With thanks to Raw Fiji News for pointing out this article in The Times (the original one, based in London). Under this illegitimate regime, Fiji makes the international headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Liz Jamieson in Suva – The attacks began a couple of weeks ago. While families slept petrol bombs were thrown through their windows and cars were set on fire. This week an attempt was made to set the offices of a prominent trade unionist on fire while his employees worked inside.
The message was clear to the victims, who include a newspaper editor, a lawyer and a former army colonel: stop speaking out against the regime.
“We are afraid for our lives,” one of the victims, who would not be named, told The Times. ‘My wife and I don’t sleep at night, we are always wondering when the next bomb will come or when they will come for us with their guns. I have been imprisoned and beaten all over my body and face; they told me that the next time they come for me my wife can pick up my body from the morgue.”
This is not Zimbabwe or Burma. This is Fiji, the tourist jewel of the South Pacific and, until recently, the most sophisticated of the island nations in this region.
It is still one of the most popular tourist destinations for Australians, New Zealanders and Britons. Each day tourists are taken by shuttle bus from Nadi airport to their luxury resorts, where they snorkel, swim and play golf, sheltered behind the bougainvillea from the shadows that haunt the people.
Since 2006, when Fiji endured its fourth coup in 20 years, the country has been ruled by a military regime that has suppressed dissent through detention and torture while the coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has refused to hold elections.
A week ago the regime took a step towards total dictatorship. After a ruling by the Appeals Court on April 9 that Mr Bainimarama had been appointed Prime Minister illegally under the 1997 Constitution, the ailing 89-year-old President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, acting after consultation with Mr Bainimarama, revoked the Constitution, sacked the judiciary and reappointed Commodore Bainimarama as premier for a minimum term of five years.
A state of emergency was declared, police were placed in every newspaper and television newsroom to censor stories and a series of draconian decrees were published, including a ban on gatherings of more than three people.
All constitutional office holders, including the Supervisor of Elections, the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, were replaced by people of the regime’s choosing.
In the past week journalists have been jailed along with the President of the Law Society, who organised a protest outside the Supreme Court over the sacking of judges.
All foreign media was ejected and radio transmitters from Australia and New Zealand, which were the only link that Fiji had to news from the outside world, have been shut.
Fiji is isolated and its people are left unprotected and at the hands of its increasingly unpredictable dictator.
“Please don’t call him a dictator,” an adviser to Laisenia Qarase, the former Prime Minister, said. “This man is a terrorist. Everyone is scared; no one knows who will be the next to be taken away.”
Fiji presents an appearance of calm. The streets of the capital Suva are quiet, the people go about their daily lives as normal but there is an atmosphere of foreboding.
Speaking in a whisper behind a closed door while a soldier stalked through the offices of her organisation, a human rights worker said: “They are terrifying people into silence. We are getting stories from the countryside that they are going into the villages with guns and marching the youths away at gunpoint but no one can do anything.
“The ordinary people now have no recourse to justice. There are no courts, they have no voice. Everyone feels completely helpless.”
Asked if she was scared, she said: “Not for me. But I have got a phone call reminding me they know where my daughter goes to school.”
Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, the Vice-President for the Government of Mr Qarase, said: “Once the Prime Minister gets something into his mind, no amount of sane advice will move him. This regime has no integrity or good faith but they now have total power.”
When Mr Bainimarama came into power in 2006 he seemed to be a force for good but support for an uprising even among the educated elite is growing.
“No one knows what will happen next,” said Graham Leung, a former Law Society president. “Don’t assume that because the Fijians are quiet on the surface they are celebrating, because they are not.
“We are dealing with a situation that is dynamic and resistant and may evolve into something that is violent.”
He added: “We can’t expect outside help. Democracy will have to be fought for and won here.”
A source with close links to former senior officers, said: “Senior members of the military have made it clear that enough is enough. They think this time he’s gone too far.”
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God bless Fiji