By: Sachin Anand Balram
I am very much saddened to hear in the news about Mr. Chaudhary who has been found guilty and is most likely going to serve two years in prison. How very sad! But, as we all know from our childhood “no one is above the law”. About ten years ago, I used to admire Mr. Chaudhry for his courage, intelligence, fortitude and his clear vision about growth of Fiji. In my books, he was one of the sharpest, shrewdest and a dynamic politician that ever walked on the Islands of Fiji. He was a man fired- up, possessed with fresh ideas with strong passion and conviction to improve the country. Regrettably, that opinion of mine has changed. I just have to keep on reminding myself that “to err is only human ’’.
And so, Mr. Chaudhry’s demise brings me to the theme of my article – What does Fiji really need ? My answer is – at this juncture, Fiji really and truly needs a true statesman/women who can pave the country forward in leaps and bound. More than four decades ago, we had some truly dedicated leaders like Ratu Sir Laala Sakuna, Ratu Mara, Ratu Edward Cakobau, Pundit Vishnu Deo, Tulsi Ram Sharma, Chattur Singh, A.D. Patel, S.M Koya and few others who were willing to sacrifice everything for their country. In recent years, we have had leaders like Harish Sharma, Jai Ram Reddy, K C Ramrakha but they have moved on from Fiji’s political arena. Their advancing age, health, family and financial reasons may be cited as cause for leaving Fiji. No matter what, let’s give them credit for their contribution to Fiji’s prosperity. They certainly deserve a round of applause. Even Mr. Chaudhry’s immense contribution towards Fiji’s progress and prosperity must not be forgotten. Let’s give credit to the man where credit is due.
In recent years, Mr. Frank Bainimarama has emerged as a quasi-statesman but the method he used to gain the seat of governance and to rule over his people for eight years is very disappointing, to say the least. Had he not used his military and orchestrated a coup, he would have been on his way to becoming a true statesman for Fiji. Maybe, he will redeem himself if he gets democratically elected.
When we think about great statesmen, we immediately recall names like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Yasser Arafat, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy- just to mention a few. They led their country with integrity, honesty, desire, determination and self-less drive. I am sure we have few of these great men and women in Fiji amongst our population of 850,000. The soul searching question is – how do we find them, how do we evaluate them, what is the yardstick for measuring our leaders? This issue is important at this critical juncture when our countrymen and women are getting ready to vote in a very important general election. I understand there will be approximately two hundred and fifty candidates vying for fifty seats. We should keep our eyes and ears open and study these candidates carefully in some depth before we cast our vote.
I thought long and hard about this subject of great leaders and statesman. I gleaned through my history and religious books. I have found few markers about important qualities which a great leader must possess.
Our Hindu scriptures like Vedas, Puranas and Gita are full of examples of great leaders and their admired qualities. Things like honesty (satyam ), non violence (ahimsa ), humility, detachment from materiality, discipline of mind, patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness and absence of anger, lust and greed, compassion are often mentioned in many of our scriptures, mantras and hymns. It goes without saying that these qualities are not only needed to become a great leader but are pre- requisites to becoming a nice and decent human being. I must confess that in order to become a great statesman some of these virtues taught by our scriptures will not suffice. These religious virtues are taught and come useful for a person who wants to become a sincere devotee of his Lord and to obtain “moksha “.
Hence, we have to look at some of the extra – ordinary human qualities that a person needs in order to become a true statesmen .It is clear that just name, fame , fortune, gift of the garb, good looks, academic degrees, solid family background, good track record, spending millions in campaigns will not cut the mustard. A true statesman must have that something more, above and beyond the ordinary.
I may not have the right answer but in my mind a truly great statesmen must have solid principles, a moral compass, a vision, ability to build consensus and, of course, charisma. .
- Must be a man of Principles –This is a must. A great leader builds his platform on a foundation of firm, unchanging, fundamental truths. A statesman never lets go his bedrock of principles for achieving his desired policies for developing his country. Once the goals have been set, he must not waiver. It should not matter how much opposition one has to face, no matter what are the odds of achieving the targeted goals; one must persevere with “blood , toil, sweat and tears “.
- Follow the Dictates of his own Conscience– A true statesmen makes his decisions by following the dictates of his own moral compass. He can readily differentiate between right and wrong. When something is wrong, a great leader plainly says it is wrong and then fights to correct that wrong. When something is right, he is willing to overcome any opposition to preserve and spread his well intended message.
- A Vision – A true statesman has a clear vision of what his country and its inhabitants want. He knows where he wants to take them and what it will take to get there. And then, he must be ready to move mountains to get for his country what its people have been promised.
- Ability to build Consensus- A great statesman must enlist those who serve with him in the government to support his initiatives. To win the hearts of his fellow politician he must be a master orator, a great advocate of his people and propose intelligent, potent and well reasoned arguments to his people, party as well as his fellow politicians.
- Charismatic Leadership – This is an inborn trait of a person. This type of person uses his dynamic personality to lead others. He initially comes up with major vision the “big picture” and then uses his personality and passion to achieve his set goals, come hell or high-water. He is driven, hungry and possessed for accomplishing his cause and will not leave any stone unturned until he achieves his goals.
Now that we have some guidelines to follow, the voters of Fiji will have to get informed and educated about each candidate contesting the general election. Each candidate’s background, education, training and experience in their respective chosen careers, their community involvement, their moral compass, their vision of the country etc., will have to be scrutinized before casting the vote. Reading blogs like this one, listening to campaign speeches, reading party manifestos, political pamphlets, researching on the internet, reading newspapers, discussing with friends and family members will give some idea what each candidate is all about.
I am sure there will be many candidates who will have slick advertisements and personal relation campaigns, ads and propagandas to win voters. There is nothing wrong with that since we do want free, fair and fiery election campaign. The password is “be extra careful” who you vote for. If you vote for a person who you think from your own investigation, information and knowledge that he/she has the mettle of becoming a great statesmen then cast your vote and your job will be done. Time will only tell if your choice was a right one. And, if with some luck, we do find a great statesman, no doubt, we all will be blessed. If not then we will keep on searching for that true statesman or women. One day our mission will be accomplished.