BAINIMARAMA, ‘LACKEY’ OVERPLAY HAND AGAINST TONGA

Editorial

BAINIMARAMA, ‘LACKEY’ OVERPLAY HAND AGAINST TONGA

Savali

APIA, Samoa (May 17, 2011) - You have to hand it to these Tongans; they really know how to get their man.

No pussyfooting, no big war speeches just go over and pick up their kin from the jaws of a demented military dictator and his complicit court. None of this sovereignty and territorial waters rubbish.

It’s a throwback to 19th century at the height of Tongan imperialism in that part of the region. The fact that they can still do it so nonchalantly whilst maintaining their snobbish aristocratic demeanor makes it all the more enthralling. And the regime in Fiji had it coming.

It was only a matter of time before the region got involved with its politics.

Despite a tsunami of criticism from around the region, Commodore Frank Bainimarama five years ago went ahead and took over the reins of government by force – disbanding Parliament and the Great Council of Chiefs - deposing of elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the coup was illegal and unconstitutional – as they all are – the Commordore then – with the advice of his lackey Attorney General (many believe is the real brains behind this regime) – got late President Ratu Iloilo– an ailing old man – to abrogate the constitution, disband the judiciary and appoint the Commodore as interim prime minister.

Since, Fiji has been ruled by a series of decrees – Bainimarma again with the advice of his AG – felt fit to maintain his military rule.

The military is being kept in line by paying soldiers good coin and sending suspected critics of the regime to Fiji’s compromised judiciary on – what is largely seen – as trumped up dissident charges. But perhaps the pair have overplayed their hand this time.

The sidelining of Colonel Tevita Uluilakepa Mara – better known as Roko Ului - youngest son of Fiji’s first Prime Minister, the late Ratu Sir Makamesese Mara – is proving their biggest mistake.

Not a brilliant man, Mara was stood down from his post – and since last week – been charged with inciting mutiny in the barracks.

The Maras are not only prominent in Fiji but are – in their own right – Tongan aristocrats.

It goes back to the 18th century when Henry Ma’afu – a Tongan prince – conquered the Lau group. He offered it to the King of Tonga who – for whatever reason – rejected it.

So the group was reigned over by the Tui Lau – a Tongan royal – and the Tui Nayau – of Fijian and Tongan royalty.

The late Ratu Mara – who held both titles – was close to the Tongan royal family, particularly the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.

It is understood the younger Mara had secretly requested the Tongan royal family for help last week and – through Tongan operatives in Suva – a royal naval boat – under the guise of attending to a distress signal – picked him off Ono-i-Lau Island – the most westerly of the Fijian islands and closest to Tongan territory. Now safely in Nuku΄alofa, the King has issued a protectorate over him.

And the Commodore is furious. He has demanded Mara be handed back to Suva and extradition papers have been forwarded to Nuku΄alofa.

Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, in response, was much more calm and diplomatic. Assuring the extradition request will be impartially viewed by the Tongan courts. The big question then being, will the Tongans hand over the younger Mara?

Frankly, we don’t think so. Not only is the younger Mara of Tongan blue blood but, hand him over to who and to what?

A coup-installed military regime with a history of abuse, torture and murder? A kangaroo court that is only there to expedite the commodore’s bidding?

The extradition hearing will also be of interest to many. It will be the first time the legitimacy of the regime in Suva will be adjudicated in a foreign court.

Is the commodore willing to go ahead with that sort of independent scrutiny? As this article goes to print, our sources in Nuku΄alofa reports no adjudication papers from Suva have been received by the courts there.

Is Bainimarama now having second thoughts?

Furthermore, despite the independence of the courts in Tonga, its extradition treaty with Fiji and the recent political reforms there, King George Tupou V still has executive authority.

He has the last say if his kinsman is to be returned to Suva.

And the way things look at the moment, the commodore will have better luck at moving a mountain than getting the King to move on any extradition orders.

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