SUVA, Fiji (Sept. 25, 2008) - The trip to New York by interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and his entourage will deliver little or no benefit to Fiji.

Tomorrow afternoon Fiji time Bainimarama will deliver much the same speech as last year to a sparsely attended chamber. Perhaps more importantly, he will have an opportunity to meet some of our bilateral partners and no doubt try to bring them round to support the draft People’s Charter on which he has staked so much. But our bilateral partners are well aware through their local diplomatic missions, the media and other less official sources that the charter is not wanted by the people of Fiji who prefer their legal constitution. They have made that plain.

Most of the people of Fiji have voted by simply staying away while others have voted with their feet at the Nadi International Airport. Few of these, the people we so desperately need, will ever return. From the same airport our interim ministers and selected officials traverse the globe while conditions at home deteriorate. They are fiddling while Rome burns. They are flogging the charter dead horse wherever they go. But, as stated above, few if any of our international partners will be taken in.

Of course some will cooperate for their own reasons but even they cannot indefinitely ignore the will of the people of Fiji who in their collective wisdom have pronounced judgment on the coup, the charter, the military, the interim government and all of its doings.

They are well aware of the dangers contained within the charter’s motherhood statements. They know that setting the military above parliament will do no more than institutionalize instability as parliaments with mandates unacceptable to the military will face the threat of removal. They are very well aware that the future of Fiji is far too important to be left to unelected opportunists and paid consultants happy to have a little country to run. And the rest of the world is equally aware of the people’s collective view.

Quite how a visit to New York, a prepared and predictable speech and a few bilateral meetings might alter that is far from clear. We’ll achieve little while uncertainty and instability prevail. And both will prevail in Fiji until the regime and its military backers realize that they have neither public support nor confidence and act upon that by keeping their word on a March election.

Of course that won’t solve all of our problems. But it will create a democratic platform from which legitimate constitutional reform can be launched. And if we really want to end the coup culture, those reforms should look long and hard at the role of the military in our society.

And by the way…

The big winners in the 2006 coup have been the New Zealanders. Look how many highly paid Kiwi consultants have suddenly appeared on our shores telling the regime what it wants to hear. The New Zealand government has banned Fijians from all walks of life from entering its country but seems powerless to prevent its own citizens from cashing in on Fiji’s misfortune. They are taking advantage of an uncertain and unclear political, social and economic situation to get salaries and work conditions which they would not have enjoyed at home. It is really a pity to see it happening. Something should be done about it.

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