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Apr. 2017 – Ratuva Delivers 3rd Annual ‘IFH Lecture

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Prof Ratuva (centre) chats with Taimi 'o Tonga founding editor Kalafi Moala and 'Atenisi director Sisi'uno Helu after his evening talk.

Prof Steven Ratuva, director of the prestigious Macmillan Brown Centre at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, delivered the third annual Futa Helu Memorial Lecture at ‘Atenisi Thursday evening, 6 April. The director, of both Fijian and Tongan ancestry, sought to unravel the puzzle of contemporary Fijian politics.

“It’s a complicated topic,” he began, “I could speak on it for days.” “Let’s leave the filibustering to the Democrats in the US Senate!” joked 'Atenisi dean Dr Michael Horowitz, who later moderated Ratuva's dialogue with the audience.

The scholar's analysis went on to focus on PM Frank Bainimarama’s electoral support in 2014. “He carried 80% of the Fiji Indian vote,” the professor pointed out, explaining that Indians deserted the Fiji Labour Party because they recalled that FLP governments twice attracted coups by iTaukei officers in the military. “Bainimarama meant security for Indians,” Ratuva explained – i.e., protection from ambitious military leaders hostile to the Indian community.

Another source of the PM’s support was the youth vote because of a government initiative insuring free tuition at the primary and secondary levels. But as the Bainimarama government enforces collection of tuition loans at the tertiary level, another political party is advocating leniency. “That could spell trouble for the PM in next year’s election,” Ratuva warned. The PM’s Fiji First Party hopes to retain power in the upcoming election March 2018.

Prior to his talk, the professor conducted a morning class on the socioeconomic history of Fiji for 'Atenisi's students of Pacific history.