Thursday, July 15, 2010

MSG Draws Back from the Brink

Sai's Comments:
  • This is an excellent piece by the former Fiji Sun Editor, Russell Hunter, and a must read for all those keen on a true and accurate assessment of what is happening in Fiji under the despotic rule of the current illegal regime led by the military dictator Bainimarama

by Russell Hunter

13 July 2010

The Melanesian Spearhead Group’s decision to defer a proposed Fiji meeting further isolates the illegal regime

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), comprising Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the FLNKS of New Caledonia drew back yesterday from the brink of folly and hypocrisy.

By originally agreeing to have military dictator Commodore Frank Bainimarama as chair of its meeting in Fiji next week, the MSG risked tarnishing its reputation, compromising its ideals and eroding its credibility. Fortunately, common sense has prevailed and the meeting has been “deferred” which is very likely diplomat-speak for cancelled after member countries said they could not agree on Bainimarama as chair. Like the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth, the MSG has a set of standards and rules.

It strongly affirms the universal nature of democratic principles. These, says the MSG, underpin the organisation of a state and ensure the legitimacy of its authority and the legality of its actions.

The regional body espouses a firm commitment to fundamental freedoms, human rights and political engagement based on inclusive dialogue. The MSG stands by the rule of law, judicial independence, transparency and accountability.

It was therefore quite bizarre that the leaders attending the Fiji meeting would have been willingly guided in their deliberations by the South Pacific’s first enduring military dictator who has comprehensively rejected the values the MSG purports to embrace. It’s significant that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Maleilegaoi bluntly refused Bainimarama’s invitation to attend.

Commodore Bainimarama took over an elected government at gun-point in 2006 and has ruled by force ever since. His philosophy of governance is driven by a belief that the military is “all powerful”.

The Commodore has thrown out the country’s Constitution, abolished Fiji’s democratic institutions and taken basic rights and freedoms from its people. He rules with the support of a Cabinet and Military Council. But his word is law and he demands obedience. Dissent is forbidden. Those who hold views on critical national issues that differ from those of Commodore Bainimarama are advised to keep their own counsel or suffer the consequences.

Last year, after he abrogated the Constitution, Commodore Bainimarama enacted emergency rule that imposed censorship of the media and gave the security forces sweeping authority.

He promised to lift the emergency regulations, including censorship, when a new media law was introduced. The media controls, which impose severe penalties on journalists who infringe them, are now in place. But the Commodore has broken his promise to end emergency rule, just as he broke a pledge to the Forum to hold elections in 2009.

Fiji’s judiciary was sacked with the trashing of the constitution. New appointees hold office with the approval of the military. Questions naturally arise about their independence. The rule of law, as understood by most members of the international community is, therefore, undermined. A host of “decrees”, issued with little public debate, substitute for acts of Parliament approved by MPs representing the popular will.

The Bainimarama regime is accountable only to itself. It does not practise transparency. Instead the people of Fiji are engulfed in a constant stream of propaganda portraying Commodore Bainimarama as the great saviour and problem solver. He is said to be transforming Fiji for the better, and to have the backing of the people.

The only way for Commodore Bainimarama to prove he has the public with him is to surrender to the ballot box. It is only through a free and fair election, without military intimidation, that the Commodore can establish the legitimacy of his authority. Until that happens he is just one of history’s tyrants governing through fear, lies and suppression. So much for the Pacific Way.

Commodore Bainimarama does not believe in inclusive dialogue. He has excluded political leaders who won the last elections from discussions on Fiji’s political future. These discussions, which became largely meaningless, are now stalled. There is a widespread suspicion that the Commodore will not abide by his new promise of elections by 2014.

The MSG, fortunately for the region, has drawn back from endorsement as its chair of someone who came to power through an act of treason and rejects all the precepts and beliefs that define the organisation.

It is not enough to talk about a unique way of resolving differences by consensus among Melanesian brothers bound together by goodwill, shared thinking, traditions and customs.

Such warm and fuzzy talk will be seen by Bainimarama as a propaganda opportunity to be seized and exploited. He might go through the motions of identifying with the Melanesian ethos. In the end however he will be motivated by what he considers is in his own best interests and survival.

He would certainly have used the MSG meeting and his role in it as a tool to push his desire for validation. Like all illegal dictators, he craves legitimacy above all things and, again, like all illegal dictators, he fears the truth above all else.

The MSG will not now allow itself to be used by the Commodore as a wedge to weaken the Forum and to isolate his enemies, the governments of Australia and New Zealand.

By turning away from the dictator the MSG has struck a blow for the human rights and freedoms that are at the very heart of its charter and constitution.

Of course Bainimarama will not see it that way. He sees the heavy hand of Australia and New Zealand intervening to deprive him of a propaganda coup and out goes yet another Australian head of mission.

What does he hope to achieve by this? Does he really think he can bully the whole Pacific Forum into submission to his will? Amazing as it may seem, all the evidence points in that direction.

Meanwhile, the people of Fiji continue to suffer under his rule. The overwhelming majority of local opinion feels relief at the decision by the MSG to pull back from the brink as any other course of action would have been seen as providing aid and comfort to their oppressor and assisting him to entrench his rule - without taking their views into account.

For the people of Fiji are without a voice. Nobody dares to speak out for fear of severe physical punishment. Even the suspicion of criticism of the junta is enough to bring soldiers to the door after dark. Their media is heavily censored to the point that the people of Fiji increasingly turn to your newspaper’s website to seek knowledge of what is going on at home and in the region.

Bainimarama argues that things in Fiji are normal and the country is on the move. This is falsehood. What is happening in Fiji is an aberration, a stain on the region, that is quite rightly condemned by right-thinking members of the international community.

The Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth suspended Fiji on the basis of principle.
In its dealings with Fiji the MSG has yesterday, let’s hope, done the same by honouring its own founding principles.

Comments posted on

  • The display of despot and unprofessional demeanor is what the illegal Leader of Fiji is doing in his reaction to Vanuatu's position on the Chairmanship of MSG. His reaction so far is bringing out what is really in this tin pot dictator's mind about reforms in Fiji that he has toted from day one.

  • From what we can see now, reform that Bainimarama wants is only in his mind because he threatens to renege on the 2014 election every time someone does not agree with him. Case and point when Vanuatu questions the validity of Bainimarama( an unelected leader)to chair the MSG meeting.

  • In his blind rage Bainimarama without thinking about his position blames Australia for this and expels the top Australian diplomat in Fiji. Now he is saying that Fiji will hold the meeting without Vanuatu but he has not considered what Napatei said about the concensous of other MSG countries that Bainimarama should not chair the meeting because the people of Fiji did bot elect him.

  • We have been saying all along that there will be no election in 2014 because Bainimarama does not want to go to prison as a traitor and will hold on to power for as long as he can.

  • All the reforms that Bainimarama wants in Fiji are just to consolidate his hol;d on power and if the people of Fiji will not act then their sufferings will just go on for sometime to come. Stand up Fijiand, do not let this idiot of a dictator drag you down. Down with the dictator now. Let Freedom reign.

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