#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Human rights not for sale

Monday, August 16, 2010

Human rights not for sale

By Sir Ronald Sanders (a consultant and former Caribbean diplomat) for the Jamaican Observer

THE military leader of Fiji, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, recently said that he would like to cut his country's ties with neighbouring Australia and New Zealand and align with China. 

His statement would find little support amongst the people of Fiji who value their long and deep relationship with Australia and New Zealand.

Bainimarama's reason for saying he would sever ties with Australia and New Zealand and align Fiji to China has nothing to do with the interests of his country or his people. It is entirely to do with Bainimarama's perception that China would be tolerant of his Government, which seized power in a coup d'├ętat four years ago.
Both Australia and New Zealand — countries to which many Fijians have emigrated and which are Fiji's biggest trading partners — have seriously objected not only to the military coup, but also to the fact that Bainimarama has failed to hold democratic elections at which a civilian government could be elected. Neither country shows any sign of letting up on their objection to a serious violation of democracy in Fiji.

The Commonwealth — a grouping of 54 nations of which Fiji was a member along with Australia and New Zealand — suspended Fiji from the Councils of the Commonwealth immediately after the coup, and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) suspended the country fully from the Commonwealth in 2009 after further gross violations of the Constitution by the Bainimarama regime, including the dismissal of judges who ruled that his regime was illegal.

Australia and New Zealand are in the forefront of upholding CMAG's position in Fiji. And they are not alone. Other big Commonwealth nations such as Britain, Canada and India insist that a condition of membership of the Commonwealth must be adherence by governments to the democratic values and principles to which the organisation's member states have declared themselves to be committed.

Fortunately for the people who live in the Fiji Islands, neither Australia nor New Zealand has imposed tough sanctions or bans. Had they done so the Fijian economy — already suffering from the consequences of a military government — would have collapsed, and the people of the islands would have suffered extreme hardship.

A significant amount of their exports and their tourism would have been adversely affected, creating high unemployment and increased poverty. There would also have been a greater exodus of qualified people than there has been.

Australia and New Zealand have chosen instead to join their fellow members of the Commonwealth in keeping up pressure on the Fijian regime to restore democracy in the country. They have also relied on the "good offices" role of the Commonwealth Secretary-General to find ways of opening up an effective dialogue with the Fijian regime to return the country to democracy.

So far, these efforts have failed amid Bainimarama's determination to maintain himself in power. In the meantime, the people of Fiji suffer, and the regime shops around for governments that would give it assistance despite its naked abuse of power.

But Fiji's immediate neighbours in the South Pacific have shown their deep concern about the abrogation of democracy by suspending the country from the 16-member South Pacific Forum last year.

Shopping around for support for an undemocratic regime is hardly the answer to the Fijian Government's unconstitutional status and the pariah status that the country is acquiring. Eventually, pressure will mount both internally and externally to isolate and remove a regime that clings to power without the will of the people.

China has been long in the game of international politics and it is unlikely to extend any great comfort to the Fijian regime for a sustained period, particularly as Fiji has neither an abundance of resources in which China is interested nor any particular strategic interest.

It is in the manner of the Commonwealth's method of operation that it will not surrender the people of Fiji to an unelected government, particularly one that seized power at the point of a gun.

In this connection, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, repeated the Commonwealth's determination to help Fiji to restore democracy while continuing its suspension from the association.

The point may come, however, when a determination will have to be made about how much longer an unelected regime is allowed by the international community to hold a country hostage to its will. 

The danger of a more prolonged "capture" of the state apparatus by Bainimarama and his military supporters is that it might encourage similar unconstitutional developments, not only in the Pacific but in other regions as well. 

For, if other regimes feel that Bainimarama can get away with flouting democracy they may be tempted to do so themselves, especially if countries such as China give them succour, however temporary.

The Commonwealth will have a unique and special role to play in all this. It is a value-based association of 54 nations drawn from every continent of the world and representing one-third of the world's people. 

Unlike many other multilateral organisations it has declared democracy, freedom, human and civil rights to be its core values, and in the past — particularly on issues such as racism — it was the world's torch-bearer; its moral conscience, even as many governments turned a blind eye to atrocities in Apartheid South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the interest of economic gain.

In a world where human and civil rights are increasingly being defiled, many will look to the Commonwealth to raise the banner of democracy and to push for it to be upheld. 

Fiji is one country where unconstitutionality will demand further and stronger action from the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe, where the Robert Mugabe regime has practised the worst form of discrimination and brutalised its own people, is another.
Human rights and democracy should not be for sale.-Jamaican Observer, August 15.


kaicolo said...

Sir Ron you've nailed it! It's about time that the big guns thunder and send the rats scurrying back into the sewers.

Kai Colo

Anonymous said...

I believe this dipstick ought to worry about the mass corruption and human rights abuse in his homeland.

Anonymous said...

Vinaka Sir Ron.

Lot of people do not realise that along with PNG - Kai Viti of Fiji have always occupied a special place within the broader AUS
psyche. Therefore its only natural that AUS takes special interest in Fiji and the welfare of all its people.

Asking AUS & Others to accept & endorse a form a goverment that time has proven over & over simply doesn't work simply defies logic?

Right now we collectively find ourselves in the unusual situation where the IMF is considering lending $1b to a sailor - while the legitimate democratic leader who's a qualified merchant banker -remains sidelined? (exiled).

Like all before Bainimarama's attempt at beating the odds will ultimately fail.

Difficulty lies in limiting damage before this natural cycle again fulfils?

sara'ssista said...

This will be another person that will be vilified by apologists for this regime as an Aus and Nz stooge and 'that he does't understand'. I thought he captured the situation quite well. I agree stronger not weaker action is required, as it will be the o0nly thing this regime will respect. They themselves don't respect anyone making concessions or diplomacy over straight talking. here is an excellent opportunity to make a statement.It should also be very clear to those who wish to lend money to this regime , that a future government may well not respect any commitment this regime may make in respect of a loan , nor should they.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that an unsavory regime in one of the Pacific's Opera States is not necessarily something that voters in OZ or NZ would worry about much. Hence the lukewarm response of these governments. However, this will change soon as more and more prospective immigrants from Fiji knock on the doors. And immigration is an issue that gets the electorate going. Eventually, Oz and NZ (and perhaps even the UN) have to act. The best strategy to manage immigration is to keep people in their home countries. This will only happen if Fiji's returns to democracy and prosperity. Closing visa processing for Fijians is the way to go. Oz and NZ should tell the people of Fiji that this happens because of the dictator's politics. He will not remain in power for very long after that.

mark manning said...

I'm certain that many of you know my views.
I could never be a Politician because I don't stand on ceremony.
I believe that a spade must be called a spade and that the truth shall set yee free.
In my view, there is only one way to handle Frank Bainimarama, and it involves neither platitudes nor Diplomacy.
An Elite Military Unit should have been despatched, consisting of Fijian, New Zealand , Australian and other Pacific Island Military to Fiji at the beginning of this coup and John Howard should have either assisted or intervened in late November 2006 or @ the very beginning of the coup.
a very clear message needs to be sent to all coup conspirators, including Chiefs, Judges, Military Officers, Police, Public Servants, Legal Advisers to the Military and others who have accepted Illegal posts from this Illegal Regime of Frank Bainimarama's.
But, because of procrastination and inaction by impotent Pacific Leaders, the situation is so bad now, that abject poverty, an Economic black hole and the possibly of starvation and the bleakest outlook ever confronted within our Region, is a reality and on Australia's doorstep.
The threat of terrorism, an increase in drug running and people trafficking are now an everyday occurrence and are the norm within the Pacific Region
It will take courageous Leaders to resolve the issues which, initially, could have been dealt with overnight and at little to no disruption to the fabric of Fijian Society.
God Bless Fiji..