In a statement release this evening Bainimarama said:
The Public Order Act amongst other provisions, requires any group wanting to hold a public meeting to apply for a permit from the Police before the proposed event. In this case, no application was made so the Police are entirely within their rights to question those who have allegedly contravened these provisions.
Bainimarama said that those who attended this gathering were lawfully detained for questioning and there have been no allegations of any of their human rights being breached while in detention.
These included the right to legal counsel. They were released within the 48 hours that the law prescribes as the limit at which they can be detained without appearing in court.
Bainimarama said a notable double standard was being adopted by certain countries in relation to this matter.
They either suspend certain rights themselves when incarcerating their citizens or other nationals and in some instances, even on the mere suspicion of a remote threat to their national security. They have adopted practices and laws that are abhorrent to internationally accepted human rights values and principles. Other nations turn a blind eye to or are mute on similar behaviour on the part of their friends and allies.
The Prime Minsiter said that Fiji had a sovereign right to make its own laws and in the case of the Public Order Act.
It (POA) exists because of our colonial past and an unfortunate history of civil unrest in post independent Fiji which cannot be repeated. The statute in question is to ensure law and order, protect our people and maintain the health of our economy on which the welfare of every Fijian depends. Source: Newswire Fiji
As Bainimarama condemns the international community's double standard towards Fiji, we reproduce from the Fiji Sun (December 2006) VICTOR LAL's opinion column "International Community, Go to hell with your double standards on Fiji"
The Fiji Sun (December 2006)
A coup is a coup!
Why one law for Pakistan, and another for Fiji?
If there ever was hypocrisy and double standard in international politics that made one choke with disgust it was the joint statement issued by Uncle Sam’s world sheriff Condoleeza Rice and Alex Downer, the puppeteer of South Pacific’s muscular man John Howard in Washington where the two jointly called on the Fiji military to return the country immediately to the elected Government of the deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.
In order to highlight international double standards, we cannot but once again draw parallel with General Pervez Musarraf of Pakistan who, like Commodore Bainimarama, had seized power in October 1999 after the democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had dismissed Mr Musharaff as the Chief of Army Staff while the general was visiting Sri Lanka. Mr Nawaz was later thrown in prison and tried by Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Courts, which sentenced him to several life sentences for corruption, hijacking, tax evasion, embezzlement, and terrorism in 2000.
The military government agreed to commute his sentence from life in prison to exile in Saudi Arabia. On 12 May 2000, eight days before George Speight’s failed coup, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that the 1999 coup that brought Mr Musharraf to power was justified, but set a timetable for a return to democracy within three years. The Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan said the coup was justified on grounds of necessity, because of corruption and misrule, the bad shape of the economy in October 1999, and that the General’s sacking was illegal. Mr Musharraf asked: Why did Nawaz Sharif do what he did? Why did he commit political suicide? Whatever the reason, Mr Sharif committed political suicide.
In his book, In the Line of Fire, Mr Musharraf states that whenever there is a tussle between the president and the prime minister in his country, all roads lead to the general headquarters of the army. It is not unusual for Pakistanis and the intelligentsia to approach the army chief and ask him to save the nation. The spirit of loyalty is instilled deeply in all ranks of the Pakistani army. According to him, “At the lower ranks loyalty is toward the commander, and his word is to be obeyed without question. At the senior command level is a larger sense of loyalty to a common cause or toward protection of the nation. The senior commanders had to decide whether their loyalty to a blundering prime minister was stronger than their loyalty to their own chief and their patriotism and love for the nation and its people.” At the end of the day, the army took action in favour of “their higher sense of loyalty to Pakistan and in accordance with what the nation would have desired them to do”. He declared: “I am proud of my army and the spontaneous support displayed by the Pakistani masses, who placed their trust in me to steer the nation to safety and prosperity.”
The General called in his close army colleagues. They agreed that Pakistan should remain a constitutional state, but they needed to restore their damaged constitution and create a transition government. They already had a president, but the presidency was a reduced post; what was needed was a head of government. Under the Pakistan Constitution the prime minister is the chief executive of the country and head of government. On 3 October 1999 one of Pakistan’s most distinguished constitutional lawyers, Shariffudin Pirzada, came up with an eminently sensible solution to General Musharaff: keep the constitution operational, except for a few clauses, which could be temporarily suspended. General Musharraf decided neither to abrogate the Constitution nor to impose martial law. He however now decided to become chief executive and head of government. The army top brass felt that given the circumstances that had been forced upon the army, there had been no option but to remove the Sharif government.
Mr Musharraf also prepared a draft speech to be delivered on 17 October 1999. At the same time, he started selecting his Cabinet and other crucial members of his team. The only criteria he had were an impeccable reputation and a successful track record. To select his team he set up a committee of top army officers to identify and interview people, and then create a short list of three for each portfolio. Mr Musharraf interviewed each of the finalists himself and made the decision. On 17 October 1999 he spoke to the nation and the world, declaring that he was forced to take over the country, and was determined to take it ahead at full sail, promising to respond to the Pakistanis’ cry to punish their country’s corrupt and criminal rulers and politicians. It was not long when Mr Musharraf in 2000 appointed the current Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was than Finance Minister, as the new PM. It was a fait accompli, the annoucement made at a private dinner party to which Mr Aziz was invited to: “Let us give a good round of applause to the new prime minister,” Mr Musharraf told his dinner guests.
And it was not long before the hypocrisy and double standard of the international community came to the fore. All those finger-jabing at Commodore Bainimarama are jostling to become the General’s best friend, especially the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the United Nations, and the European Parliament. Since the Fiji coup, the European Parliament has been piling up one sanction after another on us. Yet, in September 2006, it welcomed Mr Musharraf to its Parliament, where the General met with the leaders of its political groups and President Josep Borrell. He told Mr Borrell and the European parliamentarians to see Pakistan as a key ally in the war on terror and that the European Parliament could help the European Union and Pakistan increase trade links. Mr Musharraf also assured them that he would continue to keep fighting the “Talibanisation” of parts of Pakistan.
And he wanted to create a moderate, religious and tolerant nation, despite the fact that there is “democratic deficit” in Pakistan (where there are no democratic elections and no separation between the military and politics) and lack of religious tolerance. When questioned about his own future as a General and President, he said, “I’ll take decision in 2007 according to the constitution of Pakistan”. He was sent of as a great friend of the European parliamentarians in South Asia.
Earlier, in June, Ms Rice had visited Pakistan as ‘a good friend’ of that country. While welcoming her, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursid Kasuri told a press conference that Ms Rice “has played an important role in the positive evolution of Pakistan-United States ties over the past five years, working towards a broad-based, long-term and sustainable”. Her visit was meant to take the evolving relationship forward to a higher level, to strengthen the ‘Strategic Partnership’ established during President Bush’s visit to that country in March 2006. She also called upon General Musharraf, and looked forward to receiving Mr Kasuri in Washington.
She told her adoring fans, many of them who had ridden to power on the back of the General’s October 1999 coup: “Pakistan is a country that is going through a tremendous transition. It is a country that, as President Musharraf has said, has adopted a course of enlightened moderation. It is a course that not only the United States supports but that is supported worldwide. And we have had a discussion of the role that the further democratization of Pakistan will play on that road to enlightened moderation, including the importance of the upcoming elections in 2007, and we look forward to further discussions of those matters.”
In October 2005 General Musharraf came on the six-day official visit to the South Pacific. Mr John Howard welcomed the General to a luncheon in Australian Parliament, and praised him endlessly. He told the Pakistani General: ‘This is the first occasion that we have been graced with a visit to our country by a Pakistani head of state, who of course is also head of government of that country. And also I salute somebody in President Musharraf who has led a transition of his country to a democratic state.” Mr Howard even made a return visit to Pakistan, meeting with the ‘dinner appointed PM’, Mr Aziz.
Mr Howard’s counterpart, Helen Clark, was equally salivating with praise of Mr Musharraf, and announced several joint initiatives between New Zealand and Pakistani, including several scholarships for Pakistanis. There was none of those threats and abuses that have been heaped on Commodore Bainimarama.
Mr Musharraf and his close family, army officers, and political appointees have not been slapped with travel bans. None of the countries have suspended military aid, and cut sporting contacts with Pakistan. If any thing, the international community has given General Musharraf the general stamp of approval for his October 1999 coup.
Hence, if I were Commodore Bainimarama, I would tell all these hypocritical countries to simply go to hell. We cannot have two rules, one for Pakistan and one for Fiji. A coup is a coup. Both Mr Qarase and Mr Sharif decided to commit political suicide by attempting to sack their respective heads of the armed forces, without considering the consequences.
The world should await the report of the promised Commission into corruption in Fiji. Unlike Mr Sharif, Mr Qarase has not been exiled to Australia or Africa – yet!.