Friday, March 19, 2010

So Called Bullies to the Rescue of Fiji

Editorial: Timaru Herald

19 March 2010

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's military dictator, has long been critical of New Zealand and Australia's bullying of his nation. Hopefully the events of the past few days will give him a chance to reconsider his position.

When Cyclone Tomas hit Fiji this week, bringing widespread devastation to parts of the island nation, Fiji's tormentors were quick to respond.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force had an aircraft with emergency supplies on its way to Fiji in short order, charged with flying over the northern islands to try and assess damage and get supplies to where they were urgently needed. The New Zealand Government has also dug deep and put up $1 million in cash to help out. Canberra also sent a surveillance aircraft and put up A$1 million ($1.29 million) in cash for the relief effort.

Commodore Bainimarama should consider whether these are the actions of bullies, or of reasonable governments who have the best interests of Fiji's people at heart. New Zealand and Australia's governments have every reason to be critical of Commodore Bainimarama's military dictatorship. He led a military coup in Fiji in 2006 because he did not like the way Fiji's democratically elected Government was headed. Since then he has ticked all the boxes of dictatorship.

He has suspended elections, sacked the judiciary, censored the media, suppressed his opponents by imprisoning them on trumped up charges and even attacked the Church for daring to voice opposition. The governments of New Zealand and Australia, as you would expect, have waved the protest flag time and time again and tried to bring him to heel through diplomatic pressure and the use of trade and travel sanctions.

The commodore has complained repeatedly that Wellington and Canberra do not understand Fiji's "special" problems. His chief reform, a new constitution, is aimed at doing away with its voting system which favours indigenous Fijians. His aim is to have a fair electoral system that will unite all Fijians and close the ethnic divides that have traditionally split the country. He needs at least another four years – on top of the four that have already rolled by since he seized power – to sort it and all will return to democratic elections in 2014.

History is littered with dictators who have justified their actions because of the "special" character of their problems. The truth is much simpler – governments are either democratically elected, or they are not. Commodore Bainimarama holds power in Fiji because he controls the guns. It is as simple as that.

Ad Feedback:
Commodore Bainimarama has thanked New Zealand for the help, but the best thing he could do to return the generosity would be to fast-track his constitutional changes and return his country to democracy as quickly as possible. If, as he claims, his reforms are in the best interests of Fiji, then surely voters will support him.

No comments: