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Tut-tutting in Fiji

  • February 3rd, 2009

Richard Fowler, the President of the Wellington District Law Society spent time with officers of the Fiji Law Society last October.

In his column in this month’s Council Brief (the WDLS monthly newspaper) he has described their dilemma (and his). Should they condemn and refuse to cooperate with the Commodore’s government? The following are excerpts:

 "…. Should I be ‘tut-tutting’ in the nicest possible way albeit careful to be ‘only expressing a personal opinion, of course’ and then brace myself for an automatic knee jerk accusation of patronising neo-colonialism? After all, the then (Clark) government’s analysis was simple: the democratically elected government had been ousted at gunpoint and those responsible or participant in the interim government should be treated as pariahs and NZ should have nothing to do with them unless either the Quarase government was allowed to return to office or fresh elections held.

"Yet I am afraid that nothing about the present Fijian situation as outlined to me was that simple – particularly for Rule of Law type issues. I am no apologist for the 2006 coup but there are certainly some very odd aspects to the situation that do not sit easily with the abovementioned ‘simple’ analysis. There is even a ‘back to front’ quality to much of it. The best I can do is pose for you the questions that started worrying me:
·                             If Commodore Bainimarama was the counter-coup hero who removed George Speight in 2000, installed Quarase as interim Prime Minister, and then went back to his barracks rather like a latter day Garibaldi, what caused him to re-emerge and, for that matter so different from the previous coups, at glacial speed?
·                             Why does the Labour party representing over 40% of the population and supported by most of the Fijian Indians, the people most obviously and adversely disenfranchised in the previous coups of 1987 and 2000, give some support to the interim government and even for a period participated in its cabinet?
·                             Why does the highly respected multi-racial Citizen’s Constitutional Forum featured in Time magazine at the time of the last coup and containing numbers of people who were detained or imprisoned in earlier coups support the initiatives of the interim government to find a new and viable electoral system and participate in those explorations?
·                             Why do the Taukei movement and others who were behind the previous coups and who favour an electoral system that guarantees indigenous Fijian dominance, oppose those initiatives?
"….Contrary to what was suggested concerning a pervasive military presence in the New Zealand newspapers recently, in the whole of the week I was in Suva I never caught sight of one soldier and further the interim government during that week lost a very public Court challenge to the legitimacy of some of its actions and did not reach for extra-legal remedy. Indeed save for some well publicised divisions within the judiciary, the ordinary business of the law appears to continue unaffected.
Who could blame the Fiji Law Society for cutting the interim government some slack in the light of the latter’s avowed intent to achieve a fairer electoral system that is not racially slanted in lieu of holding an election now which would just have the effect of perpetuating the old one? At what point does the Fiji Law Society cease to do so – because sooner or later the Commodore has to demonstrate meaningful progress? And where would that leave the participation of the Fiji Law Society up to that point?
I held my peace and boarded the plane thankful that no law society in New Zealand has ever had to face the issues the Fiji Law Society is facing.
Would that our policy toward Fiji could be as graceful.



How long will it take those in the NZ Parliament and Foreign Affairs (and the Pacific Forum) to reach the same conclusion? The biggest problem seems to be that they are not listening.

Democracy has become a god that is regarded as infallible.

“Democracy” is not necessarily the same as truly Representative Democracy, especially when there are racial biases. (And incidentally, NZ suffers from this too.)

  • Gabe Giddens
  • February 4th, 2009
  • 12:19 pm

Interesting comments, but heres another view David,should we accept a Regime that takes people off the street and imprisons them for no other reason than they disagree with the present illegal govertnment? Plenty of cases of this and the bumps and bruises to show for it…

From your comment David it seems if you dont agree with an elected democracy you are entitled then to pick up a firearm and remove it? What did Churchill say about Democracy? Something along the lines of Democracy has many fallibles many weaknesses, but its the best system we have.

I have not been to the Happy Isles but I have a close friend who returns to Fiji every Xmas…

His comments to me would suggest that Armed Soldiers indeed patrol the Streets. And that privately the citizens chafe under the regime but are now too cowed to do anything about but except hope and pray for elections(meaning’free’ elections)

This blog would suggest that beatings and long term imprisonment without trial are acceptable, that Buisinessman illegally held and beaten then refused hospital care is acceptable.

The crux of the matter was and still is the transfer of land from the indigenous population and into the hands of a select few. ‘Tinpot Bannyarama’ seems to be trying to return this state of affairs.

Lastly before someone tries to blast this as a Leftist Rant, the person I refer to is in fact a Tory and his family is in a situation that one could elude to as a Lawyer Family.

Funny that a man in the same proffession is who was only visiting knows better than a family in the same proffession over there.

“Indeed save for some well publicised divisions within the judiciary, the ordinary business of the law appears to continue unaffected.”

Well I would say its probably doing a roaring trade at the moment…Lots of people to represent when illegal governments run countries.

If there is a problem in Fiji, I would suggest it is the emergence of China in Fiji. And with this I agree with the Author of this Blog.

However to act as an appologist to an illegal, imoral, and brutal regime, that is another matter entirely.

Finally to David, on your comment that, “Democracy” is not necessarily the same as truly Representative Democracy, especially when there are racial biases. (And incidentally, NZ suffers from this too.)”

Are you suggesting that Banarammas actions would should be condoned here in good old NZ, if the voter doesn’t get his way?
Truly a interesting blog I await with interest further comments on this subject.

  • Gabe Giddens
  • February 5th, 2009
  • 11:28 am

I’m sorry since when has indefinite imprisonment been ‘Simplistic?’
(Allways a good ploy if you cant answer the question tag it as Simplistic or Conspiracist or Leftist take a bow!)

Questions posed is one thing, however, I wonder did you Richard go and talk to the people under this brutal system, or were your obsrvations taken from a meeting in an Air-conditioned office, and backseats of Taxi Cabs?(LOL).


GG writes: “From your comment David it seems if you dont agree with an elected democracy you are entitled then to pick up a firearm and remove it?”

Not as a first course of action. But if those in government change the rules affecting how free and fair subsequent elections will be, as is happening in Zimbabwe, then what other options are left? Civil disobedience (which doesn’t work when those in power have no hesitation in murdering fellow citizens), emigration (which doesn’t solve the problem), suffering under the unjust regime (happens in too many countries), or popular uprising (not necessarily armed).

We are fortunate to live in a peaceful country, and have not had to face such choices (although, the EFA was step in the wrong direction).

My criticism of the official NZ attitude towards Fiji is that there is insufficient listening on our part. I am no expert. Has anyone done an opinion poll in Fiji rating the performance of Bainimarama? I have not seen any.

  • Gabe Giddens
  • February 6th, 2009
  • 3:00 pm

Civil Disobediance does work David ask Ghandi. Though the price in human lives was still far too high.
I soory I cant comment on EFA as I’m not sure what it means…
However I do agree David we are extremely lucky to live in a country such as ours.
An opinion poll, mmmm I’m not that sure that Opinion polls are worth the facts they are based on…however maybe an election with no guns in sight would be a good start.

Incidentily I was watching the History channel the other night they had a docco on the sinking of the Lusitania…Wonderful Quote that sent chills up my spine…”In my youth, I thought that governments were there to protect the people now in my old age I realise that they are there too protect themselves.”(and there interest groups)

This unfortunately goes to the heart of the issue you raise in your answer to me…even in our fair country, I think this is true, with any political slant,(case in point our last government.)

Lets just hope the perenial problem of the Pacific sorts it self out. I suggest we all have bigger problems ahead, which ever political persuasions we follow.

Good debating with you.

  • Gabes
  • February 11th, 2009
  • 6:06 pm

Fiji military torture revealed in murder trial
Graphic accounts of how Fijian soldiers – including two Fiji sevens players – beat a man to death and sexually tortured others are coming out at a murder trial in the western city of Lautoka.

Nineteen-year-old Sakiusa Rabaka was beaten to death by the army just a month after military commander Voreqe Bainimarama staged his December 2006 coup.

His mother, Alanieta Rabaka, mounted an emotional and drawn out regional media campaign to get justice. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Australian Prime Minister John Howard took up the case.

Last year eight soldiers and a police officer were arrested. The military had attempted to move the soldiers overseas on United Nations peacekeeping duties but they were taken off a plane just before departure.

In the High Court in Lautoka, Justice Daniel Goundar and a panel of assessors have heard that Mr Rabaka, and other men, were seized by soldiers on January 24, 2007, and taken to the military camp at Black Rock.

He was returned home seriously injured next day and later admitted to hospital. He died on February 22.

The Fiji Times reported today that one witness, Josua Saunaqali, told of being subjected to military torture.

He was ordered to strip to his underwear and perform oral sex.

The military accused them of buying marijuana.

Mr Saunaqali said they were told to strip to their underwear and made to run to three points at which three of the accused were waiting to whip them.

When they failed to keep up with the pace, they were beaten.

They were made to duck-walk carrying a piece of timber. They were also made to crawl on their stomachs without using their arms.

They were beaten and kicked though out.

He said Mr Rabaka was not able to stand the torture and was groaning in pain.

Mr Saunaqali said they pleaded for the torturing of Mr Rabaka to stop because he was just a young boy but it continued.

Mr Saunaqali said he failed to complete a drill and a soldier kicked his chin.

He said a soldier ordered him and another friend to perform oral sex on an unnamed man.

He said he recognised Fiji rugby player Napolioni Naulia as part of the squad.

Those on trial are police officer Patrick Nayacalagilagi and Talone Lua, Ulaiasi Radike, Etonia Nadura, Ratuinaisa Toutou, Joeli Lesavua, Jona Nareki, Ilaisa Kurimavua and Naulia.

Nareki played for the Fiji Sevens in the 2000 Dubai Sevens and Naulia for the team at the South Pacific Games two years ago.

The trial is continuing today.

Just thought this should go to show this blog what really is going on in Fiji…

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