Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Feb 8) – News that the Interim Government is having a hard time finding people willing to serve on the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission is hardly surprising.

This is, unfortunately, the downside of the events that took place on December 5.

People are rightly concerned that their involvement could lead to them being banned from travel to Australia and New Zealand, and possibly the U.S. and Britain, for many years to come.

That is the reality of the situation facing Fiji at the moment.

However, the concept of the commission is an excellent one and that it is being set up is to be applauded. The Fiji Times called for the establishment of such a body not long after the takeover and it is one of the few positives to come out of that dark day.

Most believe there is some level of corruption in much of Fiji's public sector and a regulatory body to investigate and bring to prosecution those involved is very much needed.

In Australia, there are a number of these bodies. All have the job of investigating claims of corruption in the public sector, such as within police forces and governments and of securing evidence that can be presented in court.

They are independent of the court, police and government and have been very successful in reducing corruption, a disease that afflicts every nation, no matter its politics. They are normally headed by retired judges or senior legal counsel whose professional and personal lives have been beyond reproach.

The dilemma facing Fiji's interim administration is where to find the quality of person necessary to make such a commission work properly and effectively. No one who has worked tirelessly and honestly through their career would want to put their freedom to travel at risk.

But that is where Australia and New Zealand could step in to help. They could either assure Fiji that they will not penalise people who potentially can do much good for the nation or alternatively, they could offer to supply qualified people to help advise and guide the commission.

If these nations can rationalise their move as one that will help the people of Fiji rather than an administration they do not approve of, then perhaps everyone can benefit.

Fiji would have a cleaner society, Australia and New Zealand would have shown they are caring neighbours and some of the ill-will generated from December 5 could be broken.

Who knows where such co-operation could lead? Maybe to some rational dialogue.

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