The interim government's decision to scrap two public holidays from Fiji's calendar has hit a snag. The controversial decision has citizens confused about which holidays have been done away with and which ones are still in place.
That's led to the government this morning issuing a statement to "clarify' its decision to discontinue the National Youth Day and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day as public holidays.
In a statement it says "As per advertisement on page 4 of the Fiji Sun (Monday 22nd March 2010), the Ministry of Information wishes to clarify to members of the public that the only two public holidays that have been removed from Fiji's list of public holidays are the National Youth Day and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day.
"Official breaks for Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen's Birthday, Diwali, Prophet Mohammed's Birthday, and Fiji Day continue as is."
The statement goes on to say that Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has noted that the Ratu Sukuna and National Youth days are significant, but Fiji does not require specific public holidays to commemorate these two occasions.
"He said Fiji already has a high number of public holidays. By reducing the number of public holidays, the Prime Minister says that "we as a nation will be, among other things, more focussed on productivity and increased output. These are essential if we are to modernise and grow our economy and improve our living standards."
The confusion is to be expected as the government has, typically, issued the holiday directive without debate or public consultation.
The demise of the National Youth Day was signposted when Fiji Employers Federation President, Digby Bosley, said that Fiji loses millions every year due to the 12 public holidays celebrated in Fiji and that the National Youth Day could easily be done away with.
On the surface of it, Fiji does have a lot of public holidays, more than New Zealand and Australia, but it's not surprising that Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day is the other holiday that's been dropped.
Honouring the national father of modern Fiji who died on May 30, Ratu Sukuna Day in 2000 was marred by the George Speight coup on May 19, which led to the dismissal of the elected government on May the 27.
In 2005, there was a reclaiming of the day with 19 centers around Fiji, including Rotuma, turning out for it. May 24 saw the beginning of a week of celebrations that culminated on 30 May with then prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, launching the festivities under the theme of Unity in Diversity.
The newly completed Great Council of Chiefs complex was opened the same day, with Qarase officially launching a website about Ratu Sukuna.
But Ratu Sir Lala's heroics as a "master of reconciliation" and someone the nation could depend on came to be challenged by Meli Bogileka, the general secretary of the People's National Party and a former minister in the Chaudhry government (1999-2000), who said Sukuna's achievements had been overstated.
Bogileka said people had overlooked the way his policies had confined native Fijians to pocket settlements and villages, which he said had impeded their progress. Bogilkea maintained that Sukuna should have used his chiefly position to encourage indigenous Fijians to work rather than remain in their villages in the name of culture.
He said: "I stand wholeheartedly by the comments I made because it is the truth and the poverty that indigenous Fijians are now facing is largely because we rely too much on our families for our survival and cannot really fend for ourselves like other races do."
In any campaign to cleanse and purge, sacred cows from the past are usually the first to go, so it's not surprising that there will be less polishing of statues from now on in Fij.