It was Robert Heinlein who is attributed with well - known statement about Secrecy which goes like this:
“Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force but secrecy….
censorship. When any government or any Church undertakes to
say to its subjects, ‘This you may not read, this you must not see,
This you are forbidden to know’ the end result is tyranny and
oppression, no matter how holy the motive”
Secrecy is about the lack of disclosures or the suppression of information about the truth and it is designed to keep people in the dark about some decisions or information that normally should be available to citizens in a democracy. Secrecy leads to censorship in the newspaper for example, and in other forms of media like radio, TV, and in various forms of expressions like public meetings, open debates, films etc.
Heinlein says that secrecy is related to tyranny which is about cruel, unjust or oppressive use of power or authority and is usually associated with tyrants or people who obtain complete power by force. Military dictators are tyrants in that sense.
Over the last few weeks, for example, there has been questions raised about the salary of Ministers especially of the Head of the Regime, Mr Bainimarama and his Attorney General. It is said by no other than the former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry in the column of the Fiji Sun last week that the salaries of all Cabinet Ministers were public knowledge. This was so until it this was removed from the Treasury and given to a Suva Accounting Firm managed by the Attorney General’s Aunt, Nur Bano Ali.
The issue of interest here is that the salary suddenly became a secret, and it disappeared from public view. In its disappearance, it infringes the principle of transparency and there is speculation that it has been increased to well over a million dollar a year for both Bainimarama and the Attorney general.
In its disappearance from public view, like most other information that have been removed from public view, there is suspicion on the part of the public or citizens that it is linked to some attempt by the Dictatorship to pervert the public interest and instead, promote its own.
The reply by Mr Bainimarama that his salary was going to be revealed at a later date has prompted Mr Chaudhry to say that that Mr Baimarama must provide also an audited accounts of his salary and it should be certified by the Auditor General and the Permanent Secretary of Finance. Mr Chaudhry added that it must also be backdated to early 2010, which was the period when Cabinet Salaries were handled by the Treasury.
There are also various examples of secret deals which have been questioned by members of the public because they run counter to procedures based on the principle of transparency .There has been for example, many accusations of very senior appointments in the Public Service made by the Regime which breach the procedures of the Public Service. These procedures, according to public comments, has enabled the Head of the Regime to appoint his relations such as his brother in law to being a Permanent Secretary of Works despite his criminal record.
There have been other appointments for the members of the military to senior posts in the public service and the secrecy of the procedures here and the manner in which they have been done have created distrust, as these are not in accordance with transparent procedures set down which safeguard the interest of the Public Service itself and the appointees.
Recently for example the political parties have challenged the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections and the thrust of their criticisms was based on the procedures adopted and in particular his qualifications falling short of what was advertised. This also raised questions according to the political parties the power and the independence of the Electoral Commission. As if this was not enough, the revelation that the Attorney General himself was also the General Secretary of the proposed Fiji First Party of the Regime added further complications. This is bound to create a lot of distrust from the perspective of all the political parties which will continue to affect the credibility of the AG and his role in the whole elections. It also throws a lot of questions of the provisions of the Electoral Act which provides for consultations between the Electoral Commission and the AG.
All these issues and the negative vibes that come out of them will affect in more ways than one the image and credibility of the Regime in its attempt to get elected. In my view all these negativities will undermine the efforts of the Regime to provide a clean image which they have been trying very hard to promote. Next week , we will deal with the issues of Censorship, Tyranny and Dictatorship.