Fiji Needs Democacy But Not with 'Democrats' Like These

By Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the race for democracy in Fiji intensifies, it has reached new heights of political expediency where hitherto diametrically opposed political animals are seen drinking from the same pail.
In addition, we are witnessing the genesis of a new adage that declares that a foe’s opponent or enemy is actually a political friend.

However, what still remains uncertain is the model of democracy that can be expected from those whose definition of democracy rests in self-interest or their ability to clamber back onto the gravy train from which they were jettisoned by the military takeover in 2006.


The media coup by the military fugitive Ratu Tevita Ului Mara – who arrived in New Zealand this week – has taken the fight for democracy to a higher level.



Café Pacific columnist David Robie recently asked who were the media minders behind Mara massaging his military message and what was their agenda?
“Why are things being taken at face value? Where is the evidence backing up Ratu Tevita’s sweeping allegations?”

Under scrutiny
What has also come under scrutiny is not only the credibility of certain media, but also the credibility of Ratu Tevita himself and the stance taken by the Australian and NZ governments in bending their rules on military sanctions by granting special exemption to this former military henchman who had suddenly “seen the light”.

I questioned the credibility and authenticity of the aristocratic Ratu Tevita who has been dangled as a devotee of democracy.

In presenting a “smoking gun picture” from the Canberra meeting of the pro-democracy and anti-Bainimarama brigade, Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis questioned the motive of those behind the Canberra meeting and the 10 point plan put forward to take Fiji back to democracy.

He questioned the inclusion and propriety of Simione Kaitani, a known ethno-nationalist and a former Qarase’s minister, as a pro-democracy campaigner.

Just in the same week that Ratu Tevita was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand, I was able to produce his February 2003 “dragon-slaying” Close Up programme at Fiji TV, showing the same Simione Kaitani admitting to having committed sedition prior to the march that resulted in Speight taking Mahendra Chaudhry’s government hostage on 19 May 2000.

Davis, in his earlier article, had shown a photo of ANU academic Dr Brij Lal with Kaitani.
A clip of the Fiji TV Close-Up was forwarded to Dr Brij Lal who clarified his position through a personal email to me.

Denies link
Dr Lal unequivocally denies any previous association with either Ratu Tevita Mara or Simione Kaitani, nor is he in any way formally associated with any organisation.

His views on Fiji are longstanding and well known. Dr Lal dismisses any attempt to link him up with the perpetrators of the 2000 coup, and calls it “mischievous.”

He explained: “What I said in the meeting was what I have always said – that coups are bad, that the path of resistance should be peaceful, that there should be a genuine rather than a politically expedient conversion to the values of democracy. When the meeting concluded, and Padma [Mrs Lal] and I were about to head off to Sydney, Kaitani got himself snapped with me; and on the basis of that single photograph, people assumed that I was supporting Mara and Kaitani and crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Davis had reserved most of his criticism for Kaitani who had been named by one of the soldiers during Speight coup as “one of the indigenous extremists who’d encouraged George Speight to carry out his coup and was with him in the parliamentary complex.”

It is obvious Ratu Tevita Mara was enlisting support of questionable nationalist elements like one time George Speight’s “Minister” Kaitani who also later happened to be Fiji PM Qarase’s Assistant Minister of Information.

In spite of his controversial admission on Close-Up, instead of being disciplined, reprimanded or charged by the police, former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase rewarded Kaitani with a full ministerial cabinet position a month later.

While all this was taking place, the Fiji media, including Fiji TV and then Rupert Murdoch’s Fiji Times remained mute on this violation of good governance.

Democracy model
Those interested in Fiji’s future and its model of democracy are bound to be confused if not worried.  The question that arises is: what sort of democracy does the international community seek for Fiji?
Kaitani is non-repentant about being a nationalist, and still wants Fiji’s leadership to be in indigenous hands, seeking “Fiji for Fijians.” This was verified from the Close-Up clip.

What is also questionable is the credibility of former MP Rajesh Singh who reportedly leads the makeshift breakaway “pro-democracy” group hosting Ratu Tevita Mara in Auckland.

The breakaway group was formed because the legitimate and long-standing Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF), led by Nik Naidu, is against the military man’s visit to New Zealand because of his alleged act of torture in Fiji. On the eve of arrival of Ratu Tevita Mara in Auckland, CDF filed a criminal complaint with the NZ police against Mara.

Rajesh Singh, organiser of the Mara visit, is a former organiser for Naitasiri rugby and reportedly considers the Qaranivalu of Naitasiri, Ratu Inoke Takiveikat,a as his mentor and friend.

Ratu Inoke was convicted and implicated for his role in the Fiji military mutiny of 2 November 2000.  Singh is a former Assistant Minister in Qarase government and was sacked for insubordination.
He also reportedly used to visit Ratu Inoke in prison. His political stability and loyalty for democracy is highly questionable because he was working for the Bainimarama government at Fiji Sports Council until recently when he failed to get reappointment.

Also a turncoat
Like Ratu Tevita, he also is a turncoat, one of the inside people, who had suddenly seen the light once things did not work their way.

Is this the model or brand of democracy, led by such a motley crowd, that John Key, Murray McCully and Kevin Rudd seek for Fiji?

Do they wish to push Fiji back to the dark days of the Taukei movement and ethno-nationalism, where Indo-Fijians were relegated as second and third class stateless citizens?

While the clips of the Close-Up programme and background information have been provided to both major TV stations, one cannot expect much from the New Zealand media’s reporting on Fiji.
The NZ mainstream media equates democracy to mere elections; irrespective of what takes place after such supposedly democratic elections since the first coups in 1987.

Now, when you read about Ratu Tevita’s visit to New Zealand through its mainstream media, you need to take it with a pinch of salt because the media, like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, regard some military personnel more equal than others.

First publshed by Pacific Scoop. Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political commentator and a former publisher of Fiji’s Daily Post.

Comments

The Strain of Civilisation - too great? said…
An insightful analysis of where we have all got to now. Who - in God's Name - will ever be found who is untainted and without blemish from this infamous fiasco of bloated interests fed by the money of ordinary people?

Ratu Tevita Mara has himself demonstrated that Free Speech means nothing even in someone else's country? A silly error which should have been corrected by inviting those too afraid to remain .....to leave. No swift and fancy footwork in sight here.
Just more of the same.

Yet, this meeting took place in the land where "The OPEN SOCIETY AND ITS ENEMIES" was written. Have any of these God-forsaken people even opened a copy? It was written in Christchurch New Zealand in the 1940s.

Get yourselves one before you consider standing for any office which purports to deliver freedom and liberty to a people! "The Strain of Civilisation" has proven too great? Self preservation is all to apparent.
Getting power under control said…
"Instead of posing as prophets, we must become the makers of our fate. We must learn to do things as well as we can, and to look out for our mistakes. And when we have dropped the idea that the history of power will be our judge, when we have given up worrying whether or not history will justify us, then one day perhaps we may succeed in getting power under control."

(Sir Karl Popper - The Open Society and its Enemies - first published 1954)
The Pursuit of Interests said…
The quotation from John Stuart Mill found on the Norwegian terrorist/crusader's website suggested that:

"The belief of one man may be equal to the force of 100,000 people with interests".

That is a powerful idea and today we shall learn from his explanation in the Oslo Court just precisely what he meant by that. People who pursue merely interests are lacking in some way?

Is that what is meant?
The Knights Templar crusaders said…
The 'Open Society and its Enemies' does indeed argue that Marxists are enemies of freedom. It does not push this idea into modern day parameters of who else might threaten an Open Society.

But religious fundamentalism is certainly in this box. In Oslo, Norway last Friday, a 'Christian Crusader' alias a newborn Knight Templar guise emerged. The Knights Templar are buried on the West Coast of Scotland (as well as in France and Palestine) and their 12th century AD graves bear the sign of the cross: the blade and the handle of a broad-sword. No other distinguishing sign whatsoever.

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