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Mara stirs hornet’s nest

Recent political developments in Fiji following the defection of Lt Col Tevita Uluilakeba Mara to Tonga has stirred observers, eager to see its impact on the Fijian Government led by Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.

Apart from being a high-ranking military officer, Mr Mara is the son of the late Sir Kamisese Mara, independent Fiji’s first Prime Minister, who later became President, until the George Speight deposed him led coup in May 2000 that also ousted Mahendra Choudhary and his Government.

Mr Mara appears to have forgotten that the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) and the Methodist Church had backed George Speight in removing his esteemed father. Sir Kamisese fled Fiji at night, transported by a navy boat to the safety of his home in the Lau Group. He never recovered from the saddest moment in his life and later died a sad and dejected man.

Mr Mara’s escape to Tonga has had varied interpretations, with the man himself claiming that a Tongan Navy ship rescued him when he faced difficulties at sea.

His version of events has bemused international observers and projected him as one lacking substance, credibility or even sanity.

His interview with the media has been less than impressive. TV One’s Barbara Dreaver, who was deported from Fiji by the Bainimarama Government, relished every moment of her interview with Mr Mara.

But the interview was a display of media mediocrity, hyperventilating issues to give it a particular slant to suit the preset agendas of the interviewee and the interviewer. Both have grievance against the Bainimarama Government and indications are that their barks have only helped the Fiji Prime Minister to reinvigorate and reassert his authority.

Mr Mara’s version of events is no different to Pakistan Government claiming that it did not know that Osama Bin Laden lived in a purpose-built mansion in Abbottabad for five years, prior to his assassination by the US navy SEAL.

Other claims made by Mr Mara depict him as a desperate man resorting to every conceivable ploy to bring the Bainimarama Government down and escape the justice system in Fiji.

Apart from charges of sedition, he was under investigation for disappearance of $F3 million from the coffers of Fiji Pine, a state-owned company. Some have said that the logical conclusion would be that by absconding to Tonga, Mr Mara showed that he was a desperate man.

In trying to justify the unjustifiable, he has made certain claims that require elucidation. He has resorted to the stereotype in Fiji politics of the past, using the race card to justify his actions.

He claimed that Mr Bainimarama is a puppet in the hands of Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum, whereas the real power rests with the Military Council, and not with Mr Bainimarama or Mr Khaiyum.

Mr Mara was a member of the Military Council but was suspended when investigations against him commenced.

He is now shedding crocodile tears for the GCC and the Methodist Church, both of who destroyed democracy, as the sponsors of most virulent form of racism.

Indeed, Mr Mara is now caught in his caught in his own web. He cannot deny culpability that by association in the Bainimarama coup in December 2006, he abetted the dissolution of the GCC. He has effectively clubbed himself as a chief, lost his mana and is marooned in Tonga like the chiefs in Fiji.

Many observers say that the dissolution of the GCC and restraints placed on the Methodist Church were among the greatest achievements of the Bainimarama Government.

They also say that any democratically elected Government in Fiji would now have a better chance of running its full term without the fear of the wolves of racism biting at their heels.

Interestingly, Mr Mara also repudiates the justice system in Fiji, claiming that he would not get a fair trial. In recent months, Fiji’s judiciary has received rare applause for sentencing a High Chief and a few prominent businessmen to jail.

Some senior lawyers have been convicted for professional misconduct and one of them has been disbarred from practicing law in Fiji.

These convictions were not possible during the reign of Fiji’s democratically elected Governments. During that era, the Chiefs were above law and those with money and influence could ignore the justice system or be let off with a slap on the wrist. Fiji’s judiciary is operating without fear and, indications are, that many under its radar are twirling in their beds at night.

As for Mr Mara, the comfortable Consular House in Tonga, where he now lives, will soon become his prison with few people taking interest in him except Ms Dreaver. King George Tupou V of Tonga will soon discover that his train of wisdom was derailed when he made the unfortunate decision to provide refuge to Mr Mara in his Kingdom.

Australia and New Zealand may eventually give him residence but that will be even further away from Fiji.

Tonga presumably is within the shouting distance to Fiji!

Rajendra Prasad is a thinker, writer and author of Tears in Paradise. He can be reached on raj.prasad@xtra.co.nz

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