Fiji's PM apologises for coups, but not his own
The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has apologised to those forced to flee the country after the coups in 1987 and 2000, but not his own.
The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has made another apology to those forced to flee the country after the coups in 1987 and 2000, but not his own.
Speaking to expatriates at Fiji Day celebrations in Australia on Saturday, he invited expatriates to return home and invest.
Mary Baines reports.
It's the second apology this year by Mr Bainimarama over a brain drain which saw thousands of Indo-Fijians leave Fiji for New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States after the 1987 and 2000 coups. Those coups were aimed at restoring power to indigenous Fijians. In August Mr Bainimarama apologised to the Indian diaspora in Canada. In Sydney at the weekend Frank Bainimarama said when many of Fiji's best and brightest left, the country lost a precious resource that robbed it of decades of development.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: It wasn't just the brain drain - tragic as that was. It was the Fijian family torn apart. And today I want to say sorry to those of you who suffered. The many thousands who were made to feel like strangers in your own country. Who felt obliged to seek new homes elsewhere. Leaving loved ones and friends behind.
A spokesperson for the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement in New Zealand, Nik Naidu, says he thinks the apology was made in good faith. He says the 1987 coup saw the most Indo-Fijians flee, many of whom were professionals and business people, which caused a loss of intellectual capital and wealth. Mr Naidu says it is possible some of those expatriates will return to Fiji.
NIK NAIDU: In 1987, those that came during that coup always felt that they would one day return when they were more welcome. Possibly they will now see this as an opportunity to go back to Fiji. Not necessarily to live permanently but at least to reinvest or maybe even to use Fiji as a place to go and spend three to six months a year possibly in winter.
But Mr Naidu says it's all very well to tell people to go back to Fiji, but the country is still a military state.
NIK NAIDU: It is a democracy in effect, but a democracy that is propped up by the military. The day the military pulls its support for Mr Bainimarama, the paradigm will change. For Indo-Fijians they have to re-think that question and why they are supporting Mr Bainimarama.
A Fiji academic based in Australia, Brij Lal, was expelled from Fiji in 2009 after being detained by the military over criticism of the interim regime's decision to expel Australian and New Zealand diplomats. He and his wife have been banned from the country indefinitely. Professor Lal says Mr Bainimarama's apology is selective, as it does not include people like himself who were pushed out for having different political ideals.
BRIJ LAL: Mr Bainimarama can come to Australia but some of us cannot return to Fiji, the land of our birth. So there is kind of a selective reading of things here but I hope that in the fullness of time, wisdom will prevail, and all Fiji citizens, irrespective of their political beliefs and so on will be allowed to return to Fiji.
Professor Lal says Mr Bainimarama's failure to mention his own coup in 2006 in the apology is not surprising.
BRIJ LAL: As far as he is concerned, all the coups were bad, he was the only good coup. And you know he has no reason to apologise, but a lot of people left after 2006 as well. And as I said, there is kind of a selective reading of recent history here.
Professor Lal's latest appeal to have his immigration ban lifted has been turned down.
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