The notion of indigenous Fijian political unity was a social construction which emerged after the establishment of the colonial state in 1874. Within Fijian society itself, the idea of political unity was adopted from indigenous forms of knowledge in which the philosophy of unity was embodied in customary leadership practices within the context of sociopolitical constructs such as the I tokatoka, mataqali, yavusa, vanua and matanitu. The colonial administration under Sir Arthur Cordon reinterpreted and adopted these indigenous forms as a basis for national unity under the colonial state. Underlying the new approach was ‘the colonial myth of homogeneity’ (Routledge 1975:220) which proposed that there was a single form of cultural reality with uniform chiefly rule amongst indigenous Fijians in the different vanua throughout Fiji. British restructuring of Fijian social structures was facilitated by the system of ‘indirect rule’ involving the blending of the old and new systems of leadership under the authority of chiefs. The colonial government ruled Fijians through their chiefs (Durutalo 1997:66-7).
The introduction of indirect rule and the creation of various institutions to support it, resulted in the evolution of communal politics of which political unity has been the most essential aspect. The Fijian version of communal politics involves the process of politicking and competition for power which remains exclusive within a community which utilises traditional loyalties, ceremonies and values to solicit political support. Within indigenous Fijian communities, traditional loyalties to chiefs and the vanua became the foundation for political support to the chiefs
and hence to the colonial state. The result was the emergence of patron-client politics.
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