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Fiji: Samoan PM criticisizes Fiji's government

Bloggers in Fiji and around the Pacific are remarking on recent comments by Samoa’s Prime Minister harshly criticizing Fiji’s military government.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said in an interview with Savali, the Samoan Government newspaper and reprinted in the Fiji Times, that he believed Fiji’s self appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has no intention of relinquishing power. He also called on the people of Fiji to reclaim its government.

The interview makes Sailele Malielegaoi the first member of the Pacific Island Forum outside of New Zealand and Australia to so publicly censure Bainimarama for going back on his commitment made at a 2007 meeting that Fiji would hold an election in March 2009.

Bainimarama, the head of Fiji’s military, staged a coup in December 2006 to root out what he saw as a corrupt government whose agenda included implementing racial preference programs against the Indo-Fijian community that makes up nearly 40 percent of the country’s population. Bainimarama is currently attempting to modify the country’s constitution which grants political rights to certain indigenous Fijian institutions and alter the country’s election law that apportions seats in Parliament based on race.

Member states of the Pacific Island Forum recently gave Fiji a May 1 deadline to schedule elections in 2009 or possibly face suspension. The government has already indicated it will not adhere to outside demands and holding an election in 2009 is logistically impossible. Once Fiji’s political stakeholders agree to electoral reforms, a process that will begin in March, elections officials say an election could be held within 12 to 15 months. (Question: If elections have previously failed Fiji, why the rush to the polls before reforms can be made?)

Bainimarama’s 2006 coup was Fiji’s fourth since 1987. He told soldiers last month changing Fiji’s political culture could take between five to ten years.

As a side note, different bloggers (and commenters) pointed out that this political fracas is not the only thing that binds Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa and Bainimarama of Fiji: Both are alummni of Marist Brothers High School in Suva.

Blogger reactions to the Samoan Prime Minister’s criticisms (and whom better follows the Marist Brothers’ motto of “modest in victory, gracious in defeat”) generally follow partisan lines.

Talking Fiji says the breach in diplomatic etiquette should be noted.

For Samoa, the time for diplomacy is now gone…

In the (usually very guarded) language of diplomacy, Frank was just insulted in the worst possible way by the Samoan PM.

Frank’s intergity as a leader was questioned along with his sanity.

Mr Malielegaoi’s comment in today’s Fiji Times that Frank’s outburst was the result of mental illness brought on by the ”full moon” is comic relief to an otherwise serious diplomatic affair.

It is also intended however to be the final swipe in this exchange (no response required).

Any tit-for-tat response by Frank will only serve to reinforce Mr Malielegaoi’s theory that the full moon is out in Fiji and Frank has indeed succumbed to the lunar cycle.

And it will be Mr Malielegaoi who will have the last laugh.

In the world of international and regional politics, Frank is a novice.

The blog at Solivakasama Worldwide Movement says the people in Fiji can retake their government.

Bloggers, we now have the Prime Minister of Samoa batting for the people of Fiji! Fa’afetai PM Sailele!  PM Tuilaepa Sailele has intentionally breached protocol by attacking Vore and his illegal junta out of concern for the people of Fiji! His statements no longer refers to him as interim PM, but refers to him by name! Vakaloloma ko ketepoka! SWM wishes to remind its bloggers of the saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. Well that is what PM Sailele is – a true friend of Fiji! SWM salutes PM Sailele and asks other PM’s in the South Pacific Forum to publicly condemn the pig, Vore in the same way and stop all this bull shit in ‘clean up campaign.’ People, we need to take control of our destiny as encouraged by PM Sailele and reclaim back what is rightfully ours!!! YES, WE CAN!!! YES WE CAN!!! YES, WE CAN!!!

Crosbie Walsh, who runs the press criticism blog Fiji: The Way It Was, Is and Can Be, wonders if there’s anything more important Fiji's press and the international media could be covering.

Last week the media and the Interim Govenment's opponents squeezed all they could out of the “Teleni Affair.” This week it promises to be the “Tuilaepa Affair” with the SDL [former ruling party] and two anti-Government NGOs leading the charge. Be against the Interim Government by all means, but say what — realistically — you think should be done in the present situation. Perhaps like holding the IG to its commitment to an early meeting of the President's Political Dialogue Forum? Fortunately more helpful views are to be found in [former Minister of Commerce Mahendra] Chaudhry's comments, and in those of the Tongan PM Dr Feleti Sevele.

Surely there are more important things to attend to this week in Fiji than what the Samoan PM thinks of Bainimarama! Or vice versa!

New Zealand journalist David Robie, who blogs at Cafe Pacific, reflects on the future between the Pacific Island Forum and Fiji.

[The interview] 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.

David Farrar, who writes Kiwiblog in New Zealand, questions when Fiji’s regime will commit to a timetable for elections.

I have considerable sympathy for the purported goaals of the Commodore – a non racial constitution, a census, democratic elections. However the problem is he does indeed seem to have no intention of ever holding elections. If he wants sanctions to be lfited, he needs to spell out a time-frame and commit to it.

5 comments

  • Are we to believe that idiocy is at work in the Pacific on the part of the Samoan PM?

    Are we to believe that over a 100yrs of racism and inbred prejudice and ill-feelings to be fixed by an election?

    Are we to believe that rather than asking what a country needs to do to move forward is more important than what a country needs?

    Are we to believe that elections fix everything?

    Are we to focus on having an election more than the healing of a nation?

    If you can view the Beautiful Island of Fiji through clear un-westernized eyes and quick-fix remedies (that only cause harm) than answer the questions above.

    The Watcher, NZ

  • there is only one answer to all three questions. Hold elections and let the people’s elected representatives find the remedies. You don’t do that by grabbing power and ushering in an unelected dictator at the point of a gun. some watcher you are. You watch but don’t see. Tuilaepa is absolutely right.

  • An umbrella response… Another ignorant response to years of problems.

    Months before Bainimarama took over, he gave a speech as to what needed to be done to fix the problems Fiji was facing. No one responded, then when nothing was done he did what he said he would do.

    He said it would take time to fix the problems, and suddenly everyone wanted a date.

    If you have a response then by all means base your comments on historical facts, not hearsay or childish rants of PMs who would rather turn Fiji into an Axis of Evil in the Pacific rather than a friend needing help, especially after the floods.

  • abby

    wat sailele is talking about,democracy in samoa then why samoan are living in NZ.with NZ passport. look at ur own backyard before u point finger at frank, sailele lets not forget there is american samoan and NZ samoan, where is your samoa.

  • I was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I have never held a Fiji passport but I love Fiji as much I love NZ. I class myself as a Pacific Islander, and it grates me to see NZ & Australian politics keeeping the Pacific Islands down in the gutter by using Forums and funding to treat a neighbor as an enemy just because they don’t bow to their demands. I am behind Frank’s decision to not be part of the Commonwealth. Democracy is a joke. Look at America, and what they say is democracy and how they enforce it.
    Read Norm Chomsky’s ‘Hemogeny or Survival’.

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