Fiji democracy activists disagree over Ratu Tevita Mara
Updated June 20, 2011 16:52:13
Overseas Fijians who want democracy restored to the country are split over whether they should cooperate with former senior Fiji army officer, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara.
The disagreement over whether to cooperate with Ratu Tevita is shown clearly in an exchange of e-mails between Nick Naidu, the Auckland based leader of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, and Stuart Huggett, the former Chairman of the Fiji Public Service Commission.
Mr Naidu opposes Ratu Tevita's involvement in the pro-democracy movement, and said so last week. But Mr Huggett wrote separately to the New Zealand government disagreeing with this and saying that many expatriate Fiji citizens believe the former senior military figure is someone who they could and should work alongside.
Nick Naidu isn't happy at Mr Huggett breaking ranks, but he says that at least this shows that in a democratic system people can have disagreements and differences in the open, but still work together.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Nick Naidu, the Auckland based leader of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji; Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka, former senior Fiji military officer
HILL: The disagreement over whether to cooperate with Ratu Tevita is shown clearly in an exchange of emails that Nick Naidu, the Auckland based leader of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji and Stuart Huggett, the former chairman of the Fiji Public Servants Commission. Mr Naidu opposed Ratu Tevita's involvement in the pro-democracy movement and said so last week, but Mr Huggett wrote separately to the New Zealand government disagreeing with this and saying that many expatriot Fiji citizens believe the former senior military figure is someone they could and should work alongside. Nick Naidu isn't happy with Mr Huggett breaking ranks, but he says at least this shows in a democratic system, people can have disagreements and differences and still work together.
NAIDU: I think it is a storm in a teacup really, it's a minor issue, we're talking about one person's entry to New Zealand and a matter of principle that the Coalition for Democracy is disagreeing on. Individuals have a different view and those views are welcome, that's part of what democracy is about, about having open discussions and debates. It's just one minor thing. We all have the same goals and ideals. Ninety nine per cent of what we all want is the same. We want a better Fiji, a freer Fiji, a more inclusive and democratic Fiji, so this is really almost a non-issue.
HILL: Does it mean that the movement is splintered?
NAIDU: Oh, far from it. I mean the movement always had and like any other group when you bring in people from different backgrounds and different ideological points of view, you'll always have differing opinions and the thing is we all have common goals and ideas and we should learn to and I think we do agree to disagree on some issues, but let's work on the commonality and let's move forward.
HILL: Well, your group the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji came out very strongly last week and said no, the New Zealand government shouldn't actually deal with Ratu Tevita. He's got a lot to answer for in his role in the coup, but then one of your members, Stuart Huggett, the former head of the PSC, the Public Service Commission of Fiji wrote separately to the New Zealand government saying Naidu doesn't speak for most of us, a lot of us actually say we should cooperate. That's not a good look for the movement, is it?
NAIDU: I think this is where you have to have unity amongst ourselves. I think he's a lone voice in this agreement from 20 committee members. We always have debates. We had a nice meeting on Thursday amongst those who attended. Some didn't agree with the position, but they agreed to disagree. They respected the majority decision, which is what democracy is about. We can't have it all our own way. Both sides of the argument have been heard, but ours is a stand on principle, on the principle that he is responsible for a lot of torture and human rights abuses and on that basis, I think it's too early to engage with him. We need to see whether he's really genuine and to put a person like that on a pedastal and make him the voice is ironical. The human rights abuser is the voice for human rights organisations, which is what we are. We cannot accept that. It's unacceptable, always will be in our case.
HILL: In Australia, another former senior Fiji military man, Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka who is based at the Australian National University in Canberra, has been working closely with Ratu Tevita during his recent visit. He says despite the disagreement between Nick Naidu and Stuart Huggett over whether the Fiji pro-democracy movements in Australia and New Zealand should cooperate with the former number three figure in the Fiji military forces, he's confident everyone is still keen to work together.
BALEDROKADROKA: I have sort of been in contact with these two gentlemen by email and I think it is healthy sign that the issue on Tevita Mara has generated quite a bit of interest in Australia and New Zealand. As for the Fiji Democracy Movement here in Australia, we think that it is of utmost interest that Tevita Mara be brought over to give his view point, give his take on the political situation in Fiji and then let us the Fijian community here to inform judgement as to what he has to say for himself.
HILL: If this open debate about the wisdom of cooperation with Ratu Tevita in the overseas Fijian Pro-Democracy Movement in Australia and New Zealand, do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing for that movement, which your part of?
BALEDROKADROKA: It is a good thing. This is an open democracy, Australia. I mean cutting Tevita Mara out, sending him to purgatory so to speak will not solve the problem in Fiji. My career was destroyed by the regime. I was thrown in jail by the regime. I am prepared to listen to Tevita. So if I am prepared to listen to Tevita then I think everyone else in Australia should be giving him the benefit of the doubt.
HILL: Could it not be said to be damaging to the pro-Fiji Democracy Movement to have this disagreement?
BALEDROKADROKA: I don't think so, I don't think so. I think its healthy, it's only healthy that there's opposition, there's opposite views in the public realm. The people the informed decision. Trying to isolate such a person will not solve or bring democracy back to Fiji,
HILL: You say you've been in contact with Nick Naidu on one side of the argument and Stuart Huggett on the other. Do you think you've been able to bring them together or do you think that this incident might perhaps to some extent might split the movement?
BALEDROKADROKA: No, I think this is all part of the healthy debate in society. People have their views and so I think make these views is shared by a cross section of society and so does Stuart, but the great thing is that in a free democratic country you are able to hear these sort of views. In Fiji, you cannot actually hear such views.
June 21, 2011
Disunity erupts among Fiji Democracy activists
This latest media report from Radio Australia, points to the heart of all the valid, noble, but haphazard attempts to return Fiji to democracy by our people abroad.
Heads Up Democracy Fighters: The heartland for where democracy must be fought is here on our shores and the conversations need to be had in Fiji, with the people of Fiji. And as you are all well aware there remains a myriad of hurdles to be crossed. Turf wars are unnecessary, a waste of energy and extremely fragmentatious (not to mention valuable fodder striking at your credibility for the illegal and treasonous military regime).
Get it together and keep it together, for all our sakes.