When the Qarase govt was working on its Media Bill I made both written and oral submissions. I was appalled that our government would even consider curtailing our freedom of speech – a fundamental human right.
Indeed, John and I were among the earliest members of the Yellow Ribbon Movement which was set up to protest against the racist and discriminatory Bills being proposed at that time – and proudly wore our yellow ribbons and drove about with a yellow flag fluttering from our vehicle.
Therefore, when Commander Voreqe Bainimarama ousted Qarase and his government in December 2006, (having warned repeatedly that he would ‘clean up’ government if Qarase did not do so) promising to ensure the equality of all races in every way possible: to initiate a fair and equitable voting system: and to bring about a fair and equal Constitution – although slightly uneasy, I decided that I had to support him.
Improvements were made, especially in respect of our long-neglected grass-root citizens. But almost imperceptibly, many of those freedoms precious to any democratic peoples began to be eroded.
When the media was muzzled there was cause for concern – but the Public Emergency Regulations 2009 Decree is one which directly confronts and affects the basic human rights of every citizen and resident of this country. Our newspapers have become mere propaganda sheets. Our opinions are censored. For me, and many others, the alarm bells are ringing out loud and clear.
We have lost our media voice but we have not lost our public whispers. Fiji is a small country, but even smaller if one divides it up into its public communities: business, agricultural, commercial, academic, medical, religious, self-employed.
Rumours have been growing for some time, but the bottom line is that the majority of Fiji’s citizens are convinced thatFiji’s government is broke. The powers that be are gaining the suspicion, and losing the support, of Fiji’s middle class.
There is ‘another way’ – a transparent, equitable, just, and honest way. The government, and the board of the FNPF, must surely know that there is ‘some other way’ – if they have the will to find it, the humility to accept it, and the courage to admit that they are wrong.