Guest Post: Thakur Ranjit Singh

Thakur Ranjit SinghThe frenzied race for democracy in Fiji: What model the motley crowd promises to deliver?

Thakur Ranjit Singh,

As the race of fight for democracy in Fiji intensifies, it has now reached new heights of political expediency where hitherto diametrically opposed political animals are seen drinking from the same pail. In addition, we witnessed the genesis of a new adage that declares that a foe?s opponent or enemy is a political friend.

However, what still remains uncertain is the model of democracy that can be expected from those whose definition of democracy rests in self-interest or their ability to clamber back onto the gravy train from which they were jettisoned by the military take-over.

The media coup by the military fugitive, Ratu Tevita Mara has taken the fight for democracy to a higher level. Caf? Pacific columnist David Robie recently sought some answers: Who are the media minders behind Mara massaging his military message and what is their agenda? Why are things being taken at face value? Where is the evidence backing up Ratu Tevita’s sweeping allegations?

What have also come under scrutiny are not only the credibility of certain media, but also the credibility of Ratu Tevita Ului Mara and the stance taken by the Australian and NZ governments in bending their rules on military sanctions by granting special exemption to this former military henchman who had suddenly seen the light. This author had questioned the credibility and authenticity of the aristocratic Ratu Tevita who has been dangled as a devotee of democracy.

In presenting a ?smoking gun picture? from the Canberra meeting of the pro democracy and anti-Bainimarama brigade, Graham Davis questioned the motive of those behind the Canberra meeting and the ten point plan put forward to take Fiji back to democracy.?He questioned the inclusion and propriety of Simione Kaitani, a known ethno-nationalist and a former Qarase?s minister, as a pro-democracy campaigner.

Just in the week Ratu Tevita was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand, this author was able to produce his February, 2003 ?dragon-slaying? Close Up programme at Fiji TV, showing the same Simione Kaitani admitting to have committed sedition prior to the march that resulted in Speight taking hostage of Chaudhry?s government on 19 May, 2000.

Davis, in his earlier article had shown a photo of ANU academic, Dr Brij Lal with Kaitani. A clip of Fiji TV Close Up was forwarded to Dr Brij Lal who clarified his position through a personal e-mail to this author. Dr Lal unequivocally denies any previous association with either Ratu Tevita Mara or Simione Kaitani, nor is he in any way formally associated with any organisation. His views on Fiji are longstanding and well known. Dr Lal dismisses any attempt to link him up with the perpetrators of the 2000 coup, and calls it ?mischievous.? He stated that:

What I said in the meeting was what I have always said: that coups are bad, that the path of resistance should be peaceful, that there should be a genuine rather than a politically expedient conversion to the values of democracy. When the meeting concluded, and Padma [Mrs Lal] and I were about to head off to Sydney, Kaitani got himself snapped with me; and on the basis of that single photograph, people assumed that I was supporting Mara and Kaitani and crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Davis had reserved most of his criticism for Kaitani who had been named by one of the soldiers during Speight coup as ?one of the indigenous extremists who?d encouraged George Speight to carry out his coup and was with him in the parliamentary complex.?

It is obvious Ratu Tevita Mara was enlisting support of questionable nationalist elements like one time George Speight?s treasonous Minister Kaitani who also later happened to be Fiji PM Qarase?s Assistant Minister of Information. Then he had appeared on Close Up and admitted his criminal activity of sedition. Contrary to being disciplined, reprimanded or charged by the police, Prime Minister Qarase rewarded Kaitani with a full ministerial cabinet position a month after his criminal confession on national TV. While all this was taking place, Fiji media, including Fiji TV and the normally vocal Rupert Murdoch?s Fiji Times remained mute on this gross violation of good governance. However, Fiji media?s dereliction of duties during Qarase regime is another story to be pursued some other time. Those interested in Fiji?s future and its model of democracy are bound to be confused if not worried. ?The question that arises is: what sort of democracy does the international community seek for Fiji? Kaitani, while admitting his crime, is non-repentant about being a nationalist, and still wants Fiji?s leadership to be in indigenous hands, and seeking ?Fiji for Fijians.? This is verified from the Close Up link.

What is also questionable is the credibility of Rajesh Singh who supposedly leads the makeshift break-away pro-democracy group hosting Ratu Tevita Mara in Auckland.

The break-away group was formed because the legitimate and long-standing Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF), led by Nik Naidu is against the military-man?s visit to New Zealand because of his alleged act of torture in Fiji. On the eve of arrival of Ratu Tevita Mara in Auckland, CDF has filed a criminal complaint with the NZ Police against Mara.

Going back to the organiser of Mara?s trip Rajesh Singh, he is a former organiser for Naitasiri rugby and reportedly considers the Qaranivalu of Naitasiri, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata as his mentor and friend. Ratu Inoke was convicted and implicated for his role in the Fiji military mutiny of 2?November 2000. ?Singh is a former Assistant Minister in Qarase government and was sacked for insubordination. He also reportedly used to visit Ratu Inoke in prison. His political stability and loyalty for democracy is highly questionable because he was working for the Bainimarama government at Fiji Sports Council until recently when he failed to get reappointment. Like Ratu Tevita, he also is a turncoat, one of the inside persons, who had suddenly seen the light once things did not work their ways.

Is this the model or brand of democracy, led by such motley crowd that John Key, Murry McCully and Kevin Rudd seek for Fiji? Do they wish to push Fiji back to the dark days of the Taukei movement and ethno-nationalism, where the rule of jungle, chiefly aristocracy and Methodist church?s bigotry masqueraded as democracy, where Indo Fijians were relegated as second and third class stateless citizens?

While the clips of the Close Up programme and background information have been provided to both major TV stations, one cannot expect much from New Zealand media?s questionable, what some may call jaundiced reporting on Fiji. The NZ mainstream media equates democracy to mere elections; irrespective of what takes place after such supposedly democratic elections which Fiji already had many of, since 1987.

Now, armed with this information, when you see on TV or read of Ratu Tevita?s visit to New Zealand through its mainstream media, you need to take it with a pinch of salt because of their agenda-setting on Fiji where the media appears to sing from the same hymn-sheet as McCully?s and NZ government?s foreign policy, in which, like in George Orwell?s ?Animal Farm”. some [military personnel] are more equal than the others.

[E-mail: [email protected]]

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political commentator and a former publisher of Fiji?s Daily Post.]