February 22, 2013

Political Report: Fiji's crusade back to democracy

By: Barry Soper |
Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:00 AM

Some countries have been the envy of our politicians, not for their wealth, their climate or for their proximity to the rest of the world. Although at times on the last measure you could understand their envy.

Their envy is the ease with which their Governments are re-elected. On a trip to Singapore in the 90s, out then leader Big Jen Shipley marvelled at the pristine Asian country and at how the Government there was able to control the media. In Singapore, and some other Asian countries, journalists attending their leaders' press conferences were expected to stand and applause.

Of course dissent wasn't part of the media makeup, it simply wasn't tolerated.

And just three hours away from God's Own that's now the case in what was once known as the Pacific paradise, Fiji. That country's gearing up for their first election in more than six years but it's shaping up to be something of a dry argument.

Fiji's self imposed Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bananadrama seems to be ensuring he'll be back in the job after they go to the polls next year. He rules the tiny nation by decree which you have to do in the absence of a Parliament. It's all power to the unelected and that's the way they seem to be designing their return to so called democracy.

Of the 17 political parties in Fiji they've allowed the registration of just three but no one would know. Talk of opposition political parties if they're banned is forbidden, to mention one risks a hefty fine and five years in the slammer, and that's applied to the media and everyone else.

It would make campaigning a little difficult but then if they're banned they're not going to be on the ballot paper anyway.

They're also deciding who can stand as candidates with trade unionists and employer representatives on the outer.

We've recently thrown money at Fiji to encourage them to return the country to democracy but it seems the money's being spent on printing military decrees instead.

Diplomacy's a delicate tip toeing exercise when it comes to our Foreign Minister Muzza McCully. He says we're watching developments in Fiji, acknowledging it's been a saga of some steps forward and some backwards.

Trouble is, the military jackboots are making those steps!

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