Sunday, June 29, 2008
This fact is what makes Fiji unique and different from the rest of the world.
The history of Fiji can be found in books with detailed events of the economic, social and political situations.
Much is known about the development of our country.
While colonisers of the 19th century have contributed to the growing commercial progress of this country, the contribution of the indigenous Fijians and indentured labourers at the time was an important factor in the growing economy.
Another ethnic group also played an important role in the country’s growth as a nation.
The kailoma or vasu (children of Fijian women married to Europeans or other races) have been around since the early days of colonialism.
Much of the country’s commercial zones and areas were the result of interactions between locals and European traders.
Most kailoma in Fiji are descendants of these early colonisers and even though their contribution to the economy has always been low profile, their heritage and blood ties are an imperative part of the history of Fiji.
Some may consider the tags ‘half-caste’ and ‘part Europeans’ detrimental to the identity of the kailoma. People like former member of parliament Leo Smith, however, are proud of their heritage.
Macquire’s Dictionary of English for the Fiji Islands defines a kailoma as some one descended from a European man married to an indigenous Fijian or Rotuman woman.
Most kailoma were classed as Euronesians or Anglo-Fijians.
Their ancestors arrived with knowledge and skills on trade and commerce.
Over the years, the kailoma have had a hand in making Fiji a peaceful, prosperous and loving country.
There have been reported incidents of some kailoma facing discrimination and segregation from their vasu. Most have, however, been accepted by both sides of the family.
The kailoma, though, are still battling an ongoing fight to have equal status, interactions and social relationships with their Fijian relatives.
In the political arena, equal status for the kailoma is an issue that has been highlighted by various politicians like Mr Smith.
Originally from England, his family history can be traced back to five generations.
For someone of kailoma descent, Mr Smith is living proof of a man’s pride in his mixed background.
He displays enthusiasm talking about what life was like growing up on his kailoma family’s Benau Estate on Vanua Levu.
Mr Smith has a picture of Queen Elizabeth II hanging on his office wall.
To the left are pictures of his father and grandfather who were originally from Wiltshire in England. His mother Louisa Manuel or Manuweli was the grand-daughter of the Tui Nasavusavu.
Mr Smith, the owner of Consort Shipping was a former Minister for Health and parliamentary leader of the General Voters Party in 1997.
Even then, his desire for equal status of the GVP was imperial.
He presented a paper seeking reaffirmation of the principals of the Deed of Cession relating to Fijian and European interests.
He said the Deed not only provided for the protection of Fijian interests but also recognised the position of European settlers and their descendants who made Fiji their home.
Mr Smith said people of European ancestry and Pacific Islanders qualified for special consideration for a number of reasons.
“We have contributed to economic, social and commercial development of this country out of all proportion to our size. The important vasu status many of our people hold with the Fijian people and our associated blood ties has drawn us closely to the Fijian community. It is a strong bond that can never be revoked.
“The kailoma also have long traditions of service in community life. We have helped to mobilise investment in commerce and in other economic sectors. We also provide the nation with skills in the trades, the professions, Government and in commerce.”
Mr Smith said the ethnically and culturally diverse nature of Fiji’s community, scattered over wide and geographically different parts of the country require a proportionately larger number of representatives.
He said in relation to numbers, this issue was very important if they are to be adequately represented. The role of people with European origins in the last two world wars earned them a special place in Fiji.
Mr Smith said this was unmatched by other migrant communities.
“When Fijians answered the call of duty in the defence of Fiji, we have contributed our blood in the defence of this nation. Members of the GVP are essentially descendants of pioneers in the growth and development of our fine nation. I define pioneers as people who start things, who lead the way and made it easier for others to follow.
“They face difficulties and overcome them. They are people who push back frontiers, who have faith in themselves, people of resolution and determination. Chinese settlers took trading facilities to the most remote Fijian villages and set an example of communal integration.
“People of various Melanesian communities have overcome the unhappy circumstances where their forefathers were brought forcefully to work on coconut and cotton plantations in Fiji.”
He said forefathers of people with mixed heritage in Fiji were not land grabbers as most people would think.
However, the close and direct link by ties of a shared ancestry to the Fijian people has a paramount place in the partnership of races that make up Fiji. Mr Smith said this was a partnership where Fijians are joined with descendants of pioneers, and the Indian community to forge a new understanding of co-operation for the benefit of Fiji.
Impact of the kailoma
Mr Smith said European contribution can be seen in almost every aspect of national life.
This was evident in the system of Government, in administration of justice, maintenance of law and order, in the Christian churches in Fiji, the foundations of commerce, industry, agriculture, transport, communication, education and health services.
“Sir Hugh Ragg was a pioneer in the tourism industry which is one of the main stay of our economy. Mr R.A Derrick laid the foundation of the technical training that enabled our people to play a part of such importance in the nation’s industry. Mrs May Anderson laid the foundation where our nursing services have been built.
“Mr H.W Simmons introduced a predator wasp to get rid of the levuana moth.
“He set an example to the world in biological pest control as the moth was threatening the copra industry.
“The gold mine industry in Vatukoula exists because of the faith and persistence of men like Mr Pat Costello and Mr Bill Borthwich.
“Boat building owes much to people like the Whippy and Bentley families.”
He said Europeans, part Europeans, Chinese, Melanesians, Banabans and other Pacific Islanders have played their role in the good governance of Fiji. He said it is important to note the tremendous role the kailoma have played in the development of this country.
They are not only descendants of early colonisers and traders but also part and parcel of our multi-racial and multi-ethnic community.