FIJI MILITARY CHIEF MUST TRUST DEMOCRACY

Editorial

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 9) – The commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, is right. He is right in the sense that being legally elected does not give a government the right to act corruptly.

But from there onwards - and we hope the commander will forgive the nautical reference - his logic is all at sea. For the fact that he is convinced that the Government is corrupt does not give him the right to remove it.

Even those - and there are many - that concur with the commander's assessment do not agree with the notion that he can or should remove an elected government at gunpoint. The commander's position perhaps stems from a belief that democracy is a foreign flower that has not fully taken root in Fiji where we do things differently in our own unique way. He appears to believe that democracy - the system he and his men and women restored in 2000 - has been less than perfect for the country.

Again, he's right. Democracy is far from perfect - but it's still the best way of governing ourselves that we have been so far been able to contrive. The elected Government, he says, has lied to the people, defied the law and used the indigenous Fijians for its own ends. Some would agree with him, others would not.

But none of that alters the nature of democracy - neither here in Fiji nor anywhere else. Governments are judged by the electors at regular intervals. If in four years time the electorate believes that the Qarase Government is all that Commodore Bainimarama says it is, he will be voted out and his government with him.

And if people fall for vote buying schemes, they have only themselves to blame for the government they elect. Democracy gives us the governments we deserve. But it also shows us how we can improve them. Four years may be too long for the commander to wait. Patience, after all, has never been a military virtue. But he has to let the people decide what kind of leadership they want.

And to argue, as he appears to do, that the people of Fiji, particularly the indigenous people, are not ready for or are somehow unable to fully utilise a democratic system is a gross insult.

History tells us that the truth has a way of coming out when those who seek to conceal it least expect. So if Commodore Bainimarama is right he will be proved so in the fullness of time. The reverse is also true. The commander may well have come to dislike and distrust the democracy he gave back to Fiji in 2000.

But if he would only give it a chance he might see that it can work for this country in a way that armed intervention can never hope to.

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