By Violet Cho: Pacific Media Watch
The older brother of Fiji’s military strongman, Sefanaia Bainimarama, has defended the commodore against criticisms as a “bad guy”, saying many people are involved in the coup.
“I don’t think he is [a bad guy],” said Sefanaia Bainimarama during a panel discussion about the Fiji crisis in the weekly Maori-language Marae current affairs programme on Television New Zealand.
“He [Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama] has been put up as a bad guy, but there are a lot of people involved in this coup and all of these problems. They haven’t come to the fore.
“It’s Frank that’s bearing all this things - all the other people are not visible in there.”
Sefanaia Bainimarama justified the coup by saying his brother was trying to achieve a “peaceful country” for the future. Fiji has been hit by four coups in two decades.
The commodore had to do what was needed - “when the country’s in trouble, somebody needs to step in and take order.”
He also compared the situation in Fiji with countries in Africa.
“We do not want to be like other countries in Africa that are taking arms and fighting with each other - that’s the last thing we need in the Pacific and in Fiji.”
Though international and local media strongly portray Voreqe Bainimarama negatively, some claim he is the only person who can restore a fair and non race-based democracy in Fiji.
But, said Nik Naidu, spokesperson for the Auckland-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF), it was the commodore himself who had “stolen democracy from the people”.
On April 10, the Fiji President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, abrogated the 1997 constitution, sacked the nation’s judiciary, postponed elections until 2014 and reappointed Commodore Bainimarama as prime minister.
The regime has imposed draconian censorship by decree on the media as part of a 30-day martial law.
“The problem in Fiji is not about democracy or elections, it is about some people retaining power, privileges and money,” said Naidu.
“As long as elections are not held to put them back into power that will never be acceptable.
“So they will wait until the time is right for them when they brainwash the population and social engineer people to think in their way. And they can guarantee a result that can put them back into power. Otherwise, they will not have election.”
Naidu confirmed that Bainimarama had choices to put things right and he could also do it.
But “there are other forces that are pushing him along to their agenda,” he said without clarifying this.
Sefanaia Bainimarama said media hype was a big thing that spoiled much in every country in the Pacific, including Fiji.
Sireli Kini, a former chief executive of Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, said a lot of Fijians relied mainly on radio for their news.
Due to the crackdown on media, Radio Fiji news now hardly carried anything for the people about what was happening in the country at present.
For a good country with good government, there should be media freedom and information was very important, Kini said.
He said people needed to know what was happening and what the government was doing.
If people did not get information, it was hard for them to "react” and they did not know what they were supposed to do about the crisis.
Since the Fiji regime declared martial law, there has been a massive crackdown on media with journalists being asked questions, intimidated, detained - and three Australian and New Zealand journalists were deported.
The government gagged Fiji Television and has forced the regional Suva-based Pacnews agency to self-censor its news on the republic.
Picture: Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama. Photo: Radio Fiji.
Media freedom organisations condemn censorship
Fiji on TVNZ's Maori-language current affairs programme Marae [video]