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Thread: Fiji compared to Burma as junta tightens its grip

  1. #1
    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Fiji compared to Burma as junta tightens its grip

    Fiji compared to Burma as junta tightens its grip
    7:41AM Tuesday Apr 14, 2009
    By Yvonne Tahana




    Fiji is deteriorating into the Burma of the South Pacific, say regional experts who warn the troubled nation is now staring at years of stifling military rule and financial destitution.

    Commentators have labelled as an "outrage" the latest developments in Fiji which effectively saw the country's military leader, Frank Bainimarama, return to the leadership with more power than ever.

    The actions stemmed from a court ruling last Thursday which found that Commodore Bainimarama's regime, in power since a 2006 coup, was illegal under the 1997 constitution and could be replaced.

    In response, the ailing 88-year-old President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution, ruled out any election for five years and briefly removed Commodore Bainimarama before reappointing him to the top job.

    "This was all a total charade, just a hoax that spits in the face of democracy," said Professor Brij Lal, a Pacific specialist at Australian National University.

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    "The President is a senile old man, a puppet in the pocket of the military. It was planned all along that he would look after Bainimarama and strengthen the regime, and no justice would be done."

    Fijian reporters have been told not to speak to foreign media by Government censors who are checking stories before they go to print.

    A senior reporter from one of Fiji's three daily newspapers spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity because journalists have been locked up by the military before.

    "Our editor in chief was one of those taken up to the military camp so we're really cautious about what we print. He was taken up for questioning, [another staff member] has been up there many times. It's really unpredictable, we don't know what these people are up to. Journalists have learned from what happened in 2006, 2007 ... they're taking precautions."

    President Iloilo abolished the constitution on Friday in response to the Appeal Court ruling that Commodore Bainimarama's coup was illegal, and the commodore was sworn in as Prime Minister on Saturday. He immediately declared a 30-day state of emergency. Regulations giving the police and military extensive powers were also put in place.

    Pacific leaders have condemned the moves and say they amount to turning Fiji into a military dictatorship.

    Over Easter "information officers", who were accompanied by a mixture of plainclothes and uniformed police, were coming into newsrooms during the late afternoon to check journalists' copy.

    "By the looks of it most of them don't want to be doing what they're doing," the reporter said. "The first time we had it they joined us for kava downstairs. There's no one standing over us with guns or anything but it's looking at the stories and telling us: 'This is good, this isn't."'

    The reporter said some stories rejected by censors were not anti-Government, but were political in nature, while others had travelled back and forth to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Media Relations before being accepted or denied.

    Meanwhile, Fijian officials were in the process of deporting an Australian journalist last night.

    Sean Dorney, who works for ABC news, said: "They called me to the immigration department this morning and informed me they were unhappy with my reporting being broadcast on the local Fiji One network.

    TV 3 News reporting staff have also been expelled, with political reporter Sia Aston and cameraman Matt Smith being told they were no longer welcome in the country.

    New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel advisory said there was potential for a rapid deterioration to civil disorder and violence in Fiji.

    The Ministry urged New Zealand travellers to register their travel plans with the ministry.

    "There is some risk to your security in Fiji and we advise caution," the site warns.
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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    With all due respect to Dr Lal, I think Fiji has a ways to go yet before it is Burma. I'm thinking a bit more mass murder, for instance. I suspect that if the bodies really started dropping the military would split.

    Things are bad enough as they are, no need for educated folk to overdo the comparisons.


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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    With all due respect to Dr Lal, I think Fiji has a ways to go yet before it is Burma. I'm thinking a bit more mass murder, for instance. I suspect that if the bodies really started dropping the military would split.

    Things are bad enough as they are, no need for educated folk to overdo the comparisons.
    I agree, but things are going from bad to worse

    Terror and threats as Fiji suffers under the hand of a tyrant

    The attacks began a couple of weeks ago. While families slept petrol bombs were thrown through their windows and cars were set on fire. This week an attempt was made to set the offices of a prominent trade unionist on fire while his employees worked inside.

    The message was clear to the victims, who include a newspaper editor, a lawyer and a former army colonel: stop speaking out against the regime.

    “We are afraid for our lives,” one of the victims, who would not be named, told The Times. ‘My wife and I don’t sleep at night, we are always wondering when the next bomb will come or when they will come for us with their guns. I have been imprisoned and beaten all over my body and face; they told me that the next time they come for me my wife can pick up my body from the morgue.”

    This is not Zimbabwe or Burma. This is Fiji, the tourist jewel of the South Pacific and, until recently, the most sophisticated of the island nations in this region.

    It is still one of the most popular tourist destinations for Australians, New Zealanders and Britons. Each day tourists are taken by shuttle bus from Nadi airport to their luxury resorts, where they snorkel, swim and play golf, sheltered behind the bougainvillea from the shadows that haunt the people.

    Since 2006, when Fiji endured its fourth coup in 20 years, the country has been ruled by a military regime that has suppressed dissent through detention and torture while the coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has refused to hold elections.

    A week ago the regime took a step towards total dictatorship. After a ruling by the Appeals Court on April 9 that Mr Bainimarama had been appointed Prime Minister illegally under the 1997 Constitution, the ailing 89-year-old President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, acting after consultation with Mr Bainimarama, revoked the Constitution, sacked the judiciary and reappointed Commodore Bainimarama as premier for a minimum term of five years.

    A state of emergency was declared, police were placed in every newspaper and television newsroom to censor stories and a series of draconian decrees were published, including a ban on gatherings of more than three people.

    All constitutional office holders, including the Supervisor of Elections, the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, were replaced by people of the regime’s choosing.

    In the past week journalists have been jailed along with the President of the Law Society, who organised a protest outside the Supreme Court over the sacking of judges.

    All foreign media was ejected and radio transmitters from Australia and New Zealand, which were the only link that Fiji had to news from the outside world, have been shut.

    Fiji is isolated and its people are left unprotected and at the hands of its increasingly unpredictable dictator.

    “Please don’t call him a dictator,” an adviser to Laisenia Qarase, the former Prime Minister, said. “This man is a terrorist. Everyone is scared; no one knows who will be the next to be taken away.”

    Fiji presents an appearance of calm. The streets of the capital Suva are quiet, the people go about their daily lives as normal but there is an atmosphere of foreboding.

    Speaking in a whisper behind a closed door while a soldier stalked through the offices of her organisation, a human rights worker said: “They are terrifying people into silence. We are getting stories from the countryside that they are going into the villages with guns and marching the youths away at gunpoint but no one can do anything.

    “The ordinary people now have no recourse to justice. There are no courts, they have no voice. Everyone feels completely helpless.”

    Asked if she was scared, she said: “Not for me. But I have got a phone call reminding me they know where my daughter goes to school.”

    Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, the Vice-President for the Government of Mr Qarase, said: “Once the Prime Minister gets something into his mind, no amount of sane advice will move him. This regime has no integrity or good faith but they now have total power.”

    When Mr Bainimarama came into power in 2006 he seemed to be a force for good but support for an uprising even among the educated elite is growing.

    “No one knows what will happen next,” said Graham Leung, a former Law Society president. “Don’t assume that because the Fijians are quiet on the surface they are celebrating, because they are not.

    “We are dealing with a situation that is dynamic and resistant and may evolve into something that is violent.”

    He added: “We can’t expect outside help. Democracy will have to be fought for and won here.”

    A source with close links to former senior officers, said: “Senior members of the military have made it clear that enough is enough. They think this time he’s gone too far.”
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parihaka View Post
    I agree, but things are going from bad to worse

    Terror and threats as Fiji suffers under the hand of a tyrant
    A bunch of thugs, no doubt. History suggests that it won't get to the pits full of bodies stage, and Fiji can't really cut itself off in quite the way that Burma & the DPRK can. Still, it will get nasty there for a while. I still wonder just how far Bainimarama will be able to push it, however. Unlike Rabuka he doesn't even have widespread support among ethnic Fijians.

    One thing that did occour to me (as these things do). Fiji is one of the most devoutly Christian nations on earth (as, BTW are havens of democracy such as PNG, the Solomons & Timor Leste). Can't help but think that if it had been as devoutly Muslim the usual suspects would be taking it as more 'proof' of a premise they'd already decided was true.


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