The Herald editorial said:
Pointedly, however, Bainimarama has also taken steps to ensure his vision of a democracy featuring equal suffrage for all of Fiji’s racial groups will hold sway.
This year, he disbanded the Great Council of Chiefs, a leadership tradition that dates back more than 130 years. This was to prevent the council being written into the new constitution. Last week’s imprisoning of Laisenia Qarase, the country’s last democratically elected Prime Minister, on nine charges of corruption was also a conveniently-timed damning of the pre-regime government.
Bainimarama has further decreed that the term Fijian applies to all 837,000 people in the archipelago, including the 37 per cent who are Indian.
“We must now look to our commonalities as citizens of the same nation, not to what separates us as individuals or groups,” he has said.
This admirable sentiment, in a country where extra voting power has historically been allotted to ethnic Fijians, does not mean, however, that the draconian nature of Bainimarama’s regime can be overlooked. Or that emergency powers of the sort that effectively suppressed any sign of dissent, can be excused.
There has, , however, been obvious progress in the lifting of some of these powers, public consultation on the new constitution, and preparations for electronic voter registration – enough to encourage the restoring of diplomatic relations and the more flexible, case-by-case implementation of travel sanctions on members of the interim Government and the military regime.
The signs are encouraging, and I am cautiously optimistic. The intention of a non-racial constitution and electoral system I applaud. However I struggle to see a full restoration of democracy, as can Bainimarama risk someone else taking power – who could hold him accountable for his illegal actions?
Time will tell.