Monday, February 23, 2009

Tuilaepa's Fiji salvo unleashes the newshounds







"AN EXTRAORDINARY verbal attack on a neighbour," says Fijilive. While it is recycling a Michael Field take on Stuff.com over a widely circulated article by Savali editor Tupuola Terry Tavita, it is all fairly remarkable non "Pacific Way" stuff. It also signals a hardening of polarised positions against Fiji's Voreqe Bainimarama and increasing regional frustration. According to the Savali interview, Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has slated the military leader for "lying to the Forum" and his "intention of never relinquishing power and returning Fiji to democratic government".

In his breach of diplomacy interview, Tuilaepa says on Australian and NZ travel bans on those linked to the regime:
Only Bainimarama and his guns control the road to democracy in Fiji. Only Bainimarama controls Fiji's return to democratic rule, not the travel bans.
On his "backpay" of F$200,000 in arrears:
That's public money. And yet he has been telling everybody that he needs to clean up Fiji.
On aid funding for Fiji:
The last time I looked, neither the United Nations nor the Commonwealth have a fund to prop up unelected dictators and coup-installed military regimes. Because that's exactly where any air money will go in Fiji - to propping up Bainimarama and his cronies' military junta, not the common people who need it the most.
About putting military personnel in plum civilian government posts:
That's what madmen who appoint themselves to office do. They appoint other madmen to positions of power.
On the gagging of the media and suppression of "dissenting voices":
It's a sign of inexperience. A sign of weakness. Every good government needs alternative views to discern its policies. Those actions are reminiscent of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler. Well, where are they now? And how are they remembered?
On the need for the military - the South Pacific's largest force:
Perhaps Bainimarama fears a combined canoe attack from Tuvalu and Kiribati, its closest neighbours. That must be it.
Croz Walsh's critical and informed Fiji blog responded to the "inflammatory" Savali interview by touching on Pacific hypocrisy. He pointed out the Samoan leader's own criticised role in eroding customary land tenure and other highly questionable policies in recent years.

In New Zealand, Gerald McGhie, a former diplomat who now chairs the local branch of the global anti-corruption agency Transparency International, is the latest commentator who has publicly criticised NZ policies over Fiji. Writing in the Listener in an article entitled "Fiji's Gordian knot", he warns "strident" NZ against blind faith in elections.
Elections have so far failed to untangle the complex colonial legacy Fiji inherited, and our sometimes strident attitude is not helping the country reach a solution.
What Fiji TV viewers didn't see: The recent Media7 programme on Fiji - but minus the crucial "missed Fiji news" item at the beginning - was rebroadcast on ABC's On the Mat programme on Friday and on Fiji Television's Close Up last night.
While both programmes featured the debate with David Robie, Barbara Dreaver and Robert Khan, a significant contextual component was denied viewers. Exactly the sort of problem with partisan media raised by Media7 in the first place. The missing clip can be viewed here.

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