Fiji's cursed 'snake' taken from word of God

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 05:00 18/11/2012

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One of Fiji's richest politicians has come up with a new translation of the Bible just so he can expunge a single word that he says has cursed Fijians for 175 years.

Jim Ah Koy, who has politically survived all four of Fiji's coups, plans to give a new Bible to 475,000 Fijians, free of the word "kalougata".

The original translators in 1836 believed the word in the then unwritten Bauan language (now the national language of Fiji) meant a blessing from God.

Ah Koy argues "kalou" means a spirit god, and that "gata" means snake. Put together it means "blessed is the snake god" - a reference to the pre-Christian gods that Fijians believed came in the form of giant snakes.

Various Methodist Church ministers say it means "sharp god", as in the sharpness of god's blessing, and that it is used like the word "amen", to conclude a statement with a blessing.

"It means blessings and fortune for the land and its people," former Methodist Church president Reverend Josateki Koroi said.

Ah Koy said the word's appearance in the Bible had cursed Fiji, leading to the "rapid deterioration of things relative to iTaukei [indigenous]".

Burning the old Bibles would solve Fiji's problems.

"Now, there is going to be an explosion of good things for all Fijians in the world," Ah Koy said.

Like most Pacific Island Bibles, the Fiji version was translated by European missionaries from the King James version.

Ah Koy paid an undisclosed sum to translate his Bible from a range of English versions and last week he began distributing 31,000 pocket-size books, after producing 20,000 bigger editions earlier this year.

"This has always been my magnificent obsession, to give every indigenous Fijian a copy of this Bible, free.

"I want to eradicate this word ‘kalougata' from the lips of every Fijian."

On his website (nftbible.com) Ah Koy says the word is "unacceptable and unwarranted". The snake, he says, is the enemy of God - the Serpent, the Devil.

"To expect God's blessing while we call him something other than what he has called himself is hardly blessing God. In fact, it renders hollow our petitions for his blessing."

Of Chinese-Fijian origin, Ah Koy was a long serving member of Parliament and finance minister under the first coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. He later sponsored a young George Speight to a Seventh Day Adventist University in the United States. Speight overthrew the government in 2000.

Ah Koy was subsequently appointed to the Senate and after the 2006 coup, supported military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama. He was recently Fiji's ambassador to China.

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He has New Zealand permanent residency and a Papua New Guinea knighthood.

Ah Koy is not alone with biblical obsessions. As Fiji holds public hearings into its fourth constitution, a number of submitters, including Rabuka, are demanding Fiji be declared a Christian state.

- Sunday Star Times

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