Pacific Scoop

Why Bainimarama will fail in his quest for a ‘reformed Fiji’

Voreqe Bainimarama ... crushing Fiji dissent. Photo: Scoop/Selwyn Manning

Voreqe Bainimarama ... crushing Fiji dissent. Photo: Scoop/Selwyn Manning

Opinion – By Kalafi Moala in Nuku’alofa

The question is not whether Fiji’s dictator Voreqe Bainimarama will fail or not, but rather when? Yes, when will he realise that he will never succeed in his false and conceited quest for a reformed Fiji?

Someone could stop him dead in his path before he comes to his senses.

When the military ruler declared his coup to oust the elected Laisenia Qarase government in 2006, there were those who applauded him for his vision for a new Fiji, a Fiji that they claimed would be fully reformed and free of racial discrimination in its electoral system.

Even though there were those who decried the idea of another coup, many were nevertheless hopeful that maybe this coup was a good coup. Finally we have someone who is fighting for the “good of the country”, they said – for the good of everyone, indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, and every other race that calls Fiji home.

There are no good coups. One coup sows the seeds for the next one, and so it goes on into a vicious cycle difficult to break. As one entertainer joked, after your third coup you can easily become a coup-coup land.

But that was 2006, and the sentiments that accompanied the many declarations of good intentions have all faded, and no one except Bainimarama and his cronies seem to have any more faith that this military dictator is better than his other coup predecessors. In fact he may be the worst, and furthermore he has already taken Fiji down the road to self-destruction and despair.

This is not primarily because of the external pressures – the dismissals from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth and, or even the many economic and political sanctions against Fiji as a result of actions of the Bainimarama government.

Those are bad enough, but whenever you have a government that violates the basic freedoms and rights of its own people, it is only a matter of time before there is an implosion that will not only discard that kind of a government but will also thrust that unfortunate nation into abysmal political, social, and economic turmoil.

Fiji is already on the edge of disaster, and Bainimarama does not seem to care, as he continues to deepen his imperious treatment of the various institutions that have held Fijian society together and guarantee its freedom.

Fanciful actions
Here are some of Bainimarama’s fanciful actions that have brought him the fear of the locals and the wrath of the international community:

– abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and the whimsical dismissal of the court justices;

– disregard of the chiefly system of Fiji;

– violent and hateful treatment of the media;

– violation of the rights of the Methodist Church to meet in their annual conference;

– creation of a New Methodist Church to be a religious instrument to prop up support for his policies;

– defiance of regional and international calls for restoration of democratic processes; and

– opposition to dissent, attempting to create a society not of national unity but of national uniformity.

There has never been anyone in the history of mankind that has done the kind of things Bainimarama is doing and survived.

Dictators and rulers in every generation, in any nation, have always failed. They were doomed to fail once they violate the very principles that make any society keep itself alive and growing.

Law of gravity
Just as a fall from a 60-storeyed building will most likely break every bone in the body, and surely result in death because of breaking the law of gravity, Bainimarama’s fall is guaranteed.

You do not break the laws of nature or the human laws of morality. The laws break you. Thus the question now is what can be done to soften the blow on the rest of Fijian society? How long will it take for Fiji to recover from this incredible nightmare?

In particular, the treatment Bainimarama has dished out to the Fijian media has been unprecedented. Foreign publishers and journalists have been deported. Those with dissenting views have suffered incredible harassment, and so have those who have tried to report the truth of what goes on in Fiji.

Censorship is imposed on every newsroom in the country.

Notable among those journalists whose rights and freedom have been grossly violated is Netani Rika, editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times. His house has been smashed by some of Bainimarama’s goons, and his car was firebombed.

Rika’s family had to seek refuge elsewhere because of the danger they encountered at their family home. Rika himself had received phone calls from the Commodore on several occasions, swearing at him, threatening him,  simply for not complying with the kind of coercive editorial manipulation imposed on the Fiji Times.

More recently after a lecture tour of Queensland, Australia, in which Rika talked about the difficulties he was experiencing with his colleagues in Fiji, he was again threatened even before he returned home.

This time, it was a death threat. Rika had to take cautionary measures to protect his family, since he took this threat quite seriously.

Death threats against journalists are not common in the Pacific Islands, at least not like in Pakistan, Philippines or Sri Lanka where journalists are killed just for doing their job. Even in Bainimarama’s Fiji, you do not threaten to kill someone just because you disagree with him.

‘Island paradise’
But that which was not common is now the norm in an island nation that is destined to crash land because the skipper flying this “island paradise” is consumed with a vision that is impossible to implement.

The vision is not only wrong, but his way of trying to fulfill it is wrong and grossly immoral. Even God Almighty does not coerce people to believe and love him.

He has gifted humanity with the freedom to choose, for as a God of love, he understands that love must involve the freedom to choose.

Bainimarama wants a society that must conform to his ideal, and he is doomed to fail because you cannot force a people to obey. Well, maybe for a while, out of fear, but that is an impossible social scenario to sustain.

If dealing a harsh hand to the media was not enough, Fiji’s dictator decided he was going to bring the country’s largest church group to subjection. A Methodist himself, he seems to take pride in the fact that he needs to suppress any and all dissenting elements within the Methodist Church.

Two of the Methodist church leaders were arrested for allegedly violating the Public Emergency Regulations (PER), and so was Rewa’s paramount chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa, for announcing the Methodists will still have their conference at her district despite the dictator’s ban.

Kepa declined to make any immunity deal with the State and opted to make a not guilty plea for inciting under PER.

Whether the Methodists will stand up in defiance of the Bainimarama edict or not is of no consequence. The Commodore had already acted to create and support the New Methodist Church, a fundamentalist brand of the Church that is seeking mass conversions to its ranks, and certain actions from the Police are now touted as “orders from the Holy Spirit”.

According to Rika, it’s a “Jesus crusade” that is comparable to the rule of the Taliban. Bainimarama’s government believe that if they can convert everyone to their brand of Christianity, they will consequently create a “peaceful society”.

And so, Fiji is experiencing a rollercoaster ride in which a dictator takes out all the fundamental pillars that have held together society, and seeks to impose a personal utopian vision on a people whose lives have started to be aversely affected in every realm.

Kalafi Moala is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Taimi ‘o Tonga and the Tongan Chronicle. He is also a former chair of the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association and twice winner of the PIMA Pacific Media Freedom Award. He is a regular contributor to the Pacific Media Centre.


  1. jack moceica, 22. September 2009, 16:21

    Kalafi Moala in Nukualofa, don’t stick your nose into our affairs. The basis of your analysis, with which you have opined is grossly out of context and reflects a lack in you understanding the deeply entrenched nature of all our challenges. We would love to be masters of our own destinty and not allow oppressive governments who wield their so called elements of power in order to succumb the targetted victim to their whims and have great influence in what we do as a sovereign state. Again, we have a lot of sensibility and we will build and reconstruct our institutions and create the space for ourselves and our future generations in years to come, so we can live harmoniously amongst ourselves and with others in the region and the world over.

  2. Bubu, 22. September 2009, 19:15

    Jack you are a biased entity being an officer in the military forces. Kalafi Moala talks a lot of sense.

    Who gave you , Jack, and the likes of you the right to usurp our indigenous institutions ? Playing God are you ?

    Take away your guns and what do you have ? An unthinking, foolish possum in the headlights. Fool !

  3. Tui, 10. June 2010, 7:58

    hey BUBU could you please stay put andf dont poke your nose in fijis affairs, we are just doing fine and not need anyone spoil our peace.People of Fiji are for Bainimarama and we acknowledge what hes doing for the betterment of our future generation.We have just seen the light of day bacause hes taken out all those rot of yester years,the rot in which you have sided with.Please look back at history when our economy had been very stable…….. was there any development done like what we are experiencing now…..?Please dont spoil what we like to experience and work on here at home in Fiji.I think your stance is noy at all benefitting the people of Fiji but its only worsening it. So pleas I beg toy the line with us and build a beautiful Fiji