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Bainimarama vows not to be ‘bullied’ by Australia, NZ

Voreqe Bainimarama talking to Native Affairs presenter Julian Wilcox. Photo: Māori Television

Voreqe Bainimarama talking to Native Affairs presenter Julian Wilcox. Photo: Māori Television

Pacific.Scoop
By David Robie of Pacific Media Watch

Fiji’s military-backed prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama has vowed not to be bullied by Australia and New Zealand, and has defended his curbs on the Pacific country’s media.

“I’m trying to do what is good for Fiji, not what’s good for New Zealand, not what’s good for Australia,” he told Māori Television’s current affairs programme Native Affairs presenter Julian Wilcox in an interview broadcast  last night.

But he added that Fiji “treasured” its traditional relationship with both countries and blamed the neighbouring governments for the current damaged relationship.

Bainimarama said New Zealanders did not understand democracy in Fiji and he hinted that an improvement might come in relations with New Zealand if Prime Minister John Key “changed his views” on Fiji.

He said it would be “a good thing” for the future relationship if New Zealand appointed a new high commissioner to the vacant post in Suva.

Bainimarama was interviewed in Suva during “48 hours in the Pacific’s military zone” last week, as the bilingual Māori and English public broadcaster billed the special report.

The wide-ranging Wilcox interview and a report by Carmen Parahi on grassroots responses from Fiji Islanders to the military regime coincided with a brief visit to Suva by the special Commonwealth emissary, former NZ Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves.

“This is our one and only chance to right the wrongs. We have had four coups. We don’t want any more coups,” Bainimarama said.

‘No secret’
Asked by Wilcox why he had seized power in December 2006, Bainimarama replied: “It was no secret that what we wanted to do was get rid of corrupt practices [under the previous elected government of Laisenia Qarase], get rid of the racial policies that were around us – especially the racial policies that were going to take our country down …

“It boiled down to the public service not doing their thing … their bit.

“We have removed just about all the people for abuse of authority, abuse of office and abuse of funds. These people were part of the elite group of government …

“It was nepotism throughout and we could see that. So we wanted to get rid of it.”

Bainimarama called for more understanding of the complexities of the Fiji political and social system and why changes were needed.

“People see this nation as a failed state. The European Union sees it as a failed state. The Commonwealth, the whole reason why they have suspended us is that they see this nation as a failed state.

“The [Pacific Islands] Forum, Australia and New Zealand see this nation as a failed African state.

“You have a preconceived idea of what is happening [in Fiji] when you don’t understand what is happening here … and people don’t want to understand because you want to interfere in the way we do business.

Peacekeeping
“In fact, right now … Australia is trying to get us out of the United Nations peacekeeping [role]. What benefit will there be for the Australians? Would it benefit the Māori, for instance; would it benefit the Aborigines if we were removed from the UN peacekeepers?

Wilcox: “You feel Fiji is being bullied by, principally New Zealand and Australia?”

Bainimarama: “Yes, because you don’t understand what is happening here, what we’re trying to do.

“All you see is the military removing an elected government and it wants to remain in power for the next five years [until an election in 2014].

“Yes, we removed an elected government – for good reason. We wanted to bring about development in this country. We wanted to bring this country forward instead of keeping us in the old cannibalistic days.”

Asked why Bainimarama had not left it to elections and democracy to make political reforms, the self-appointed prime minister said the politicians “don’t want reforms – if they bring about reforms, the people won’t vote for them”.

Bainimarama said an authoritarian government was needed to make the political and electoral reforms in Fiji needed to ensure no more coups would happen.

“In Fiji, you don’t come up with your own vote. Your vote is dictated by the chiefs, it is dictated by the Great Council of Chiefs, it is dictated by the provincial councils, and it is dictated by the [Methodist] Church.

‘Not democracy’
“So it’s not your vote. So don’t tell me that it’s democracy.”

Asked by Wilcox about media censorship, Bainimarama said: “The press is still churning out newspapers. The TV station is still on, the radio is still on.

“What we have censored is irresponsible reports, that’s what we have censored.”

Wilcox: “What exactly does that mean?”

Bainimarama: “That you report the facts. I am sure Māori Television understands that …

“The media are free to express what they want – just say the right things, don’t say rubbish.”

Challenged to talk to the people of Fiji about how they viewed his regime, Native Affairs reporter Carmen Parahi contributed a segment on responses from ordinary Fiji Islanders.

Taking a quick break from a game of touch rugby at Lami, Radio Fiji sports reporter Sikeli Qounadovu said: “Life goes on. The politicians are causing the headaches, while we are enjoying ourselves.

“He [Bainimarama] has done a lot for the rural areas of Fiji compared to other leaders  … We let them do what they think is for the good of the country.”

Positive view
Several speakers in the Suva city markets were also positive about the state of Fiji.

However, the media were less complimentary.

Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika, recent winner of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Pacific Media Freedom Award and who came in for personal criticism from Bainimarama during the interview, was not available for on camera comments.

But he declared that the Fiji Times would continue its independent role.

Merana Kitione, news manager of Fiji Television, described the daily censorship operation, adding that it spite of the repression it was “business as usual” at the station.

However, asked by Parahi if Fiji Television feared being closed, she replied: “I can’t answer that question – no comment.”

A Native Affairs studio panel discussion following the Bainimarama interview featured a former senator, Dr Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and Nik Naidu, spokesperson of the Auckland-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji.

Both speakers argued for dialogue with the regime but while Naidu called for a free media to enable wider debate with the Fiji public, politicians, civil society and aid donors, Dr Nailatikau said dialogue needed to exclude the media.

Asked by Wilcox to put media censorship in Fiji in perspective, Naidu said: “If this was Fiji, what would happen is the military would be here by now, close down the station, most probably put all of us into custody, and this programme would not air.”

Naidu also added it was an irony that Bainimarama was now calling for New Zealand to post a new high commissioner to Fiji when the military government had twice before expelled NZ high commissioners.

Dr Nailatikau said Fiji’s elected politicians had in the past divided the country with racism and the regime was contributing to a sense of unity.

Dr David Robie is convenor of Pacific Media Watch and director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre.

Māori Television’s Native Affairs | Native AffairsSept 14 edition (Fiji)

12 comments:

  1. terry, 15. September 2009, 19:26

    dunno..what is the end point of all this?..the good thing about democracy and elections is that govts strategize what they will do in a parliamentary term before they head back to the polls..devlpment plans, reforms and all that..baini has no legal or constitutional mandate to govern or make laws, unless it’s at the point of a gun..so how will his rules stack up when fiji has elections and a parliament in 2014?..or will the military still be lurking in the shadows pulling the strings..dunno..i’m trying to understand his rationale, if there is any..does it take a coup to end a coup culture?..didn’t know poor qarase was a cannibal..

     
  2. RAJIV, 15. September 2009, 20:21

    TO NIK NAIDU:

    I SAW YOUR INTERVIEW ON MAORI TV YESTERDAY AND AS A FIJI BORN INDIAN I COULDNT POSSIBLY DISAGREE MORE (AND BE EXTREMELY DISSAPOINTED) WITH YOUR VIEWS. YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION HAVE THE VIEW OF DEMOCRACY FOR THE SAKE OF IT FIJI (LIKE AUSTRALIA AND NZ), AS WAS THE CASE PRIOR TO BAINIMARAMA TAKING OVER IN 2007. ITS NO SECRET THAT THE QARASE GOVT CAME INTO POWER BY CORRUPTION AND RACISM AND CONTINUED TO RULE BY THESE TWO FACTORS. A TYPICAL EXAMPLE WAS ATTEMPTED PASSING OF THE “QOLIQOLI BILL” (DONT TELL ME U DONT KNOW ABOUT THAT). WHERE WERE YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION WHEN FIJI INDIANS WERE BEING VICTIMISED IN THESE WAYS UNDER THE SO CALLED DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVT OF QARASE??? IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF A DEMOCRACY???

    BAINIMARAMA WAS MORELESS FORCED TO TAKE OVER THE GOVT AS IT ALL WAS GETTING OUT OF HAND AND GOOD ON HIM FOR DOING THAT. HE IS NOT PERFECT, HAS MADE MISTAKES BUT OVERALL IN MY VIEW HE IS SINCERELY DOING EVERYTHING TO MAKE FIJI A BETTER PLACE BY ENSURING THAT CROOKS AND RACISTS LIKE QARASE DONT GET TO RUN THE COUNTRY AGAIN. INDIANS AND FIJIANS ARE MUCH HAPPIER UNDER HIM THAN THE PREVIOUS ONE. YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION ARE NOT HELPING THE SITUATION AT ALL AND BASICALLY ARE TAKING THE SAME IGNORANT AND ARROGANT STAND LIKE AUSTRALIA AND NZ. THEREFORE I SERIOUSLY QUESTION THE EXISTENCE AND PURPOSE OF YOUR ORGANISATION. THERE WAS NOTHING BRAVE OR ADMIRABLE ABOUT YOU COMING OUT ON MAORI TV AND SPEAKING AGAINST BAINIMARAMA LIKE THAT. IT WAS IGNORANT, ARROGANT AND DISGRACEFUL!!

    FROM: RAJIV

     
  3. Mike, 16. September 2009, 13:54

    Rajiv,

    Who forced the puppet master to do what he did? What is wrong with the Qoliqoli Bill, can you be more specific rather then mudslinging with the hope that some of it will stick! What exactly do you think that the illegal regime will achieve this time? You sounded more like you want revenge then anything else.
    At least with a true democratic system we’ll be able to sit together again and discuss both views and hopefully reach a meanigful solution. No amount of coups will resolve your agony about the land and qoliqoli issue in Fiji. Transparency and good governance will and till now no govt in Fiji has ever engaged it’s people properly on these issues. Nik has every right to say what he believs in, the only thing disgraceful is your personnel attack on him.

     
  4. Joape Ratu, 16. September 2009, 14:24

    Its true that Nik can say what he wants but every educated person has a moral right to be fair when he or she comments publicly on anything. Because he was selective with the truth, didn’t mention election fraud like the agriculture scam or the refusal of the Qarase government to respect court decisions, his opinion was not fair and therefore lacks weight. No need to insult him, but his views must be dismissed as being a bit hormonal and emotional.

     
  5. Vaenaca Tui, 16. September 2009, 16:11

    I think we should let Nik say whatever he wants to say on TV otherwise he will be writing rubbish in his cousin’s anti-government blog. Please don’t bore us twice!

     
  6. Mike, 16. September 2009, 16:19

    There is always two sides to an argument and people do pick and choose what they want to highlight in order to enhance their viewpoint. And you proved that with your attempt to nitpick Nik’s view. However if we want our nation to advance alongside others then we have to address our differences rather then trying to highlight what is blantantly obvious. To suggest that Nik’s view should be dismissed because of an hormonal imbalance is a very shallow and dismissive view of one’s genuine effort to contribute effectively to the course. We should be looking for a solutio together rather then trying to eliminate each other from the discussion.

     
  7. Thakur Ranjit Singh, 16. September 2009, 20:16

    Coalition for Democracy needs to be subjected to the same democratic process it wants for Fiji. Who do they represent, who are its executives, is it functional or defunct?. I ask this question because one strongest pillar of Coalition for Democracy was responsible for arranging Indian Newslink’s Editor’s visit to Fiji where his meeting with Bainmarama was brokered by that person. The Indian Newslink’s special report gave a good picture of how things were in Fiji – something that the mainstream media in NZ has failed to do so far. The question is, do all executives of Coalition for Democracy operate on the same frequency? Or is Nik one man organisation?
    The other question is, why do NZ media pick people like Nik Naidu and Ballu Khan for comments on Fiji? Do they choose them beacuse they want to get people who say what they want to hear?

     
  8. Mike, 16. September 2009, 21:31

    I’m sure that Nik will be able to address your concern about the Coalition for Democracy if you contact him. Is Auckland such a concrete jungle that you cannot reach him?
    I think that you are a bit harsh on the NZ media, of course they will reflect mostly their govt’s positon however they are still free to print what they want and express their own perspective unlike their colleagues in Fiji.
    If you disagree with Ballu and Nik being on the panel why don’t you put your name up so we, the viewers can get a balance view on the subject.

     
  9. Jese, 17. September 2009, 8:35

    It stated that people are entitled to their opinion. But to what extent will their opinion contribute to their development of Fiji. How will people at the grass roots of Fiji benefit from their opinion? The grass roots people of Fiji do not understand the Media. Especially the Media in Fiji. They cannot distinguish news from opinion. They read all articles as factual whether it be an opinion page or news page. A journalist once said, journalists are capable of making the people crazy tomorrow and making them happy the day after. That’s why I think Dr Nailatikau opted for the Media exclusion. The minds of the people in Fiji have been corrupted by the Media.

     
  10. Mike, 17. September 2009, 21:48

    How did you come to the conclusion that the grass roots people of Fiji do not understand the media? With all due respect I think that Dr Nailatikau was from a different era. An era where the chiefs decide what is best for the common people. You cannot blame the media for everything and they are an easy target at times like this. Your suggestion about peoples understanding of the media in Fiji is an insult and Dr Nailatikau did no favours to anyone accept to add the confusion about the state of affairs in Fiji.

     
  11. RAJ, 18. September 2009, 19:55

    i agree on most part with Thakur and Rajiv, cant understand and agree with mike at all

     
  12. Mike, 18. September 2009, 22:30

    Agree, disagree, can’t understand…what are you on RAJ? Sounds like a brain explosion to me!