Fiji, an international enigma

Karam C. Ramrakha, a long time lawyer, writer and columnist, uses his expert knowledge of Fiji with his 16 years as a Fiji MP (1966-1982) to assess the current situation in Fiji.

Red China (has there ever been another one?) watches nervously as there are widespread demonstrations in the Arab and other worlds against dictatorships and corrupt governments. People’s Power a la the French Revolution is causing jitters in many palaces and castle like strongholds with which ”˜absolute authority’ clothes itself.  As our PM wings her way to China, there is widespread arrest of dissidents (the definition is arbitrary and left to the untrained discretion of the enforcing authority) .

Fiji, which looms so large in our part of the world, is quiet and recent information from Fiji reveals that few are challenging Frank Bainimarama’s authoritarian rule. What makes Fiji so unique is that Frank has ruled since late December 2006 and there is no sign of dissent or discord against his rule in Fiji.

High born Chief  Epeli Nailatikau, who happens to have said of Rabuka’s  coup in 1987 –  “I abhor coups”,  has thrown his lot with Frank and grace the office of President in his Interim Rule.

What gives? Frank has dismantled the Great Council of Chiefs, that powerful body with which the British created to entrench their rule of the Fijians in Fiji. He has challenged Fiji’s lawyers, all 440 of them including a large number of  taukei or indigenous Fijians, by dismantling the statutory authority of Fiji Law Society.

Frank Bainimarama has refused to let the Methodist Church, the most powerful body which was largely responsible for Rabuka’s 1987 coup and which commands blind support of a majority of the indigenous Fijian, hold meetings and paralysed its convention.

You would expect that the indigenous Fijians would march down the streets of Suva as they did in 1968 (against the  elected Indians) or 1987 (in support of Rabuka’s coups) or 2000 (in support of the Speight Saga). But nothing is happening.

Yes, life has become hard in a sense for Frank. The EEC has withdrawn aid, the sugar industry is on the point of collapse. No new jobs are being created and the country is now heavily dependent on tourism as its chief money earner. The economist Mr Bhiman Prasad, a university academic who once briefly held the Presidency of the now defunct  National Federation Party, predicts doom and gloom but no one locally seems to be listening to him.

The Australian Government, with its “Sit, Fido” mentality on all matters Pacific and used to be wielding the Big Stick all these years, is furious.  The Americans now cautiously advocate a kinder approach to Fiji fearing that Frank will take it on an Asian journey to China and India. That would be anathema to  the West.

And what of the people in Fiji? The Indians (those who still remain  either by choice or unable to migrate) are happy. For the first time Frank has decreed that  they can call everyone, including themselves,  “Fijians”. Once that was anathema  to the Ruling Whites and the indigenous who saw us eternally as Vulagis or  Guests. The Indians are told they are equal and will have, in the 2014 elections which Frank will hold, “One Man, One Vote, One Value – a concept we urged since 1929. That  a  Fijian ruler will hand it down without any urgings is real news.

Besides, Frank has abolished all forms of discrimination”¦no preferred treatments of any race. What else  could we  Indians want.

And Parliament? An elected democracy? Elected MPs to safeguard our interests? Oddly enough, no one seems to care any more in Fiji.

With a new State Government in New South Wales, it is high time we, Indians, knocked on the doors of our parliamentarians and asked for all restrictions, including aid, travel and political, to be uplifted against Fiji? We will meet stiff resistance but it would be good to have Fiji people stage a demonstration.

Will Australia’s attitude to Fiji change? Not likely, if, what I call, “The Strange Julian Moti Affair” is any guide. Julian is one of the hottest legal brains, and once a kid genius, to come out of Fiji. He has held posts and lectured at Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Bond University. In the distant past he was charged with sexual assault or rape of a minor in Vanuatu. Those trumped up charges were thrown out not only by the local magistrate but by a court of appeal which included Fiji’s then Chief Justice. However, because of the weak nature of the case there was no “autrefois acquit” or formal acquittal.

Moti established law offices in Papua New Guinea and the Solomons. He became a force and in 2004 Australia reacted when it appeared Moti would become Attorney General of the Solomons. Why? Because Moti opposed Australia’s $800 million aid to the Solomons ( RAMSI, as it is called) which he saw was a cynical financial exercise being used to establish a neo colonial hold on the Solomons. Most of that money did not reach the ground: much of it came back to Australia in highly inflated salaries.

So the then Australian Ambassador to the Solomons tried to revive the sexual assault charge on Moti. However, when Moti did not get the post, the charges were dropped. However, some three years ago, Moti did become AG of the Solomons. Here they were:Howard, Ruddock, Downer baying for his blood. The media painted him as a absconding scoundrel. His passport was cancelled and the cancelled passport shown on TV (Privacy Rights, forget it).  He was kidnapped in the Solomons, brought to Queensland and incarcerated in the notorious Brisbane Watch House.

He got bail and after painfully slow response he has dredged, at great cost to himself, how the Australian Federal Police  obtained further statements from the “victim”, gave her and her family to boot large sums  of money for their alleged maintenance and upkeep.

Justice Mullins of the Queensland High Court stayed prosecution saying the payments  to the victim tainted her evidence to the extent that Moti could not get a fair trial.The Queensland Court of Appeal disagreed but recently Moti has won  the right to appeal to our High Court of Australia.

The local media, which gleefully reported the pursuit of Moti as he was brought to Queensland, has not reported what transpired in the  High Court of Australia. But the father of the  victim died recently and made a deathbed confession that the charges against Moti  were false and the family were hounded by the Australian Federal Police and the authorities to give evidence against Moti. The victim, meantime, has left our shores and it is therefore dubious she will return to give evidence.


Karam C. Ramrakha can be contacted on phone (02) 98082760, fax (02) 8025014, mobile 0434 986 123 or his email address


Short URL: