Now Fiji is deporting a priest

Michael Field at Stuff reports:

’s military regime says it is deporting a Catholic priest who had been the subject of abusive text messages and phone calls by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama.

So what did he do to get deported?

Barr, who has lived in Fiji for 32 years, was long seen as a Bainimarama supporter but earlier this month he was subjected to a torrent of abuse after he suggested the Chinese flag could replace the Union Jack on Fiji’s planned new flag.

So let’s be clear on this. He has lived there for 32 years, and has actually been a supporter of the Commodore. His crime was to write a letter to the editor that joked about putting the Chinese emblem on Fiji’s flag (as the Commodore has taken so much money from the Chinese). That is not a deportable offence in Fiji!

But after he made the Chinese crack in a letter to the Fiji Sun, he got a phone call from Bainimarama himself.

“Then in a very angry voice he said that I should apologise to the people of Fiji for my letter concerning the Fijian flag in the newspaper,” Barr said in a letter he wrote privately to the Australian High Commission but which has been leaked in blogs.

Barr confirmed to Fairfax Media it was his letter.

“(Bainimarama) then called me ‘a f***** up priest’ and said I had become anti-government,” Barr said.

He repeated the phrase again and threw in a few swear words and told him to go back to where he came from.

“His tone was angry and really over the top.”

Minutes later he got a text message from Bainimarama: “I think you owe the people of Fiji an apology for your childish comments. You give all Catholic priests a bad name.”

Barr said he replied that he was not anti-government but disappointed at some developments.

He then got a reply from Bainimarama: “F*** U a***hole. Stay well away from me.”

Shortly later he got another text telling him to “start saying your goodbyes” and pointing out his work permit expired at the end of the year: “Go and be a missionary in China”.

If that is how the Commodore reacts to a semi-satirical letter to the editor, do you think there is any chance he will hand over power? Sure there will be elections, but will they be free or fair? Or will anyone who criticises him be deported?

Coup 4.5 has further details of the exchange:

There was yet another text message just as he was going to lunch which said: “Fuck U arsehole. Stay well away from me.” I texted back: “Thank you Sir for the nice words. If you want me to apologise I will do as you wish.”

“As I was having lunch another text arrived: “Start saying your goodbyes Father Kevin James Barr, Australian national, work permit as a missionary, expiry date for permit 31/12/2013.” 

“I did not reply. Then came the final text: “Go and be a missionary in China”.

The Commodore seems rather unstable. Father Barr is 76 and spent almost half his life in Fiji. But an enemy of the state for simply writing a letter to a newspaper. Anyone who claims to support freedom of speech should be dismayed by this development.