IT should be a source of profound shame to our country that Australians are going on holidays to Fiji in record numbers.
The Fiji Bureau of Statistics recently released its May tourism figures, claiming more than 45,000 people turned up at Nadi airport to make it the busiest May in the island nation's tourism history.
Nearly half of them were Aussies, lured there by the cheap package deals. It seems we can't get there fast enough to slip into "Fiji time" and bula our way to the cocktail bar.
While thoroughly understanding the desire of travellers and holidaymakers to get the best bang for their buck, it is appalling that we are directing our dollars to the coffers of a nation that is run by a military dictatorship little better than any apartheid regime operating in South Africa's dark ages.
We can all laugh that our Melanesian neighbours are ruled by a bloke with a name that sounds like an '80s girl band, and assuage our consciences by believing Commodore Bainimarama's claptrap about restoring fairness to Fiji's racist electoral system.
Most of the noise emanating from Fiji – and Australia's response to the trashing of democracy there – has focused on the big-ticket items, like the purge of the judiciary and the persecution and censorship of the independent media.
They are issues hardly likely to ping on the radar of a hard-working Aussie looking for a place to sit by a pool in the sun for a couple of weeks to forget about winter and the mortgage.
But this Pacific tragedy isn't about whether The Fiji Times is being edited under the baleful glare of one of Bainimarama's gun-toting thugs, or that an expat gets his marching orders.
It's about people like Imrana Jalal and her husband Ratu Sakiusa Tuisolia.
This is a couple who represents the best of Fiji. She is a prominent human rights lawyer of Indian descent, he is an indigenous Fijian chief.
They are educated, involved in their community, passionate about their country and staunch believers in the democratic process.
They are high-profile people whose marriage in 2003 stunned a country riven with ethnic tension – imagine a Mandela marrying a Botha in South Africa during apartheid.
Jalal has worked tirelessly for women's rights throughout the Pacific. She is a member of the International Commission of Jurists. Her husband was CEO of the Fiji Airports Corporation but was sacked after the military took over.
Jalal's parents, sisters and children from a previous marriage all live in Brisbane, typical of the Fiji-Indian diaspora that has drained their country of two generations of talent and human capital.
They have urged her to join them, fearful that her opposition to the dictatorship's attack on human rights would put her in jeopardy, but she has refused to abandon her country.
Unable to find a job after being blacklisted by the military, Ratu Sakiusa opened a cafe in Suva called Hook and Chook. His wife was listed as a director but was not involved in the running of the restaurant. It was through Hook and Chook that Bainimarama attacked Jalal.
In December, Fiji's laughably named Independent Commission Against Corruption brought charges against the couple relating to licensing issues involving the restaurant, matters normally dealt with by the Suva City Council and attracting a fine of $20.
When the charges were first brought before the Magistrates Court, Magistrate Mary Muir questioned why FICAC was prosecuting minor local authority misdemeanours. She was sacked two days later, and FICAC then successfully applied to have the charges moved to the High Court.
Thankfully, the charges against her were thrown out of the High Court by Justice Priyantha Fernando two weeks ago. One remains against her husband, but it too should be scuppered . . . unless Justice Fernando is sacked for being so gallingly impartial.
Although Jalal and Ratu Sakiusa have escaped prison so far, the toll on their finances and emotional health have been enormous.
Their treatment is by no means isolated. Good people all over Fiji are being persecuted.
Going on holiday there while this sort of abuse is happening would be like sitting in a cafe sipping a coffee while a mugger attacked a pregnant woman on the footpath next to you, and you ignored it.-Courier Mail