It Would be Laughable If It Were Not So Pathetic

By Crosbie Walsh

Having protested, for the past six years, that the Bainimarama government is illegal — and having refused invitations by the "illegal" government to join discussions on the People's Charter, and having then opposed every move by the government (the Roadmap, the setting up of the Constitution Commission,  names for the Constituent Assembly) and having, more recently, declined to attend  public meetings on the Government's draft constitution — the United Front for a Democratic Fiji has now challenged Government to a televised public  debate on "the merits and demerits on the Peoples Draft and the 2013 Regime Draft." (If here in Godzone the Wellington Hurricanes had thought up the idea, it  would have challenged John Key in similar fashion years ago, and the "Cake Tin* would have become the Beehive**)

The so called "Peoples Draft" is that proposed by the Ghai Commission whose appointment and work they opposed from day one. Only when, contrary to their expectations, the Commission's draft was known to include recommendatons contrary to Government wishes did the elements of the newly formed UFDF (mainly the old political parties) do an about-face and embrace the Ghai draft in toto.

This was also a surprise because many of the draft's provisions were counter to what they said they wanted for Fiji when they made their submissions to the Commission. The most obvious was the mainly iTauekei SDL submission that wanted to increase the political influence of the Great Council of Chiefs and retain the special provisions for the iTaukei establishment, and the insistence by both the SDL and the mainly Indo-Fijian FLP that Fiji retain race-based electorates. 

Yet some who are now involved in  the UFDF, notably the NFP, some trade unionists and former UPP's Mike Beddoes, wanted the Government's one man, one vote, one value system  and the abolition of race-based parties, electorates and voting. This raises the question of why they have now joined with the SDL in the UFDF. One might have expected them to spell out where they agree and disagree with those with whom they now share the same bed.

Graham Davis (see link)  has discussed why Government rejected the Ghai draft and I will not repeat his reasons here, but one issue was that in recommending a National Peoples Assembly to oversee parliament, the Commission was giving more power to an unelected "public" than it gave to the elected parliament. Why the UFDF would support such a recommendation and why Government would reject it may seem to be based on principle, and perhaps in part it is. But there's a more mundane explanation. The "public" would include a significant number of NGO leaders and others from among the urban elite who have been most outspoken against the Bainimarama government. Both Government and the UFDF are fully aware of this.

The Ghai draft also provided Government opponents with another "window of opportunity" in proposing that the Bainimarama Government step aside prior to the 2014 election. In a televised debate, it could be reasonably argued that this would prevent Government from interfering with the election process. But, again, the issue is who exactly would take over the reins, and the answer is the same: the vocal urban elite who are sympathetic to many of the demands of the UFDF because they are concerned about the loss of freedoms under the Bainimarama government.

In their statement, the UFDF said "the local and regional media should be permitted to broadcast the debates and people should be allowed to vote at the end of each debate and the winner declared.... The UFDF is keen to engage in these debates so as to allow the people to hear both sides of the argument at the same time, and be able to make an informed decision."

All this is superficially laudable except for the popularity vote and the notion that by hearing both sides people would make an informed decision. The fact is that television is not an appropriate medium for informed debate. It can touch on issues, some claims and information can be exchanged and contradicted, and it can project the personality of the speakers, but for most people it will merely confirm their prior views if, indeed, they understand all that has been said in a debate conducted in English. 

It would have been better, if the UFDF is serious about the debate and not simply making a seemingly reasonable proposal that will be rejected, had they proposed debates in the main languages with team of three lead, for example, by the PM (with Ratu Inoke Kubuabola) v. Ratu Jone Kubuabola (with Tupeni Baba) in the iTaukei language; the Attorney General v. Mahendra Chaudhry (with Attar Singh) in Fiji Bhaat; and the A-G v. Mike Beddoes in English. A debate in English is targeted at the educated, urban elite and would probably do more to confuse than enlighten the average citizen.

But this and the UFDF debates will not happen.  

The sole political issue facing Fiji at the present time is whether to accept the draft proposals of the Bainimarama Bovernment and its plans for a fairer, more equal and less racially-orientated, or to accept the proposals of the likes of the UFDF.

Equality v. Freedoms
Neither will result in a perfect democracy.  The Bainimarama option will result in a "limited democracy" where equality is more important than freedoms. The UFDF option will result in returning Fiji to another form of a limited democracy where the freedoms enjoyed by the UFDF, the educated, urban elite and middle class (and not enjoyed by grassroots Fiji) are more important than racial and socio-economic equality.

Individual members of the UFDF can still play a useful role in shaping Fiji's future, but their latest gimmick is pathetic.  They must know it will not be accepted. And they must know their proposal will further destabilise the political situation, keeping people apart who should be talking with each other. Many, however,  will see their proposal as evidence that Bainimama is indeed correct: too many in the opposition are pushing their own agendas with little concern for Fiji's future. Having once tasted power, they are loath to give up, and they quite understandably have doubts about whether they will be elected in 2014.  

This is especially so for  two UFDF members, Tupeni Baba and Mick Beddoes, who have shifted sides and renounce their earlier multi-racial principles in order to gain a larger support base by joining the reformed SDL. Without this support, they will be nobodies in 2014. 

They may be nobodies anyway but if they and other members of the UFDF wish to be somebodies in 2014, they need to rethink their tactics. Use the momentum of the opposing player and avoid head on  tackles.


* Popular name given to the sports arena built on railway land close to Wellington's CBD, and the Hurricanes home ground.
** Beehive, popular name given to the beehive-shaped Parliamentary Building.


Mark said…
> This is especially so for two UFDF members, Tupeni Baba and Mick Beddoes, who have shifted sides and renounce their earlier multi-racial principles

Pray tell, croz... when did Beddoes renounce his multi-racial principles? Kindly share with us where you got this idea?
Fiji is becoming more democratic with the removal of race-based seats in parliament. Arithmetic means that groups of people officially classified as "others" (not itaukei or fiji-indian) will face a very steep uphill battle in getting elected because it will be decades before the race-based voting is eradicated.

What choice then, does an aspiring parliamentarian of 'others' classification have, other than to join a party that overwhelmingly represents one of the two large racial groupings? As I see it, Beddoes had no choice; If he wanted to continue to serve the people of Fiji as he has done so well over the years, he had to join SDL or Labour.

He chose the SDL (or whatever they are called now). He has never stated why, but I would venture that is was partly because the 'others' generally identify more with SDL than Labour ideals... and partly because of Chaudrys notoriously dictatorial leadership style.

Despite my strong dislike of the SDL, I can't help but think that this was a smart move on his part. In any case, I vote for the man, not the party, so he would have had my vote regardless.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Mark .. Beddoes, By joining the SDL. It's a smart move, as you say, but if he supports the principles evident in the SDL submission to the Constitution Commission, they run counter to those he previously held. It's a hard choice for an old politician: principle or political survival. But then he could start a truly multi-racial party.
Joe said…
I think you got it wrong Croz, the peoples's draft is the 2013 draft and Ghai draft is for the crook politicians like Chaudhary, Qarase, Beddoes etc.
Bainimarama Bovernment said…
At least you got one thing right - calling the illegal regime what it is - a 'Boverment'. In place illegally and because of 'bover' boys and thugs with guns.
No guns, no authority - and certainly no 'doctrine of necessity...goodbye musharaf. Great to see another military dictator brought to his knees.
Joe said…
Have they given up on collecting 300,000 signatures? They refused to talk to govt, denounced everything the govt did, what is the whole idea of having a debate on TV? The govt has better things to do then to waste time with no hopers like UFDF. It seems this is the last throw of the dice, but I am still interested in the 300,000 signatures.
Informed debate said…
You say that TV is no place for informed Debate? what is? Parliament? Sorry, your treasonous thug mates with guns destroyed that, you idiot.
Anonymous said…
@Informed Debate-Awesome post. I reckon you should print your post and read it aloud infront of a mirror. Whilst you are it, repeat the last phrase 3 times just in case the first and second doesn't register.
John said…
It would be idiotic if the PM accepts this. Why give precious TV time to your enemies? Why expose yourself to ridicule and provocation if you can just ignore such jibes? Our PM is a wise and educated man. He knows that he will win the elections and that Fiji will accept his benevolent rule. Having once tasted power, he is loath to give it up, and he quite understandably has doubts about whether he will be elected in 2014.
Anonymous said…
This article is written by Graham Davis, with the poor Professor "Free Regime Chow" or "Cow" asked to put his name to the article. So, stop misleading us, Prof!
Sad little junta groupies said…
The article is both laughable and pathetic. These junta groupies reinforce the fact that flies are attracted to shyte!
Joe said…
Why does is matter who puts his/her name to it. Look at the facts. What is "laughable and pathetic" about the article? substantiate your claim. I can tell you what is "laughable and pathetic": LQ/MC for PM, UFDF, Attar Singh, Beddoes, Kepa, 1997 constitution, Ghai draft, just to name a few of the many. You can just about throw up on them. Your analogy of "flies and shyte" is the perfect description of these meaningless UFDF meetings.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Anonymous April 23.. This is a new one. First, I am paid for by the Bainimarama government and then I'm paid for by Qorvis. Now I do not write my own articles. If you think I'm incapable of writing and publishing my own thoughts, how is is that I've been able to edit and publish this blog for the past four years. I don't put my name to articles I do not write. You would be well advised to attack arguments, not people. If you are capable of doing this, please say something more original than the other worn out record Anonymous on this page, and stop making silly accusations.
Anonymous said…
Professor - even your blog materials are written by others - and from Fiji and by Graham Davis -you old fool - go and take a holiday in Fiji, and chill out, Prof!
Joe said…
Do the honourable thing then. If you dont like it, dont read it. Excuse yourself from this site and go to other blogs that in your humble opinion are "authentic".
Anonymous said…
How can the UFDF be taken seriously when they all want such different things; these politicians are just pushing their own agendas.

Most disappointing in Dr Baba going from a multi-racial cause to a racist party; i suppose he could not start his own party - does not have any supporters himself and MC the con man kicked him out of Labour...
Joe said…
They all are doomed. The 2 major players in 2014 election will be VB's party and PDP(People's Democratic Party). FLP is now a CDP(Chaudhary Dynasty Party) and will suffer the same fate as NFP years ago. MC's useless son had aspirations of taking over from his father, but the idiot cant get his own house in order, and will be arrested the moment he lands in Fiji. Sodelpa will go the same way as SVT.
Anonymous said…
From the MB and TB experience, it implies to me as a registered voter for the next GE that these men are just career politicians with no long term goals to help improve quality of life in Fijian society. They are never good politicians to me. And if someone tells me what goodness MB or TB has done I will reply, "nothing good". I will never vote for them.
Joe said…
Speaking of SODELPA, they cant have the name "Liberal" because a liberal party was in existence in Ratu Mara days, the founder being one Dr Verrier. Perhaps a more befitting name for them would be "Social Democratic Lawless Party".
josefa d said…
we accept Croz, that you have put your lot in with the regime and it really wouldnt matter what they said or did, you can find time to defend it. You will go throught line by line anyothing anyone opposed to the regiem says or hassaid, but spend your time giving advice to the regime and interpreting their words and deeds for them in the best possible light. You are tainted just like anyone else close to this disgusting regime.
rusi said…
total BOYCOTT of the elections and watch the thugs scramble for any legitmacy.
Exterminate Dictatorships said…
I don't recall the legitimately elected SDL ever taking over a nation and destroying parliament using thugs with guns? I don't ever recall any of the SDL being paid (unknown amounts) through one of their aunt's companies? I don't recall the SDL using state sanctioned and protected thugs to commit torture on unarmed tied up prisoners? I do however note the fact that all of these horrendous acts (and more) are being carried out by the illegal bainimarama regime.
Now spin this Qorvis?
Anonymous said…
You won't recall because you are incapable of it. Your mind is the prison of your prejudices. SDL was nothing but a band of racists and thugs who have appropriately and properly been disbanded. Do you remember those who were in the Parliament but then were jailed and yet paid their parliamentary salaries while still in jail? No you cannot recall? People like you are disgrace to humanity as you cannot think and act like human being. Grow up and learn to distinguish between grain and chaff!!
Anonymous said…
Great idea Rusi. Clear the way of the thugs who used to sit in Parliament from 1987 to 2006 and let equality rule.Boycott and get out of the way.

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