TENSE WAITING GAME OVER FIJI’S RECONCILIATION BILL

Editorial

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (May 31) - There is no doubt that there is no love lost between the military and the government in Fiji.

Since the 1987 coup, the military has considered itself the protector of the national interest.

In 2000, when George Speight threatened to become the country's fifth Prime Minister since Independence [by overthrowing the government in an armed coup], it was the military that stepped in to calm the situation.

Political control was then handed to a team hand-picked by military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama -- with senator Laisenia Qarase at the head.

Today the Fiji Military Forces are watching closely the progress of the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill through Parliament.

Tomorrow there will be more officers in Parliament to witness Qarase's justification of a Bill that could grant amnesty to people who supported the Speight-led overthrow of government.

Commodore Bainimarama says the Government is aware of the military objection to the Bill and the fact that amnesty could be granted to people who made up the numbers for overthrow.

In simply observing the proceedings, Commodore Bainimarama is moving to a silent protest, where the message though unspoken is loud and clear.

It does not mean that the Commodore is considering using the amnesty provisions of the Bill to overthrow the Government. Nor does it mean that communication channels have broken down between the military and the Government.

What it does signify is that there are a number of people who would not support amnesty for people who helped legitimize terrorists who held the country at gunpoint.

Supporting the cause but not the means should never be acceptable as a reason for supporting terrorists.

Political vote buying should never be acceptable as a reason for allowing blanket support for terrorism.

By sitting it out, Commodore Bainimarama is showing that he trusts that parliamentary democracy will prevail.

He is trusting that parliamentarians will debate the issue for all its worth -- for the sake of the entire nation.

When the Bill is referred to the relevant sector committees after Qarase's comments tomorrow, the country will be waiting to see what parliament can do.

It is no longer an issue that belongs to two political parties. It is a matter of national importance.

Now we all play the waiting game.

June 1, 2005

Fiji Times Online: .

 

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