By Kevin Stoda
Last Spring, the Kuwaiti government allowed a two month amnesty period for foreign laborers in breach of their visas to leave the country without fines. One friend of mine, who had tried to work to reform treatment of foreign labors in Kuwait, determined to take advantage of this amnesty and finally returned to Fiji after struggling here for three years. This Fiji’s given name is Jiuti Wakolo, and he has a mixed ancestry and cultural identity as a Christian, Jew and Muslim.
Jiuti and numerous other Fiji laborers had been brought to Kuwait over three years ago by one of those unsavory locally sponsored labor sub-contractors who failed to get him a proper visa upon arrival.
This is how Jiuti, despite having been told he would work in an office with one of the fastest growing and larger multinational companies from Kuwait—Agility International—ended up living in poverty for several years, while working to have the wrongs against him and his colleagues righted.
He had been only offered a truck driving job when he arrived—instead of the work in human resources he had been promised. Some of the other Fijis were eventually forced to work in or drive trucks to Iraq—something that Jiuti had never been formally trained to do. Such foreign laborers agree to work in such dangerous conditions only when their backs up against the wall—i.e. due to the fraudulent personal debt being incurred through such unlawfully operated labor contractors. The only options to doing the dangerous job is to go underground or find another employer to take over one’s contract—which is not always an easy thing to do depending on your skills and qualifications.
BACK TO FIJI
Jiuti returned to working and living in Fiji this past summer. He had felt quite embarrassed (ashamed) to have had to return to his homeland with no earnings in hand and with only many failures and mistreatments to be shared from his 3 years in Kuwait. Initially, he refused to visit his family as he had no gifts to bear.
Sadly, this has been the experience of thousands of other Asian and Pacific laborers who accepted amnesty from the Kuwaiti government this past year. (My church in Kuwait has had to take up collections and/or make loans to numerous members of our own fellowship who found themselves in such unfair situations over the past decade.)
Now, Jiuti is back working hard to reform his own government in Fiji. He recently sent me a letter outlining the reforms his movement have been involved in or is supporting.
Since the 2000 coup (the sixth coup in the nation’s history), Fiji citizens have had a somewhat tumultuous decade, both economically and socially. Although most coups have been mostly un-bloody affairs, this history of turbulence is one reason that immigration and obtaining jobs abroad is still so important in one of the prime tourist destination points on the planet.
Jiuti writes currently of hope, though. He notes the current reforms being taken by the interim government and those seeking to get democracy and social justice improved on the islands of Fiji.
In writing me, he has asked that I share with Americans, American businesses, and the US government about the progress and reforms being made in Fiji.
TEN POINTS OF LIGHT
Jiuti has worked in and outside of government in Fiji on-an-off for over a decade. Here below are revealed Jiuti’s list of the 10 main points of progress in the government and in his organization’s work showing recent progress in the Fijian political and social landscape:
1.Peoples Charter for Change – is a new “documents prepared and widely consulted by the citizens of Fiji, documents of inclusiveness and love for all the citizens of the republic of the Fiji islands. Documents that will make Fiji a true Democratic Country where all it Citizens are given the rights to survive and lead a better life.”