My Advice to the Opposition Parties

By Crosbie Walsh

Forgive my presumption but from where I stand the opposition parties are not helping themselves with their constant criticism of government.

They need to be more selective and they need to promote their own policies. Whichever way they look, they see Fiji's cup as half empty and are not taking full advantage of the opportunities they now have — that did not exist a month or so ago.

Putting up straw men and then knocking them down only succeeds when the audience  is ignorant or uninformed. And many people in Fiji are neither.

Fiji is not going to have a flawless election and whatever the election outcome the country will not yet be what Pope (now Saint) John Paul II prematurely described as "the way the world should be".

Fiji's undoubted charms and blessings will continue but so will its underlying problems whichever party forms the new government, and however hard that government works improvements will not be immediately obvious. To think otherwise is to be unrealistic. One can only hope its citizens will not pay too much attention to those who seek to undermine the credibility of the elections and exercise their votes wisely.

Fiji's immediate and longer term future is not helped by the ongoing pessimism of the existing political parties.  It may make good anti-government propaganda to decry each and every preparation for the election; it may even be a good strategy to keep government on its toes,  but it also undermines credibility in the election outcome which, when I think about it, could in itself be a good strategy should the opposition parties not perform well in the polls.  If Fiji First forms the new government, they can then claim voting was unfair. Some would say this is their primary purpose because they expect Bainimarama to win.

For the record, this is a list and update of opposition complaints:

  • There will be no elections. 
  • There is not enough time to prepare for the elections.
  • The Electional Commission is not independent.
  • The Supervisor of Elections is a government crony and was not the most suitable applicant.
  • Foreign-funded NGOs should be able to carry out voter education.
  • Some information on the registered voter card can be misused by the authorities.
  • The political parties should be given a printout of registered voters
  • It is not a level playing field.
  • Opposition leaders knee-capped. Chaudhry and Qarase convictions politically motiviated.
  • Bainimarama is breaking regulations - campaigning before registration, choice of party colour and emblem. 
  • Unfair media coverage, especially by Fiji Sun and Fiji Broadcasting.
  • Media Industry Development Agency not independent and its chairman is unsuitable.
  • A-G is in charge of elections and in Fiji First: a conflict of interest.
  • Voting will take place in an atmosphere of fear. They will not be free, fair and transparent.
  • Voting must be overseen by independent observers. There are too many polling stations for observers to cover them all.
  • The Election Decree allows phone tapping.
  • Officials at polling stations could influence how people vote.
  • Voters will not be  allowed to bring voting advice and reminder information into the polling station.
  • Voters may be body-searched if officials think they are breaking this requirement.
  • Many voters will not be able to remember the three digit number of the person they wish to vote for.
  • Voters are expected to vote in no more than two minutes.
  • All the decrees and regulations passed by government are invalid because they were not elected.

Some of these criticisms are legitimate and should be publicly raised. But others are hyperbole, untrue or only partly true.  They should also acknowledge some of the good that government has done. The Devil is not on one side and  God on the other.

The opposition has a choice: continue as it is now and attack all that government does, or be more selective, focus on the more critical issues, and promote their own policies.

A good first step would be to disband the United Front for a Democratic Fiji that has served its purpose. The UFDF has become Mick Beddoes' personal mouthpiece and can never broadly represent the opinions of the opposition parties as they are now constituted.

Alternatively, they could temporarily bury their differences and form one party of national unity, at least for this election. More new faces would also help.

As things stand, the voting public is likely to tire of their constant complaining long before the elections. They are handing Bainimarama the elections on a plate.

A "My Advice to Government and Fiji First" article will follow in the next few days.  And don't tell me I'm an outsider and have a nerve. I know that, but as ever I am trying to be helpful in the absence of other reconciliatory voices.


No dialogue with fools said...

It is a waste of time having any dialogue with people like you. you refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the coup and the illegal nature of this thug regime. How obvious do human rights abuses need to be with people like you? This entity you call a 'government' is an illegal regime. It overthrew a legitimate government using thugs with guns. The judiciary is just an arm of this illegal regime and the rule of law has been raped. The illegal regime has introduced its own sham constitution which gives the regime perpetrators immunity for treason and other serious crimes against the nation of Fiji. We cannot even find out how much the illegal PM and the illegal AG are being paid through the illegal AG's aunt - can it get much worse that that?
These treasonous criminals must (and will eventually) be brought to justice - and that includes those who have personally been involved in this coup, filled their pockets, and now running off to Geneva - a total disgrace. you need to get some courage and integrity - in a big hurry - and as a matter of urgency pay back the money you owe Fijians for your free trip paid by the illegal regime. And wake up to yourself.

Anonymous said...

My advise to opposition parties would be to be upfront with regard to transitional justice. Thought should be given prior to the elections to determine what is to be the policy toward high officials of the Bainimarama dictatorship when its power disintegrates. For example, is the dictator to be brought to trial in a court? Are officials such as the AG and the Chief Justice to be permitted to leave the country permanently? What other options may there be that are consistent with political defiance, the need for reconstructing the country, and building a democracy following an election victory? Violence must be avoided which could have drastic consequences on the possibility of a future democratic system. Specific opposition plans for the transition to democracy should be ready for application when the dictatorship is weakening after elections or collapses due to internal fighting. Such plans would help to prevent another RFMF group from seizing state power through another coup d’├ętat. Victim rights need be addressed as well as measures to stabilize the country and encourage reconciliation. Any plan needs to include everyone. Handled with wisdom and intention, transitional justice can be healing for victims of crimes and human rights abuses, legitimize a new government by decisively and publicly breaking from the old one, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions while deterring future activity by signaling that crimes against humanity and human rights violations are answerable to legal bodies.
However the problem for Fiji is the message opposition parties want to send to the dictator—that if he surrenders after an election, he will be subjective to severe punitive measures may not work. There are other forms of transitional justice, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, which help to alleviate both problems. The opposition should offer such a commission although it may be controversial, not least because it would give the impression that atrocious behavior can go unpunished. In the case of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, its mandate was to tell the truth and, in exchange for such truth-telling, grant amnesty when applicable. In these instances, transitional justice was a response after regime change occurred. But can transitional justice, organized by opposition in Fiji, be utilized to hasten the end of a despot? Unsurprisingly, there is not unity among the opposition with some rejecting the immunity deal of Bainimarama’s constitution outright and demanding trials for him. From the opposition’s perspective, immunity—a blanket amnesty—is problematic. But things may change in future. Immunities can be later questioned and challenged when the opportunity is merited. Immunity may be what is needed to move Fiji forward and the opposition should have a clear policy on this.

Crosbie Walsh said...

"Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils."
-- John Milton, Paradise Lost.

Anonymous said...

What part of this drivel says you are paying back the money you owe the Fijian people?

Crosbie Walsh said...

First, I write helpful suggestions on what the opposition can do to improve its chances of election. You reply with talk of revenge. Then I comment on the futility of revenge and you reply with a ridiculous and, in this context, irrelevant, accusation that I answered nearly two years ago. It would be more helpful if you would comment on the issues raised in the posting.

Anonymous said...

Croz. Please elaborate on your article as to which opposition complaints you believe are legitimate and which ones are genuine.

Anonymous said...

@ No Dialogue With Fools

You cannot reason with a fool. It is frustrating. Your posting above contains the hard facts. Instead of addressing those issues, Croz quotes Milton. That says it all. The pseudo intellectual continues on his three wise monkey quest while poor Milton rolls over in his grave. Milton cast his pearls broadly. It was always the case that a swine or too would collect some.

Crosbie Walsh said...

A fair enough question but the answers are easily found in what I have been writing for many. many months now. The answer will also be found in the article giving advice to Government and Fiji First that will be published tomorrow.

Crosbie Walsh said...

I take it you, Anonymous, are calling me a fool, a pseudo-intellectual, three wise monkeys and a pig.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait. Will it rival the regime rag the Fiji Sun and treasonous MINFO for integrity and honesty?

Anonymous said...

And the problem is?

Anonymous said...

If the cap fits...