PACIFIC EXPERT: FIJI COULD DO WORSE UNDER REGIME

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Nov. 27) – Fiji under military rule is managing better than some other Pacific island nations where regular elections have failed to produce governments capable of advancing the standard of living for their people, says Gerard Finin, deputy director of the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

Finin, in a paper he produced for the Centre, states that Fiji stands today in a far more favorable light than many countries that simply, because they hold elections, claim to be highly democratic.

"It's not hard to argue that Fiji under military rule is managing better than some other Pacific island nations where regular elections have failed to produce governments capable of advancing the standard of living for their people," he said.

Finin however adds that for all the stability, "there are troubling signs that the military leadership has allowed matters to deteriorate".

"The rule of law is threatened, with the judicial branch in limbo. The chief justice and the chief magistrate were summarily dismissed and the military has made it clear it will ignore judicial decisions not to its liking," he said.

"Human rights abuses remain a concern, although coup leaders deny that those who have spoken out against the regime have been beaten."

"By most measures, Fiji's economy is stagnant or even declining. Tourism has yet to rebound."

Finin adds that corruption remains a concern, although there is no indication that interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama wishes to enrich himself in the style of Philippines' dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who under the guise of creating a "new society" during the martial law era allowed rampant graft and corruption on an unparalleled scale.

"By almost all accounts, the Commodore lives modestly, works hard and wants to see a future where all the people of Fiji enjoy a satisfying standard of living in which their children have bountiful opportunities," he said.

"At the one-year anniversary of "interim government" rule, there remains a small window of opportunity for Bainimarama and his colleagues to find a path that will lead Fiji toward a brighter future. Unlike many of the world's dictators who see themselves as saviors with lifetime appointments, the Commodore has articulated his dislike for the Office of Prime Minister."

Wednesday December 5 will be one year since Bainimarama led the military in overthrowing the SDL Government

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