Friday, February 08, 2008

Letter to Fiji Times - 1 Feb 2008

Deeper issues

A military coup is always illegal in a democratic society.

That is because the basis of government is the general election or the general will of the people.

The use of arms to overthrow an elected government is therefore an anathema. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant, intellectually dishonest or wilfully blind.

The doctrine of necessity should be known to people who read the Chandrika Prasad judgment of the Court of Appeal after George Speight's attempted coup.

The doctrine of necessity was then endorsed to legally cover the acts of the late President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, against a terrorist and unlawful third party the hostage takers.

The affidavits deposed for that matter are telling.

Mahendra Chaudhry, who was then lawful prime minister, requested elections.

Commodore Bainimarama could not guarantee security if the People's Coalition government was returned.

And Ratu Josefa Iloilo refused to entertain the request of the majority in Parliament behind Dr Tupeni Baba. Had Mr Chaudhry, Commodore Bainimarama and Ratu Iloilo acted in good faith, the interim regime would not have carried on to become the SDL party.

The SDL party was facilitated at birth by the actions of Mr Chaudhry, Commodore Bainimarama and Ratu Iloilo.

All complaints about the past seven years should be directed to them first.

In contrast to 2000, on December 5, 2006 there were no terrorist or unlawful third parties intimidating the President.

There was the elected government and there was the military. The latter trashed their oaths, spat on the Constitution and usurped the elected government end of story.

As for the reprehensible or "racist policies" of the SDL government, the 1997 Constitution outlaws such policies becoming law.

If certain politicians and lawyers felt so strongly and genuinely about it, their duty under the rule of law was to take the matter up in Parliament and in court.

The court can look at the merits of legislation inter alia the Constitution.

Contrary to the reported opinion of a judge at the A-G's conference, the courts are not bound only to the remedy of judicial review.

The courts can and have struck down legislation which is unconstitutional on the merits the Boilermakers principle.

I have publicly said and it is well known to many that I was never in support of the SDL party.

Before reaching 30 years of age I stood for parliamentary elections against the SDL in 2001 simply to register my objection to them and their policies.

That is my entitlement under the Constitution to differ in my political views but I never let such differences in opinion obscure my view about the value of democracy and rule of law.

I never once took any political disappointment or tragedy personally and go behind closed doors to plan a coup. I never will.

Once we justify December 5, 2006 we justify future coups on a loose interpretation of the doctrine of necessity.

What if the tables turn and extremists use the doctrine to justify genocide in order to preserve their identity or native land?

What do we tell them when hitherto perfectly reasonable people now endorse a military coup as a matter of necessity?

I have heard many coup supporters talking about the "deeper issues" behind December 5, 2006.

There can be no deeper issue than the dismantling of the rule of law and democracy in Fiji.

Those two tangibles bring peace, stability and good governance. I concede there is no perfection. There never is.

Take for example the government of John Howard in Australia. It certainly appeared to lack the moral high ground on aspects of its immigration and foreign policies but no Australian soldier dreams of deposing his or her government.

When the time was right, the Australian voters changed their government.

The people of Fiji have shown their capacity to vote governments out. In 1977, 1987 and 1999.

With the exception of the National Federation Party, why is it that whenever one side of politics loses control of Parliament in Fiji, they forget about their pivotal role as the opposition and go into planning a military coup? Aided and abetted by people trained in the law? We have come a full circle in this country.

The Labour party that held the moral high ground has supported a military coup.

Does it now mean that military takeovers are acceptable to 90 per cent of the population?

For the sake of this country, especially the children and unborn generations, I just hope that one day a Laisenia Qarase will graciously concede defeat at the polls and a Mahendra Chaudhry will graciously thank his competitor or vice versa.

And the wheels of democracy will turn ever so smoothly in Fiji too.

But for that to happen, we must learn from 1987, 2000 and 2006.

A coup is a coup.

It is unlawful, economically disastrous, morally wrong and corrupting.

There are no "deeper issues".

Tupou Draunidalo

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