money invested on the basis of faith that the leaders knew how to use the money wisely to give a good return. Qarase had faith and advised his family and community to invest.
The evidence presented so far has confirmed that there was no limit on how many shares Provincial Councils could buy. Or, to be more accurate, the only limit was the education and business sense of Provincial leaders.
Why is that now, twenty years after the events, the issue of buying shares is now being treated as crime? It’s because Fijian Holdings Limited is a success. How many failures of Fijian participation in business have we seen? The real crime is success.