Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seeds Sown to Extend Regime's Illegal Rule

by Sai Lealea

Punitive and repressive events unfolding in Fiji since the New Year are consistent with one of the 3 dark prophecies set out in my earlier Scenario Planning post about Fiji's future under the illegal regime there. The scenario is one where the Regime Extends its Rule beyond its set target for holding Elections in 2014. In fact to many, this was perhaps always the regime's intention.
The regime's recent actions suggest a deliberate attempt to generate confrontation, disunity and discord among those opposed to it while at the same time targeting any assistance to the general public, especially the politically inactive or unaware who just want to get by. This approach has been attempted elsewhere by dictators, especially in South America, with the intention to then further clamp down on freedom in the event of any retaliation by the public. For this reason, labelled opposition groups such as the Methodist Church, and targeted figures, must be careful of any action that may provide a pretext for the regime to strike. In these times, paranoia and emotion takes over from calm and rational thinking and this will escalate when the anticipated response from the public does not materialise.

A quick review of recent actions by the regime would tend to confirm a move to lay the groundwork for provoking public retaliation which in turn will justify further draconian response. These included the following:
- Extended emergency rule and media censorship for another 30 days;
- Initiated a baseless prosecution of a prominent human rights lawyer for opposing the regime;
- Sacked magistrates who ruled against the regime's prosecution;
- Started a purge at the Suva City Council, targeting those blogging against the regime;
- Banned all religious conferences by the Fiji Methodist Church until 2014;
- Deported Dr Padma Lal, solely because she is married to a critic of the regime;
- Cutting the pensions of regime critics.

Fiji is clearly under the full and total control of a repressive military regime where opposition from within will prove very difficult. This places a great deal of importance on Fijians elsewhere to continue to call for a return to democratic rule and actively engage overseas governments and international lobby groups to oppose the regime and its repressive policies. As well, we must continue to put forward ideas to resolve the political crisis.

One thing is blatantly clear, the illegal regime in power in Fiji has come to taste the sweet and dizzying effects of power and it is no doubt enjoying it greatly. Is it any wonder it is already dreading what life would be like without it? When faced with such a dilemma, the human tendency is to stay within one's comfort zone.

The pervasive climate of paranoia among regime figures and in its decision making will basically push it to prolong its hold on power and on the life of a nation and its people. Sadly from there, it only becomes a zero sum scenario where order and a return to elected government can only be achieved through violent upheaval of society as a whole.

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