Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has apologised to the Indian-Fijian community for the coup of 1987. PM Rabuka made the confession at the Reconciliation Service between the Methodist Church and the Girmitiyas in Suva held at the Vodafone Arena and has asked for forgiveness.
Rabuka admitted that he had wronged the Girmitiyas descendants and all Fijians in 1987 and said, “I am not making this confession as the Prime Minister for Fiji because I do not hold the government accountable for my actions of 1987.”
“We confess our wrongdoings, we confess that we have hurt so many of our people in Fiji.”
“I do not claim to be making this confession on behalf of the Vanua Navatu, I’m not Tui Navatu, I’m just a member of the Yavusa Navatu, vanua Navatu of Cakaudrove, but I make this confession on my own behalf and on behalf of all those that took part with me on the military coup of the 14th of May, 1987.”
“I admit our wrongdoings, you have every right to blame us for the difficulties you went through, we do not blame you for being angry with us or even hate us, you are justified in your anger and your hate. I stand here to confess and to ask for your forgiveness,”tweeted Rabuka.
Fiji, where ethnic Indians were in a majority until the aftermath of a military coup in 1987 forced tens of thousands of them to leave the country of 330 islands. Staged by Rabuka, it overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra, who was the country’s first ethnic Indian prime minister.
“I make this confession on my own behalf and on behalf of all those who took part with me in the military coup on the 14th of May, 1987. We confess our wrongdoings, and we confess that we have hurt so many of our people in Fiji, particularly those of the Indo-Fijian community,”tweeted Rabuka.
Mr Rabuka commended the efforts of those who stayed on and struggled to try and restore our relationship to date.
“I thank the community leaders who have worked tirelessly. to bring the two communities of Fijians and Indo-Fijians together. The work is not complete, we will have to continue, I do not make this as an excuse but I wish those before us had done this in the years gone by,” said Rabuka.
PM Rabuka admits that they have wronged Fijians, particularly the Indian-Fijian community and their sons and daughters, forcing some to leave our shores for a better living.
“I admit our wrongdoings, you are correct to have blamed us, you have every right to blame us for the difficulties you went through, we do not blame you for being angry with us or even hating us, you are justified in your anger and your hate.”
“I stand here to confess and to ask for your forgiveness. I have made my confession personally to some for my deeds in 1987. For those that I did not reach, I hope I am coming across to you today here and on the live stream.”
“Please forgive us. As you forgive us, you release us and you are released, you are released from hatred and you are released for your anger and we can feel the peace of God coming to your beings, coming to our lives,”said PM Rabuka.
PM Rabuka’s apology comes ahead of the India-Pacific Island summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit and announce a number of initiatives aimed at deepening India’s engagement with the Pacific Islands.
He will attend the FIPIC summit in Papua New Guinea on May 21-22. The apology by Rabuka is seen as a significant step towards reconciliation between the indigenous Fijian and Indian communities. The summit is being attended by leaders from 14 Pacific Island countries and is seen as an important opportunity for India to strengthen its ties with the region.
The 1987 coup was a pivotal moment in Fiji’s history and led to significant political instability in the country, as well as strained relations with India and other countries.
However, Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Fiji within six months of assumption of office in his first term as Prime Minister. It was a bold step. It ended a freeze in high-level visits since Rabuka overthrew the islands’ democratically elected government, which provided a conducive environment for Fiji Indians to live in peace in the country.
For India, developments in Fiji, where the erstwhile anti-Indian coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka was elected PM on Christmas Eve, present a stream of ironies and dilemmas. Following Rabuka’s election, replacing his Beijing-leaning predecessor, Frank Bainimarama, Fiji will be the ground zero for China-US rivalry in Oceania in the coming months.
Alarmed by the inroads China is making into Oceania, US President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever summit with 12 Pacific Island nations in Washington in September. After the summit, the Biden administration is in overdrive in this region.