Speech/review ‘Redeeming Moti’

 

“…every person in the Pacific and the world should read this book.”

 

 

 

by Professor Shaista Shameen, Dean of the Law School, University of Fiji on the occasion of the launch in Suva, Fiji, 14 May, 2017 (Abridged)

 

 
Hon. Members of Parliament, Hon. Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary, Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Colleagues, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Until I read Dr Merrell’s book last week, I had no idea of the actual facts [of the Julian Moti saga] only that he had eventually been cleared by the Australian courts.

Fiji’s Chief Justice, Anthony Gates – first in line to buy a copy

[But] It is just not enough to know that Julian had been cleared. The wrongs inflicted on him by those who otherwise wave the flags of democracy, rule of law, due process and human rights, and trumpet all the politically correct platitudes at us, Pacific Islanders, thus far remain unpunished. The perpetrators have shrugged and moved on, as if to say, you lose some….so what? And that is the evil that this book exposes.

‘Redeeming Moti’ is going to be an important book for universities and scholars for a number of reasons which I will go into in a minute.

But it is not a scholarly book- it does not have the kind of language that scholarly tomes tend to have nowadays in the post-modern tradition- convoluted and Foucaultian. It is uncompromisingly straightforward; a High School student can read it and will find in it both tragedy and comedy, take your pick.

The author and her subject

The story is so awful it is funny- and by funny I mean gallows humour. When I read it I said ..how can this possibly happen to anyone? Well it did happen. Dr Merrell’s book explains how and why.

Now, what will scholars and universities find in the book? What will my law students take from it? That was the litmus test for me as I read it.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you why I think that every person in the Pacific and the world should read this book.

They will find everything in it. It has all the ingredients of a good thriller; it has a good survey of Pacific and international politics; a good review of media culpability in the persecution of a man who stood up to neo-colonialism, sometimes without support even from those he was protecting; there is a love story (of sorts) in it; and there is redemption, that is, a belief, a desperate belief actually, that one day the truth will be out and then everyone will understand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are several observations that I can make in reference to why this book will rightly have a scatter-gun effect.

Julian Moti

First, it exposes mainstream media for what it can be- banal, here today, gone tomorrow, slavish to those in power, hence denigrating its own power to do good, or if that is too hard, at least to be fair, occupying its own colonizing space shamelessly, and then, without warning, becoming self-righteous and unjustifiably indignant.
But what Dr Merrell shows as a journalist, and she is one despite her political science doctorate, is that the mainstream media must understand what it means to be the ‘critic and conscience’ of society..

Secondly, I turn to Pacific Politics, both external and internal that is exposed in the book. During this sorry series of events apparently now known as ‘Motigate’, parliamentarians of some Pacific Island states switched sides so fast, it made me dizzy just to read about it. What this book says about Pacific Island politics is revealing, to put it mildly. It appears we have no ethics, no loyalty to anyone but ourselves (certainly not to the constituency), no shame in changing sides to stay, even precariously, in power, and no guilt about selling our country or ourselves to the highest bidder. Instead we say, oh well, that’s politics for you.

Well, I can’t uphold that perspective to my law students; and I hope no lecturer here tonight will be able to say that to their students either.

The Author in Fiji

Dr Merrell’s book exposes the farce of Pacific politics, including in Australia, in such a way that we have now to decide what we want our politicians to do and be.

Finally, the law. Ultimately, what comes out as a force for good in this book are the courts. But not easily. In Dr Merrell’s account, courts’ decisions are based as much on chance as on law. But the Australian court that released Julian into the arms of the country of his birth, was a court of justice – at the time. That is the one bright light in the book.

But above all, for all that I have made some remarks that would be pertinent to scholarship, this book is about human foibles, including the author’s own which she freely shares with her readers, and about, almost Shakespearean, tragedy, and regret.

Nevertheless, the phoenix does rise, as did Julian who is here with us today to talk a bit about the aftermath, the postlude. No one involved in this saga remained unscathed, least of all Julian, and also the author- that is clear.

However, we are reminded that despite the evil that we know for a fact exists in the world in myriad forms, there is good also, and that is the only thing that counts in the end. But, of course, only if we can find the difference between the two because, quite often, evil masquerades as good. That is the message in the book.I congratulate Dr Merrell for having written it, warts and all

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am indeed very happy and honoured to formally launch ‘Redeeming Moti’ and to highly recommend it to you.

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