Turbulence in Fiji
By Rajendra Prasad
Ratu Tevita Mara’s escape to Tonga is being variously interpreted. Ratu Tevita Mara himself claims that the Tongan Navy ship rescued him when he faced difficulties at sea. His version of events has bemused international observers and projected him as one lacking substance, credibility or even sanity. Indeed, his interview with the media has been less than impressive. However, TV One’s Barbara Dreaver, who was deported from Fiji by the Bainimarama Government, is literally relishing every moment but her interviews with Ratu Tevita have largely been a fine display of media mediocrity, hyperventilating issues to give it a particular slant to suit the preset agendas of the interviewee and the interviewer. Both have grievance against the Bainimarama Government and indications are that their barks have only helped Bainimarama to reinvigorate and reassert his authority.
Ratu Tevita’s version of events is no different to Pakistan Government claiming that it did not know that Osama Bin Laden lived in a purpose-built mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, for five years, prior to his assassination by the US navy seals. Other claims made by Ratu Tevita depict him as a desperate man who is resorting to every conceivable ploy to bring the Bainimarama Government down and escape the justice system in Fiji. He is charged for uttering seditious comments and is also linked and under investigation for disappearance of F$3 million from the coffers Fiji Pine, a state-owned company. Indeed, with this knowledge, it can logically be inferred that Ratu Tevita Mara’s action in absconding to Tonga is an attempt by a desperate man to take desperate measures to escape the consequences of his failings.
In trying to justify the unjustifiable, Ratu Tevita Mara has made certain claims that require elucidation. He has resorted to the stereotype in Fiji politics of the past, using the race card to justify his actions. He claimed that Commodore Bainimarama is a hand puppet of the Attorney General, Aiyaz Khaiyum, when the truth is that the real power behind the Government in Fiji is the Military Council and not Commodore Bainimarama or Aiyaz Khaiyum. Ratu Tevita was its member and was stood down from his position, as investigations against him were initiated. He is now shedding crocodile tears for the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church of Fiji. Both of these organizations destroyed democracy in Fiji, as they were the sponsors of most virulent form of racism in Fiji.
Indeed, Ratu Tevita Mara is now caught in his web and cannot deny culpability that by association in the Bainimarama coup in December 2006; he aided and abetted the dissolution of the Great Council of Chiefs. He has effectively clubbed himself as a chief and has lost his mana and is marooned in Tonga like the chiefs in Fiji! Many observers claim that the dissolution of the Great Council of Chiefs and restraints placed on the Methodist Council of Fiji were two of the greatest achievements of the Bainimarama Government and any democratically elected Government in Fiji would now have a better chance of running its full term without the fear of the wolves of racism biting at their heels.
Interestingly, Ratu Tevita Mara conveniently forgets that the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church hierarchy fully backed George Speight in cruelly removing his esteemed father, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as President of Fiji. He fled in the nocturnal hours, fearing for his life and was transported by navy boat to the safety of his home in the Lau Group. He never recovered from this saddest moment in his life and died a very sad man. It was the unkindest act of betrayal by the Fijian chiefs against one of the greatest chiefs in the annals of Fiji’s history. Today, for convenience, Ratu Tevita Mara has desecrated the memory of his father, embracing and lauding those who cannot defend complicity and destruction of the life of Fiji’s greatest political leader.
Ratu Tevita Mara also repudiates the justice system in Fiji and claims that he would not get a fair trial. In recent months, Fiji’s judiciary has received rare applause for sentencing a high chief and some prominent businessmen to jail. Some senior lawyers have been convicted for professional misconduct and one very senior lawyer has been disbarred from practicing law in Fiji. These convictions were not possible during the reign of Fiji’s democratically elected Governments.
During that era the chiefs were above the law and those that had money and influence could ignore the justice system or be let off with a slap on the wrist. Today, Fiji’s judiciary is operating without fear and, indications are, that many under its radar are twirling in their beds at night. Ratu Tevita Mara’s escape from the arms of Fiji’s justice system confirms yet again that the justice system in Fiji is no longer the preserve of the rich and powerful. Yet, the regional bullies, Australia and New Zealand, remain oblivious and dismissive of what Bainimarama Government proposes to undertake through the medium of the People’s Charter. Their attitudes have only helped China to exert and consolidate its influence on Fiji.
On May 30, 2011 the Fiji Sun wrote in its editorial, decrying Australia for raising alert to tourists from “exercise caution” to “high degree of caution” when visiting Suva. It blatantly told Australia –
“If Canberra was truly wanting to help Fiji return to elected government, it would be better off abandoning its failed and discredited policy of sanctions and attempts to isolate us. Instead it should help in the implementation of reforms set by the Bainimarama Government that will steer the country towards a brighter future. All these reforms need to be in place before the 2014 general election. The reforms are vital. This country has gone through a lot since the 1987 coups. Many people have suffered in silence as corrupted politicians, failed business people and racist elites wove a web of dirty politics in order to stay feasting on the perks of power. It was a time where the rich got richer while the poor got poorer. Nothing was done on merit. This was evident as there were hardly any infrastructural development works done in the islands, villages and rural settlements to boost the people’s livelihoods. Today, it’s a totally different story altogether. Development is happening. Rural dwellers now feel they are no longer neglected. So, what’s bad about that?”
Australia should remove its blinkers to see the reality on the ground. Today’s Fiji is the dream of the silent majority who want it to be united in its diversity and served by leaders who are not self-serving but serving the people of Fiji with honesty, sincerity and integrity. The Bainimarama Government is working towards building the edifice of democracy on the foundations of love, tolerance, goodwill and understanding.
Expectedly, most of the past leaders, the so-called champions of democracy in Fiji, will find it difficult to rob their way to political power again, using racism as a weapon of choice. These were the people who disfigured and hijacked democracy in Fiji to the extent that people who should have been behind bars for their roles in the 2000 coup, instead, ended up in the Parliament of Fiji! A few even became Ministers in the Qarase-led Government.
For Ratu Tevita Mara, the comfort of the Consular House in Tonga, where he now lives will soon become his prison with few people taking interest in him except, Barbara Dreaver and a few who cannot set their foot in Fiji. The King of Tonga, King George Tupou V, will soon discover that his train of wisdom was derailed when he made the unfortunate decision to provide refuge to Ratu Tevita Mara in his kingdom. Australia and New Zealand may eventually give him residence but that will be even further away from Fiji. Tonga presumably is within the shouting distance to Fiji!