STOP BICKERING, START CAMPAIGING
By : Sachin Anand Balram
Once again, the beautiful islands of Fiji are embroiled in an election fever. The blame game is on full swing. Vilification of the opponents by innuendos and false advertising is flaring up like wild fire. Be that as it may, no one seems to know exactly how the five political parties are going to defeat the newly formed FijiFirst party. All we know, so far, is that general election will be held on September 17, 2014. The major political parties already registered, have revealed very little about their platform. The politicians have disclosed very little about their manifestos. Almost a quarter of the electorate is not sure if they will go to the polling station or not. The ballot paper is still being scrutinized for its final form; the party leaders are still interviewing candidates. One wonders what were they doing since January of this year. While the other parties are still gearing up, Bainimarama/Khaiyum are still bent on doing unscrupulous things so that they can win the election. The opposing parties are just reacting, retaliating, dilly-dallying and redacting to what Bainimarama and Khaiyum have done in the past and/ or are in the process of doing. It is high time that we let the happenings of the yester- years become distant memory (good or bad) and save energy, time and money to focus on positive thoughts and ideas about getting a politically strong party in power.
It is high time for the politicians to get on the bandwagon and take their message to the masses. Fiji’s electorate is curious, anxious and hungry to know in some detail the plan of action of each party. Is the time not ripe to stop bickering about what has happened in the past and focus like a laser on what needs to be done to improve the country under a five year plan? Is it not getting late to choose the best candidate for each party and let them loose on the streets, villages , towns and cities so that they can make a case for their party? Is it not getting late to convince the electorate why they should cast the vote for the best candidate? Why are party leaders wasting so much of time and energy on what Bainimarama and Khaiyum have done during the past eight years? Fiji people know that they had to live under a regime of dictatorship and dictators rule their country with a big stick. It is either “my way or the highway” as one saying goes. It should not be forgotten that one of the fundamental difference between Democracy and Dictatorship is that democracy believes in freedoms of speech, press and association and transparency whereas Dictatorship believes that there should be no freedom and there should be no opposition to dictator’s party and there should be no accountability. In a democracy- major issues are settled by discussions and agreements. On the other hand, in a dictatorship, all major issues are resolved by the dictator and his cahoots and his armed forces.
If the polls are any indicators, it appears that FijiFirst Party will have a landslide victory on September 17, 2014. If that happens, it will be another very sad day for Fiji, just like, the four coups in nineteen years. To bring about change in a country like Fiji, it will no doubt be difficult. Many controversial issues like race-relations, land tenure, massive unemployment, stuttering economic growth, poor infra-structure etc., needs to be carefully thought out and then a program implemented to resolve them. It may take years to resolve these complex issues. And, since Bainimarama/ Khaiyum have already started to tackle some of these issues, people of Fiji may be thinking that a change will not do any good. Hence, why change the leadership of Bainimarama/Khaiyum oligarchy when we just do not know what the new governing party will bring to the table. As any psychologist will tell you, masses of people will often want to remain mired in misery rather than to make a change. As the saying goes, “better off with the devil you know than the devil you don’t know “. That is the reason why Bainimarama is leading so far ahead in the polls. It does not matter how unscientific and small these polls are – people are feeling comfortable with FijiFirst party and are prepared to cast their vote for Fiji First.
Hence, party leaders – let’s begin a spirited issue-based campaign forthwith. Let’s start debating and thrashing out the issues. Let’s start strategizing, let’s stop the acrimonious and spiteful accusatory and the blaming game. It will not get anyone anywhere, leave alone, getting the votes. Party leaders should create inspiring visions. Party leaders should create certainty of process with clear simple steps and timetables. If we want to bring about major change, it will entail hard work, grit, drive determination and desire to bring about a change. It has to start with the party leaders. It appears that Fiji politicians are oblivious of the fact that if one wants to bring about change then past resentments, hatred, evil thoughts about fellow politicians are be left at the door way of their house. Any courageous leader must offer goodwill gestures to opposition to heal the past, before sailing into the future. This should not be a hard thing to do for any brave, wise, patriotic, loyal and strong leader.
I vividly recall when I was growing up in Lautoka during mid-sixties and early seventies, the two major political parties, namely, Alliance and Federation used to hold political rallies at least once a month. They would start at least one year in advance of the general election day. Political rallies were held on the same day, usually Saturday morning. One party will have its rally in Churchill Park and the other party will hold the rally on the grounds next to the Lautoka market. If the wind was blowing in the right direction, one could hear speakers from both sides on blaring sound systems. Both parties had fiery leaders who hated each other’s guts and ideologies. Despite all that bitterness, candidates did their utmost in propounding issues and providing ideas to resolve them. They fought their campaign on issues and ideologies not on personal grudges and vendettas.
I guess times have changed. The modern era politics requires much more than just discussion about relevant issues. The politicians are bent on destroying the opponents in totality. They have plenty of money and team of lawyers giving them wrong advice most of the time. They will not stop at anything until the opponent is completely de-valued in the eyes of the voters. For few politicians, this type of smearing technique works -but only sometimes. Any political science student will tell you that most of the time, it does not. The voters these days are much smarter, informed and intelligent. Voters are able to figure out the truth and know the difference between just smoke and mirrors, innuendos and malicious untruths and that borne from genuine ideologies and programs from honest leaders with genuine desire to make their country prosperous for all the people.
It will be worthy for the party leaders to note that in some countries they have “Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign” agreement amongst the major political parties. They get together and enter into an agreement vowing “not to use or permit to be used any malicious untruths or scurrilous innuendos about the opponent’s personal life nor will they make or condone unfounded accusations discrediting that person’s integrity “. Maybe, it is high time that the major political party leaders of Fiji should get together and come up with some type of Voluntary Code of similar nature. This way, at least we can force the aspiring candidates to start campaigning about major issues like, improving economy, solving land issues, housing, lowering food prices, job creation, education, health, taxes, sugar, tourism, helping farmers, creating small industries, overseas investments, race relations, alleviating poverty, equal rights, reducing crime, improving infra-structure and hundreds of other controversial issues that are constantly bothering the people of Fiji. There is no time left to continue to run down Bainimarama and Khaiyum oligarchy. Bickering will not get any party anywhere. Only healthy, relentless and constructive campaigning based on issues, will win the election.