Fiji has lost its democracy, its human rights, its economy and its traditional freedoms. The children of Fiji ask when things will return to the way they were and when their parents will be happy again.
LOOKING BACK AROUND THIS TIME LAST YEAR 2008.........
5:00AM Friday Feb 29, 2008
Ultimatum unlikely to force Fiji election
Trouble in the 'hood
On his return to this country last June, expelled high commissioner Michael Green delivered a bleak verdict on Fiji's prospects. A return to democracy was not looking promising even in the medium term, he said, pointing to an enormous disparity between what Commodore Frank Bainimarama's regime said it stood for in terms of good governance, transparency and accountability, and the reality. The prognosis appeared slightly pessimistic. The self-proclaimed interim Prime Minister had, after all, just agreed to lift emergency regulations and to hold elections by March 2009. Sadly, subsequent events are confirming that Mr Green was right on the mark.
These culminated this week in the removal from Suva of Russell Hunter, the publisher of the Fiji Sun. Mr Hunter, an Australian, was said to have conducted himself in a manner that was "prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, security and stability of the sovereign state of the Fiji Islands". His expulsion was undertaken without regard to fundamental rights or consideration for his family's plight, and contrary to a Fijian High Court order preventing his departure. This shameful behaviour came as no surprise. Similar appalling treatment was meted out to New Zealand businessman Ballu Khan late last year, while Mr Green seems to have been expelled for nothing more than carrying out normal diplomatic duties.
It is possible, however, to be more specific about the reasons for Mr Hunter's eviction. The Fiji Sun had run a series of articles accusing Fiji's Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, of tax evasion. The junta's response was a blatant act of intimidation against a newspaper trying to do its job. It made a mockery of Commodore Bainimarama's assurances that his Administration would uphold media freedom. Shortly after his seizure of power, troops occupied the offices of some media companies and demanded, unsuccessfully, the right to scrutinise reports before they were aired. Now the regime has upped the ante on the basis that some reporting had been "inciteful and destabilising". Its tactic is obvious; to halt criticism of the junta by cowing the media into self-censorship
The attempt to tighten control does not stop there. This month, Commodore Bainimarama appointed himself head of the Great Council of Chiefs. This powerful group has sometimes been the voice of reason as Fiji stumbled through a succession of military coups. It can serve that role no longer. In addition, Police Commissioner Esala Teleni has warned Fijians not to speak out against the Administration. All this points to a determination to stifle debate, rather than a broadening of the regime's tolerance to a wide range of viewpoints, the necessary precursor if a return to democracy is seriously contemplated.
Increasingly, it appears that any concessions Commodore Bainimarama makes are merely a response to aid-related ultimatums, especially from the European Union. There is nothing to suggest that he is genuinely intent on creating a united Fiji or that he is benignly shepherding it back to democracy. Perhaps the only silver lining is that some Fijians are finally waking up to this and are no longer willing to act as apologists for the junta or tolerate its double-standards. Both Mick Beddoes, the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the 2006 coup, and Suliana Siwatibau, the chairwoman of the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity, have quit as members of the showcase National Council for Building a Better Fiji. They say they doubt the regime's sincerity. Commodore Bainimarama's actions leave room for no other conclusion.