Fiji PM Sitiveni Rabuka apologises to Fijians of Indian origin

World Affairs

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The wheel of karma keeps turning, that is, no one can escape from the universal law of cause and effect. Every action as a cause has a consequence or effect, which in turn can itself act as a cause. Some consequences, as we know by experience, can be immediate, others can manifest later. Either way, good or bad, results of actions undertaken are inevitable.

Indian PM Modi receives warm welcome in Papua New Guinea, PM Marape touches his feet. Pic – News 18

It would be recalled that in the 1970s the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, brutally drove the hardworking Ugandans of Indian origin out of the country. They were given little time to wind up their enterprises, properties and belongings and prepare themselves to leave. There was looting and killing, and they were forced to run away in a hurry clutching preciously whatever little they could carry.

The majority fled to England, and in due course with the same zeal for hard work, savings, education, and driven by hope and optimism, they were able to replicate what they were best at in Uganda: wealth creation for their newly adopted country.

In an ironic twist of karma, shortly into his mandate, the successor of Idi Amin, President Museveni, made an appeal to them to come back to the country tempting them with promises and generous terms as regards their former properties and resumption of their businesses. Understandably, very few did so as they were already so well settled in the UK.

A similar drama unfolded in Fiji in 1987, when army officer Sitiveni Rabuka overturned the duly elected Prime Minister of Indian origin in a coup. This led to the exodus of thousands of Fiji Indians which adversely affected the country’s economy.

But again, the wheel has turned: ‘On May 14, an emotional Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka apologised to Fijians of Indian origin for the military coup of 1987. Rabuka’s apology comes ahead of the India-Pacific Island summit, where PM Narendra Modi is expected to announce a number of initiatives. Rabuka admitted that they have wronged Fijians, particularly the Indo-Fijian community’, who left Fiji to seek a better living elsewhere – Australia, New Zealand, the US where I have had the opportunity to meet some of them and appreciate commonalities in language, food, and other customs.

*  *  *

Unique welcome to PM Modi in Papua New Guinea

But PM Rabuka did not stop there. As if to make further amend, on Monday last he conferred Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the highest civil honours of Fiji, during the latter’s visit to attend the third India-Pacific Islands Cooperation Summit – FIPIC, held in Papua New Guinea (PNG). This caught my attention for an issue of medical interest in PNG (see below). On the same occasion, PM Modi was also conferred the highest honours of PNG (the Logohu) by its Governor- General.

According to Indian press reports, Modi is the first Indian PM to visit the country. The welcome he was given at the airport by the Prime Minister James Marape has gone viral, because it was unique for two reasons. Papua New Guinea generally doesn’t give a ceremonial welcome to any leader coming after sunset, but an exception was made for Modi. Secondly, Marape bent down to touch the feet of Modi, as is the Indian custom to show respect to an elder or a guru.

Speaking at the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit in Port Moresby, PNG, Modi told the leaders of 14 Pacific Island nations that India would be a ‘reliable’ development partner, pointing out that ‘Those we considered trustworthy, it turned out they were not standing by our side in times of need. During these challenging times, an old saying has proven true: “A Friend in need is a friend indeed”. I am glad that India stood with its Pacific Island friends during this challenging time [the Covid pandemic]. Whether it was vaccines or essential medicines, wheat, or sugar; India, in line with its capabilities, has been assisting all partner countries.’

The FIPIC summit was launched during Modi’s visit to Fiji in 2014. In 2015, the second FIPIC summit was held in Jaipur. This is the third summit. India is trying to boost ties and cooperation with the Pacific Island nations, which include, apart from Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. To this end India has outlined a 12-step action programme that will be implemented in the region in, amongst others, the fields of education, IT and cybersecurity, healthcare that will include building a 100-bed super-specialty hospital in Fiji and sea ambulances. These will complement the other ongoing development assistance projects that are ongoing.  There are about 3000 Indians who are present in PNG and they turned out in massive numbers to greet Modi at the airport.

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Kuru disease

One of my favourite quotations is a line from a text I used in medical school, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine: ‘To the doctor, as to the anthropologist, nothing human is unusual.’

I remembered it when in the final year Dr J.D. Spillane from London, who was an expert in Tropical Neurology, gave a lecture at my medical college in Calcutta in 1970 on kuru disease, which he was researching. In fact, he was on his way back to the UK from Papua New Guinea, where the disease was first described among the Fore people and had been proven to be the consequence of their practice of funerary cannibalism. Children and women in particular were fed the cooked brain of dead relatives which contained the infective particles or prions. Children who became infected developed encephalopathy, leading to weakness, tremors, and impairment of walking. Often the disease was fatal.  The physician who was teaching us neurology, Dr Chaudhary, had apparently trained under Dr Spillane, whom he introduced.

This discovery by Dr Spillane’s team was an example of successful field epidemiology. Health education and promotion led to the elimination of the practice and the eradication of the disease.

Leading by example

From President-philosopher Radhakrishnan to Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Modi, Indian leaders have walked tall on the world stage gaining much respect and being listened to. It is widely accepted that Modi has taken this dimension of Indian leadership to a higher level, witness the almost reverential manner in which he has been received as a guest at the recently concluded G7 meeting in Hiroshima Japan, and then in Sydney where he began a visit to Australia.

The Bhagavad Gita teaches that people tend to imitate what their leaders do, and hence the supreme responsibility of the latter to be exemplary in their behaviour when fulfilling their role in their country. Wherever they have settled in the world, Indians have been perceived as being accommodative and living in peace and harmony, contributing through their hard work to the national weal, emulating the best that their thinkers and leaders have bequeathed.

Unfortunately, in our country for some time now we are having to suffer the darker aspects of some of our leaders, who instead of being examplars have preferred a lifestyle based on the instincts, giving primacy to lust, arrogance, ostentatious living, with scant concern if any for what awaits the upcoming and future generations. In other words, instead of ‘high thinking and simple living’ as the adage goes, it’s corrupted thinking and lowly living which, alas, tends to be aped by those who have a similar mindset.

This is in contradiction to their citations from the scriptures during haranguing at cultural functions where this shouldn’t have any place. As at date, there is no indication of any attempt to change for the better before it is too late. Such a great disservice, and a shame, to the community, the people, and the country!

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 26 May 2023

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