Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Trust Bainimarama

Solomon Star says: Don't trust Bainimarama
Last updated 2/28/2008

Condemnation of the Interim Government's decision to deport Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter was criticised by regional media organisations.
Here is the editorial comment of the Solomon Star newspaper

From Honiara to Frank Bainimarama in Suva here's a message: Shame on you.
Shame on you and your so-called interim Government.
Your mistreatment and forced deportation yesterday of Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter shows once again you cannot be believed or trusted.
We urge Prime Minister Sikua and other Melanesian leaders: Be very careful if you meet with Fiji's self-appointed strongman in Port Vila in April.
He will come to the planned Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting there full of promises. He always does.
But what he promises should be treated with scepticism.
For what happened to Mr Hunter yesterday is more than a story of just one journalist. It is yet another example of broken promises by the coup leader and his disregard for human rights. For example. In December Mr Bainimarama gave a commitment to a delegation from the regional Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). This was that he and his regime would uphold media freedom. In other words the people's right to freedom of information and expression. PINA was concerned because of previous mistreatment of journalists and intimidation of the media by Mr Bainimarama's men. Details of this were revealed by Fiji representatives attending the PINA convention here in Honiara last year. The mistreatment of Mr Hunter shows again how worthless any commitments from Mr Bainimarama really are. Mr Hunter - a respected editor and longtime Fiji resident - was deported without due process being followed. Without regard for his fundamental rights.
And despite a High Court order prohibiting his deportation. What was Mr Hunter's so-called crime? His newspaper extensively documented secret overseas bank accounts and alleged tax evasion involving one of Mr Bainimarama's key supporters, Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. This is the same Mr Chaudhry who has been piously preaching against corruption.
Mr Bainimarama's response was swift. But it was against Mr Hunter not Mr Chaudhry. Mr Hunter was taken from his family at night, detained, then forced on to a plane to Australia in the morning. He was not allowed to contact his family, who had seen him taken away at night by two vehicles full of men.
There are echoes of Zimbabwe in some of the things now happening in Fiji and the way Mr Bainimarama is "governing".
Who does he think he is? The Robert Mugabe of the Pacific?

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