May 4, 2009

Resistance, not in blood

Filed under: General — fijiuncensored @ 22:16
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A MONTH after Fiji’s President nullified the 1997 Constitution; there has been none of the bloody unrest hypothesised by foreign media; none of the gore expected, even promoted, in the blogosphere.

To inexperienced observers and to a blinkered regime, the lack of any resistance signals support for all that has occurred since December 2006. To Jon Fraenkel, fellow of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, it just shows reluctant acceptance of reality.

“Whereas in Thailand and Madagascar, protestors have rallied to the defence of governments ousted by coups, in Fiji there has been a sullen – if begrudging – acceptance of the 27-month-old military regime, despite its preparedness to tear up the country’s fundamental laws,” he says.

Fraenkel is a regular writer of rebuttals to the views of Bainimarama supporters. He also wrote a piece published on the East Asia Forum website titled Silence after abrogation of Fiji’s 2007 [sic] Constitution. This opinion is based on that article.

In the wake of the April 10 abrogation, former Fiji military Land Forces commander and now visiting research fellow at the ANU, Jone Baledrokadroka warned in an interview on ABC Radio that the day when Fijians would rise up against the military regime was fast approaching.

But the only visible civic opposition was a couple of handfuls of lawyers turning up for protests outside courts in Suva and Lautoka. Since then, not much.

There were rumours of secret meetings here and there, and the arrest of a few nationalists for allegedly distributing pamphlets, but none of the foretold, perhaps even hoped-for resistance.

This lack of popular opposition in the face of coups is not new in Fiji, Fraenkel writes. “In previous coups in 1987 and 2000, the victims were predominantly politicians representing the country’s Fiji Indian population. An indigenous Fijian, Dr Timoci Bavadra led the short-lived 1987 Coalition Government, but its voter-base was mainly amongst the Indians.

“Mahendra Chaudhry’s 1999-2000 Government had some Fijian allies, but most had drifted away by the time of the coup on 19 May, 2000. Few ethnic Fijians mourned the ousting of either government.’’

Fraenkel says the lack of open defiance to those coups by Fiji Indians was often and unconvincingly explained by their small stature, as compared to the burly rugby-playing indigenous Fijians.

“What is now obvious is that ethnic temperament had little to do with quiescence in the face of coups. It has been the military’s monopoly on armed force that discourages the country’s citizens from taking to the streets, and fear of this afflicts the indigenous Fijians as much as it does the Fiji Indian minority.

“In all three of Fiji’s coups, it has been the stance of the military that has been decisive – which is why Sitiveni Rabuka’s coup in 1987 succeeded, why George Speight’s coup in 2000 failed and why Frank Bainimarama is now able to contemptuously toss aside Fiji’s Constitution.

“Ethnic Fijians sit around the yaqona bowls and curse the military commander, wishing upon him a grisly end. They talk of his heart condition, and the demons that allegedly haunt him at night. But they do not act.”

Fraenkel says this unwillingness to act is founded on a tradition of subservience in the face of violent and oppressive overlords. “Chiefs who rule badly are rarely dislodged. Instead, rivals wait patiently for such leaders to die, and then conspire to ensure their sons do not inherit their titles.”

He argues it is likely the 2006 coup, and, we may hasten to add, all that has happened since, will eventually go the way of its predecessors in 1987 and 2000, “none of which have succeeded in establishing a durable and resilient political order based around popular consensus”. – fiji uncensored


Democracy movement calls for passive resistance


THE president of the Sydney-based Fiji Democracry and Freedom Movement Usaia Waqatairewa has called for passive resistance against the country’s military regime.

In an interview conducted via email with Fiji Uncensored, Waqatairewa also said assassination would not be a solution to Fiji’s current crisis.

“Assassination is barbaric,” he said. “Besides, it would be the easy way out for these ursurpers.

“They need to be arrested and then let the law take its course. Anything else would be hypocritical to what we are fighting for, such as the respect for law and order, the due process of the law, democracy and freedom.”

The movement held its first meeting on April 18 where it produced a statement titled the Sydney Declaration for the Restoration of Democracy in Fiji. The declaration condemned the regime’s abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and called on the people of Fiji to support its demand for a return to democracy.

“Since our first meeting, we have had overwhelming support from the Fiji Indian community and our cousins from the other Pacific Island communities such as the Maori, Tongans and Samoans.”

Waqatairewa said the movement was open to anybody, including Australians who had a keen interest in the restoration of democracy in Fiji. “The movement plans to be bipartisan, where we put our differences aside and fight for the common goal, [that] of the restroration of democracy in Fiji, as prescribed under the 1997 Constitution.”

He said while those who attended the first meeting were predominantly indigenous Fijians, representatives of Anglo Australians, Fiji Indians, Rotumans and mixed races originally from Fiji were also present.

“As I mentioned that night, our challenge is to recruit more [especially with the Australian 2006 National Census indicating that there are] 26,800 Fiji-born people living in Sydney alone.”

The movement’s next meeting will be held on May 9 at the Marrickville Town Hall in Sydney. Its inaugural general meeting is scheduled for October 3, one week before Fiji Day.  fiji uncensored

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