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Waiting For The Winner

By Patrick Craddock © USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: Week five begins. The media death skull face of terrorist George Speight struts and talks on the media as he plays his game of Winner-take-all.

First, comes the destruction of the centre of Suva at a cost of twenty million dollars, then the resignation of the President, followed by the abrupt dismissal the 1997 Constitution as the army placed armed soldiers at checkpoints around Suva and other parts of the country. Whither the good name of Fiji?

An army spokesman (TV 15 June) says George and his supporters have already cost the country nearly $200 million. But George is a bad businessman.

Sitting through nightly curfews with changing moods of anger, boredom, fear, and futurising about Fiji after Speight, it has been difficult to decide who is cheering for whom in this dark game of Democratic Death.

For some time it has been clear that standing in the front of the audience looking at Speight's moves is a shifting sound of chiefs.

As they talk, the word "indigenous" rises above the kava bowl; there is doubt about what it means, as the word is steadily being blown away by the approaching hurricane of job losses and poverty for all the poor "Fiji islanders."

There is a huge audience watching this slow game of Democratic Death. It is becoming easier to recognise the names and faces of people and to decide which side they are supporting.

The law fraternity is already fracturing.

The Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga (The Fiji Daily Post 15 June and TV), is replying to criticism leveled at him by legal colleagues of the council of the Fiji Law Society.

Timoci, they are asking, just what are doing by helping the military draft their decrees? You promised in your oath to support to uphold the 1997 Constitution.

But, said Sir Timoci…. the situation has changed. The Chief Justice hinted that he might consider resigning over the matter.

The Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) in their strongest statement yet, are asking New Zealand to put a boycott on all sports involving Fiji teams. They want the removal of the Fiji peacekeepers from the United Nations; an embargo on arms to Fiji and sanctions on international travel for all those responsible for the coup, including their families. They think family members visiting or studying in New Zealand should be sent home.

But there also are the Fiji fence-sitters quietly watching the Death of Democracy game as if it has nothing to do with them.

The University of the South Pacific in Suva renounced the traditional belief that a university should be being a bastion of free speech, by closing down their Journalism website.

Bob Challenor, chief executive of the Fiji Rugby Football Union (FRFU), said on the TV news ( 15 June ) that he sees no connection between the Speight insurrection and the New Zealand cancellation of visas.

Wow. But when the FRFU wants money there is plenty of happy hour talk about rugby players being ambassadors for their country. I recall the world achievements of the Fiji Sevens as a victory for all "Fiji islanders."

The most telling story of the last week on the question of "which side are you on", comes from the second page of The Fiji Sun.

On Monday, a chief, the Tui Labasa Ratu Joe Qomate said that the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, had been " … approached traditionally to carry out the coup. His reaction to these approaches is sorry to say, one of shame," says Ratu Qomate.

I guess an interpretation all depends on how you view democracy, loyalty to your leader and country and treachery. I must remember to read Shakespeare's "Macbeth" again.

+++niuswire

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