Prime Minister, Please Help Us to Believe You
Steps to the 2014 Elections: Suggestions from a Reader
A reader, Side Lines in Viti Levu, is worried about 2014 and thinks Government is not receiving sufficient feedback with the Public Emergency Regulations in place. PER makes Government less aware of public concerns. He is not anti-government, though he's unhappy about some things done and not done. He's prepared to support Government if it is genuine about elections in 2014. The PM says he's open to pro-Fiji suggestions. This overseas-based vulagi thinks balanced pro-Fiji comments like this need to be heard by the PM and those close to him:
The only thing we have that separates [PM Bainimarama] from other dictators is a promise he will have elections in 2014. I do hope he keeps that promise and that he holds everyone around him accountable to that goal. There are many things I don’t like about this military regime. They have made many mistakes and broken many promises but no progress is ever made without compromise. I can forget and even forgive the mistakes and sins of the last four years.
Now what about that promise of an election in 2014 ?
I personally need a lot more than that promise. I hope that the PM is genuine in this promise. If he is genuine I think it would be easy to demonstrate that to the many doubters like me. He also needs to convince the rest of the world. Here are some simple things he could do fairly quickly. (with my last posted ideas now in the dustbin I will keep it to only three this time).
1. This week - Publish a public confirmation that elections will be held in 2104. A letter to the people of Fiji published in all the papers would be a great start. This letter should be signed by the PM, his government ministers and most importantly all of the Military council.
2. With in two months - Publish an actual Roadmap to democracy and then report quarterly on the progress made to that Roadmap. Have the road map progress audited by an external overseas agency. I don’t want to hear another speech. I want to see an actual plan on the steps, dates and times to take Fiji to free and fair elections. Sure, public service and government enterprise reform is important but I want to see the Roadmap that covers the detail on the move to democracy. At the moment people can see some economic and structural reform in Fiji but no evidence of any progress to democracy.
3. Before Christmas 2010 – Have the framework in place for a genuine political dialogue forum. This should include the appointment of a reputable chair and invite list with no pre-conditions on attendance. A key task might be agreeing on the new constitution.
At the same time as taking these steps I would like to see the PM being more involved in the running of his portfolio. I recently heard him speak in the north and it was very clear he was none the wiser on how the sugar industry worked than when he took power 4 years ago. Back then it was understandable (life spent as military man) but now as sugar minister he has to emerge himself into the detail and get on with the task of fixing it.
I also think the PM and his cabinet are getting too comfortable. The PER is creating a very sheltered world for government. They don’t need to work hard to have the answers. They don’t need to understand the detail so they can debate big issues. The PER makes them believe there own BS. They are becoming extremely sensitive to overseas critics simply because they now never hear any at home. The PER removes a critical ingredient in anyone’s success – FEEDBACK.
I worry that….
If this government can carry out structural and economic reforms and the economy turns around (this is a big if) then the PM will claim that his coup has been validated, his style of running Fiji works and that elections are not necessary. We should keep moving forward with him.
If the economy has not turned around and structural reform is not completed then the PM will defer the election under the claims Australia and New Zealand have stopped progress so he needs more time.
Prime Minister, Please help us believe you.
Editor's Note . The original comment is slightly abridged. For original, see comments to Forum Mistake post. Sidelines is actually not asking for anything very different from what Government is doing or says it will be doing. He asks for a unequivocal public statement from all concerned that elections will be held in 2014, come hail, snow or tsunami. It would be a positive move to repeat this assurance since some people, including investors and overseas governments, are still doubtful.
And he asks for an overlap between the current physical and social infrastructure Roadmap and the intended dialogue on the later constitutional and electoral reforms. He asks that these processes be started, and that I think is a reasonable request. Government clearly has reservations about how inclusive the dialogue and the elections should be. I think it would win support by declaring its reservations and the reasons for them.
WEEKEND READING. Allen Lockington's column, Timor Leste and China: Warning for Australia, From Paramountcy to Equality: Yabaki, Citizenship Education in (UK) Schools.