Two of Fiji’s leading oppostion politicians say they don’t believe the committment made by the country’s leader’s to allow a return to democratic rule in 2014. September 2014 was the date promised by Fiji’s President, Ratu Josef Iloilo, at Easter, when he scrapped the country’s constitution. That date’s been condemned by Fiji’s international neighbours, but the current censorship of Fiji’s media has meant it’s been hard to hear the views of the country’s politicians.
Currently two of them – the acting national director of the SDL Party, Ted Young, and the General Secretary of the National Federation Party, Pramod Rae – are in Australia, talking to academics, politicians, and others. Both men told Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney they don’t believe Commodore Bainimarama’s promise. And while they have been speaking-out against the military backed regime, Mr Young says so far there’s been nothing yet physical.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speaker: Pramod Rae, General Secretary of Fiji’s National Federation Party; Ted Young, Acting National Director of the SDL Party
YOUNG: No physical beating, no physical intimidation and harassment by armed soldiers.
RAE: But look mental torture, psychological intimidation is just as bad or even worse. We receive calls, telephone calls on a regular basis from senior military officers telling us they’re unhappy about what we’re saying. So what I’m more concerned with is the feeling I get when I receive these calls as to what the caller is feeling. Like some of these senior military officers appear to be really frightened of what might happen in Fiji if people like us continue to criticise the performance of the interim regime.
COONEY: September 2014 is the date set for an election by President Ratu Josef Iloilo, it’s the date Commodore Bainimarama is saying that he is working towards for political players in Fiji. That’s a pretty long time to you are able to go to the polls. Are you concerned about the future of both your parties and the other political parties in Fiji?
YOUNG: Campbell let me ask you do you believe that guy? We certainly don’t believe him. Not one word he says.
COONEY: Ok if you want my personal point of view is I can only go on the date that he gives and this is the date that they have given?
YOUNG: No one in Fiji believes that he’ll keep to his promise and have that election in 2014.
RAE: Look Campbell it’s not about our future as political parties, it is about the kind of future that we want, the people of Fiji want for themselves. Now as to the September 2014 date well it was Ratu Josef Iloilo himself who in written communication to us earlier on had said March 2009. Bainimarama several times said March 2009. That didn’t happen. Now they say September 2014. We are under no illusions that it will happen in September 2014. You have raised an interesting question about the future of political parties like ours. We are actually afraid that by the time they’re ready to call an election they may decree that parties like the SDL and the NFP ought not to be around, because this is specifically provided for in the charter. There are provisions there to penalise political parties like ours who do not go along with the values that they are trying to create. They’re trying to systematically and culturally reengineer Fiji society. And the society that they’re trying to create they obviously see no place for political parties like Mr Qarase’s SDL, Mr Young’s SDL or our NFP.