Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 23:42 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 23:42 | SYDNEY

Bainimarama tries rewriting history


Jenny Hayward-Jones


28 September 2009 16:17

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, delivered an address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September, in which he defended his 2006 coup and abrogation of Fiji’s constitution in April this year. He asked for the patience of the international community while his government implements promised reforms.

Bainimarama’s description of the under-development of Fiji’s infrastructure, judicial system and systems of accountability would find sympathy with many friends of Fiji, whatever the real reason for that situation. For a nation suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, Bainimarama did a good job of seeking to advance the interests of small island developing states on climate change — with strong language the Forum Island countries would have applauded.

There are just a few flaws in his arguments about Fiji’s domestic situation though:

  • His reference to the abrogation of the constitution following the Court of Appeal’s creation of a 'legal vacuum' fails to mention that the Court of Appeal found the coup itself and his own actions to be illegal.
  • His claim that his government is 'mandated' to carry our reforms does not make clear that this mandate comes from a now retired President, not the people of Fiji.
  • His reference to the use of terror by Fiji’s politicians in conjunction with an acknowledgment that terrorism as a global issue impacts Fiji belittles the efforts of other developing countries who are battling to deal with the scourge of real terrorism.
  • His explanation of political instability in Fiji does not acknowledge the role of the Fiji military in creating much of that instability itself — three of Fiji’s four coups in twenty years were military coups.
  • His call for 'genuine dialogue' and a 'willingness to listen' at the regional and international level, would seem more genuine if he also recognises that dialogue works both ways — he also has to demonstrate a willingness to listen and 'respect a different point of view' — especially within Fiji.
  • Bainimarama’s oblique reference to the efforts of Australia and New Zealand to ban Fiji from participation in UN peacekeeping operations, may find some sympathy at the UN. Bainimarama could also have questioned why Fiji should be banned from participation in UN peacekeeping when soldiers from Pakistan and Zimbabwe were not similarly banned during the rule of questionable regimes over the past decade. 

It is still not obvious from the UN’s website whether there is indeed a new UN decision on the future of Fiji in peacekeeping missions. This uncertainty enables Bainimarama to paint his government as an innocent victim of the influence of bigger powers rather the perpetrator of instability. The UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations could help by making its position on Fiji clear to the international community.

Photo by Flickr user United Nations Photo, used under a Creative Commons license.