Showing posts with label The Measure of Democracy in Fiji. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Measure of Democracy in Fiji. Show all posts

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fiji PM: Australian High Commissioner To Fiji, On Hold.

Treat Fiji equally: Bainimarama 
July 26, 2013 03:55:18 PM
Source: Fiji Live

Fiji will not accept an Australian High Commissioner until the Australian Government treats Fiji with equal respect, says Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. In an interview with New Zealand’s Radio Tarana, he said the Australian Government does not treat Fiji with consideration and respect adding that the same treatment extends to all Melanesian countries.

“On the surface, things might seem fine but we think quite honestly that Australia always puts its interests first and tries to tell us all what to do,” Bainimarama said. “I’m not going to accept an Australian High Commissioner in Fiji until the Australian Government stops trying to damage us. “With Fiji, they’re still trying to damage our interests because we didn’t do what they ordered to have an immediate election after 2006 that would have solved nothing.”

Instead of showing their support, Bainimarama said the Aust Govt chose to punish Fiji and had been trying to damage Fiji’s reputation ever since. “Now obviously, there will come a time when the relationship is properly restored and I guess that will be when we have the election next year. “But I can tell you that if I win the election, we can rebuild the relationship but it won’t be the same relationship. “It won’t be Fiji kowtowing to Canberra.

We want a genuine partnership with genuine friends’ governments that treat us as equals and with respect. “We might be small but our vote at the UN has the same weight as Australia’s and anyone else who isn’t one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.” Hopeful for a good relationship with Australia, Bainimarama admits it would not come till “there’s a change in the mindset of Australia’s politicians.” He highlighted the recent asylum seeker crisis as a “good example of Canberra’s overbearing attitude.”

By Mereani Gonedua

 Radio Tarana Full Interview

Part 1 MP3 (posted below)

Part 2 MP3 (posted below)

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Silk Purse of Democracy Made From The Sow's Ear.

wo different articles on Fiji's current affairs, are worthy of comparison. First article published in Stuff and was written by New Zealand journalist, Micheal Field on the news of the reinstatement of Fiji's Emergency Decree.

Although, Field liberally quoted New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, who said ""Let us not gild the lily and make excuses for the regime's backers and the regime itself, this conduct is not acceptable in the democratic world."
It is apparent that the Governments of US, UK, New Zealand and Australia have already gilded the Lily of Iraq; whom they had promised Freedom and Democracy; along with the misguided threats of "weapons of mass destruction".

" It must be realistically pointed out to the numerous 'Monday Morning Fly-Halfs' or 'Monday-Morning Quarter Backs' depending on your choice of sports that, Fiji's democracy is not and should not be a Silk purse made from a Sow's ear. The proverbial Sow in this context, being the robber barons of US, UK, Australia and New Zealand."

This is an excerpt of Field's article:

Fiji under martial law
State of emergency re-imposed

By MICHAEL FIELD - Fairfax Media | Thursday, 6 September 2007

Fiji's military has declared an emergency - or martial law - in a bid to silence deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase. Self appointed Prime Minister and military head Voreqe Bainimarama has claimed Qarase was trying to incite trouble in the country.

" They probably want to make sure that the transition into the election is not peaceful and maybe the idea is to bring about some instability in the country so that the Australian military can come back in - that's what Qarase wanted in the first place, maybe he's still after that," he told Fiji Broadcasting."

Bainimarama staged a coup in December, bringing down Qarase's government. Qarase fled to his home in the remote Lau Islands and remained in exile until last weekend. Fiji Military Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, claimed they were acting because Qarase was inciting public hatred. Tikoitoga said the military council - which Bainimarama heads - believed Qarase was making statements on behalf of somebody else.

"At our military council meeting we felt that the complaints made by Mr Qarase on death threats and other matters did not augur well with the security situation so we decided it would be best to bring the (emergency) decree back," he said.

"It is unfortunate that he continues to go on this path and we have seen that he has not only gone locally but internationally with these statements that could cause instability in the country."

He said soldiers and roadblocks would not return to the country's streets this time, and the security situation would be left to the police. "At the moment they take the lead while we will play a supportive role and only come in if they need us," he said.

New Zealand is dismayed emergency regulations are being re-invoked, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said today. Speaking at the Apec forum in Sydney, Mr Peters said the move undermined any moves to restoring democracy.

"The public of Fiji should not be unduly concerned about this. This is not going to change anything with regards to the security situation," coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimamara said on commercial radio. "It means that the climate for freedom of expression and human rights that is necessary for democracy to prevail in the long term is not there."

Mr Qarase returned to Suva on Saturday from exile on his home island in the remote Lau group of islands ahead of a court case in which he wants the December 5 coup against his government declared illegal. The emergency regulations were lifted at the end of May after being introduced when Cdre Bainimarama announced he was deposing Mr Qarase, in what was the country's fourth coup since 1987.

Under the regulations, some constitutional rights were withdrawn and the military gave itself powers to detain people without charge Fiji has been under the control of Cdre Bainimarama since he seized power in a coup last December.

Mr Peters said the behaviour had become an ongoing embarrassment for Fiji. "There should be no doubt that the Pacific community and the world is watching on this matter and our frank advice to the commander is to take his army back to the military barracks and stop embarrassing Fiji and the Pacific."

Mr Peters said the excuse for restoring virtual martial law was that Mr Qarase had left self-imposed exile and returned to the main island of Suva. "Surely that can not be the reason for such a serious step which has dramatic economic overtones that will be disastrous for the Fijian people" Mr Peters said.

"It also means we have to doubt their sincerity about their pathway to democracy." The action could see suspension in aid from the European Union and this would seriously damage an already weakened economy. Asked if he had concerns for the safety Mr Qarase, Mr Peters said: "One has concerns about safety of people in Fiji, if you go on their recent record of people being picked up and apparently harassed.

"Let us not gild the lily and make excuses for the regime's backers and the regime itself, this conduct is not acceptable in the democratic world." Fiji is not a member of the Apec forum, but Mr Peters said he was certain the issue would come up at the forum in meetings.

Mr Peters said New Zealand would be going to upcoming Pacific Forum, but he hoped some of those countries who have offered sympathy to the Fijian regime, might now change their tune.

"Let's have confidence the Pacific people at the forum will see this with new eyes. Yes he can come to the forum if he wants to. But lets make no bones about it, there will be 15 countries there appearing because they are democratically elected with a mandate of the people... and one will be there at the barrel of a gun."

Mr Peters said New Zealand would not boycott the event if the commander turned up. "We are not going to have our great future and out work in the Pacific contaminated by one aberration."

Earlier today Bainimarama told Fiji Broadcasting that Qarase and Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party director Peceli Kinivuwai would be "put on a plane and sent to Vanuabalavu (in Lau) if they continued to give false statements about the military council".

He said statements by the two were being published overseas.

He said overseas leaders who faced similar exile from their country were Pakistan's former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, who faced exile after the 1999 coup carried out by General Pervez Musharraf.

- With NZPA

The second article published in the Fiji Times, was by local academic and Political Scientist, Dr Steven Ratuva. The following is a excerpt from Ratuva's opinion article:

Stuck in a cycle of political vengeance

Friday, September 07, 2007

Like a Hollywood mafia script on vengeance killing, we unfortunately now find ourselves caught in a cycle of vengeance, vindictiveness and recrimination between the SDL and the military-backed interim Government.

Politics of divergence

A manifestation of this was the recent public exchange between interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, and the Naitasiri high chief and strong SDL supporter, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata.

The disagreement was more than just a matter of opposing opinions. It was a reflection of the deep-seated personal and political contradictions and psyche of vengeance which now characterise our post-coup political culture. Ratu Inoke and the Naitasiri Provincial Council rejected the proposed People's Charter and in turn Commodore Bainimarama rejected Ratu Inoke's proposal for reconciliation.

Very straight forward

Simple logic would probably suggest that if Ratu Inoke had accepted the proposed People's Charter, Commodore Bainimarama would have looked at his reconciliation proposal sympathetically. Politically and symbolically, both men represent the two opposite ends of the continuum as well as the two major fragments of a divided nation.

Ratu Inoke and many coup opponents saw the proposed People's Charter as another political gimmick by the interim Government to consolidate and legitimise its power and rejected it outright, despite the fact that it contained some very constructive and appealing proposals for national unity.

On the other hand, although Ratu Inoke's proposal contained some attractive concessions for the interim Government such as the granting of amnesty for the 2006 coup makers, it was rejected outright. Commodore Bainimarama probably saw it as another political trick by Ratu Inoke to re-assert his presence, power and legitimacy and divert attention away from his recent conviction.

"In addition, both men saw each other in terms of who they were and what they represented. To Ratu Inoke, Commodore Bainimarama was a usurper of indigenous rights and an illegal coup maker. To Commodore Bainimarama, Ratu Inoke was a murderous mutineer (he was convicted of inciting the 2000 mutiny) and extremist nationalist of dubious political ambitions. "

The respective proposals by the two men were rejected outright by the other because they (proposals) happened to come from the wrong people. The importance of the message was undermined by the nature of the medium. This is one of the biggest political bottlenecks now.

Some political and business interests opposed to the coup and its aims would no doubt be behind Ratu Inoke and some would have even helped him draft the controversial advertisement, which former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and others have referred to as a tactically nave and insensitive approach. Although Ratu Inoke, as a person may be serious about his reconciliation intent, there is serious worry that there are other hidden forces which are propelling him forward and using him and his influential status as their frontline soldier to articulate their demands as well as absorb the incoming flak.

Laisenia Qarase's presence in Suva will no doubt provide a morale boost for Ratu Inoke but I doubt if Mr Qarase, who appears to be in reconciliation mode, is in a mood for more confrontation. However, on the other hand, Commodore Bainimarama's unpromising stance, while helping to consolidate the regime and the reform process, has the potential to exacerbate differences and prolong the stand-off. There is a worry that some within and outside the interim Government may be using Commodore Bainimarama's powerful position to sustain and drive their agenda forward.

Inability to listen

Of concern is the fact that we no longer listen to the good things others say and propose. We are too pathologically fixated on listening only to what we want to listen to and if we listen we are only listening to negative things and use them to design and articulate our political strategies to outshine our political adversaries.

This is precisely where the problem lies. Our capacity to listen and identify the good in others is waning fast. No one seems to be listening any more. Both sides are out to exert their will and claim the moral high ground. This has thrown the nation into confusion.

The problem is not so much the lack of political will to reconcile because everyone is itching for it the military, the interim Government, the Great Council of Chiefs, the SDL Party, the employers, the unions and in fact the entire nation wants it and is ready for it.

" But the problem is differences over how to reconcile, who should define what reconciliation should be and the conditions under which it should take place and who should determine the shape of the reconciliation process. The differences in approach started after the 2000 coup.

The SDL, vanua and the Methodist Church wanted reconciliation using the political, traditional and religious approach. Instead the military and the Fiji Labour Party leadership wanted the legal process to take its course."

After the 2006 coup the situation reversed. The SDL, GCC and the Methodist Church wanted to follow the legal process while the interim Government through the proposed People's Charter wanted to address the problem through political means.

During the 2004 national reconciliation week, the SDL, churches, GCC and the vanua were deeply involved but the military, Labour Party and other political groups refused to be part of it.

Now the situation has reversed. Those who were involved in the 2004 reconciliation have refused to entertain the proposed People's Charter and its reconciliation framework. We have come full circle in our vengeance politics. We have reached a political deadlock out of which we need to wriggle ourselves. How do we do that?

The way forward

Firstly, we have to shift our minds away from the narrow, exclusivist, partisan and self-serving political agenda and begin to see the interest of the nation as paramount. That is the bottom line.

We all have our party, religious, organisational, vanua and personal loyalties and interests, however, at this point in time, these should be subservient to the common national good. Despite official optimism, our economy is not doing well, investor confidence is down, socio-political relations are at their lowest and national moral is in tatters.

Yet despite all these we are still trying to win political and moral points over our adversaries as if that will solve our collective problems when the opposite is in fact happening.

Secondly, on a more practical note, we need to identify the good suggestions from both sides and synthesise them into a common proposal for national reconciliation. Both the proposed People's Charter and Ratu Inoke's proposal contain points worth considering and discussing.

Thirdly, we urgently need to put in place a reconciliation process as well as a framework for political stability for the future before the election. To do that after the election, although constitutionally legitimate, would be politically too late. Since the hurt and pain are very deeply embedded, the election could become an arena for expressions of anger, vindictiveness and vengeance and these have the potential to rear their ugly heads again after the election.

Historically, political instabilities in Fiji have only happened after elections.

The pre-election differences, antagonism and volatility will haunt us once again after the next election if we are not careful. That's why it is important to put in place a reconciliation and post-election governance framework we all agree on well before the election.

We must remember that the reconciliation process must not be merely an exercise in public expression of remorse and apology, although these are very important components, but must be embedded in principles and practices of good governance.

As part of the reconciliation process we should agree on having a government of national unity and put in place mechanisms to promote good and meaningful governance.
We must not allow a single party to rule but establish a power sharing system to ensure sustainable future stability.

Fourthly, as part of the framework for future stability and reconciliation, we urgently need to address the question of coups. How do we ensure that we eradicate the coup culture? What type of governance structure, development policies and security mechanisms should be put in place to achieve this?

One of the sad things is that since the coup, middle ground politics has disappeared as people began to shift to either side of the divide. Even religious organisations and churches have taken sides and contributed to more tension.

Both sides are trying to occupy the moral high ground and in the process breed antagonism. It's time to start thinking positively and imaginatively about our future. Let's transform our negative feelings that we express meticulously and exuberantly in letters to the editor, TV interviews, press releases, internet blogs, pub debates, kava sessions and pulpit sermons, into positive spirit to unite and save our country from disintegration.

We only have until the election to work something out. If we can't then chances are that we might miss the boat again!

Dr Steven Ratuva is a political sociologist and these are his personal views and not of the University of the South Pacific where he works

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