September 14, 2011

Radio Australia: NZ Law Society head says Fiji drifting to totalitarianism

Updated September 13, 2011 16:43:41

The New Zetland Law Society says the political situation in Fiji is so serious that would be tourists should seriously consider the implications before taking holidays there.

The society's President, Jonathan Temm, says the recent crackdown on the Methodist Church, and revelations about people being prosecuted for political reasons by the coup installed military government are profoundly disturbing.

He describes Fiji as drifting towards totalitarian government.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Jonathan Temm, President of the New Zealand Law Society
Listen here.

TEMM: Oh I think there's a grain of truth to what's been said, in fact there's more than a grain, there's a real ring of truth to the various information because it's coming from so many different quarters now. The reality is that the New Zealand Law Society is concerned about the path that the military regime is taking, it seems to be heading away from a democratic process and the path towards that, and heading in quite the opposite direction.

HILL: Well what if anything could the New Zealand Law Society do about this? This is happening or is alleged to be happening in Fiji, a completely separate jurisdiction?

TEMM: Well that's right, there's little that in reality the New Zealand Law Society can do, although we need to publicise the fact we have these concerns to draw to the attention of our own government and our own New Zealand public and point out to New Zealanders who are going to travel to Fiji that many of the rights and freedoms they enjoy in New Zealand no longer apply in that country, and when they travel there they need to be aware of it.

HILL: If you did that and this had some effect and people stopped going to Fiji, might not that negatively impact on Fiji's economy and cost the jobs of quite innocent Fijians involved in the tourism industry?

TEMM: It may well do, but let's be candid Bruce since 2006 Fijian tourism and indeed the economy in that country's been severely affected and it continues to be affected now. Part of that effect is people not travelling, part of it's the world global financial crisis and the consequences of that. So there's already been a consequence. But I suppose taking a philosophical position and a principled one, the quality of life for indigenous Fijians is already affected, it's affected significantly and they on the ground there know that. So whether you paper over those cracks and pretend it's not happening and try and achieve the least impact to them, the reality is they're already suffering significantly. As you know you can't assemble in Fiji without permits, there are a lot of emergency rules apply and the decrees, and they're all run by a very small cabal of people. This organisation now, this military regime really has all the attachments of a totalitarian state, a small cabal of unelected people are dictating to the entire population of Fiji what they can and can't do, including rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and so the people in Fiji are already suffering hugely, and it's probably the responsibility of the other Pacific countries to bring this to an end sooner rather than allow it to drift on endlessly.

HILL: If something like this is going on inside another country's legal system, is there anything that other countries can really do about it though?

TEMM: Well you're really asking then for some intervention on the international stage, there's foreign affairs departments, foreign affairs ministers and so forth who have that role. But this is a breach of UN conventions on political and civil rights for people in relation to what's happening to the Methodist Church, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of religion. There are steps that can be taken but at a practical level Bruce those things are much likely to be done more in review when this regime comes inevitably to the end that it will. The reality of human history, and if you look at any event that you want, is that this regime will run its course, it will come to an end in one way or another. The people who are responsible for these decisions will later be held to account, and the important thing to do now is to keep a documentary record of the conduct of these people, and that's certainly occurring.

HILL: What about the role of Australian and New Zealand legal practitioners who are in Fiji acting as lawyers and also officials for the government?

TEMM: Well I'm not aware of so many, my understanding is that predominantly Sri Lankans have been imported into Fiji, although I believe the position in Fiji has been misrepresented to them and on arrival in Fiji they find out the position is different from what they expected, and that's why you're now getting a sudden drift away from Fiji for those people who arrive. I'm not aware of a great deal of New Zealanders and Australians who are practising there, but I do notice that even Fijians themselves do want outside lawyers to come in because it's only then do people arrive with their own sense of what is the rule of law, what is fair and just in a justice system, and then when they see it not operating they protest about it and the Fijian military regime is forced to terminate those people and send them away. Now if you have that constant sort of cycle going on then there's just more and more record building of the abuses by the regime in Fiji. So it's a betwixt and between, if you go to Fiji it'll usually be misrepresented to you as to what you're going to find, and when you get there it's vastly different from what you would expect from a normal, proper justice system, and then you keep a record and a path, that's a matter for the individuals to decide what they want to do. But I do notice indigenous Fijians and some of the human rights activists in that country are now living abroad do want people to continue to go to Fiji and to see for themselves just what exactly is going on there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What did they just work it out ? 6 years have passed by