This is an article I wrote way back in 2006 at the waiting lounge at Nadi international airport when I visited Fiji for the first time on a business trip. I shared it with my circle of friends when I returned to PNG. I’ll be most interested to see any reaction from your readership….
FELLOW PAPUA NEW GUINEANS. I’ve just returned from a short trip to Fiji and what an eye-opener it was.
Fijians are Melanesians like us but they definitely are a class above. They are a nation of well groomed, calm and very organised individuals. I couldn’t help but envy the free night life of the Fijian capital of Suva where you can walk down the streets without the concern of being attacked or harassed by thugs.
There is a barbecue going on at major sections of the streets in Suva and both residents and visitors alike can go along and enjoy themselves with their families.
There are countless numbers of top-notch restaurants where you can go and be served really nice meals at an affordable price.
Ladies, and I mean females, girls, walk around the streets freely in the night and no one touches them. This would have to rank among the top five luxuries for our women in PNG but, that’s ‘life as usual’ for Fijians. And their streets are much cleaner and pleasant than ours.
Their population is almost evenly split between the indigenous Fijians and the Indo-Fijians but just about everyone is very friendly and easy to get along with. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with wide smiles accompanied by a bula (welcome/greeting). And every public announcement made over the inter-com ends with a vinaka (thank you) or the longer version vinaka vakalevu (thank you very much).
No one told me but it is probably an unwritten fact that the Fijians are acutely aware of the importance of tourism on their economy and ultimately their well-being, hence the appropriate behaviour.
Fiji doesn’t have the kind of mines (gold, copper, nickel etc) that we have plus our rich marine resources and forestry but they are richer than us in terms of GDP per capita and the real life on the ground.
All they have are sugar cane, fisheries, and mostly tourism unlike us who appear to be endowed with endless amounts of resources. This is truly one of the greatest paradoxes in our region.
So what does that tell us about the Fijians and us? I think one explanation for that would be in this word – efficiency.
Fijians are very efficient operators and gain the maximum benefit out of their scarce resources whilst we, on the other hand, are a very inefficient nation who wastes all our resources on non-productive and non-value adding activities. We are truly a nation that is so rich yet so poor.
Apart from that, I think one of the biggest differences between us and them as a people is that we have very different temperaments. They appeared to me to be a calm, peaceful, gentle, respectful and tolerant people while we are the exact opposite.
We are a country of bigheads, arrogant and violent people who will not hesitate to prey on someone’s misfortune. No wonder tourism will never be a sustainable industry in our beautiful country.
The reasons why we are worse off than them or they are better off than us (whichever way you see it) can be many and varied but one thing is for sure. The biggest gulf between our fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters and us is attitude.
We can match and even better them when and only when we change our bad attitudes. I pray that this happens in my lifetime. Amen.