By RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY
The events in Ukraine are a stark reminder of what can happen when people are determined to get rid of tyranny. The Presidency of Viktor Yanukovych came to an end when he was forced to concede to the demands of the people, precipitated in large part on account of widespread poverty, bad governance and leading a life of luxury whilst the people starved.
His resignation also saw the release of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed for 7 years in 2011 for alleged abuse of power. The pro Russian President’s removal (by the people) also saw the felling of symbols of Russian rule, including statues of Vladmir Lennin. The telling blow came when the police who were guarding the President at the presidential quarters left the premises leaving no protection for the President, who was forced to flee to a pro Russian town away from the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine may be thousands of miles from Fiji but the events of this week have shown that issues that lead to change of regimes are universal and rooted in the belief that it is the people who will decide who governs them. Coercion, inducements and pleas from politicians to have the people elect them is challenged when people want change.
Like Fiji, Ukraine has a high public debt (37% of GDP). According to Fitch Ratings, an international rating agency, the total (direct and guaranteed) state debt of Ukraine by the end of 2013 will exceed 40 percent, and by the end of 2014 could reach about 48 percent. Fiji’s gross government debt as a percentage of GDP in 2012 was 51.65. This figure would have increased substantially last year on account of huge borrowings by the illegal regime.
Like Ukraine aligning with Russia for aid and military support, Fiji under Frank Bainimarama has established firm ties with China for the purposes of obtaining loans and military assistance. This look policy of shunning the traditional ANZUS support came about after opposition to the coup by the ANZUS alliance.
In Fiji today we have the dictatorship of Bainimarama, supported by certain elements of the military, Fijian and Indian elites and parts of the business community. In fact, the most sustenance to the 2006 coup’s longevity was provided for by certain sections of the indigenous Fijian community themselves. Many assisted the illegal regime in exchange for promotions, special favours or to get back at other pro Qarase people.
The military, once a bastion of protecting Fijian interests, has had its top brass bought out by Bainimarama via board appointments, ambassadorships and government appointments. A similar trend, of elite Fijians supported an earlier extra constitutional act in 1987 is well documented and needs no elucidation. Of course these certain Fijian elites were well supported by certain parasitic Indian elites and business houses.
Chiefs were used and the Church, through rogues like Inoke Kubuabola, unwittingly became entwined in the extra constitutional processes of 1987. Some also tried to do the same in the events post 19 May 2000. During all this time, the ordinary person suffered. In the aftermath of the political upheavals of 1987, 2000 and 2006, it was the ordinary person who has suffered. In 2014, the issues poverty and homelessness, in Fiji, are the most pressing social challenges and this has even been acknowledged by Bainimarama in recent weeks.
Extreme poverty has been brought about by soaring food prices, static wages, mass unemployment, a shrinking economy and huge loan repayment obligations which siphon monies which would ordinarily be spent on health, education, infrastructure and job creation.
The dengue outbreak and the regime’s inability to control it since October 2013 has shown the inaptitude of the health minister Neil Sharma, who in any other civilized country would long have been sacked. The promises of free education has been another lie, with many children still not being able to afford to go to school with high cost of school uniforms, shoes, lunches, transport and sports uniforms.
The much hyped infrastructure development has come at huge cost to the nation, with irresponsible borrowing by an unelected regime, and which will be paid for many generations to come. Much of the infrastructure development, in any event, was already planned for by earlier elected government/s.
Absence of job creation and unemployment is now more evident than under any other administration. Thousands of school leavers are either unemployed or given piece meal work at appalling wages and with no payment of FNPF dues by the employer.
The whittling away FNPF annuities, by those tasked with protecting workers’ rights such as Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai, effectively means that retirees will find it exceedingly difficult to survive and meet their financial obligations, which will also include providing for the post secondary education of their children. The borrowings by the illegal regime constitute over 50% of FNPF’s exposure and it is trite that FNPF is technically solvent through a number of highly irresponsible transactions such as the purchase of the refurbished Airbus planes and borrowings to finance the operational expenditure of the illegal regime. Numerous forms of indirect taxation is used to raise revenue for the illegal regime.
Instances of abuse of office, nepotism and financial mismanagement have all led to over 10,600 complaints to one anti corruption regulatory alone. Police resources are seriously lacking and the direct interference into its operational and investigative duties. Many police officers are sent on compulsory leave as a cash strapped police force cannot meet the wages to their officers.
Whilst the local citizenry is denied its entitlements, amenities and services, Bainimarama courts Chinese nationals, offering them valuable State and native land for a pittance. The recent announcement of resettling thousands of Kiribati nationals, without consultation with landowners or the people, will have serious ramifications on the limited resources available for the provision of basic amenities.
More importantly, Bainimarama has irresponsibly offered residency permits and sold passports to unqualified Chinese nationals, who invest a paltry $100,000.00.
These Chinese nationals have no value to add to Fiji and have been responsible for the establishment of numerous massage palours, racketeering, prostitution, money laundering and other serious criminal activity.
Indeed the score card for Fiji resembles that of Ukraine in many respects, and in some cases is worse.
It is time for the people of Fiji to wake up to all the injustices that is being perpetuated on them by an illegal regime. The hunger, the homelessness, the lack of opportunity, the bludgeoning debt and an absolute contempt for rule of law requires the people to take their protest and have their voices heard during the proposed polls in September 2014.
There is no guarantee of the proposed elections being free or fair. Or they can protest now. The lessons from Ukraine may serve as a beacon for those who choose to publicly show their dissatisfaction with the illegal regime.
Either way, change has to take place. Dictatorship must yield to democracy. The people’s voices must be heard.
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