September 03, 2012

Samoan PM scolds Bainimarama over media, immunity decrees

21:23 April 10, 2010

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi ... more 'friendly advice' for Fiji's regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama. Photo: Savali
Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Tupuola Terry Tavita
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is not surprised with the recent turn of events in Fiji.
He describes as “astoundingly predictable” the attempt by the Fiji military regime to curb media freedom by decree and give itself immunity – also by decree.
“It comes straight out of the I-want-to-be-a-dictator rulebook. First you silence your critics, you then appoint your yes-men to positions of power then you issue outlandish decrees to, well, save your skin.” He laughs.
“The two decrees sum add up to political, legal and criticism immunity. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his next decree is to change the Fiji national anthem. Instead of God Bless will be God Bless Bani… For Bani instead of For Fiji… the all-knowing, the all-enlightening God-sent Bani… all hail Bani!” He breaks out laughing.
“But seriously, they may come in many faces, but dictators are all the same. Bani is no different. He’s digging in now like they all do when they come into power. The two decrees are just the latest in a long string of events to gain absolute, unchallenged and unfettered power.
“We’ve seen it with the abrogation of the constitution, the disbanding of Parliament, the takeover of Police, the sacking of the judiciary, the dismissing of the council of chiefs and even the bullying and sidelining of the Methodist Church. Now with the silencing of critics and the declaration of legal immunity, it’s all very predictable. The regime is digging in for the long haul.
“He (Bainimarama) has entrenched the public service with the military, appointing his army top brass to heads of government ministries and corporations. I wouldn’t be surprised if come 2014 he declares there’s no need for elections as his CEO colonels have become ‘experienced’.”
‘Advice, not criticism’
The Prime Minister has been outspoken on the deteriorating situation in Fiji in recent times.
“It’s not really criticism… its advice. It’s like watching somebody trying to jump over a cliff. So I’m actually consoling my friend Bani. Trying to help him, pointing him out the error of his ways.”
Decrees, the Prime Minister said, is the vice of dictators.
“The laws of the land should come from acts of Parliament. But too bad Bani has scrapped Fiji’s representative Parliament. Only the Mugabes, the Hitlers and the Mussolinis of this world issue decrees. If anything, the decrees are an admission of guilt. They can’t face the consequences of what they’ve done to their country. Can’t face the music. Can’t justify their sins and misdeeds. So they cloak themselves in immunity decrees.”
The Prime Minister – who says he has had a lot of Fijian friends through the years – is concerned with the Fijian people’s welfare.
“Fijians are happy people. Happy-go-lucky people like us Samoans. But then, as the children’s verse goes, along comes Bani the spider and bites it in the…[laughs]. They’re not happy people anymore. Caught in the spider’s fly trap… er, I mean web.”
The media decree – the Prime Minister said – was particularly ironic.
‘Give media freedom’
“You know they (regime) see they came to power to address presumed corruption in government. If anything, they should then strengthen the media. Give them the freedom to do their work. Not try to strangle it to death.
“Besides, what compelling reason, what extenuating circumstances have arisen to bring about the need for a media decree in Fiji? Well, other than to stem criticism of the illegal junta there.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa and Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni were recipients of the Journalists Association of (Western) Samoa Media Freedom and Good Governance awards in 2004.
“All democratic governments that want to tackle institutional corruption need a free, strong and  robust media.”
Tuilaepa believes Fiji can hold free and fair elections next month if Commodore Bainimarama wanted it to.
“It’s the only way he can respectably bow out of the predicament he’s got himself into … give the country back to the people.
“Besides elections are fun, very liberating,” said the Prime Minister, who has won his Lepa seat consecutively since 1982.
Political wit
“Democratic politics is a lot of fun. Where you can engage in political wit with your political opponents in the morning and still enjoy a round of golf with them after work.
“At the same time, the people exercise their right to vote, their right to support and of course, their right to dissent. In fact, if it wasn’t for elections and democracy, I’d be really bored.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa added: “Good governments need good oppositions to tell them what to. And good governments do what good oppositions tell them what to do – so they can remain government and the opposition remains the opposition. Forever.”
He laughs.
Tupuola Terry Tavita is editor of the Samoan government newspaper Savali.

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