|PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM 2010: Fiji continues to be locked out because of the illegal regime.|
By Tupuola Terry Tavita
Samoa's prime minister says the embattled coup-installed military regime in Fiji should not be a focus in next month’s leaders meeting in Auckland.
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was this week asked if there is any chance Fiji could join in powerful regional leaders gathering of the Pacific Island Forum in Auckland next month.
“What for?" asked Tuilaepa. "The regime there is getting worse.”
How is this, he was asked. He replied: “Well, there are reports that Bainimarama is paying himself five different ministerial salaries from the five different ministerial portfolios he’s overseeing. That’s on top of his salary as Prime Minister. The Attorney General is reportedly also doing the same.
“And they are both being paid through an accounting firm owned by the AG’s aunt - from cash paid directly from the different ministries. That system ensures that no one else knows the totality of the fortnightly salaries of the PM and his AG.
"In our democratic system where transparency and accountability prevail, the prime minister or a minister can only draw one salary regardless of that minister’s many responsibilities. All the payments are in black and white.
"There are no grey areas. Elsewhere where good governance policies and best practices iare absent, dictators help themselves to public moneys and feel no urge to go back to democracy.
“He (Bainimarama) and his Attorney General are both into this little scam that’s costing Fijian taxpayers millions of dollars. They’re both looking after themselves. Why then should the Forum allow Fiji back in when the regime there is not demonstrating any genuine effort to return the county to democracy, to good governance principles - in all its forms and manifestations the Forum upholds?”
It has been reported that the University of the South Pacific’s Professor Wadan Narsey – who has presented critical but objective, views of the military regime - has been forced to resign from pressure exerted by the Fiji government, through Vice Chancellor Rajesh Chandra.
Tuilaepa says the reports are a cause for concern. “It is extremely worrying when politics starts to interfere with academic independence. You then start to question the standard of education at USP and the teaching environment there.
"Especially, as USP is collectively-owned by Forum countries and not just Fiji. The irony is that the pressure is coming from an uneducated military dictator who has never studied at a university.”
This week, trade unions in Fiji issued a joint statement asking media outlets in the country to publish and broadcast balanced news item, instead of the one way anti-union pro-regime propaganda that people in Fiji have been receiving.
Tuilaepa says the bias is not unexpected given the fact Fiji has not had an elected government since Laisenia Qarase was removed by Bainimarama in 2006.
“That’s the reality of military dictatorships. There is no freedom of expression, no media independence and any critical views are hushed up, silenced. It’s all shotgun news now in Fiji.”
The planned three-day Methodist annual conference which was supposed to start on Tuesday, has again been cancelled by the military regime with reports some senior church leaders have been pressured to step down from their positions.
Tuilaepa says the situation is a far cry from what has happened in other countries like the Phillipines where people have fought for democracy: “If 200,000 Christian women marched for their freedom as the Filipino women did against their own dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Christian soldiers of the Christian army will just fold their arms and let them through. They will not dare touch their Christian mothers, aunts, nieces, cousins and sisters.”