Stories of Resilience Reflections from Fiji – a nation at the crossroads But with another wink, he adds, “dilution is the Twelve emerging leaders came from solution to pollution.” We move on to view the across the Pacific to this group of islands known as massive steam turbines that power the mill. Fiji, a nation of diverse cultures and customs. Today, due to its air and sea trade links, Fiji operates as a pacific regional hub of trade, education and tourism. As leaders in our communities of practice we came to Fiji with our own different worldviews, lenses and filters. We all held different preconceptions of Fiji and we sought to know the truth, in all its many facets. This task was not possible in the short time that we had, nonetheless we encountered many individuals and organisations who opened their minds, workplace, homes and hearts to us. They communicated openly and honestly with us on their Since the 1870's sugar has been commercially grown particular viewpoints on people, power and politics. in Fiji. Timed with the decline in the price of cotton, We can find no more appropriate way of illustrating sugar quickly grew into a strong industry and soon the rich mosaic of culture and complexity of the formed one of the most important contributors to issues we saw, than through the Pacific tradition of the economy employing thousands. The first mills storytelling. Below are a small selection of stories were established in Suva and Lautoka. Muhammad from people we met. They are real stories. Through oversees the 100 year old Lautoka sugar mill. Its stories like these we built our picture of Fiji. heyday is now in the distant past. Bittersweet Business Mohammed stands proudly before an aged and rusting sugar mill. He looks us straight in the eye. With a cheeky grin he says, “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies” – a response to our questions about the mill’s practice of discharging contaminated Les water into a nearby river. Mohammed, an engineer s than 2km away in a cane field an Indo Fijian farmer by training, knows the company’s environmental shares stories about the challenges he faces performance could be enhanced. operating in a semi-protected sugar market. He says that if Fiji were fully exposed to the global market, determination that saw company founder Mr Hari the way of life long experienced by Indo Fijians like Punja persevere through four military coups and him would be threatened. He doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ his several economic recessions to build a world class story; cane prices have declined in order of 30% over sustainable business. the past 3 years while fertiliser prices have risen. The future of the shrinking sugar industry of Fiji is uncertain. According to Muhammad ‘a free market would devastate Fiji’ – the industry relies heavily on EU protection. Mohammed tells us he is committed to the industry but admits that cane yield has now halved, from historical highs of four million tonnes per annum. He almost looks embarrassed. And the cane fields and its Indo Fijian farmers are While some industries are growing others are becoming tired, with many leaving the industry due to demands from Fijian landowners and declining. Economic liberalization in the years uncertainties over lease arrangements. Some are following the 1987 coup created a boom in the joining thousands in squatter settlements near the garment industry and a steady growth rate despite growing uncertainty of land tenure in the sugar cities in hope of a better life. industry. Today the garment industry in Fiji is a Fiji may need to consider not only the challenges of shadow of its former self. Despite the significant the shrinking sugar industry, but the opportunities it reduction in garment trade due to pressure from could bring. What would a sugarless Fiji look like? other developing economies, particularly in Asia, Crisis or opportunity? The Government pushes for some manufacturers have carved out niche for their cane revival, yet the current generation of cane ability to produce short runs of high quality specialist farmers could well be the last. The options appear to garments. be further investment into ailing assets and an inefficient production model relying on low cost, low-tech labour, or converting land use and retraining a generation of people in the hope of a brighter future. Beyond Tourism and Cane The Fiji economy is more diverse than tourism and cane. Fiji has a history of very successful manufacturing businesses including FMF Group – a diverse food manufacturer. The professionalism and Walking through the hot sticky garment factory the world class facilities we saw at FMF demonstrated a general manager tells a story of adapting to the new depth of experience and expertise as a leader in Fiji’s business model – the niche involves short runs of Private sector with a firm niche carved out in the many different garments. It’s a story Mohammed region. We were most impressed by the from the sugar mill may benefit from as the sugar industry adapts to similar challenges and pressures, Ribbon is more than a correctional philosophy – it’s a the realities of globalisation and the need to identify, robust management system. Their slogan reads: define and capture a niche market. “The successful reintegration of offenders is the best guarantee of security to society”. Pacific Pillars We file through the large chain mesh gates into a prison meeting room where Mr Isireli greets us. Like A sea of prisoners clad in orange, dart and side-step many nations in the Pacific, Fiji’s prison population is with familiar precision and speed on a muddy field. growing. Addressing the high recidivism rate, Little wonder Fiji are a world class Rugby Sevens especially among youth offenders, is a key driver for nation. The bus driver crunches down a gear and we change. power up the hill and roll to a halt outside the Correctional Centre’s administration wing. We are greeted by smartly dressed prison officers. As Mr Isireli explains the history and background of the Yellow Ribbon Project, a senior prison officer leans towards me. “We used to beat the shit out of the prisoners, and when they got the chance, they would beat us,” he whispers. “Now it’s different. In the past month nine of our senior officers have been O discharged for using violence towards prisoners.” His ne of many challenges highlighted to the group is the tone is solemn and I nod in acknowledgement of his overrepresentation of Indigenous Fijian’s in the sincerity as he explains a huge culture change taking prison population. “I am indigenous Fijian,” he tells place in the organisation. Mr Isireli, a commanding us, “and it’s embarrassing”. The Yellow Ribbon speaker and genuine leader, says Fiji is in the process Project is focussed on addressing this and other of transforming from incarceration to correction. challenges using the three pillars of Family, Society and Church - the foundations of all of Fijian life. The Yellow Ribbon Project is an initiative the Fiji corrections service adapted from Singapore after a We are told of the need to raise awareness, address group of senior Fiji corrections staff visited the small discrimination and promote tolerance through these island state in 2006 and liked what they saw. Yellow three pillars. Only then will genuine and lasting change be realised. But these pillars are by no means responses. “This is a one time opportunity for exclusive to a correctional philosophy – they are the change. Not that we condone coups, but this heart of community in Fiji and the wider Pacific government is doing what previous democratically region. elected governments could not do.” The Yellow Ribbon Project is working. Recidivism With 25,000 civil servants, 42 ministries and rates have dropped from 50 to 38% in the 4 years agencies and 29 other state owned entities, the civil since the project commenced. Communities are service accounts for around 80% of the practising forgiveness and through their extension of government’s budget allocation. Reform was on the a faithful hand, young men and women are being menu when we met Mr Chand, Permanent Secretary reformed and reintegrated into society. for the Public Service Commission, for lunch on Tiko’s gently swaying boat in Suva. The parallels between prisoners and the survivors of sexual and physical abuse we met at rehabilitation centre ‘Homes of Hope’ that morning were immediately obvious. On one side the perpetrators, on the other the victims. And yet the medicine is the same – love, compassion, education, acceptance, forgiveness and promotion of a sense of self worth. All this administered in healthy doses by family, church and community to promote healing and restoration of the mind, body and soul. We come to the realisation that the very same His tells us his biggest challenge as a senior civil values and attitudes that are reforming the prison servant in the interim government is the system are critical to reducing violence and maintenance of public assets while implementing exploitation of women who have often born children reforms to provide more efficient and effective through rape, incest and adultery. This discovery is service delivery. The Government’s progress encouraging and comforting to our group. towards modernising its institutions has always been a slow process; however the country now faces an opportunity, albeit in undesirable circumstances, to expedite these changes. With minimum or no resistance to the current public sector reforms, we were told that the government is progressing with efforts to streamline the civil service towards a more lean and efficient institution, by diverting much needed funds to capital expenditure and ensuring greater accountability in Civil Words the areas of government finance and resource allocation. Mr Chand has a gentle yet engaging manner. He chooses his words carefully and gives considered Redefining the boundaries and authority of “watch dog”, to a partner in nation building and traditional leadership versus modern leadership is upholding security and stability. reportedly now on the interim government’s agenda, including updating the role of the Great The earliest timeframe for elections is touted to be 2014; whether they take place, only time will tell. A Council of Chiefs or Traditional/Customary statues to support a modern style of leadership in the future. clear timeframe for a new constitution is yet to be We are now interested in keeping watching brief on determined which raises cause for concern. progress in the Public Service. From Horses to Turtles Reflections Our week in a nation at a crossroads exposed us to “As a leader in the military I felt like I was riding a many stories like those we have shared above. Cross horse; my every command efficiently carried out with cutting stories of perseverance, optimisation, hope, haste. By comparison my entry into the civil service honesty in the face of uncertainty and reflection that feels a lot like riding on the back of a turtle.” through adversity comes opportunity for change. With a military background spanning 25 years, Navy None of us condone a military coup. Many of those Commander Naupoto left the comfort of we spoke to conceded that despite their feelings commanding his troops with a military leadership about the coup, at least there is an environment in approach to a foreign position, in the Interim Fiji ripe for major reform. The question remains; Government’s environmental sector. once the changes are complete will the interim His task-oriented, adaptive leadership style is government let go and allow democracy to build a challenged by a workforce he believes have an nation? engrained sense that the civil service is both a The study tour provided the opportunity for lifelong career and retirement plan. The interim participants to gain a deeper understanding of (military) Government have recently addressed this human relationships with natural systems and how particular issue by enforcing a compulsory these changing relationships look and translate into retirement age of 55. This announcement sparks a our modern world. As a group we witnessed how the chorus of question and debate among our group, people of Fiji are not only able to weather natural including ‘Did this decision help ‘flush out’ some storms (Cyclone Tomas), but also political storms previous leaders from the public service?’ was and despite the impacts keep moving to seek unity answered by a considered and form response ‘I as one Fiji. believe it allowed space for our talented new graduates’. By examining a snapshot from the site tours we were able to explore Fiji from different perspectives. Mr Chand noted that good governance will ensure We were able to reflect on leadership styles in Fiji that the government of the day is held accountable and the application and importance of these for the for its decisions and actions. He tells us that with future of the Pacific. Fiji’s history of coups, the military needs to be transformed from their (self-appointed) role as a After each site tour we used a mode of learning and enquiry to reflect on the site tour with the aim of integrating the principles, values and practices promote recovery and rehabilitation, communities inherent in sustainable development along with and families that support each other in times of varying modes of ‘unpacking’ leadership styles to crisis and represent the best of Fiji’s uniting spirit. help us understand the complexity around us. In Through these characteristics Fiji will be able to doing this team members gained useful skills to be break through stereotype and fear, conquer factions able to contribute in a valuable way to building a and navigate their way to a democratic and sustainable future for their own communities of prosperous future. practice. Vinaka Vakalevu To complement this approach an inquiry process was used based on developing team critical thinking and problem solving skills to help increase shared knowledge, challenge our individual and group attitudes and develop our leadership skills. Accordingly our Fiji tour involved us “finding out”, “sorting out”, drawing conclusions and planning to navigate the future of the Pacific together. Our team constantly reflected throughout our study tour about the need to be mindful that our role was primarily to observe, not to recommend. In each of the sectors, causes or issues we were exposed to, we acknowledged that in most cases we weren’t able to get the full picture of a story. We typically had one ‘snapshot’, rather than being exposed to rich EPLD 2010 Fiji Study Tour Group, from left to right, back comparisons and different viewpoints. row to front row: Glen Peiris (Australia), Yves Mignot (New Caledonia), Ross Copland (New Zealand), William What we do know is that four decades after Fiji took Andrew (Palau), John Andrius (PNG), Edwin Aisake (Fiji), its place in the community of sovereign nations a Sam Taffo (Vanuatu), Sam Huggard (New Zealand), Sina new generation of leaders are ready and standing in Moy (Kiribati), Sally Asker (Australia), Tererei Abete the wings. Enthused by the opportunities the new Reema (Kiribati) and Renee Liang (New Zealand). space democratic elections could offer, they remain We humbly acknowledge those listed below for their confident in their abilities, are broadminded enough contribution to an enriching learning and leadership to accept the reality they find themselves in, and at development experience: the same time refuse to sacrifice dignity and the principles of equality, upholding a rule of law, and EPLD Secretariat and the Eminent Persons Group the pillars of society and Pacific life in exchange for of the Pacific Leadership Foundation, as part of Commonwealth Study Conferences Inc. short term gains. EPLD 2010 organising committees, alumni and Ultimately we feel that the strength of society in Fiji volunteers is reflected in the strength of these fundamental Official sponsors and supporters of EPLD 2010 pillars of Pacific life; strong families build strong Fiji study tour businesses, communities, NGO’s, officials and leaders societies, churches that practise forgiveness Host Governments of Samoa (opening dialogue) and Tonga (closing dialogue) The Fiji Cycle The following verses (extracts) are contributed by Renee Liang, writer, and member of the EPLD Fiji Study Group. We thank Renee for allowing us to share these as appendices to our report. The Sugar Mill For over a hundred years these steel pipes have fed hot groaning bellies of syrup guzzled clear spring water farted molasses into the Pacific. Hot ovens suck the sweat of the workers feeding Europe’s sweet teeth feeding the land with more orders more labour. But now the heart is failing, the fatness falling away. The veins are sluggish. The factory stretches out its wrinkled hands, ask for more time. The Cane Farmers The first time they saw those fragrant green ribbons of cane sniffing mist from the hills they must have felt their Hindu gods smiling. Feet and hands shredded, generations fingered the plump stalks pulsed the juice through arteries to their sweet snapping point pruned their fields and minds of the old ways followed the lingering taste home to their families, dreamt of the day they could call their fields home. Cyclone Warning My body draws a line across the luminescence of the hotel pool at night. I listen to the sound of my own breath, watch this island’s breath exhale, inhale, exhale my hands slide past fallen flowers the breeze fingers my face as if it remembers the palms above start to shake one by one the raindrops come. Koroipita Peter’s town is blue and yellow building blocks and bulldozers bright babies and bula smiles. Peter’s town clings tight to the slopes of its 99-year lease waves banana-leaf hands at the sky asks the sun not to go away. Peter’s town grows orchids and fruit, plays rugby and dreams of the day their children will leave the nest. At night, Peter’s town grows its roots deep into the soil hoping for more water. Waiting for Cyclone Tomas Just by your name I’d induce a debonair man possibly bearded a dancer with insouciant charm and devastating looks. The radio says you are already waiting at the door. You are hungry and cruising for action moving in on these nubile morsels of land. The radio says that your eye could consume me could lick me limb to limb and spit me out in fragments. I wonder if tonight you will come to find me in my room. Chicken Factory Like small dirty clouds they wait for dissipation eyes peering through plastic slats as men hose them with disinfectant once they enter these gates there is no turning back and so they are quiet watching until the moment they are strung heads down on steel hooks to witness the slash of machete towards neck for progress is inevitable and work will set you free Eich bein nacht frein The ovens are waiting. Wind Farm Even the largest bird cannot fly in a cyclone The Gods of Wind rest on a ridge above Sigatoka their wings weighted unable to fly. The land hums underneath them transmitting lines of data, packets of energy. Everything counts. Words become idols - Environment Sustainability Output Efficiency. When the storm is over, the Gods are woken by orange vested attendants ready to be worshipped again. Yaqona Circle The old yellow dog wags his tail watches the mats being laid knows it is Friday when the men move the tanoa bowl to centre. He sniffs the warm scent of banana bread being cut whines when he is banished to the porch. The people come sit clap their words splashing like laughter the old dog watches swallowing his own small sounds. A girl sees him and smiles the old yellow dog wags his tail.