Saturday, February 21, 2009

Teleni - A new dawn?

by Kamal Iyer - Saturday, February 21, 2009

"I always remind the police officers and I want to remind you again, strong police officers are police officers who make the right decision, doing the right thing at the right time when no-one is watching. I'm talking about honesty, I'm talking about loyalty, I'm talking about integrity. Doing the right thing at the right time when no-one is watching. And I think a lot of people here in Fiji fail because when they do the wrong thing at the wrong time at the wrong place. I challenge you my fellow officers that when you go out today my expectation (is) that you will continue to do the right thing at the right time when the Commissioner is not watching." - Police Commissioner Esala Teleni addressing police officers at the closing of a workshop on Border Control (Fiji Television One National News - Wednesday, February 18, 2009)

This message about integrity, loyalty and doing the right thing as emphasised by Mr Teleni to his officers pales into insignificance when compared to his racial bigotry hurled exclusively at Indian police officers 24 hours earlier on Tuesday February 17, 2009. Mr Teleni definitely did not get out on the wrong side of the bed on Tuesday morning for him to breathe fire and brimstone on Indian police officers. Nor did his blood pressure rise uncontrollably because if it did, he would not have been standing and yelling at the top of his voice - he would have blacked out and rushed to hospital.

The Fiji Television footage shown on the 6pm news on Tuesday - which undoubtedly would have been seen by Mr Teleni himself after police obtained the entire raw footage by executing a search warrant a day later - portrayed the image of a person who knew what he was saying and doing. Here was a man who had a pre-determined agenda to ride roughshod over the unsuspecting Indian police officers. His racial venom was not a mistake or slip of the tongue because racism and the need for the Indian officers to become subservient to him were the central theme of his diatribe.

"Liumuri, lamu-lamu and lamu-s..a" - backstabbers, betrayers and cowards of the highest order - were derogatory and inflammatory insults hurled at the Indian officers by Mr Teleni. The warning to terminate them if they did not become subservient to him, the warning that they hadn't seen his other side are reminiscent of utterances by tyrants, despots and dictators like Mussolini and Hitler before and during World War II, Idi Amin of Uganda in the 1970's and lately Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. All brought death, destruction, chaos and misery on their people.

In Fiji, Mr Teleni and his boss Voreqe Bainimarama are no exceptions given their rhetoric and the nonchalance with which they have brushed aside the racial bigotry and the outpouring of concern and anger against the racial venom this week. To add insult to injury, police spokeswoman Ema Mua described it as a speech of encouragement and part of disciplinary training.

She thinks the people of Fiji have flown over the cuckoo's nest and are therefore fools. Ema Mua's description of her boss's racial outburst is similar to her theory to justify the brutal and fatal bashing of prison escapee Josefa Baleiloa.

And not surprisingly Commodore Bainimarama, interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau and Fiji Human Rights Commission Chairperson Dr Shaista Shameem have also shrugged off the racist and inflammatory outburst by Mr Teleni describing it as a non-issue.

Dr Shameem's lack of concern, care and even sympathy is understandable given that her views about human rights violations, media freedom and other basic human rights of individuals as enshrined in the 1997 Constitution have taken a one-way street after the coup of December 5, 2006.

But the Indian community, that had predominantly supported the overthrow of the SDL/Labour Multi-Party Government and until December 2008 had shifted their support in large percentages towards Commodore Bainimarama from Mahendra Chaudhry (if the Times-Tebbutt Poll published yesterday is anything to go by) would be surprised and bitter their saviour (Bainimarama) thinks his former deputy army commander (Teleni) was within his rights to have threatened and hurled racial abuse at Indian police officers.

The interim Prime Minister even stated that if he were in Mr Teleni's shoes he would have sacked those officers questioning the police crusade - which a senior and trusted officer of Mr Teleni like Irami Raibe admitted on Fiji TV news a few weeks ago was a failure in terms of acting as a deterrent against committal of crimes like rape and sexual assaults of women and children.

Commodore Bainimarama's defence of Mr Teleni means that when the police boss told his officers on Wednesday to make the right decision, do the right thing at the right time, be honest even when no one is watching - Mr Teleni in Bainimarama's view made the right decision, did the right thing at the right time and was honest when he called the Indian officers liumuri, lamu lamu and lamu s..a - betrayers, backstabbers and cowards of the highest order.

Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry was only disturbed by the television report and in a statement talked about separation of religion from the State.

He also asked aggrieved officers to resolve the matter internally with Mr Teleni.

This reaction from a man who throughout his political career has proclaimed himself as the sole crusader and champion of Indian rights and dignity, illustrates his morality, character and credibility.

How can Mr Chaudhry and Commodore Bainimarama now justify their so called vision of building a better Fiji, completely free of any racial prejudices, racial intolerance and racial bigotry as stated in their holy book the People's Charter, when a police commissioner of a State, who is the ultimate guarantor of peace, security, stability and a person vested with the responsibility of ensuring ordinary citizens are not subjected to any limitations that may hinder their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms, is able to breach the same basic human rights in broad daylight by hurling racial insult at his own officers?

The preamble of the People's Charter, hailed by the regime and its supporters as the document to end the coup culture, eradicate all forms of racial prejudices and bring genuine democracy to Fiji, starts with the people of Fiji awaking and arising to a new dawn, a new day and a new way. What happened on Tuesday and the decision of the regime's leadership to endorse Mr Teleni's racial bigotry against Indians means that Indians and all ordinary and unsuspecting citizens of Fiji should start preparing themselves for awaking, arising to a new dawn, a new day and new way - being called liumuri, lamulamu and lamu s..a in the land of their birth.

- The views expressed here are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper (Fiji Times).

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