The Fiji Sun had run a series of articles accusing Fiji’s Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, of tax evasion. The junta’s response was a blatant act of intimidation against a newspaper trying to do its job. It made a mockery of Commodore Bainimarama’s assurances that his Administration would uphold media freedom …
The attempt to tighten control does not stop there. This month, Commodore Bainimarama appointed himself head of the Great Council of Chiefs. This powerful group has sometimes been the voice of reason as Fiji stumbled through a succession of military coups. It can serve that role no longer. In addition, Police Commissioner Esala Teleni has warned Fijians not to speak out against the Administration. All this points to a determination to stifle debate, rather than a broadening of the regime’s tolerance to a wide range of viewpoints, the necessary precursor if a return to democracy is seriously contemplated.
Increasingly, it appears that any concessions Commodore Bainimarama makes are merely a response to aid-related ultimatums, especially from the European Union. There is nothing to suggest that he is genuinely intent on creating a united Fiji or that he is benignly shepherding it back to democracy.
The Commodore I suspect will never give up power.