Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 3. 1966.
Letters — Doubt on value — Fiji Workcamp Again Attacked
Doubt on value
Fiji Workcamp Again Attacked
Sir, — Your correspondent David Butler is to be commended for his four very pertinent questions, concerning the NZUSA rice planting venture in Fiji. The accompanying statement, by the NZUSA president Alistair Taylor, can hardly be described as adequate answers and is disappointing, to say the least.
Before dealing with rice, a few words about nomenclature and may I request both Mr. Butler and Mr. Taylor to note this carefully: The accepted usage in Fiji refers to indigenous inhabitants as "Fijians," who are determined to reserve this term for themselves.
Citizens of Indian extraction are known as "Fiji Indians," Europeans prefer to remain Europeans whether they originate from Yorkshire or from Waipukurau, while the label "Part-European" is insisted upon (for social and economic reasons) by those who may have only one corpuscle of "white" blood in their veins, even though their skin may be as black as the ace of spades.
Then there are Chinese and other Pacific races, all designated by their respective ethnic names. While it may be desirable that Fiji should find a single name applicable to all its inhabitants, nevertheless Messrs. Taylor and Butler should observe the usage of the people of Fiji, since certain sections of Fiji's communities are rather sensitive about this "little matter."
Back to rice and to Mr. Butler's four questions:—
"1. Why can't unemployed Fijians plant their own rice?" May I quote Mrs. W. M. Chadwick (Fiji Times. 1/2/66), social worker of J. P. Bailey Trust, with reference to the five acres of rice near Lauthala Bay, worth approximately £200: "... much of the rice ... was planted by 'locals' in two weekend 'spurts' and by paid labour which would otherwise be unemployed."
Perhaps someone can tell me exactly how much work can be credited to the 30 New Zealand students who went to Fiji, and perhaps Mr. Taylor might like to qualify his statement, that "the students completed a worthwhile project and did not put any Fijian labour out of work." The unemployment situation in Fiji, especially amongst the large numbers leaving school each year, is quite staggering. This subject will form the basis of an article to be published in Salient shortly.
"2. Do NZUSA leaders have any expertise in rice cultivation?" I note that in 1964. New Zealanders ate 7.392 million 1b of rice ... each and every grain of which was imported. Need I say more?
"3. Were NZUSA general funds used to support this venture?" "No," says Mr. Taylor. But why stop there? The venture in Fiji is supposedly part of Freedom from Hunger Campaign's "Operation 21," which has already made available some £650 to NZUSA, Was any of this £650 used in Fiji or Samoa? If not, then how does the NZUSA intend to use this money?
"4. Why adequate publicity was not released to enable the vacationing studentry to comprehend the need for this top-level expedition of their leaders to the Fijian Islands?" My conversations with Mr. Taylor and other NZUSA leaders indicate that there is nothing to hide concerning their trips to the Pacific Islands. If this is so then why keep the members of the NZUSA in the dark about it all?
A brochure issued by NZUSA has just reached me. entitled "May Holidays in Fiji," inviting small groups of students to travel to Fiji to take part in three different projects. As a Fiji-born individual and one who has student welfare at heart. I have nothing but admiration for the motives and self-sacrifice which initiate projects for the good of my country.
But may I conclude with a word of warning: I have seen so much time, energy, and money wasted, and have even witnessed harm done in the name of "good motives and self-sacrifice" that I think it's high time this whole venture was fully aired and scrutinized by all interested members of the NZUSA.
John S. Manikiam.