THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE
The Other Side of Paradise, ABC-TV’s eighth documentary for Intertel, takes a penetrating look at the future of the Fijian.
It shows how Fijians – the dark-skinned Melanesian people – are facing the future in a country where they are outnumbered by Indians imported to work sugar plantations last century. Indians now control much of Fiji’s commerce and hold most of the professional posts. Their standard of education is higher than that of the Fijian, chiefly because they live in towns while most Fijians are scattered in tiny villages.
These villages provide the Fijians’ strongest link with the past. Communal sharing of property and an hereditary system of chiefs are traditional, but villagers, although well-fed and seemingly content, lack financial moans to provide proper schooling for their children. And without education the Fijians have little hope of competing with the Indians for well-paid jobs.
If Fijians distrust the Indian and fear his ultimate supremacy, in fact the future of both races seems largely in the hands of overseas interests. Australia in particular owns 83% of all Fiji’s major enterprises, including the biggest company – Colonial Sugar – and its subsidiary, South Pacific Sugar Millers. And at Vatakoula, an Australian-backed company has made gold-mining Fiji’s third biggest industry after sugar and tourism.
In one sphere only, Fijians still retain strict control – the ownership of land. But although they own 84% of Fiji’s total land area, they work little of it themselves. Their chief rentals come from sugar cane fields where the Indian has always been the tenant. Yet when one of Fiji’s landowning clans becomes extinct, property reverts to the Crown for sale to the highest bidder – Indian, European or Fijian.
On the industrial side, the growth of trade unionism has been rapid in Fiji and both Fijian politics and union affairs are free of outside influences. The powerful Fijian Government Workers Union recently split into Fijian and Indian factions when the Fijians complained that the Indian-dominated union favoured Indian workers.
Some unionists are also critical of the hereditary chief system.
They say chiefs are maintained as a cheap form of sub-government. Certainly the chiefs have pride of place in the Legislative Council, the governing body of Fiji.
The Council is seen in this film because, for the first time, permission was given for cameras to operate during a session.
With problems similar to those of other emergent countries, Fiji’s future remains doubtful. It is not strategically vital; it produces little that other countries closer to main markets cannot produce equally well.
Sugar still pays the bills but the entry of U.K. – Fiji’s biggest sugar customer – into the Common Market could change this.
Fijians are aware of the need to diversify and to seek new industries. Timber offers some potential but it would be a long-term project. The seas around Fiji are rich in fish, but Japanese interests have already established a fishery depot at Levuka.
Experiments with palm oil seem successful but Fiji must find another major source of income. Cruise ships bring tourists to the islands but the visitors buy goods chiefly imported from Japan.
However, Fiji’s future seems to rest with the expansion of tourism in the Pacific region. Already luxury hotels are springing up in preparation for the giant Jumbo jetliners that within a few years will be flying tourists by the hundreds – perhaps bringing a new ora of prosperity to Fiji.
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