Tuesday, 14 April 2009

What’s annoying in the case of Fiji is the lack of local protest. While Thai red-shirts take to the streets and ethnic Tamils picket Kirribilli House, Fijians seem to be stupefied by the power play set in motion by Commodore Bainimarana and his ilk.

There seems to be no resolution to the stand-off between the junta and Fiji's neighbours. Words, no matter how stern, from Australia’s foreign minister and prime minister probably won’t do too much damage. Maybe Westpac, one of whose branches was revealed in a shopping street shot for TV footage, should move its operations out in protest. Others might follow, putting pressure on the government.

Three TV stations covered the story last night and all but the ABC used the same footage: a bus driving down a street and a parade of pedestrians on a shopping street. The ABC also had a reporter on the ground in Bangkok.

In Suva, the ABC fielded footage of their correspondent, Sean Dorney, being given his marching orders by immigration officials. SBS brought on Brij Lal, a Canberra academic. SBS also showed a New Zealand journalist being talked to by officials, but she didn’t appear in New Zealand Herald reports on the story. Channel 10 used suitably dramatic lighting to show Ian Lloyd QC, one of the Court of Appeals judges recently expelled from Fiji after tabling unpalatable decisions, which led to president Iloilo‘s abrogation of the country‘s constitution.

The last time I wrote here about Fiji, in December 2006, the coup had just occurred. Now there has been a second move, this time by the president, whose protégé (or employer), Commodore Bainimarana, has been unable to get the judiciary to see things his way.

The result is a military dictatorship, with The Sydney Morning Herald posting a story today comparing Fiji to Burma.

In Fiji the journalists have refused to screen anything, and censors took out stories before press time leaving gaping holes in pages targeted at Fijian citizens. They will doubtless wonder why their country is to be targeted by regional bodies such as the Pacific Islands Forum, which may expel the nation. The Commonwealth would be remiss if it didn’t do the same.

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