Frank Bainimarama is already predicting the outcome for the so-called 2014 elections and declaring himself the winner .... when the country hasn't even gone to the polls yet! With the rule of law gone, media gagged and people intimidated from endless decrees, no wonder he can beat his chest two years out from the supposed polls. We note that he also says 'anyone' will be allowed to seek election in his 'latest interview' with Graham Davis. But judging from his recent hostile reaction to 'jealous' Mahendra Chaudry, we suspect he is a long way off from reconciling himself with the most probable candidates to those he personally prefers and will tolerate.
Q: Assuming the election takes place, which you say it will, the big question is what form it will take. Will it be a democracy as Australia and New Zealand understand it? In other words a level playing field where everybody can stand? Or will it be more like an Indonesian style democracy with a high level of military control?
B: To tell you the truth, Graham, I really don’t know at this stage. But I presume that we will continue where we left off.
Q: Who will be able to stand and who won’t be able to stand?
B: Anyone is able to stand.
Q: Even [Former elected prime minister] Laisenia Qarase?
B: Even Laisenia Qarase . . .
Q: . . . The guy you removed?
B: Yeah, even Laisenia Qarase.
Q: I mean you’ve told me once before, no-one will be allowed to stand on behalf of any one race in Fiji. Is that how you envisage it?
B: Yes. It’ll be equal suffrage, one man, one vote. That is definite, that everyone has accepted that. And that is the way we’re going to go.
Q: Are you going to stand for election?
B: Right now I’ve not made up my mind because I want to do the constitution and the election process first.
Q: Are you saying you’re not ruling out standing?
B: I’m not changing.
Q: You’re not saying you’re ruling it out, or are you ruling it in?
B: I’m ruling it in.
Q: You’re ruling it in?
B: Yeah, I might stand. I don’t know.
Q: You’re gonna consider it close to the event . . .
B . . . I will consider it, yeah.
Q: All the indications are that if you did decide to stand you would win. The Lowy poll gave you 66 percent popularity in the country, which would be the envy of Julia Gillard and John Key.
So is it your feeling that if you did stand that you would win?
B: I would win.
Q: No doubt about that?
B: No doubt about that.
Q: Well, why not announce that you’re going to stand?
B: [Laughter] Because I’m …
Q: Why are you delaying that?
B: I guess what I want, I want to concentrate on what I’m doing now. If I, if I start, if I tell people I’m going to stand, the concentration will be diverted to politics and standing for election instead of just continuing what I need to do now and that is bring about a credible constitution and then of course the election.
Q: You’ve also got this multiracial agenda. Everybody is called a Fijian.
Q: How important do you think that’s been for the psychology of the rest of the population in Fiji?
B: It is very important because years past there’s been a division in the races, division in the religion, and we want to bring that together. Not that we want Christians to be Muslims or Muslims to be Hindus, but we want people to accept each other’s religion.
Q: There are very negative things said about you as well. You’ve cracked down on elements of the trade union movement. Why was that necessary?
B: We have no qualms over the trade unions. We have a lot of trade unions here going about doing their own thing in their own way and there’s no interference. What we’re worried about is a group of people who think they have, that they can influence what we do, especially in terms of economy.
Q: They’ve done some damage to you, haven’t they? They’ve got the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for instance, to to suggest to Australian holidaymakers that they not come here.
B: It didn’t make any difference, did it?
Q: You mean people kept coming?
B: Yes, and in bigger numbers than before.
Q: I mean how much of a threat are they under those circumstances to the country? Because some people might suggest that this is economic sabotage.
B: Well it is, and that’s exactly what we tried to do, to remove their hold over our economy. And guess who’s helping them? The Australians and the Kiwis. It says a lot about these two countries.
Q: The other problem area for you in terms of international perception is this notion of religious persecution. Why have you targeted the Methodist Church in the way that you have?
B: I have not targeted the Methodist Church. I’m a member of the Methodist Church.
Q: You stopped them from having their annual conferences and you’ve stopped them from having certain meetings and all of that.
B: We we are on the path of equal suffrage. No race, no creed difference. We want to bring about Fiji for everyone. There are some groups of people who want to take us- continue to take us back.
Q: And that includes some Methodist Church clergymen?
B: And that include some hierarchy.
Q: So there were certain Methodist Church clergymen who were exploiting racial differences?
Q: And you’re not going to tolerate that?
B: That’s not going to be tolerated, not in in the direction that we’re taking now. Nor are we tolerating unionists who go about trying to sabotage our economy.
Q: You’re gonna be tough with these people and and that’s just the way it’s gonna be?
Freedom of expression
Q: There’s still a lot of concern about freedom of expression in Fiji. You lifted censorship but then imposed controls on the media. You’ve brought in a decree that gives you protection from the defamation laws, but nobody else. Can you understand your critics being concerned about this, that it’s free speech for you but not for them?
B: The laws that we put in place is no different from what you have in Australia, from what they have in New Zealand, from what they have in America – no difference. The people who are making a big deal out of this are the same people that we removed because of corruption, because of lack of action, because of inefficiency.
Q: In the case of the the defamation decree though, in Australia you can, you can say whatever you like in the parliament, but in Fiji you’re going to be able to say whatever you like outside the parliament too. Do you think that’s fair?
B: Well for what we, for the next couple of years that that needs to be put in place so we don’t get targeted by some people who are part of the people that are going against the government right now. Now …
Q: So this this is unashamedly to protect you against the forces you removed?
Ratu Tevita Mara
Q: Okay, and this is the first interview you’ve done for about 18 months, and if you’ll excuse me there’s a lot of water under the bridge, so a couple of other points for the record. What caused the falling out between you and your fellow officer, Ratu Tevita Mara, the son of the former Prime Minister, who’s been campaigning against you ever since he fled?
B: We have a vision and a path and we should go down this path to get to where we want to go, which is building a better Fiji. He didn’t actually come on board that path. His was, his was his own agenda.
Q: He wasn’t part of the programme?
Q: What was his agenda.
Q: Okay, so this was a a personality thing, or did he try to organise a coups against you? Or what was it?
B: Well he couldn’t. There is no way anybody can organise a coups against me, because for the simple reason the soldiers of RFMF are tired of people trying to organise coups.
Q: Are you suggesting that Tevita Mara wanted to replace you?
B: No, he’s not good enough to replace me.
Q: Was he organising something?
B: He tried to.
Q: He did try to?
B: He tried to.
Q: What did he try to do?
B: Oh well he tried to organise people, some soldiers and some in the civilian community.
Q: To remove you?
Q: How did you find out about it?
B: Through intelligence.
Q: Can you explain further?
Q: What sort of intelligence?
B: No, because this case is with the police, so I really don’t have much ?
Vision for Fiji
Q: Okay, and finally, you told me a couple of years ago that your vision for Fiji was a country free of race. Do you remember that? A prosperous, multiracial Fiji, not coup coup-land, as some people call it, but the way the world should be again.
Q: How close are you now to achieving that aim?
B: Very close. Very close. As I, as I said, the election is very important to us, election in 2014. But what is more important is the constitution that we’re going to put together. We will leave that as our legacy for our children and our grandchildren. We have said that we are not going to entertain any any interference in in the making of our constitution, and especially, most especially, in the election process. That’s the bit that we’re worried about. We are not going to entertain any interference from any countries.
Q: So it’ll be a clean election?
B: Clean election.
Q: There will be no hanky-panky?
Q: And it will be the will of the people?
B: It will be the will of the people.
Queen of Fiji
Q: You also said to me a couple of years ago you wanted to have the Queen back as Queen of Fiji when democracy was restored . . .
B: . . . Well that was two years ago.
Q: Yeah. Do do you still want that?
B: Well there’s no doubt after the 2014 election the commonwealth nations will accept us back as a member of the commonwealth. And then we’ll have the Queen back.
Q: So the Queen will be Queen of Fiji again after the next election?
B: After the next election. But we have the President.
Q: But you still regard her as Queen, don’t you?
B: Everyone does.
Q: Everyone does?
Q: So she’s Queen of Fiji in your heart?
B: She is still, yeah.
Q: Prime Minister, thank you very much.
B: Thank you, Graham.
Graham Davis interview
Jealous Chaudhry should stay out