Fiji freedom of speech

January 1st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Two alarming things in . First:

A Fiji democracy advocate who posted on Facebook that “living in a military dictatorship sucks” was raided before dawn today by police demanding he delete his public postings.

Pita Waqavonovono told Stuff that three uniformed police officers visited him at his home at 4am and told him to take down his anti-regime Facebook messages.

The regime seems focused on suppressing dissent, rather than making progress towards democracy.  Even worse is this Radio NZ report:

Constitution Commission chairperson, Yash Ghai, who was appointed by the interim government, was reportedly abused by the police as he tried to intervene at the printing shop the week before last.

A senior military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, told the Fiji Times they stopped the printing of the 600 copies because the documents’ distribution by the Constitution Commission is illegal.

However, a commission member, Peni Moore, has confirmed that the draft document will be released on its website within the next few days, after earlier versions were distributed via the internet.

So why is the regime trying to suppress the proposed draft constitution? Because it doesn’t keep the military as the unelected overlords of Fiji.

Radio Australia has fuller details of the Police action.

Stuff reported:

The new constitution’s explanatory notes said it ”emphasises that the military does not have any role as a guardian of the constitution or conscience of the nation”.

It said the military’s role was to protect the country ”from external threats” and was under civilian control through the elected parliament.

The post of president will no longer be termed ”commander in chief” and security force members must not obey manifestly illegal orders.

”But it is of particular relevance to the military, especially in a country with a record of coups,” the notes said.

A manifestly illegal order ”includes carrying out a coup”.

The new constitution also said there would be no justification for a coup and warned no immunity would be granted for any coup.

But it contains a continued immunity for Rabuka and now Bainimarama, both of whom could face treason charges under previous constitutions.

Immunity would only apply to people who take an oath which says that they accept the sovereignty of the people.

This is how it should be, and must be. I agree with the immunity for past actions – however the coup culture must come to an end. It is a basic human right for people to be able to elect and sack a Government.

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9 Responses to “Fiji freedom of speech”

  1. mikenmild (10,618 comments) says:

    I am sure that the Fijian government will take note of DPF’s demand that the ‘coup culture’ must end.

    [DPF: Don't be a fuckwit and troll. I made no demands. I expressed a view. That is what you do on a blog.]

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  2. nasska (10,622 comments) says:

    Raw power is heady stuff. The commander & his army will be in no hurry to end their reign so watch for a few more manufactured reasons why they have to continue running the country.

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  3. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    mikenmild – saying nothing will achieve nothing. Perhaps the online world can pick up on this and promote the freedom of online speech in Fiji. It may or may not make any immediate difference, but doing nothing and saying nothing is tacit acceptance of something that is reprehensible.

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  4. gump (1,474 comments) says:

    Whale oil will be along soon to explain why we’re all wrong and Fiji is right to be suppressing political dissidents.

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  5. mikenmild (10,618 comments) says:

    Sure thing nasska. Once the military has seized control in a nation it is hard for the soldiers to return power to civilians. The commodore and his clique will be in power for a long time one way or another. The only question about the new constitution (when it finally emerges) is whether it will cloak their ongoing influence in soothing words or announce it openly.

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  6. calendar girl (1,172 comments) says:

    “It is a basic human right for people to be able to elect and sack a Government.” Really? That generalised comment is easy to make from within the confines of a relatively well-ordered democracy, but it seems to fly in the face of world history.

    If you mean “It ought to be a basic human right for people …..”, then that is a view that I can share. But the “basic human right” concept – to have any efficacy and permanency in Fiji – must become enshrined and nourished within a strong constitutional environment that balances the powers of executive, legislature and judiciary while subjugating unequivocally the domestic role of the military. Until and unless such a framework comes about in Fiji, and settles down and is accepted over time as the normal state of affairs there, we can expect to see further excesses and idiosyncratic behaviour from the Fijian “authorities”.

    Personally, I remain relatively optimistic that Fiji will get there over time. But it won’t happen at a given point in time when “the Constitution” is passed into law and everyone takes part in a big public celebration. After more than 25 years since Rabuka’s military coups, the intended constitutional framework will have to go through (and survive) years of normal stress-testing, perhaps for a generation or two, before it will gain the necessary respect and support of the Fijian people.

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  7. tvb (4,196 comments) says:

    The previous constitution was over specific and inflexible. It needs to be general and allow flexibility. They could do worse and model it on our arrangements with it setting up the key institutions and specifying the constitutional role of the armed forces. I do not think the military will give up their power. They will provide for some sort of supervisory role. That is we will step in if we do not like something. And of course immunity for everyone connected with the regime.

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  8. mikenmild (10,618 comments) says:

    The constitution probably needs to recognise that the military rulers of Fiji will not be giving up their role any time soon.

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  9. backster (2,074 comments) says:

    The differences may be resolved by amending the draft to allow for the office of Prime Minister and that of Commander in Chief to be electable. The Commander in Chief could then stand for Prime Minister and President Bananarama for Commander in Chief. At the end of the term Bananarama could stand for Prime Minister and the Prime Minister could stand for Commander in Chief. A similar system works currently well in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Russia.

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