Friday, October 24, 2008

When there is little hope

When there is little hope - By Sitiveni RabukaFriday, October 24, 2008

Ni sa bula. I met an old army colleague on my sea wall walk yesterday, and he could not resist the question on the recent High Court Judgement. We both agreed that the court tried to answer the questions put to it to make declarations on.
We also felt that, perhaps Qarase's solicitor filed the wrong questions in the first place. Whether Qarase was aware that the questions filed for the case he will probably spend most of the rest of his life paying for, is yet an interesting question.
As things stand, there is little hope for the Fiji appellate courts to differ from the High Court findings based on the questions for declarations.
Regardless of the judgement, the hard cold truth is that this does not change the basic fact that the regime remains unelected and does not carry popular support nor can it genuinely represent the people's interest. Its propaganda though may make such claims, to justify their continuation in power. But this is not for the court to make a declaration on.
The moving forward of the March 2009 elections as originally promised, to four years, with no precise date and conditional to such things as electoral reforms, acceptance of the people's charter, etc, is, therefore, more suspect.
This tactic is not original. In 1973, when General Pinochet overthrew socialist President Salvador Allende of Chile in a bloody coup, people believed he would hand power to a civilian government. After a few months, he declared that the military will rule for the next five years. The justification was that they need to do economic and political reforms for the great good of Chile. He and his military junta ended up staying for the next 17 years, during which time human rights violations and state financial mismanagement and abuses took place on a massive and horrific scale.
Arrested in Britain on October 17, 1998, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, because Spain had a warrant for him for the killing of Spanish citizens in Chile, he was allowed to return to Chile on medical grounds.
From then on to 2006, with his immunity stripped by the prosecution in 2005, he faced charges in Chile for torture, forced disappearances, political assassinations, murders, tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering. When he died of heart failure on December 10, 2006, he was facing approximately 300 criminal charges for violations and abuses of human rights.
When he died, the government of the day officially decided he was not worthy of a state funeral, that former Presidents are normally entitled to, and also refused to grant a national day of mourning.
Before his death the military had already begun the process of disassociating itself from their former commander and President.
Military regimes have never really been successful in running a country, because their training is not in this area, but for war and defence. There are only two ways that bring an end to military rule; the military willingly or voluntarily giving up and returning power to civilian rule or it is overthrown by internal and/ or external elements.
We should, therefore, not be surprised when the international community, our regional and bilateral friends remain unmoved by the court judgement and persist in their call for elections in March 2009.
Those in the military who have political ambitions and those in cabinet who want to continue in office, should resign from their respective positions and be decent and brave enough to contest the elections in the public and political arena. This is the right and honourable thing to do.
As powerful as he was in his dizzy heydays, Idi Amin had to seek refuge in a foreign land as he was falling from grace. Also referred to as Big Dada and Butcher of Africa, Idi Amin seized power from President Obote in 1971, accusing him among other things of corruption and mismanagement of public funds. He assured the people he would bring in economic reforms and return power to civilian rule at the earliest. He assumed the presidency, and immediately purged the army, killing thousands which came to about 2/3 of the army he suspected of not being loyal to him. Despite his assurances, elections never happened.
In 1976, he made himself President for life and ruled by decree. Thousands of Asians and foreigners were expelled. Ordinary citizens, academics, disloyal soldiers, civil servants, diplomats, business people, medical personnel, members of the clergy of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, ex-politicians, former cabinet ministers and serving cabinet ministers who lost favour with him were executed. He destroyed villages and tribes that he felt did not support him.
He militarised the civil service, giving the top senior civil service positions to his loyalist soldiers. He expanded the army and formed military tribunals which presided over the civil courts and govt and directed the state budget towards military expenditure. The state budget effectively became the military budget, which devastated the economy of Uganda as the other sectors collapsed.
In 1978, he attacked neighbouring Tanzania. The Tanzania army joined by Ugandan exiles counter-attacked and took control on April 11, 1979. Amin fled to Libya, leaving behind a greatly ruined economy, a totally destroyed agriculture sector and a severely damaged business sector. He expressed desires from exile, to return to Uganda and was told he faced charges.
In 2003, Amin died of multiple organ failure in a hospital in Jeddah, Arabia where he moved to from Libya.
President Museveni of Uganda made it clear that if he returned to Uganda still breathing, he would be arrested to answer for his crimes; but if his body was brought back, he would not be accorded a state funeral, just an ordinary burial like any other ordinary Ugandan citizen.
With a very small gathering of people at his funeral, he was buried in exile, in Jeddah.
Only last month the world was told that General Musharraf of Pakistan wants to be right with his faith, go on his pilgrimage to Mecca, then live in voluntary exile in the United Kingdom.
Earlier this month I read Ecclesiastes 12, which is a beautiful passage of advice that all powerful men and women in their prime must heed: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them' - before the sun and light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain (vision fails); when the keepers (arms) of the house (body) tremble, and the strong men (legs) stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few (teeth), and those looking through the windows grow dim (eyes become blind); when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades (gum against gum instead of chewing with teeth); when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint (deafness); when men are afraid of heights (fear of death and meeting God) and of dangers in the streets (fear of the valley of the shadow of death); when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along (even a light load is heavy) and desire is no longer stirred (appetites and passions subside)"; Ecclesiastes 12: 1 - 5. It is a very sobering passage which ends with another declaration I have mentioned in an earlier article; " is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12: 13 - 14.
So, take heart, God will judge judges and their judgments. Have a great week.

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