Former Opposition Leader Beddoes’ response to Sitiveni Rabuka’s claims
that his recent opinion piece
was responsible for Rabuka’s difficulties with SODELPA
The ‘Opinion’ article I released recently was about the ‘rule of law’. It also specifically refers to what I consider to be the ‘selective’ application of the law with regard to our two democratically elected Prime Ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry. I compare their circumstances with that of the three usurpers of our democracy. Because they enjoy immunity from prosecution, two of them remain free to contest elections, despite the nature of their capital crime. The third usurper does not enjoy the same immunity and is currently serving a life sentence for his capital crime.
The nature of the crimes concerning the elected Prime Ministers that disqualified them from contesting the 2014 elections are, in my opinion, misdemeanors when compared to the seriousness of the capital crimes committed by the usurpers.
The rule of law must apply equally to every citizen, regardless of their status in life. That is essentially what my opinion piece was about and I did not make any submissions to the SODELPA executive or anyone else about Mr Rabuka.
I acknowledge that Mr Rabuka’s coup happened 27 years ago and that he stood for elections, was successful, became Prime Minister and took Fiji towards a new multiracialism. I acknowledge also that he has previously apologized for his part in the ’87 coup.
But an apology on its own cannot heal the hurt and pain tens of thousands of our people suffered as a result of the ’87 coup. The same applies to the Speight 2000 coup and the 2006 Bainimarama coup.
According to a previous estimate by the respected economist Professor Wadan Narsey, the three coups have so far cost our financially poor nation $9 billion. Once we take account of the full damage and loss caused by the Bainimarama military takeover and his prolonged rule, billions of dollars more will be added.
That’s enough money to create well-funded policies to wipe out all poverty and squatter problems in Fiji. It would leave enough change to ensure conditions for zero unemployment and payment of a just national minimum wage, for every family to have a decent standard of living. The multi billions of lost dollars would also have provided water, electricity and improved and affordable transport to the most deprived and remote areas of Fiji. There would have been medical services with properly remunerated doctors and nurses operating the cleanest, best maintained and equipped hospitals in our region and still be in a position to take good care of all our people’s needs and aspirations.
All this is what military coups have cost us, the people. And that is why many cannot simply forget the capital crimes committed against us.
I have not, of course, included the grievous social and physical cost and trauma related to the disintegration of many families from the financial strain, the abuse of human rights including deaths, torture, suppression of liberties and freedoms, and rule by fear.
But the people of Fiji, despite all of this and having to always vosota and carry the pain, are still amongst the friendliest and most tolerant in the world.
Our people have the goodness of heart to forgive those who have sinned against them. But for forgiveness to be complete there needs to be reciprocation. This would encompass sincere expressions of atonement by the wrong doers and must be demonstrated in a real and profound way.
That has not happened yet. And, until it does, the past will continue to haunt us. That haunting came home in the recent SODELPA incident with Mr Rabuka.
I am not qualified to pass judgment on Mr Rabuka, and neither is this an attempt to do so. Only a competent court of law can do that.
But what I will say is this: Mr Rabuka and all other persons instrumental in the events of 1987, 2000 and 2006 who still enjoy immunity but would prefer to atone, receive forgiveness and reconcile with the people, must demonstrate their sincerity. They can do this by taking a personal decision and acting on it, no matter how difficult it might be.
One way that I suggest would be to make a personal legal statutory declaration that they forfeit the protection of their immunity absolutely. That declaration should also state categorically that they will freely submit themselves to a properly constituted court of enquiry into all aspects of the military coups and part of a properly established and independently managed ‘Truth & Reconciliation Process’ to allow the healing of our people to begin.
Such an undertaking by the individuals involved would demonstrate in a very powerful way their genuine remorse. And regardless of the outcome of a judicial enquiry, including provisions for mercy, the offenders would have taken a just and commendable step towards seeking and earning forgiveness from their victims, their families and the citizens of Fiji.
This in itself would help to lift terrible burdens of pain, loss and shame carried for too long by the people of Fiji.
April 26 2014