Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bainimarama Republic

Poor old Fiji. It’s had four coups in 20 years. You’d think the military would be experts in conducting government takeovers by now but they still haven’t managed to get the hang of it. Cmdr Frank Bainimarama assumed power five days ago and the whole thing smacks of just not being thought through. He’s now having to advertise for members of the public to come forward to fill ministerial posts. That’s the trouble with all this military upheaval, it tends to put career public servants off. It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it Frank, old bean.

The following statement appears in the Fiji Times today under the headline, ‘Applications in for Fiji 'interim posts'. I reproduce it with all its quaint, original errors.

‘Applications are sought from qualified members of the public for the positions of cabinet ministers in the interim Government.

Also applicants must be of outstanding character and without any criminal record and each must not have been declared bankrupt.

Applicants must have a minimum of 10 years working experience and or high level of tertiary education. Applicants must indicate the area of interest in which he or she would like to serve in.

All applicants will be vetted for authenticity and must be accompanied by detailed curriculum vitae with full contact details no later than 1600 hours on Tuesday, December 12, 2006,’

The notice appeared next to ads for real estate and holiday cruises, neither of which will be contributing much to GDP on current form. The strict recruitment criteria would sadly preclude some of our underutilised resting politicians. I’m sure Jonathan Aitkin and ‘Lord’ Archer would have been happy to help out this struggling nation, so ‘beloved’ as it is claimed, by all involved.

Bainimarama may have taken over the government of Fiji but its website still seems to be under the control of the ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who hinted on 5th December that the Commander may be concealing a tinsy-weeny personal agenda,

‘This morning, I had intended to convene a special meeting of our country’s Multi-party Cabinet. This was to specifically consider the new demands of the Military Commander, as conveyed through the President and the Vice President.

These new demands included the extension of the Commander’s contract of appointment to the year 2012, even though his current five year contract has another two years to run.

I suppose it’s one way to secure tenure. His Excellency the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda, has taken a rather more sanguine view of current events, and has put down fifty pence each way. This is an excerpt from his statement on the Fiji Government website.

‘Under these difficult circumstances, His Excellency will remain in office to preserve some semblance of continuity while keeping the situation under review. In the meantime, the people of the Republic of the Fiji Islands are asked to remain calm, go about their daily activities as best they can and pray for our beloved country.’

As nobody else in the world much cares about what happens in Pacific island politics unless they have booked their nuptials there, it is difficult to get a handle on what is really going on. I did have a read through Prime Minister Qarase’s last Parliamentary speech delivered on 22nd November though. It outlines his budget for 2007 which proposes such reforms as doubling the welfare allowance for the nation’s poorest families and dramatically increasing spending on both education and health. There are also details of plans to tackle racial inequalities including assistance for minority communities to acquire ownership of church land they have worked for generations and an increase in VAT – the fair tax. It also contains a commitment to achieving 90% renewable energy by 2009 through development of bio-fuels technology. And … it’s literate.

But the fatal split between the military leader and the elected prime minister seems to have been over the proposed Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill – an attempt to deal with the continuing fallout from the last coup in 2000. I don’t want to sound like an ignorant pedant but I’d be more inclined to side with an elected leader with an agenda for equality and unity rather than a seasoned bully with getting an extended employment contract signed at the top of his to do list. In any case, the fact that every major power has refused military assistance to shore up this new regime suggests that Bainimarama is too hot even for the Australians and Americans to entertain as a puppet.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s three sources of national wealth – sugar production, tourism and gold mining are all in the doldrums and unlikely to improve in the present climate. A currency devaluation seems inevitable, and, as if that wasn’t enough trouble for any Pacific paradise, Fiji has just lost its role of host to next year's world netball championships, due to be held in the capital Suva in July. Still, it has given me an idea. I'm thinking coup equals cancelled sporting event...

Angry fruit by


clerk from kent said...

I am thinking of applying. I would be an ideal candidate as my CV insists on accompanying me where ever I go. It can get embarrassing sometimes. Doesn't sound like there's a lot of work involved if investment and tourism has completely dried up. What a doddle.

That's so pants said...

Hi Clerk. I am considering applying myself actually. It is the tropics after all. Once you've worked for a couple of East London councils, a military dictatorship should hold few surprises.