Former Fiji Permanent Secretary Says Civil Servants Work Under 'Climate Of Fear'

Robin Nair, who is contesting the next election as part of the opposition, calls country a 'militarised democracy'

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 1, 2017) – A former senior public servant in Fiji Robin Nair says civil servants in the country are working in a climate of fear in a militarised democracy.

Mr Nair resigned from his job as the Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs in April because of what he said was a lack of good governance within the Bainimarama administration.

He had been in the job for just over a year, after serving as Fiji's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf States.

Earlier he'd worked for the Australian foreign ministry for 22 years.

Mr Nair has joined the opposition National Federation Party to help them fight the next election.

Speaking from Australia, Mr Nair would not name names but he said Fiji was ruled through fear and he said a lot of public servants were working in an "intolerable" situation.

"It can be very difficult in Fiji especially the way the present government reacts to any criticism or any views, or any ideas even if it's given with the intention of making a contribution to good governance.

"I call it a militarised democracy but at the same time when I say it's a military democracy I don't say that the military itself is interfering but there are other people that have acquired that kind of a habit of ruling with a very iron fist, very very tightly, in a very controlled way," said Mr Nair.

Mr Nair said he left his job because he couldn't bear the interference directed at his ministry.

He said he was used to giving advice honestly and fearlessly.

"There were other people who wanted to have an influence on the advice I was giving and they seemed to be much more powerful and their opinions seemed to matter so there were quite a few issues and it came to a head on one issue and I said that means the proper thing for me to do is to resign and leave."

"I don't know why they do it because they've got a majority in parliament but somehow there's quite a siege mentality."

Mr Nair said after he resigned other senior civil servants and government ministers came to see him.

"They said it's intolerable, they fear for their jobs and even a couple of ministers called me and wanted to talk to me because they have similar experience in the ministry itself, in the cabinet itself, and they said to me they always are talking about 'who's going to be next?'

Mr Nair, who has a home in Australia, said he planned to return to Fiji when he felt "secure" enough.

He had not decided whether he would stand for election in Fiji with the polls due next year, but he said he would be helping the National Federation Party with its campaign and policy formulation.

"I have to be careful in my own movements in Fiji. I don't want to be embarrassed. I might be embarrassed of course and they'll try to embarrass me."

Radio New Zealand International
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