Monday, July 25, 2011

[pima.nius] FIJI: Fugitive Mara embarks on whirlwind ‘pro-democracy’ tours

1:57 PM |

Title – 7552 FIJI: Fugitive Mara embarks on whirlwind 'pro-democracy' tours
Date – 25 July 2011
Byline – Alex Perrottet
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Pacific Scoop, 25/7/11
Copyright – PS
Status – Abridged
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FIJI FUGITIVE MARA TO EMBARK ON WHIRLWIND 'PRO-DEMOCRACY' TOURS

AUCKLAND (Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch):  Fiji political fugitive Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara is departing New Zealand for Tonga today, and plans to make a whirlwind tour to the US and around the Pacific over the next month to promote his "pro-democracy" cause.

The former lieutenant-colonel and a key officer in the 2006 military coup who is accused by human rights activists of being responsible for torture in the regime – allegations he denies – expects to visit Samoa, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

And he will return to Auckland for the Pacific Islands Forum in early September.

Speaking at the Papatoetoe Town Hall at a meeting organised by the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement New Zealand on Saturday night, Ratu Mara said he was still garnering support from other Pacific nations for his cause of bringing democracy back to Fiji.

'Unelected, illegal and corrupt'
He had particularly harsh words for the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Danny Philip, who has supported Bainimarama resuming chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

"The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands conveniently forgets that many Fijian soldiers gave their lives for that country during World War Two and now is he siding with an unelected illegal and corrupt regime," he said.

"With the support of the Solomon Islands, [the regime] has resumed chairmanship of the MSG and its plan is to use it as a front against Australia and New Zealand."

Ratu Mara plans on visiting Samoa first, after being invited by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi when they met in Australia last month.

The former military officer, who fled Fiji in May after being charged with sedition, called on the 400-strong audience and all people to unite against what he repeatedly referred to as the "illegal regime".

Paraphrasing the American Declaration of Independence, he said: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive it is the right of the people to abolish it."

He criticised the scaling back of freedom of movement, freedom of association and of the press, and said Fiji had deteriorated considerably since Bainimarama took power in 2006.

"It was not too long ago that the official tourist slogan for Fiji was 'Fiji: the way the world should be'," he said.

"I feel so sad and disillusioned to tell you that Fiji is now the way the world should not be.

"A fundamental right of every citizen is the right to free speech, the right to dissent. That right no longer exists. Citizens who speak out against the ruling regime's excesses and abuse of office are arrested by the military, not the police and are taken to military headquarters, where they are beaten, kicked, and even tortured.

"And not only men, but women as well. And not only Fijians, but Indians and general voters as well."

More 'tyranny' to come
Ratu Mara lamented the dissolution of the Great Council of Chiefs, the militarisation of the public service, as well as the Methodist Church and the new 'Land Use Bank', which is being developed in the wake of last year's Land Use Decree.

"The Fijians are worried they will lose what they inherited from their forefathers," he said.

Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre's Pacific Media Watch project.

* Full text of article:

* Mara road show preaches to political 'old guard' at NZ venue:

* Comment on this item: pmediawa@aut.ac.nz 

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