NELSON (The Nelson Mail/Pacific Media Watch): Perhaps President Barack Obama means it when he promotes war as a means to peace.
Perhaps Commodore Frank Bainimarama means it when he declares that the ultimate goal of his military dictatorship is democracy. Both positions seem, on the surface, to be equally self-contradictory. Time will tell whether reality matches declared intent.
With what is left of New Zealand's relationship with Fiji on the brinkof collapse, our government's attempt to wind back the tension by a quarter turn is appropriate. However, that does not suggest that this country's position on the illegal Fijian regime should change, or even that it might. As problematic as the election by which the previous Fijian government assumed power might have been – especially the inadequate rolls on which it was based – and as potentially damaging as some of the deposed Qarase government's decisions seemed, it did have far greater legitimacy than the current dictatorship.
The commodore might feel he is misunderstood by the Western world, and perhaps more heed could be taken of the underlying issues which he points to in attempting to justify his coup. However, his actions since 2006 have been indistinguishable from those of any other common or garden variety dictator. He has sacked judges for simply attempting to do their job. He has imposed toxic demands on the media and suppressed opposition, sometimes brutally. He has given power to cronies and sycophants while proving powerless to stop his country's economy from plummeting.
On his watch, Fiji has become an international no-go-zone, and his people have suffered. His attempts to paint New Zealand and Australia as big brother bullies are risible, given his own power-retaining methods. He has made international promises – including to hold an election by early this year – and just as easily reneged. He now claims his country won't be ready to go to the polls until 2014. Who'd have guessed drawing up new rolls for a nation of less than one million would prove so difficult?