Elections no magic solution - Bainimarama

Fiji’s military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama has strongly attacked his regional critics and while saying he will still hold elections next year, he has warned they are not the solution.

He gave a speech in Suva today, 24 hours after the Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Auckland demanded he honour his promise to hold elections by March next year.

They also said the restoration of democracy should not be held up by Bainimarama's plans to introduce a so-called People's Charter.

In a speech to the military government-established charter group today, Bainimarama - who staged a coup in December 2006 - made it clear he was not impressed with the forum.

“Elections are central to democracy but they are not always, on their own, a magic or quick-fix solution,” he said.

“How can an election, on its own, make a difference when it is based on divisive and race based communal electoral arrangements?

“How can an election, on its own, solve the deep differences that our constitution has perpetuated between the different races in our country?

“Unless there are fundamental reforms, how can an election succeed where it will take us straight back to the grimy old politics of self interest, cronyism and scam mongering?”

Without referring directly to yesterday’s Auckland meeting, the commodore said there needed to be more to international relationships than just discussions about elections.

“It is a risk for all of us in the Pacific for the international community to seem to ignore, until after any election, the many pressing issues that our country faces.”

Bainimarama attacked those inside and outside Fiji who had resisted change, stirred up controversy and disrupted the military government.

“It has not helped that some detractors have been concocting phony criticisms, lighting up little bushfires here and there, so that we spend more of our time and effort in responding to these.

“To all our opponents and detractors, I say this: your persisting efforts to block change will be in vain.”

Bainimarama called on the international community to stop its lecturing habits.

"Opportunities for cheap shots should be resisted as they only harden attitudes. As we know, emotional reactions have in the past accentuated difficulties. But encouragement helps."


Fairfax Media