January 24, 2012

Samoa Observer: Enigma called Frank Baniamarama

on 09-01-2012 08:14
Savea Sano Malifa

In the Weekend Observer, 7 January 2011, editorial, we wrote: “By today’s end we should know if Fiji’s unpredictable Prime Minister Frank Baniamarama, is a man of his word.”

We were referring to Baniamarama’s announcement made the previous day that the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) - also referred to widely as “Fiji’s martial law” - that he had enforced in April 2009 when he abrogated his country’s constitution, would be lifted the next day, Saturday.

As it happened, PER was lifted as promised, but then in a sinister twist; it was lifted in name only. On the same day, another law named the New Public Order Act 2012, in which most of the regulations in PER have now been incorporated, had become effective.

And the sinister part is that whereas “Public Emergency Regulations” had been “temporary,” the new law, which has since been revealed as the Public Order Act (Amendment Decree) 2012, is “permanent.”
Genius or deceit matters not.

And so in response to the prevailing uncertainty as to whether “Baniamarama is a man of his word,” the headline of the front page story in yesterday’s Sunday Samoan, which says “Baniamarama fools everyone, law takes over,” should erase all doubt.

According to the Fiji Village, the Public Order Amendment Decree 2012 dictates that:
* Any person who is found guilty of committing an act of terrorism is imprisoned for life;
* Any person who harbours or assists in committing an act of terrorism is imprisoned for life.
* Any person who knowingly provides a weapon used in an act of terrorism is imprisoned for life.
* Any person who knowingly takes part in an act of terrorism is imprisoned for life;
* Any police officer with reasonable suspicion that someone is a threat to public safety may arrest that person without warrant and detain him or her;
* No person shall be detained under the powers conferred by subsection (1) for a period exceeding 48 hours except with the authority of the Minister on whose directions such a person may be detained for a further period of 14 days if the Minister is satisfied that the necessary enquiries cannot be completed within 48 hours.
* Any member of the Republic of Fiji Military may perform all or any of the duties and functions of a prisons officer or police officer;
* Such a member of the RFMF shall have all the powers, privileges of a prisons officer and police officer.

Incidentally, no mention is made of the Media Industry Development Decree that previously empowered the censorship of news, punished journalists, prevented foreigners from becoming majority owners of media organizations in Fiji.

All we know is the assurance from Fiji’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, saying there were now “no government censors in the newsrooms …,” during his interview with Simon Lauder of Radio Australia. (Sunday Samoan, 8 January 2012.)

Judging from the new regulations though it seems they are all linked together by the common phobia called fear; it seems that the fear of terrorism posing a threat to personal safety has been the central motive behind these regulations.

According to Bainimarama though, these new regulations “are a modern version of the 1969 Public Order Act,” but then who needs any “version” of a public order if there was uninhibited freedom unshackled by man-made laws?

Perhaps Baniamarama should be told that with freedom, military decrees and dictatorships are irrelevant, worthless.

But then so what? Why should we worry about what’s going on in Fiji when we should be concerned instead about pertinent issues closer to home?

But how can we not worry when we are all sharing the same Pacific Ocean which is sometimes nourishing, other times brutally punishing, and yet in the most challenging of times it is forgiving, reassuring, loving.

The bottom line is clear: the free and peaceful Pacific should allow military dictator Frank Baniamarama to see only that part of its mind it wants him to see.

And the other part? At this point in time it’s forbidden to him. He has to earn the right to see it, even if it means getting someone like him to show him how to do it.

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