Meditation Focus # 7: Fiji and the Solomon Islands


What follows is the seventh Meditation Focus suggested by the Global Meditation Focus Group for the week beginning Sunday June 18.


1. Summary
2. Meditation Times
3. More on the situation in the Fiji and Solomon Islands


The political and ethnic conflict in Fiji and the Solomon Islands could degenerate into more violence and strife if left unchecked. In Fiji the distrust and intolerance of ethnic Indians by the indigenous majority, who feel that their traditional rights are being eroded by them, came to a head on May 19 when George Speight and his supporters used the ethnic conflict to justify a coup against the Indian president and his government. In the Solomon Islands, the Malaitan settlers of Guadalcanal have been coerced into leaving the Island by Guadalcanal militants, who feel that their land and jobs are threatened by the Malaitan migrants. On June 5 the Malaitan militia seized control of the capital.

Please hold in your heart and mind a vision, as guided by Spirit during your meditation, of the peaceful reconciliation of all peoples and the healing of all relations in this part of the world. May Peace prevail in the Fiji and the Solomon Islands, for the highest good of all.


i) Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes with a special Earth Healing Focus in the last few minutes.

ii) Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT: Honolulu 06:00 -- Los Angeles 09:00 -- Denver & San Salvador 10:00 -- Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 11:00 -- New York, Toronto, Montreal, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 -- Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 13:00 -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 16:00 -- London, Algiers & Lagos 17:00 -- Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris, Johannesburg & Madrid 18:00 -- Athens, Helsinki, Jerusalem, Nairobi & Istanbul 19:00 -- Moscow & Baghdad 20:00 -- Tehran 20:30 -- Islamabad 21:00 -- Calcutta & New Delhi 21:30 -- Dhaka 22:00 -- Rangoon 22:30 -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 23:00 -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur 00:00+ -- Seoul & Tokyo 01:00+ -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne 02:00+ -- Wellington 04:00+

(+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time)


i) The Fiji Islands

a) The Current Situation

On May 19 George Speight and seven gunmen took Mahendra Chaudhry, the democratically elected Indian Prime Minister of Fiji, and his cabinet, hostage. Speight claims to be acting on behalf of Fiji's indigenous majority who feel that their traditional rights are being eroded. Speight's demands - which include dissolving Fiji's constitution and an amnesty for the coup leaders - have mostly been met, with the Council of Chiefs meeting to create a Fijian controlled new government. Yet the hostages are still not released as Speight seeks a plan including him as a candidate to lead the new government. The Fijian Indians - who total 44 percent of Fiji's population - fear for their lives, food is getting scarce, and Fijian services are not functioning.


b) Roots of this conflict

Fiji's population is ethnically and culturally mixed. Indians, whose ancestors were brought between 1879 and 1916 to work on British plantations in Fiji, comprise 44 percent of the population. Today, one of the main disputes between ethnic Fijians and Indians is over the sugar industry. Indian farmers built it by operating plantations on land owned by ethnic Fijians and leased at low rates set by English colonial law. Those leases are due to be renewed, and the Prime Minister's rejection of demands for higher rental rates enraged many ethnic Fijians. The ethnic tensions are connected with the economic divisions that began when the first Indian settlers became entrepreneurs and set up shops in Fiji's urban areas, while many rural Fijians continued to practice subsistence agriculture. When the Indian-dominated government was overthrown in 1987, a new constitution was written that discriminated against the Indian citizens and their political rights. The ethnic Fijians feel that they are economically oppressed and that the existing social order is discriminating against them. Social divisions have always been with Fiji, since 3500 years ago. Historically, allegiance to clans was important, and chiefs competed for control of the islands.


c) Commentary

While the post-1987 political discrimination against Indians is well known, less is known about the entrenched private sector discrimination against Fijians. Related to this pattern of discrimination is the unequal distribution of political and economic power - the former residing with Fijians, the latter with Indians and multinationals. The attitudes of many Fijians over the last decade or so - and embodied in the 1990 Constitution - are not simply the product of jealousy at the business and professional success of the Indian community. They are also a direct reaction to the condescension, marginalisation, and racism that many Fijians believe to be directed towards them.


ii) The Solomon Islands

a) The Current Situation

Two rival militias in Guadalcanal, the main island in the Solomon Islands, have been fighting for 18 months over land rights, resulting in at least 60 deaths. The Guadalcanal militants are reported to be resentful of migration to their island by people from the neighbouring island of Malaita - who they say are taking over their land and jobs - and have tried to force an estimated 20,000 Malaitan settlers off Guadalcanal. Militants, made up of migrants from Malaita, have been fighting to stay on the main island of Guadalcanal, and on June 5 seized control of the capital. According to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, they are demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, because his government has failed to address the country's ethnic crisis. A ceasefire is currently holding, but there are reports of residents fleeing the capital as the Malaita militia roams at will.


b) Roots in Historic Hurts

The ethnic dispute in the Solomon Islands has been building up for years, and is exacerbated by poverty and a high level of unemployment. However, the same patterns of suffering that we see today can be traced back throughout history, since the migration of Polynesians to the area from 4000 BC. Finding the main islands already occupied by Melanesians, they settled on the smaller islands, eliminating any small populations that happened to be in the way. Since 1600 AD, these outlying areas became the focus of Tongan and Tokelauan aggression, resulting in a natural fear of strangers. With the discovery of the Islands by the British in 1767, and the participation in robbery, slave-recruitment, and murder by the large-scale traders that followed, the islanders grew to distrust and hate the traders. Germany established control over the northern Solomons in 1885, but later transferred the islands to Britain and Australia. Most of the Solomons were occupied by Japan during World War II, and heavy fighting occurred on and around Guadalcanal, before the Allies forced the last Japanese to leave the islands in 1945.


c) Commentary

Although the Solomons became independent from Australia and Britain in 1975 and 1978 respectively, the hurts that have built up over the centuries as a result of external aggression and occupation, as well as the place-memories of battles, may well have kept the fear, distrust, and conflict alive. We therefore believe that it is important to offer healing to these past scars, as well as to pray for successful peace negotiations that address the root cause of the current conflict, for the highest good of all.

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