Pacific Media Watch

23 March 2012

SAMOA: PM keeps up 'open dialogue' with Bainimarama through media

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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. Photo: Pacific Scoop

APIA (Samoa Observer / Pacific Media Watch): Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has taken another jab at Fiji’s military leader Frank Bainimarama. This time, Tuilaepa claims to have seen photos of soldiers killed during Bainimarama’s regime, which he described as “gruesome".

“The photos were taken by a priest I trust,” Tuilaepa said in a statement issued by the Office of the Press Secretariat, yesterday.

“And I am now more convinced at the level of violence and ruthlessness this man is capable of. The Pacific is known for peace and harmony. It’s perhaps the last vestiges of paradise in the world.

Fiji impact
There is no place here for brutal dictators like Bainimarama. What this fellow does in Fiji impacts adversely on the Pacific Islands as a whole.”

Tuilaepa’s views about Bainimarama are well known. Since the coup, the Prime Minister has been at the forefront of verbal attacks against the military leader.

In his latest statement, the Prime Minister concedes that there are people who believe he should not interfere with Fiji’s affairs.  But he disagrees.

“The reality is, Bainimarama wrestled that sovereignty away from the Fijian people at the point of a gun back in December 2006,” Tuilaepa points out.

“So as long as he (Bainimarama) is there pulling the trigger and the strings I will continue this open-dialogue through the media on the situation in Fiji.

“Several leaders have tried in the past to conduct sensitive and well-meaning face-to-face dialogue with Baini only to be publicly embarrassed by the Commodore.

“Deliberately distorting any agreements reached in confidence to promote support for his dictatorship.”

Diplomacy denial
Tuilaepa maintains that Bainimarama’s allegations about chequebook diplomacy with New Zealand and Australia are “rubbish”.

“The Pacific Islands Forum stance remains since 2008 when it suspended Bainimarama and his military regime.

“My position too has never swayed since December 2006 when he (Bainimarama) usurped the democratically-elected government in Suva.

‘I advised him then – through the media - not to overthrow the Fiji government, and since, have told him over and over again to leave civilian government and go back to the barracks. He doesn’t belong in the seat of government.

“In terms of development assistance, Samoa has had a remarkable record in properly utilising these financial assistances.

“The proper checks and balances and good governance practices are in place and grants are effectively utilised where they were supposed to go.

“As per his suggestion, it is the other way around. New Zealand, Australia, USA and other countries actually ask for my views on Fiji and I tell them what I’ve been telling the media through the years.

“The media here and overseas keep pestering me day and night on my views of Bainimarama and his band of soldiers.”

No faith
Asked if he believes Fiji will go to the polls in 2014 as Bainimarama has promised, Prime Minister Tuilaepa says: “He has done nothing to convince me he will take Fiji back to democratic governance.

“The public service top echelons are now occupied by inexperienced military colonels collecting high salaries and perks and living the good life. Is he going to corral them back to the barracks without creating another coup?

“Is he going to bring back an independent judiciary and the rule of law? One that will surely see him and his associates court-martialed for their treasonous and murderous acts? I think not.”

The Prime Minister also renewed his call for the military in Fiji to be disbanded.

“That’s the core of Fiji’s coup culture. Disband the military and let those boys go out and fish and farm and play rugby. Not cooped-up in military forts thinking up schemes to overthrow their government.

“As for the proposed Constitutional Review, it is unnecessary. The 1997 constitution should be reinstated with one major win-win reform. Disband the military!”

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