Begging to Differ: Hallmark of Democracy
Croz, Thank you for your update. Mr Fraenkal's stance seems clear and consistent. He is against the coup and he is against the military regime and its actions. Mr Davis' stance on the other hand is less clear. He is against the coup (I think) but he is not against the actions taken by the coup regime? He appears to be sitting on the fence and I'm not sure what it is exactly he stands for? Could he clarify his confusion?
I believe every coup in Fiji has been an unmitigated disaster in dividing the country, damaging the economy and robbing Fiji of its potential to be a beacon for other Pacific nations.
But the 2006 coup was very different from the previous three. It wasn't to support the notion of indigenous paramountcy. It was to support the notion of a multiracial Fiji - the only way, in my opinion, that the country has any viable future at all.
Whatever people like Jon Fraenkel say, the Qarase government had embarked on a legislative program to provide indigenous Fijians with important additional advantages over other races in Fiji.
The fact that this program hadn't been implemented before Bainimarama struck - as Dr Fraenkel keeps arguing - is neither here nor there. Does anybody seriously believe that the SDL wasn't planning to implement the Qoliqoli Bill, free the 2000 conspirators and try to extend native title over land? The argument is nonsense.
Enter Bainimarama. Now, I don't like what he did, which was to plunge Fiji into yet another crisis. I also don't like the PER, the muzzling of the media or the apparent attempt to destroy the trade unions. I also think the government could be doing a lot better in several other areas, such as being more transparent about some of its decisions.
But one thing is certain. I detested the SDL's program even more. It was a racist government that was intent on governing for one race and, in the process, disadvantaging every other citizen. It had - at its core - indigenous supremacists who'd been at the heart of the George Speight conspiracy of 2000, notably Konisi Yabaki, Savenaca Draunidalo and Simione Kaitani.
So I accept the primary reason Frank Bainimarama has always put forward for mounting his coup, which is the preservation of the multiracial ideal in Fiji and the introduction of a level playing field for all citizens.
That doesn't make me a supporter of the man or all aspects of his program. It makes me a supporter of the core principle on which he took a stand. In my own mind, the distinction is quite clear, even if it isn't to the likes of Jon Fraenkel. I am not a "Bainimarama supporter" or a "coup supporter" but a supporter of a multiracial Fiji.
It is Dr Fraenkel - I would argue - who hasn't made clear what he stands for beyond being opposed to the Bainimarama regime and opposing any notion of Australian and New Zealand engagement with Fiji.
Does he support the SDL? Well, he supports its right to contest the next election in Fiji, despite its belief in indigenous paramountcy. And he has allowed himself to be photographed with Simione Kaitani -one of the principal coup makers of 2000.
Dr Fraenkel still hasn't given us an account of this extraordinary event. So I would argue that it's him, not me, who has the explaining to do.
I suppose experts like Fraenkel would have you believe that cloaked in any mantle of democracy, that suddenly Fiji becomes some paradise.
The fact remains that the 1970, 1988 and 1997 constitutions imparted frameworks that were essentially racist and allowed the ethonationalists to prey on i'taukeiQarase simply ignored the requirement for opposition members to sit in cabinet and that only emboldened the ethonationalists to continue to pursue their agenda. Frankel conveniently forgets that George Speight was a child of the 1997 constitution.
The system was broke and the patches didn't work. That's the simple fact. Going back to that system is to revisit the past. It wont work plain and simple.
There is no other solution than in so far as possible to try and remove the racial element in the voting system. That doesn't mean that there needs to be a diminution of the rights of the i'taukei, but it would mean that any ethnonationalist inclined to pursue his personal agenda (power and influence) can only do so by political compromise with politicians of another colour,class or creed and therefore be subject to greater transparency. One of the primary problems with the Qarase regime was that the coterie in cabinet were unanswerable for their actions because nobody knew what they were up to.(especially how they were getting their cash)
By removing the racial element you remove the ability of the ethnonationalists to undermine the system for their own venal agendas and the fact is, it is this group that have caused most of the problems in Fiji in the last 30 years. I hope that one day we can look at a group of politicians who are acting in an inappropriate manner and both observe that they consist of all racial groups and also be able to say what do you expect of them, they're politicians ! then at least we will have made a start.