March 12, 2013

Former Fiji opposition leader sceptical of video investigation

Updated 8 March 2013, 18:57 AEST
Fiji's last opposition leader is sceptical of an announcement that the torture video showing security personnel beating two men will be investigated internally.

The coup-installed military government has rejected international calls for an independent investigation by external organisations.

Mick Beddoes was the leader of the United Peoples Party until it was disbanded last month when it couldn't meet the conditions of a decree governing political parties.

He says the interim government will, in effect, be investigating its own employees, and he has little confidence it will see those responsible punished.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Fiji's last opposition leader, Mick Beddoes

BEDDOES: People are horrified and shocked by what they've seen. Most of us, many generations here who've grown up in this place and they have great difficulty linking the kind of brutality and the barbaric and repulsive acts that were shown on the video with the way in which we as a community function on a normal basis. People can't come to terms with the fact that this kind of thing is actually occurring here in Fiji.

HILL: The interim government has announced that there'll be an internal investigation into this and they've specifically rejected calls for any external involvement in this..

BEDDOES: Well, of course they would reject any external investigation into this, but as far as whether or not their internal investigation has any credibility I have my great doubts, because based on their actions to date, it is obvious the persons involved work for the regime in one position or another. They're members of the regime, so to investigate their own people for wrongdoing which I note there has not been any condemnation from those in authority about this act. So for them to expect that the people would be satisfied with their own internal investigation and not have it open and make it public so that the people can be satisfied that a proper and thorough investigation bring those involved to account can be undertaken. I'm afraid as it stands, of course, they're going to conduct their own investigation and most people don't believe or don't expect anything to come of it.

HILL: The New Zealand Parliament is going to vote next week on a motion brought by former foreign minister, Phil Goff, of the Labour Party, which he expects to pass - he says unanimously - condemning this and calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. Do you think that this is something which is useful or do you think that the Fijian interim government could simply turn around and say, look, these are other countries trying to interfere in our internal affairs and we can take care of this problem ourselves?

BEDDOES: Well, I have no doubt that they will view it as interference, but at the same time, New Zealand and Australia, in particular, are two very important neighbours of Fiji with whom Fiji has a long established relations. And it is I think important for those people in Fiji who oppose the regime and who do not condone or support what is going on, it is important for them to see that our neighbours are going to start taking this type of action, by having a parliamentary debate on the level of cruelty, because there have been multiple cases of this and we, those of us who have more frequently engaged with representatives from New Zealand and Australia and others [in the] international community, we have been explaining and passing information in our discussions and highlighting some of the things that are we find that are wrong. And I'm sad to say, on the other hand, that it appears to have taken this dreadful, shameful act to prompt this kind of a move from New Zealand and hopefully soon to follow Australia. But having said that, I'm glad to know that there is going to be such a discussion in the New Zealand Parliament and I look forward to the outcome and the unanimous condemnation by New Zealand and Australia and by all other civilised societies about what has happened.

HILL: The two New Zealand members of parliament, in fact former foreign ministers that spoke to us on our program yesterday, Phil Goff and Winston Peters, they both used extremely strong language and I think the word "unacceptable" were used several times and "uncivilised" as well. These are very strong words to use about a neighbouring country..

BEDDOES: I fully endorse what they say, because what we have all witnessed on the video is the most dreadful and most cruel and inhumane acts that you could possibly imagine, certainly in this part of our world. And therefore, one can't really refer to this in any language than the strongest possible condemnation is what is required to describe it. You couldn't possibly describe it without getting upset and angry about what one sees.

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