Monday, September 29, 2008

Give us the right to vote, says Beddoes

Give us the right to vote, says Beddoes


Exclusive Interview with Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes on the address to the UN by Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama

By Cheerieann Wilson

Fiji Sun: You had written to the Secretary General asking for an explanation from him about the Interim PM’s address to the UN, why was this?

Beddoes: I did this because the UN is supposed to be promoting democracies, not dictatorships, and with FB having delivered a speech 12 months ago and the UN having a mission here in Fiji, I would have thought that they might have made some enquiries and obtained the alternative positions from the deposed Government or even myself as an elected and constitutionally appointed officer.

I think the UN has been conspicuous by it’s absence in the effort to try and assist the people restore democracy Fiji.

Fiji Sun: In his address to the UN the Interim Prime Minister raised a number of issues one of which was the role of the Fiji Military in UN peace keeping duties and the strained relationship they now have with UNDPKO, what do you have to say about this?

Beddoes: I will be the first to agree with FB that our troops have been among the best peace keepers in the world and they have created a worldwide reputation for being so, however, through the thoughtless actions of Frank himself and the officers that have blindly followed him in the overthrow of the Qarase/Chaudhry government, they have damaged that once proud reputation, not only because of their act of treason, but more so because of the brutality, intimidation and ongoing threats against the very citizens they as a force are duty bound to protect.

Which makes his references to our military and I quote: ‘proud track record in UN peace-keeping operations as a record of professionalism, discipline, compassion, and ability.

Fiji’s Military Force has shown that its training and ethics are an asset to peace-keeping operations’ ring hollow because they have failed to uphold those values here at home, which is why it has saddened many of us, that our own troops can act appropriately and professionally abroad to keep the peace in another land, but fail miserably when it comes to protecting their own people at home.

Fiji Sun: Referring to his roadmap for the way forward, Interim PM says that progress was only achieved from 1970 to 1987 and that following the coups of 1987 and 2000 political instability, economic stagnation, increasing religious and racial intolerance, ethno-nationalism politics, increase in crime, violence and corruption, poverty and migration increased.

Do you agree with his view?

Beddoes: He is absolutely right about one thing and that is, the development, progress and prosperity that Fiji experienced under the guidance of the founding father of this country the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara from 1970 until the Rabuka coup following the 1987 election is unprecedented.

But what I note is that he failed to give credit to Ratu Mara when he spoke of this period of prosperity in his address to the United Nation.

Perhaps it was because he recalls that it was he, who forced Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, his Commander in Chief, to step aside in 2000 and in a second and unnoticed coup, staged on a naval ship in Suva harbour, FB and his group, claimed that there was a threat against Ratu Mara’s life, by a handful of CRW soldiers and instead of the FMF protecting their Commander in Chef as was their duty, they asked him to step aside instead. Surrounded by officers who were abrogating their duty to protect him as their Commander in Chief, Ratu Sir Kamisese was left with no alternative but to accede to their demand.

All of the political instability, economic stagnation, increasing religious and racial intolerance, ethno-nationalism politics, increases in crime, violence and corruption, poverty and migration that he referred to in his speech are the by products of military intervention which Dr Warden Narsey has already quantified as costing the county and its people more than $9billion since the first military intervention into our parliamentary democracy in 1987

Fiji Sun: : On the question of intervention, the Interim PM says and I quote ‘On 5 December, 2006, a political transition took place in Fiji following an intervention from the Fiji Military Forces’. What do you make of this?

Beddoes: I suppose his speech writer thinks it sounds better than an act of treason or a coup, but the bottom line remains very clear and simply.

There was no political transition, he overthrew a democratically elected government and committed treason which is an offence under our Penal Code Sec 50 and regardless of what changes he wants to make to our system and how long he intends to hold on to power, it will one day come to an end and he will ultimately have to face his day in court to defend himself and his actions and be held to account like everyone else.

Fiji Sun: The Interim PM says his government is in effective control, and has done everything in their power to adhere to the current constitution which he recognizes as the supreme law of the nation, but that the foundations on which the nation is built is shaky and weak, what do you make of these comments?

Beddoes: It is clear that these sentiments are used to appease the UN and the audience he was addressing, but it is perhaps the clearest admission yet that the Junta has made with regards to their breaching the constitution through ‘selective compliance’ with certain provisions of the constitution because it is not about ‘trying to adhere’ to the law, it is about following the law ‘absolutely’.

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara laid very solid foundations for our multi cultural, multi-religious and multi racial society, and it is the repeated military interventions through acts of treason alone that have caused these foundations to become shaky and weak.

As to their ‘effective control’ I would conclude that it is a matter of opinion. But if by his definition he means he has the guns against the people that he has oppressed, so is in effective control, then yes, I agree he is.

But if it were to be measured against a free and open society, then No he does not have control of the country.

Fiji Sun: In his address the Interim PM refers to the NCBBF formation and membership as broadly representative, independent, consultative body to formulate a People’s Charter for Change and refers to people, like yourself as wilfully persistently rejecting the call to engage in constructive dialogue, how do you react to this?

Beddoes: To start with the NCBBF is not independent and it is not representative of the majority of our people.

The entire cabinet of the military Junta sits in the NCBBF and until they pulled out the Fiji Labour Party had about nine of its members or known supporters in the committee and as well as that the New Alliance was also well represented.

The Interim PM is Co Chair, Commander of the Military, so how independent would you say that organisation is.

My objection to it is, that it is not inclusive, it is not representative and more importantly, for an organisation that is developing the new rules of engagement for future governments it fails itself repeatedly to act transparently, accountably and responsibly, so how can it ask others to do what is unable to do?

Fiji Sun: The Interim PM continues by saying ‘The overarching objective of the Peoples Charter is to rebuild Fiji into a non-racial, culturally vibrant, united, well-governed, truly democratic nation; a nation that seeks progress and prosperity.

The vision for rebuilding Fiji that underpins this overarching objective is guided by a number of key principles, such as: Creating a just and fair society; Achieving unity and national identity; Ensuring merit-based equality of opportunity for all Fiji citizens; Transparent and accountable government; Uplifting the disadvantaged in all communities; Mainstreaming our indigenous people, the i-Taukei, in a modern, progressive Fiji; and Sharing spiritualities and interfaith dialogue.

Do you agree with his comments?

Beddoes: The Military Junta has failed to create a just and fair society despite its almost two years at the helm, there is no unity, and whatever national identity we did have, they have destroyed.

Equality of opportunity has been ignored as military personnel and friends are engaged ahead of other more qualified citizens of Fiji and the Junta is the least transparent and accountable government we have ever had the misfortune to have.

Consequently the disadvantaged have been further disadvantaged, and for me, the most appalling aspect of this coup over all others has been the almost systematic removal of our top Fijian administrators by a Fijian dominated military Junta and replacing them predominately with members of the other major community in what appears to be a targeting of our indigenous peoples traditional structure.

Fiji Sun: In highlighting the current NCBBF outreach the Interim PM said; There are some, both in Fiji and outside, who are cynical regarding this,. I am able to understand this, and not only because such a process has never ever been tried before. It is indeed a most challenging and difficult process to undertake.

Even though the Peoples Charter process has been undertaken by the NCBBF at arm’s length of the Interim Government, there are those who oppose it simply because it is an initiative of the Interim Government.

What they recognize, but choose not to admit, is that the Peoples Charter process is a real threat to their positions of vested power and privilege.

What do you say about this comment?

Beddoes: I am at a loss to understand the motive behind the comment that the NCBBF operates at arm's length to government, when any one of the members of the UN can easily establish that as the Co Chair, with his entire cabinet sitting in as members and their use of the Police and Military in the delivery process of the Charter, the NCBBF is anything but at arm's length and independent.

The Charter and its process does not pose a 'threat' what so ever to my position personally as I am sure it does not pose any threat to others, because I hold my position of authority as an MP at the pleasure of my electorate and they and they alone have the right to remove that position from me, should they chose to do that one day, I will gladly accept their verdict.

What the Charter does do however, is that it poses a direct threat to our constitution and our individual right to choose what kind of government and governance we want.

Fiji Sun: What do you make of his statement asking the international community today not to focus only on the removal of a government; this has already been done exhaustively.

We have been subjected to harsh international measures which we accepted.

We have endured these through the suffering of our people.

The coups of 1987 and 2000 were executed in the interests of a few, based on ethno-nationalism, racism, and greed.

The events of 5 December, 2006 were not for any such extremist motivation.

Beddoes: It appears as if he would rather everyone just drop the matter of his 2006 coup and while he says the 1987 and 2000 coups were about self interest and ethno nationalism racism and greed, his was not, so somehow it's ok for everyone to just forget about it?

But it simply does not work like that, and he and all those who support him must ultimately account for their actions and if they are successful in their defence, good luck to them, however if they are found guilty of treason and related charges, then they must be prepared to face up to their actions and like Speight and company, do the time for their crime.

Fiji Sun: What do you make of his statement regarding his initial request to the international to support for his plans to remove the coup culture and the establishment of good governance, but had not received any help and because of travel and other restrictions they have been unable to make much progress?

Beddoes: It would appear from his remarks that the punitive measures put in place by the International community have been effective, in particular the travel bans, although I feel our Pacific Island neighbours have been a bit slack in this area.

But I believe that a major reason why they have failed to make any progress is because they have digressed and involved themselves in almost every other area of government and attempted to force through major changes that have preoccupied their minds and spent very little effort initially, into preparations for a March 2009 elections, so they can justifiably prolong their stay in office because I think they are the ones that feel their defacto positions of power and privilege will be threatened once we go to the polls, and they won't be wrong on that score.

Fiji Sun: Finally, his statement that Fiji cannot hold elections in early 2009 and that only after the charter has been accepted by the people and a constitutional and legal way is found to introduce the changes and Fiji's commitment to the UN and the various conventions on human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance, how do you respond to this?

Beddoes: It is difficult to comprehend how someone who committed an act of treason against a democratically elected government of the people, presided over a military that was responsible for the deaths of innocent people and who committed multiple breaches of human rights abuses against unarmed and innocent men and women, and threatens to deny the people their right to an election if his ill founded, misguided charter is not supported.

It is difficult to comprehend how he can stand in front of world leaders and commit his government to the principals of human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance, when he does not practise any of these principals himself.

In addition, if he seeks to impose the Charter outcomes legally, then he has to engage the political parties though a process that will allow him to legalize his charter, however, so long as he and his Junta continue to ignore or play lip service to this aspect of the process, it is difficult to see how he will achieve a legal solution to the problem that he has caused for us all.

No comments: