Friday, December 05, 2008

Fiji: two years on

Two years ago today, Fiji's democratically elected government was overthrown by its own army in a military coup. And two years on, things have got even worse. The military regime, which in the usual authoritarian military style, sees criticism as rebellion, is waging a war on the media, deporting journalists and hauling editors before the courts on contempt charges. After getting a tame academic to redefine "media freedom" as "the freedom to print what the government tells them to", they are now in the process of enacting Singapore-style media controls to prevent further criticism.

The military, having seized control, are now following the usual pattern of coups and are expanding their budget. Not that they ever keep to it anyway...

A court has purported to legalise the coup, in a judgement that can only be described as laughable. And so a "coup to end all coups" has now created a legal process by which any jumped up thug can hold a gun to the President's head and legally seize power.

And worst of all, the regime is refusing to hold elections until it has illegally changed the constitution and the electoral system. So there is no end in sight, and no pathway back to democracy.

But there is some hope. Today the SDL, United People's Party, National Federation party (basically, every significant party bar the Fijian Labour Party) and a host of unions and NGOs have united under the banner of the Movement for Democracy to push for a return to Parliamentary rule. After two years of sullen acquiescence, the military may finally face some serious internal opposition. Which can only be a good thing in the long term.