Saturday, February 03, 2007

Coup Intent Getting Clouded!

Cloud of suspicion on real intent of coup

It is now two months after the removal of Fiji’s democratically elected government by the military on 5th December 2006.Military Commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said corruption among the country’s politicians was one of the main triggers for his December coup.However, after two months of military rule there is still a cloud of suspicions over the real intent of the coup.Surely it is time that the real truth behind the takeover is revealed to the public.Because Fiji is a member of the global family, its members also want to the truth about the coup.They all condemn the illegal removal of the elected government.In a statement soon after his return from his overseas tour in November last year the army commander said:Claims have been made that the military wants to lead the country but we would like to reiterate that our concern is for good governance and nothing more. We do not want them to resign unless they change the direction our ship is heading.“All we ask is that the international community sees the two sides of the story and do not persecute us too quickly. We would like the international community to see what the good citizens of Fiji face every day; Fijian politics at its worst.”Who is now leading the country?After handing back the executive authority to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the commander was sworn in as Interim Prime Minister while holding on to the top military post.Asked by the NZ Herald to comment on the transfer, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said: “We don’t respond to facades and mirages, and that’s all this is.”


His Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, said Commodore Bainimarama lacked the authority to reappoint the President. In an interview with NZPA on January 31 Mr Peters called for the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, to resign, saying only democratically held elections will give him the mandate to rule.He said the situation had become grave. We now have the dehumanising stories of those who voice concerns over the coup having bags put over their heads and being locked up with no sense of natural justice,” he said.This is simply not acceptable at the most rudimentary level of human rights and we will continue to say so. “We are seeing in Fiji a regime that has systematically suppressed freedom of speech, created a climate of fear, and abuse, and undermined confidence in key institutions of state whose role is to protect the rights of its citizens.” Another issue the public really wants to know the truth about is corruption.

Again Mr Peters has come into the picture as he has called on Commodore Bainimarama to stand down and that he should front up with any information he had to back up his corruption claims. We know that an Anti Corruption Commission had been set up and chief investigator Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Nasir Ali had confirmed the military had more than 400 files of alleged corruption to be investigated. It will be a huge task.With the confirmation of hundreds of files on alleged corruption prepared by the military, this is a proof of the existence of corruption in government. So let us have patience and wait for the outcome of the investigation.

How long will we wait? We know that when the Qarase-led government was alleged to have been engaged in a lot of corrupt practices, PrimeMinister Laisenia Qarase called on the military to report the matter for the police to investigate.It’s sad that this was not to be as the military forcefully removed the government, as it wants to carry out the investigation.In the build up to the coup, comments were made on those who had given their support to the removal of the government. The then Assistant Minister for Provincial Administration, Ted Young, even told parliament that the Fiji Labour Party was in support of the military and its leader Mahendra Chaudhry and the then Minister for Energy Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi were already in the new line up. They both denied this, but now they are members of the Interim Government.The FLP leader had condemned the coup but accepted the post of the Interim Minister of Finance, National Planning, Public Enterprise and Sugar Reform.The Interim Government must also show proof that the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill and the Qoliqoli Bill are threats to national security.We all know that the two Bills are supported by majority of the indigenous Fijians and had the blessing of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs).Now the Interim Government can carry out a national referendum to know what the people want about the two Bills.Well, democracy is the voice of the people.Many citizens have adopted the culture of silence for fear of being interrogated by the military.With the Interim Government line up named, some are still in the dark on the criteria of selection used.We now know the Interim Government has a lot on its plate to look after apart from corruption.

There will be some policy changes.Surely just like the ousted Qarase-led government, the Interim Government will be facing problems.I will just quote from an article written by Dr Alumita Durutalo titled “Issues and Events of 2005” - “The repercussion of the political crisis caused by George Speight’s attempted coup of 2000 still had overwhelming impacts on sociopolitical and economic arrangements in Fiji throughout 2005. In fact the tasks of both the interim government since the crisis of 19 May 2000 and the elected government after the general election in 2001 have been difficult and challenging. Not only did these governments have to deal with restoring the economy, but more important, they also had to initiate solutions to minimize or better still, totally eradicate Fiji’s coup culture.”The ousted government had been successful in reviving our economy but it failed in initiating a solution to eradicate our coup culture. This is despite of the assurance given to the nation by the commander that there would be no other coup in the country.Well another query is now in the air and that is who are the beneficiaries of the coup?

The granting of immunity to the commander, senior officers and all those involved in the coup points to one of the beneficiaries and that is the military. There are others.Well, as promised by Interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama the people and the nation will benefit from the coup.Let us wait and see.For the people, many are waiting and are closely following the developments daily.The current Interim Government I must admit has a lot of military influence and the sooner we return to civil rule the better it will be for all.We are at a point of no return, we all have to bear with all decisions made by the Interim Government.

In his first address to the nation as Acting President, Commodore Bainimarama said: “We consider that Fiji has reached a cross road and that the government and all those empowered to make decisions in our constitutional democracy are unable to make decisions to save our people from destruction.”We all have to move forward following the new course set. The Interim Government must stick to all it has promised in the clean up campaign.


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