This morning I was woken up by lots of noise outside. There were cars beeping and commotion coming from the busy street 2 floors below me. I put on my robe and went out on to my balcony to see what was going on. The sun was shining, the frangipanis were flowering and policemen were scattered in bright yellow vests for as far as the eye could see.
I live in central Suva, the capital of Fiji Islands, right behind the courthouse and in amongst the major media offices. Unfortunately history and memory are both very powerful persuaders. Unfortunately both are not always pleasant. In my drowsiness and upon hearing the disorder downstairs, I must admit my first reaction was to be frightened. Thoughts and images of rebels marching down our streets, breaking windows and smashing the TV station, kidnapping politicians and taking over ministries, looting and fires and curfews and car check-points. These aren’t things from a 2 minute news story for most Fijian people. These are recollections. For me, these are things are called ‘Year 8’.
So naturally I did what most brazen, curious yet slightly rattled women do, I got dressed, ran downstairs and right up to a man. Dressed in uniform. And demanded to know what was going on.
That was when I remembered I lived in a new Fiji now. How could I forget. It was all around me.
The policemen were laughing and smiling at cars going by. They were waving them through and waving at kids in the backseats.They were chatting amongst themselves and to pedestrians running from office to office carrying coffee. There was no panic. There was just sunshine and excitement.
“What’s happening?” I asked a policeman.
“We have a visitor.” he said.
“Who?” I asked.
“The Prime Minister of India! Nice eh? There is nothing to worry about ma’am. We are all friends.”
And I laughed.
That is the Fiji we belong to now and there is no better place on earth to call home, in this time, during these days.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi is indeed in town today. He is here to talk to our leaders. Our legitimate leaders. Mr Modi said he “looked forward to a future of regular engagement and more robust cooperation with Fiji and other Pacific Island countries.”
Our own Prime Minister, Rear Admiral (Rtd) Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama said, “I can scarcely believe it myself.”
“They are coming because they recognize our achievement. They are coming to assist our newly elected government. They are coming to encourage us in our overall foreign policy objective of being ‘friends to all and enemies to none.”
The President of China, Mr Xi Jinping will be joining Prime Minister Modi in our slice of paradise on Friday. These visits are huge diplomatic events for Fiji, which is already seeing so much more international inclusion after the democratic elections in September.
Friends to all. Enemies to none. Nothing to worry about. We are all friends. These are sentiments I can definitely get behind. Whether they come from written foreign policy. Or the mouth of a local policeman.
I can also say that come Friday, When Mr Xi hits town and our streets are once again lit up with fluro traffic controller vests and flashing police cars, I won’t be scared. I will be proud.
– Matisse Walkden-Brown
Ps. In honour of my new BFF status with Prime Minister Modi, I decided to follow him on Instagram. As all true friends do. I was delighted at what I found. Bula!!