6955 SUVA: The full text of the Foreign Correspondent interview with Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
McDONALD: Prime Minister, who’s one person who’s been a really major influence on your life?
BAINIMARAMA: No, no, cut, cut, cut. I don’t want that.
McDONALD: You haven’t been this accessible to the foreign media ever, I don’t think. Why have you chosen now to let me in and to show a more personal side of you?
BAINIMARAMA: Well I have been accessible to the media. The international press have been here before you to interview me especially Graham Davis. But there’s a different side of Fiji, and the governance and the ministers and me personally that the Australians and the Kiwis don’t see, a lot of them don’t see.
McDONALD: And what side is that?
BAINIMARAMA: The ordinary side. We are shown in the TV and in the papers every day as, as dictators, dictators in the sense that we go round abusing the powers that we have. That doesn’t happen here.
McDONALD: You are a military dictator though?
BAINIMARAMA: I am a military man. But ah... what does dictator mean to you?
McDONALD: Well you do have a very firm grip on Fijian society.
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, but that.... is that what dictatorship is about? Then if that is a definition of dictator, then I guess most of the countries in the region have dictators.
McDONALD: You have Fiji under a state of emergency.
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, for good reason. The Australians and the Kiwis would come up with that when they have a state of emergency, yes or no?
McDONALD: But the state of emergency does clamp down on many freedoms of speech?
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, again, I said the reason why we’re doing it now is for very good reason. We are working towards democracy in 2014 when we have parliamentary democracy, when we have election. And in the meantime there are many reforms that we need to put in place, and those reforms will never happen if we open everything out to every Tom, Dick and Harry to have their say.
McDONALD: Could you spell out the reforms you’re trying to achieve?
BAINIMARAMA: Well the reforms are in the way we think. We’ve been led down one particular path in the last 40, 50 years. We need to come away from that. Our constitution has not been good, has not been kind to us. Our constitution... and on that note our electoral reform, our electoral system, has not been kind to us, has been very racist. And those are the type of reforms we need to get away from, the reforms that we need to put in place.
McDONALD: Can you spell out how the constitution is going to look?
BAINIMARAMA: Well it’s going to be free of race politics, that’s that’s one. You know, the electoral system for instance is going to be based one man, one vote. If that is something that the Australians, the Kiwis, don’t like, I really don’t see what’s the problem with that. I don’t... you... if you have it in your country? Do you have one man, one vote?
BAINIMARAMA: Then I don’t see why we can’t have one man, one vote in Fiji.
McDONALD: Well why can’t you achieve it sooner?
BAINIMARAMA: Well as I continuously said, the reforms take time. This one, I told Graham last week, that this is the one opportunity we’re given to bring about the reforms, to bring about a better Fiji. It’s to do with the people of Fiji. It’s not to do with us, not to do with the military, it’s not to do with his governing body. It’s to do with what’s going to be the future of our people, especially our children and our grandchildren. And this is the one opportunity. We lose this opportunity, God help Fiji, seriously.
McDONALD: Why do you think you are the best man to make decisions on behalf of almost 900,000 Fijians?
BAINIMARAMA: Well it’s not me, really. It’s the military. Ah I also mention this, that the military is the only entity that can bring about the reforms. The politicians can’t bring about the reforms, for obvious reason. Ah... they are politicians, they would love to stay in power, and because of that ah they don’t like ah much to bring about changes that would remove them from power. And those are the changes that we are putting in place now.
McDONALD: But you’ve already been in power almost four years. By the time the elections come about, it’ll be 2014. You will have been in power for eight years without a mandate from the people.
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, but we believe as long as we’re doing the reforms that will bring about a better Fiji, that’s good enough for us. As long as there’s no abuse of power. If there’s any sign of corrupt dealings, we have people removed. That goes without saying. So it’s not just a matter of how many years we’re in government, it’s what we do in government. So we have to make sure that the power that we have is not abused.
McDONALD: Why do you think you’re the chosen one, Commodore Bainimarama?
BAINIMARAMA: No, no, no! Move away from me, I’m not the chosen one. It’s the military, I keep saying, it’s the military. You know when we talked about the governing of this country in 2006, I had gone out to try and look at people who we can put in the top chair, that of the prime ministership. And we all sat as senior officers. No matter who we came up with, the senior voices, the senior officers’ voice was that it should (not) be anyone outside the military, because we gave it to Qarase (Prime Minister 2000-2006) once, and guess what he did with it? It didn’t work out well. So here they told me, we don’t have much choice, you have to take it now onward.
McDONALD: They told you, that was the senior military colleagues of yours?
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, and I tend to agree with it.
McDONALD: Can I just ask, what motivated - and I think this is what we’re talking about now - what motivated you to take power in the coup of 2006?
BAINIMARAMA: Well as you know, we didn’t call it a coup, we called it a clean-up campaign. And that’s what we wanted to do. And the reason why we wanted to do that, what motivated us was the need to bring about all these reforms that we thought that’s not doing us..... any changes that need to be put in place to bring a better Fiji.
McDONALD: Did you wrestle with it at the time?
BAINIMARAMA: Excuse me.
No, but as I was saying, Philippa, that every time a name came up, we kept reminding ourselves of what happened in 2000 and 2001 when we gave the leadership to somebody else. And he didn’t complete what we wanted done. So we decided to keep it within.
McDONALD: So you waited six years after you installed Qarase and decided enough is enough?
BAINIMARAMA: It’s a long time, huh, to be wanting someone. But what are you doing? And you see the incredible thing about it is.... the irony of it all is they wanted to take me to court for what I did, for what the military did in 2000!
McDONALD: So was it in some sense a bit of a payback as well?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, not really. We just wanted to get rid of the government so we can bring about these reforms.
McDONALD: So during that time, 2000 to 2006, were you looking at what job the Prime Minister was doing and saying, I could do a better job?
BAINIMARAMA: Well not, not really what I.... if I can do a better job. Just telling him that he’s not doing the right thing by the people of this nation.
McDONALD: Are you doing the right thing by the people of this nation?
BAINIMARAMA: I think this government is doing the right thing by the people of this nation.
McDONALD: How do you know though? Because you’ve not put it to the test, you’ve not stood for an election, there’s not been a referendum?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, well
McDONALD: Your leadership’s not really been tested.
BAINIMARAMA: Well, we’ve put it to the test. The charter was taken out to the streets, to the people of Fiji, and at that stage, as I mentioned last week not on the.... in front of the leaders, there was a 63 per cent endorsement. But then that was the early stages, nobody knew or understood the charter then, and a lot of people were still sceptical about the changes that we were going to bring about. And there was still a lot of influence by the politicians at large that didn’t want this, because they know they’re either going to lose out, or they will lose out totally. But since then, people have endorsed the changes that we’ve brought about. I can tell you that just about all the provinces have endorsed it.
McDONALD: You’ve been getting out amongst the provinces . . .
BAINIMARAMA: . . . I’ve been getting out, not only the urban areas too, in the rural sectors too, in the villages setting, the Indo-Fijian communities, and they’ve endorsed what we’re doing and they want more in fact.
McDONALD: What do you define as endorsement?
BAINIMARAMA: Well a good number has come back to say we don’t really don’t need the election in the things that you’re doing now. But we need to have an election, so we’ve.... I’ve told them that we’re going to have elections in 2014. But they’ve come up with a commendation of what we’ve done in the last four years, and that we need to carry on with the work that’s been done.
McDONALD: To what extent would you acknowledge, Commodore Bainimarama, that people are hearing it from you, there is no real debate happening in this country?
McDONALD: That those people are hearing it from you.
BAINIMARAMA: Well we have, we have our feelings. We know what’s happening on the ground. We know exactly who’s saying what, even though they’re not saying it publicly, we know what’s happening.
McDONALD: Do you bug phones?
BAINIMARAMA: Oh no! No, we’re not the Australian government, thank you.
McDONALD: Now look, yesterday you had us at church with you. How have you weighed up silencing the Methodist Church with your own face?
BAINIMARAMA: There’s a misunderstanding of what I want to do with regards to the church and the Methodist Church. I’m a member of Methodist Church. There’s nothing wrong with the Methodist Church. It’s a few leaders, a few spokespeople, including politicians who have politicised some factors of the Methodist Church that is misleading the people. There are some leaders in the chieftainship of our nation, the Great Council of Chiefs, and who have politicised the great consular chiefs, who are misleading us. So we need to change that and that has been changed.
McDONALD: You’ve effectively silenced the church and the chiefs, haven’t you?
BAINIMARAMA: Well yes, in a way, but you know Philippa, for us to bring about these reforms, as I’ve said, we need to stop all people speaking out against the government and its reform. And these two entities were most vocal because they were politicised. So I need to silence them. I need to have them silenced.
McDONALD: What will the new Fiji look like?
BAINIMARAMA: It will be a Fiji without any race policies, so it’ll be good. It’ll be one man, one vote, so everyone will have the same equal opportunity to advance.
McDONALD: It looks like the Fiji Times will close down. How do you feel about that?
BAINIMARAMA: I feel disappointed, because there’ll be a lot of job losses. But as I continuously said, Philippa, that’s not my doing. That was the doing of the management, and again a few people in Fiji Times, not all of them. You know, the people that are in the back, there’s about maybe 200.... 300 who are printing papers, they don’t know the policies, the politics that is involved in the daily papers. It’s just a few members of the management. So it’s.... as much as it’s disappointing, there’s not much I can do about it, because that’s really the management issue.
McDONALD: But there is something you can do. Through your media decree, you’ve put a ban on foreign ownership. If you lifted that, there’d be no need for this to happen.
BAINIMARAMA: Unfortunately that’s not going to happen. In fact, the management have been told about that a long way before this issue about closing down came in. They knew what was going to happen, so they had ample time to bring about the changes they need to bring about, so they can stay open. But that didn’t happen.
McDONALD: You’ve had the troops in the newsroom. News Limited says there’s been a lot of intimidation by your people of journalists inside the Fiji Times.
BAINIMARAMA: Did you, did you go into the newsroom last week when you were given opportunity?
McDONALD: No, I was not given an opportunity.
BAINIMARAMA: But didn’t something like that happen?
McDONALD: I went to the Fiji Sun.
BAINIMARAMA: But you Fiji Sun.... you didn’t go to the Fiji Times?
BAINIMARAMA: Why didn’t you go to the Fiji Times?
McDONALD: They would not let us in.
BAINIMARAMA: The Fiji Times wouldn’t let you in? Because if they’d let you in, they would’ve .... you would’ve seen that there were no troops in the (Fiji Times)
BAINIMARAMA: Previously, maybe on the first couple of days there were a couple of policemen, a member from my Ministry of Information, from my press people. But no, no troops as in gun wielding corporals climbing on top of tables. That doesn’t happen here. But the reason why they didn’t let you in is because if they’d let you in, you’d have seen that there is no troops in there.
McDONALD: I . . .
BAINIMARAMA: . . . In fact, just a member now, just one member of the Ministry of Information.
BAINIMARAMA: Yeah, just to have a look at what they’re going to print. But it doesn’t bring about instability?
McDONALD: Are you getting rid of the Fiji Times because the Fiji Times is not a friend of Fiji?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, Philippa, in the last few weeks for instance, you see the.... open the Fiji Times when they’re not on stories. They didn’t cover anything at all. In fact there may be one or two couple of lines. That’s to do with the governance of this country. They should be letting the people know what’s happening in our nation, with regards to the governance of this nation. And yet they they didn’t want to acknowledge that. They’ve never acknowledged me as Prime Minister of this nation, even though I’ve been Prime Minister for the last four years.
McDONALD: So they’ve got to go?
BAINIMARAMA: No, it’s really not that. But what I’m saying is, they’re not doing the right thing by the people of this nation. So they really can’t complain, can they?
McDONALD: They’ve been complaining loudly, haven’t they?
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, but it’s really the fault of the management, I keep saying. It’s not my fault. I feel sorry for those people that will have lost jobs, but I hope at some stage they will come back and find employment.
McDONALD: The Australian government and many other international agencies say that there is no freedom of the press or freedom of expression in Fiji anymore.
BAINIMARAMA: Well that’s what the Australian government says, but then the Australian . . .
McDONALD: Amnesty International says as well . . .
BAINIMARAMA: Australian government and then international as in the Kiwis and the Brits . . .
McDONALD: Amnesty International.
BAINIMARAMA: Amnesty, you have you read Amnesty? Amnesty people from here that have been against the 2006 (coup) in the first place. And even those, the politics of SDL (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Leweninvanua party) there were endorsing all that. So they have good reason to go against what I’m trying to put in place.
McDONALD: The sanctions are biting hard, aren’t they?
BAINIMARAMA: The sanctions?
McDONALD: The EU sanctions, you know EU not handing over the money to the sugar industry.
BAINIMARAMA: Ah yes, in a way yes, yeah.
McDONALD: The economy is fragile. How concerned are you about the economy?
BAINIMARAMA: As concerned as the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Prime Minister of Australia about their economies. There’s no difference between what we’re going through here and what Greece is going through.
McDONALD: Except you have a lot of people living below the poverty line . . .
McDONALD: Or just above it.
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, and we’re looking at it. We’re trying to get away from all those people below the poverty line, and we have policies that target those.
McDONALD: You’ve gone cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund. What have you told them? How much do you need and what do you need the money for?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, that’s really a negotiation between us and the IMF, so I won’t go public on that. But suffice to say we we’re talking with our International Monetary Fund for some funding.
McDONALD: How close do you think you are to resolving that issue?
BAINIMARAMA: Oh, pretty close.
McDONALD: Weeks? Months?
BAINIMARAMA: Oh, months probably.
McDONALD: Fiji’s National Provident Fund, the savings of most Fijians, how concerned are you about the write-offs there?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, very concerned. But as the board management has said over the weeks following that they’ve patched things up, and all we need to do is make sure that that stays patched. That stays fixed.
McDONALD: What’s patching it up?
BAINIMARAMA: Well they’re looking at ways to ensure that we don’t abuse funds. There’s a lot of abuse in the last few years, and we need to stop that. So and they’ve come up with those plans.
McDONALD: And stopping withdrawals for school fees and all those sorts of things?
BAINIMARAMA: Well you know we started off with three conditions for withdrawals. Over the many years, for the last ten years, because of politics involved, they need.... you see this is what I’m trying to tell you. Politicians need votes, and people will come to the politicians and say we want this. So the three conditions for withdrawals was increased from that to about 22. And that is one of the reasons that the money is going away from FNPF. We need to tighten those up.
McDONALD: And there were those investments under the previous government?
BAINIMARAMA: There was a investment, investment clause that was changed by the SDL (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Leweninvanua party) in 2005 that entitled the board to look outside what it was doing. And that was also one of the reasons the money went out.
McDONALD: High risk investments?
BAINIMARAMA: That’s right.
McDONALD: Let’s look at democracy. When you took over the government in 2006 you said elections within one year, and it was elections within two years, then it was elections in four years. Now it’s elections within eight years. Come 2014, is Fiji definitely going to have a democratic election?
BAINIMARAMA: Well I said 2014 we’ll have democratic election.
McDONALD: Mahendra Chaudhry, your former finance minister and the former prime minister, has been charged with tax evasion and money laundering. What was your reaction to the news?
BAINIMARAMA: Philippa, I think we’ll stay out of the case. That case is in court and I wouldn’t want to make any comments on those.
McDONALD: When history is written about Frank Bainimarama’s coup and leadership of Fiji for eight years, how do you think you’re going to be remembered?
BAINIMARAMA: Well it’s not Frank Bainimarama, Philippa. It’s the government of the country right now, and which involves a lot of people, the military, and it should be the military that should be asked how we dealt with the problems we’ve had. I’m just the leader of the military.
McDONALD: You’re the strong man of Fiji.
BAINIMARAMA: Well yes I’m strong, because the leader.... the military is strong, and the people that have backed the military see that these are the changes that need to be brought about, and they’re very adamant and strong about it.
McDONALD: And you’ve been called the pariah of the Pacific. How do greet that kind of language?
BAINIMARAMA: Oh pariah, from who? What does pariah mean? What? What does it mean?
McDONALD: You say that the military’s in charge, but you’re in charge, aren’t you?
BAINIMARAMA: Yeah, because I’m the military commander.
McDONALD: A military dictator?
BAINIMARAMA: Well military dictator. When you say a military dictator, it’s.... you’re talking about abuse of privileges, of rights. And that’s something that we.... we’ve talked about ,that we’re not going to entertain. So the military is very firm on that.
McDONALD: As a journalist here, I have approached many people and several of those people had been previously very high profile and they will not speak to me. People in the street are wary of speaking to the media, there does appear to be an environment of fear and intimidation in your country.
BAINIMARAMA: Well it’s not so much fear and intimidation, Philippa. Ah you must think about all the things that we’ve done since 2006, so it’s not really them being intimidated. They just don’t want to talk about the reforms until the reforms are in place, I guess that they’re very uncomfortable with talking with about changes, when they they have not really come about.
McDONALD: They said that they fear being taken up to the barracks.
BAINIMARAMA: I’ve never heard of that, no.
McDONALD: Never done it?
McDONALD: Just to wrap up, we had a lovely time with your family yesterday. Thank you very much. Tell us about how important family is and how you relax?
BAINIMARAMA: Well I, you know, I told you this a couple of days ago, down at the netball court. But people in Fiji are very passionate about our families, not only me and my family, the whole lot of us. We’re passionate about our family, and we want to get an opportunity to get together as families and enjoy afternoon tea or some birthday parties like we had yesterday. We’re passionate about sports, so you’ll find on Saturdays there’s hardly anyone home, that’s why we’re eating in the curry place. But we enjoy that, we enjoy going out to sports, either to play sports, or for us parents to go and watch our children or grandchildren playing. So we’re very passionate about our family and passionate about our sports. And I guess passionate, and on that note, we’re passionate about what we should do to bring about a better Fiji, so we can continue with this.
McDONALD: That leads to my next question. Will you run for Prime Minister come democratic elections?
BAINIMARAMA: Well as I continuously said, Philippa, I can’t make up that decision now.
McDONALD: So you may?
BAINIMARAMA: I really don’t know. To tell you the truth people have asked me about it, but I have not even thought about making plans for that. Because if I do that, it’ll change the way I think about the reforms that we’re doing. Because I’ll think like a politician, and as a politician we’re not going to bring about the reforms that we want to put in.
McDONALD: So at the moment you’re thinking like a military man and a military leader running a country, but you won’t rule out running for prime minister come 2014?
BAINIMARAMA: Well think about it when the time comes. But right now.... not right now.
McDONALD: Thank you very much. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BAINIMARAMA: No , Philippa. I guess the the only thing that I wanted to say was that comment that kept coming from John Keys (New Zealand Prime Minister) about the leader of the Pacific Island....ah... leaders.
McDONALD: You said to me over the weekend that you’re pretty confident that your chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead group will go ahead.
BAINIMARAMA: Yes. I have the backing of Sir Michael (Somare, PM of PNG) the grand chief, and of course Dr. Sikua, the Prime Minister of Solomons. And I think that argument that was put across by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Natapei, has a lot of holes in it. He’s probably got his advice from some back street lawyers who came up. Because that legal opinion was really full of holes.
McDONALD: The Samoan Prime Minister has said to Radio New Zealand that they don’t support you as well. So does that matter?
BAINIMARAMA: I really don’t need the support from Samoa, seriously. This is to do with MSG (Melanesian Spearhead Group) and Samoa is not part of MSG. So I really don’t need support from Samoa in the first place.
McDONALD: Do you want to get back into the Pacific Island Forum?
BAINIMARAMA: Not in the conditions that it’s in right now.
McDONALD: What do you mean?
BAINIMARAMA: There’s a lot of in-fighting in there. There’s a lot of, the Secretary General of the Forum doesn’t even support our participation as member of the Pacific islands nation state, let alone being in the Forum. So he’s really a spokesman for Australia and New Zealand. It doesn’t help our case. But we’re comfortable, as we are. As I’ve said Philippa, we didn’t force ourselves out, also we’re not going to force ourselves in. And I don’t expect the Pacific leaders to go and jump on the table and and kick the the rubbish bins in Vanuatu next month, for us to be let back into the Forum.
McDONALD: What about putting the hand on a few shoulders, and saying how about letting Fiji in?
BAINIMARAMA: I don’t think so, because I’ve told them that we’re comfortable as we are. We really don’t need any support in that area. If they want us in, they have a consensus of opinion and they’ll take us back in. But we’re not going to force ourselves back in, nor are we going to ask the Pacific Island Nation leaders to fight our case.
McDONALD: Does it matter to Fiji not being part of Pacific Islands Forum?
BAINIMARAMA: Maybe 2014, not right now.
McDONALD: Do you see any value in the Pacific Islands Forum?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, there.... we were getting a lot of value and there was a lot of togetherness in the forum. But you, as you know, I don’t know if you know, but the Forum, the initial Forum didn’t have Australia and New Zealand.
McDONALD: Do you think they should be there at all? . . .
BAINIMARAMA: They crept in slowly like the proverbial camel, you know, with their head in, and then the front legs, and then the back legs, and all of a sudden the owners of the tent were out and they were inside the tent. I don’t think they should be in the Forum. They’re not Pacific islanders. That’s what grand chief said. You are metropolitan powers. When you vote in the UN, you vote for different issues altogether. When you take us to go and talk about climate change, you’re fighting on a different base, you’re fighting for something else, not us.
McDONALD: You expelled the Australian acting High Commissioner a couple of weeks ago now. What’s the future of the Australian High Commission in Fiji?
BAINIMARAMA: Well Philippa, to tell you the honest truth, I don’t think the people that represent the Australian government here are diplomats. They’re not diplomats at all. Diplomats, from my little understanding of that bring about the togetherness of the Australian people and ours. They have made life miserable for the people of Fiji for the last four years.
McDONALD: How can you say that? What’s the evidence?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, guess what. Who have we sent in.... sent out in this... from this country in the last ....
McDONALD: You’ve expelled two High Commissioners in eight months.
BAINIMARAMA: Exactly. Have we expelled the Chinese? Have we expelled the French? Have we expelled the Indians? No. So why have we expelled these two?
McDONALD: Are you getting closer to the Chinese and the Russians? There’s been some high level delegations.
BAINIMARAMA: We’ve had closer ties with the Russians and the Chinese over the last four years than we’ve ever done with the Australian.
McDONALD: What kind of ties?
BAINIMARAMA: And guess what.... the Australians are just round the corner. They are our biggest trading partners, we’ve been with them over all these years... they’ve helped establish our Australia and New Zealand.... established our military forces, give us grant, and they just turn around and did their back on us, just walked out. Why? Because why? I keep trying to figure out why? Just because a military is in power? Or is it they don’t like the changes that we’re going to bring about that will have us.... have an even footing with Australia and New Zealand in this region?
McDONALD: Well Australia has expressed grave concern about the military dictatorship here, the slowness towards the path to democracy, the deterioration of the rule of law, and human rights abuses.
BAINIMARAMA: Human rights abuses? What have you done with your Aborigine sectors of the population? Have you looked at that? Look at what we’re trying to do in Fiji. We’re trying to have everyone on an even playing field. What are you doing with yours?
McDONALD: Your abrogated the constitution and you’ve sacked the judges.
BAINIMARAMA: So, I have not, Look, look, don’t. You you’ve got this all wrong. I did not sack the judges. The judges went out with the abrogation of the constitution. The post of the Commander and the Prime Minister also went out with the abrogation of the constitution.
McDONALD: And you’re the one man standing?
BAINIMARAMA: Well someone has to lead this country. It’s not going to be the judges and it’s definitely not going to be an Australian.
McDONALD: And it’s not going to be the politicians?
BAINIMARAMA: That’s for sure.
McDONALD: And no one’s going to get a chance to vote for another four years.
BAINIMARAMA: Well, as I’ve said, we need to bring about the changes, then we’ll have a better Fiji. And then we think we’re going down the right path. So it’s for the Australians to.... and the Kiwis for that matter, to see what we’re trying to do and help us. There’s so much talk about election. Why don’t you go and tell your government to help us in the election process?
McDONALD: What about bringing back Radio Australia to Fiji?
McDONALD: Radio Australia?
BAINIMARAMA: What? So they can continue with this harping of what we’re trying to do with regards to changes? A lot of people don’t seem to understand, you know, PINA (Pacific Islands News Association), for once PINA, they came.... they understood what we’re trying to do here. They’re saying that we’re.... and this is not an ordinary government, we’re trying to bring about reforms and changes, and for that they understood that at some stage we’ll need to shut some people up, and stop this from bringing about instability and stop that. They understand that. I don’t see why John Keys and your government can’t understand that?
McDONALD: I think people are grappling with why you have to keep shutting people up four years after the coup.
BAINIMARAMA: Well it’s.... I keep harping about bringing the changes, and we can’t bring about changes if there are people that are still talking about bringing instability. Because if we do that, I can tell you, Philippa, we open this to the public, we’ll never have election in 2014. I tell you that. That I can guarantee you.
McDONALD: What’s going to happen? It sounds like you don’t trust the people.
BAINIMARAMA: I don’t. I don’t trust the people. That why I.... we’re trying to make this bring about all these changes without letting Fiji Times for instance open their mouths about something that is not happening in Fiji.
McDONALD: Will you be glad to see the Fiji Times go?
BAINIMARAMA: Well I’ll be glad that people like the Fiji Times will no longer be here. We’ll have our ownership of the papers, so we’ll have some, at least some support for what we’re trying to do.
McDONALD: Prime Minister, you will have even greater control, won’t you?
BAINIMARAMA: After what?
McDONALD: After the closure of the Fiji Times and....
BAINIMARAMA: Well, not really. I still am the Prime Minister of Fiji.
McDONALD: Thanks for your time.
BAINIMARAMA: Thank you, Philippa. - ABC Foreign Correspondent/Pacific Media Watch