Mara’s Charade of Democracy: Why NZ Should Not Make Him a Martyr
By Thakur Ranjit Singh
Mere elections do not deliver democracy. One that does not grant freedom, equality and social justice to all its citizens is not worth defending.
A seminar was organized by the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji in late December, 2006, in Auckland, just weeks after Bainimarama ousted Qarase’s supposedly democratic government. In that presentation some four and a half years ago, this author had presented a paper and accused New Zealand and Australian government of hypocrisy, double standards and being ungrateful and blinkered neighbours because of their lack of understanding and appreciation about Fiji’s fundamental ills. NZ mainstream media, which lacks diversity in its newsrooms, was also not spared for its inability to analyze the real truth about Fiji, and appeared to be singing from the same hymn sheet of their government’s dogmatic foreign policy on Fiji’s faltering democracy and governance issues.
It appears nothing much has changed in those last four and a half years. Australia granted visa to the renegade military man, and reportedly a onetime henchman of Fiji’s military, to address the so called democracy movement in exile in Canberra on 10 June, 2011. It is interesting to see the makeup this dubious forum: SDL, Vanua, Church, the nationalists, Unions and the flotsam and jetsam of Qarase’s SDL stalwarts who were off-loaded the racist gravy train. Among other things, they wish to bring back the hegemony of the unelected and unrepresentative Great Council of Chiefs, which has been an obstacle to real Westminster type of democracy in Fiji.
Fiji’s Chiefly system, a legacy of the colonial era, is incompatible with Western democracy. Fiji’s indigenous population is still confused that the chiefly ascribed system makes kings by the accident of birth, as in case of Ului Mara, while the white man’s voting system makes commoners like Rabuka and Qarase as very powerful people through another system.
NZ Government did not blink an eyelid to host Pakistan’s Military Dictator, Musharaff, or sleep with China with atrocious human rights records, just because of trade advantages. Australia is no different in these double standards. They were quiet about Thailand coup yet overtly critical of a lesser power, Fiji.
That is why it is shocking that NZ is following in the footsteps of Australia, and granting visa to Ului Mara. This is inconsistent with its so called “smart sanctions’ which no longer appear to be smart because of its ineffectiveness to sway Fiji so far. Murray McCully is now thinking of bending rules just because a hitherto militant and nationalist soldier has expediently “seen the light” and changed sides. Mara is still related to Fiji’s military government; the President’s wife is his sister. He has also been implicated in some beatings as well. It is shocking to see that while NZ is stopping rugby players with military connections from playing in the Rugby World Cup, it is allowing a known nationalist who wish to turn Fiji back to those undemocratic, racist and an environment that failed to grant all its citizens equal rights and social justice, especially to the Indo Fijians.
In the case of Fiji, two important elements come into play: democracy and justice. While the ousted Prime Minister Qarase and now those shedding crocodile tears seek shelter and protection under the cover of democracy, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is in pursuit of justice, perhaps some say, through questionable means.
Democracy does not give governments the unfettered right to pass laws that are a clear abuse of its democratic powers. Democracy has certain basic values like justice, freedom and rights for all its citizens. Sadly, not all democracies give due weight or recognition to these values. Fiji’s Qarase regime falls in this category. I know it as I had been at the receiving end of the Lauan Mafia and I know how they indulge in ethnic cleansing in Fiji. You have to be an Indo-Fijian to really appreciate this. Australia’s warped love for Indo-Fijians is well reflected by its questionable treatment of Julian Moti, but that is another story.
Prime Minister Qarase often let his mobs loose to maul Indo-Fijians as if deriving pathological pleasure from it, as the author of Tears in Paradise, Rajendra Prasad, termed it. This is how the king of democracy ruled in Fiji. It is interesting to note that those who had actively participated in the destruction of democracy through the initial 1987 coup and the May 2000 coup are today beating their chests and wailing at the demise of democracy in Fiji.
Ratu Ului Mara and his elder brother, Ratu Finau Mara, were activists in the extreme ethno-nationalist Taukei Movement which was behind Rabuka’s 1987 coups, and which organized wanton thuggery and violence against innocent, law-abiding people, all of “Indian” origin, even though the latter were all Fiji people, born and bred there. Ratu Ului Mara was in that march on Friday, 24 April, 1987 which conveyed to the Governor General that they would “burn down Suva and kill Indians”. His elder brother Ratu Finau was reportedly the go-between his father Ratu Sir Kamiseses and Rabuka. People appear to have short memories about this now converted savior of democracy.
In May 2000, the same people moved around with sword in hand and slaughtered democracy and held hostage the democratically elected government they claimed was led by a heathen and non-believer Hindu. For fifty-six days, the so-called champions of democracy partied and danced on the grave of democracy, and now the same people are shedding crocodile tears in Canberra, aided and abetted by the Australian government.
The hooded Christian shepherds abandoned love and sponsored malice, hatred and violence against Indo-Fijians. They indulged in satanic rituals and sexual orgies in the temple of democracy. While this was happening, the suffering Indo Fijians were bashed, robbed and raped, and then New Zealand and Australia were in deep slumber. They are the same people who today are shedding crocodile tears for restoration of democracy and rule of law. I personally went on a Close Up Fiji TV programme on 2 February, 2003, where one of the supporters of the Canberra movement, Simione Kaitani, admitted on national TV, to have committed sedition in inciting indigenous Fijians against Indo-Fijians. For this crime, he was promoted to a full Cabinet position by then Prime Minister Qarase.
While Australia has jumped the gun, New Zealand still has opportunity to retain its clean first world image by thinking rationally and listening to those who, unlike its bureaucrats, know Fiji’s history. If it cannot help, the least it can do is not add fuel to fire and poke in the hornet’s nest by granting visa to somebody who is hiding behind the sham of noble heritage, yet harbouring extreme anti –democratic and ethno-nationalist tendencies.
John Key and New Zealand have an opportunity to show that the lessons learnt from the Treaty of Waitangi settlements have not gone in vain: the conciliatory path to solving deep seated ethnic and political problems was still alive. New Zealand still has opportunity to redeem the failure of its foreign policies on Fiji. There is an opportunity to capitalize on the atmosphere of the sporting RWC environment to engage with a rugby-crazy country. The ball is in the bigger and relatively more “civilised” brother’s court.
Over to you, John Key. Please do not kick the ball out of the field by allowing entry of Ului Mara into New Zealand. Australia just red-carded itself, and it appears NZ is in the process of doing this.
[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political commentator, and former publisher of Fiji’s Daily Post newspaper, and experienced both the 1987 and the 2000 Fiji coups]