Editorial: Enemy of democracy deserves scorn
OPINION: Frank Bainimarama is not a respectable person. He killed off Fijian democracy and replaced it with a nasty military dictatorship. The fact that he has now resigned his commission and is fighting a democratic election changes none of this. He will be forever remembered as one of the democratic villains of the Pacific.
Ideally Bainimarama would by now have been sentenced to a long time in jail, like the last man who launched a coup in his country, George Speight. Overthrowing a democratic system is a form of treason and it is not something that should be lightly forgiven.
But Bainimarama has given himself immunity for treason through a convenient constitution that his “government” put through. This is a farce and has exactly the moral force of a criminal pardoning himself for his crime. Bainimarama, in short, hardly deserves to be enjoying the freedoms that he denied to other Fijians during the long years of his dictatorship.
The New Zealand government, naturally, does not accept this line of thought. It practises McCullyism in foreign affairs, which is an extreme form of pragmatism. It is happy to forget Bainimarama’s crimes. New Zealand has decided the time has come to forgive him and try to “encourage” his re-entry into the world of democracy, the world that he destroyed. Bainimarama’s Australian friends, of course, have been similarly understanding; he will cross the Tasman after finishing his brief stint here. But that does not mean he should be treated just like any other candidate in the election which he so long delayed.
Bainimarama should understand that New Zealand democrats detest him and everything he represents. Since the Key Government has decided to let him come here, New Zealand democrats should use the other choice open to them. They can go and protest vigorously – but always peacefully – at Bainimarama’s election meetings in Auckland. They should tell the man what they think of him. They should use the freedom we enjoy here to condemn the man who took away democratic freedom in Fiji. Bainimarama, it seems, will never have to pay properly for what he did. But he shouldn’t think that he has got away scot-free.
Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that Bainimarama will do well in the Fijian election. The man who should be drummed out of any election might end up winning this one. And this shows the long-term damage that Fiji’s coup culture has done to the nation.
Democracy has not taken a deep hold in this splintered society.
If it had, the first coup, by Sitiveni Rabuka, would never have been repeated. The aggressive and arrogant military of Fiji has become a long-term curse on the nation. The soldiers have been sent back to their barracks this time, but they all know that coups are not only possible in Fiji, they are highly do-able.
The result is that the culture of the coup will continue to cast its shadow over Fijian politics for a long time to come. Even if the rebel Bainimarama decides to behave like a democrat, what other tin-pot dictator is nursing dreams of power in a Fijian barracks?
The demon is out of the bottle, and it will be immensely hard to put back.
– The Dominion Post