|Handshakes and deals|
The regime might want to consider the obvious before it continues to garland itself in self-praise: Why of all the countries in the world, did BBC Panorama and the Telegraph use Fiji as its bait?
Could it be that there is more than just a whiff of corruption and a lack of truth emerging from the Frank Bainimarama administration, despite what its spin doctors churn out?
In the seven years since seizing power he has avoided holding elections, sanctioned the abuse of human rights, killed off political parties and rejected a Constitution for one of his own making.
Into this backdrop comes the British Panorama and The Telegraph sting: reporters posing as lobbyists to get the Newark MP, Patrick Mercer, to take cash in return for lobbying on behalf of businesses trying to get the Commonwealth suspension lifted.
Mercer subsequently tabled five parliamentary questions about Fiji, proposed an Early Day Motion saying there was "no justification for Fiji's continued suspension from the Commonwealth", agreed to help establish an all-party group on Fiji and parlimentary pass for the bogus client.
The fictitious website hatched by BBC Panorama and The Telegraph, Alistair Andrews Communications, is clearly amateur but not too far from the reality of the regime's heavy dependence on its American spin doctors, Qorvis, and roaming diplomat Peter Thomson.
Add the regime's Look North policy and its relationship with Russia and China and one can see why the two British media teams zoomed in on Fiji for the sting.
The regime has no cause to accuse Britain of being 'coloured by the patronising attitudes of the past' and to skite about its 'modern progressive state' because it looks as bad as Mercer.
The scandal that has erupted around the allegations that Conservative MP Patrick Mercer was paid to ask Parliamentary Questions and put down an Early Day Motion – as well as set up an All Party Parliamentary Group – has focused on the issue of Parliamentary rules. But there’s a bigger question which Patrick Mercer needs to answer: what did he think he was doing giving succour to Fiji’s military dictatorship in the first place?
Fiji’s continuing suspension from the Commonwealth (as well as from the Pacific Islands Forum) was at the heart of the questions he asked and the Early Day Motion he tabled. As regular readers of Stronger Unions will know, Fiji’s military dictatorship is in trouble with the UN and its workplace rights arm, the International Labour Organisation, whose mission to Fiji was expelled last year, leading to condemnation from the International Organisation of Employers as well as the International Trade Union Confederation. The European Union has suspended most of its aid payments, and both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the regime for past misdemeanours and its planned constitution.
Trade unionists have put Fiji on the list of the worst offending regimes in the world over workers’ rights for several years in a row, and the nearby Australian and New Zealand trade union movements have urged holiday-makers on the so-called Pacific Paradise to think again. The USA is investigating breaches of workers’ rights in the context of a review of its trade preference regime, and the TUC has worked closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to secure condemnations of the attacks on trade unionists in Fiji.
So, whether money changed hands or not, Patrick Mercer is on record as supporting one of the worst regimes on the planet, a government that locks up and beats its opponents whether they are trade unionists or Methodists, and one that has propelled the country’s people into poverty by destroying its economy. He should resign for that alone.
The TUC will be contacting the four MPs – three of them Labour – who signed Patrick Mercer’s Early Day Motion urging them to withdraw their signatures forthwith, and make public their opposition to the regime in Fiji.