Fiji. In 2010, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama further tightened control over Fiji’s citizens, including through tougher media laws and revoked rights of people who criticize him. Since Bainimarama took power in a military coup in December 2006, the regime has become increasingly dictatorial.
In January, Bainimarama introduced a decree which meant that all retired civil servants who criticized the government would have their pensions withdrawn. According to COUNTRYAAH, Fiji has a population of 883,483 (2018). The former coup maker and Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka was the first to retire. He also had his service car seized by military personnel. Rabuka said he was surprised because he did not know that he had opposed the government. In early February, a Fijian newspaper reported that about 20 former ministers had their pensions and other benefits withdrawn in accordance with the decree.
On February 2, the trial began against eight Fijians charged with plotting to overthrow the government and murder Bainimarama, former Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and state prosecutor Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. On March 6, the men were sentenced to between three and seven years in prison for the murder conspiracies.
In mid-March, the cyclone caused Thomas two deaths and major material damage in the northern and eastern parts of the island. The islands of Lau and Lomaiviti were hit hard, as was the north coast of the country’s second largest island Vanua Levu, where the government declared a state of emergency. About 17,000 people were evacuated from their homes. The cyclone caused $ 19 million in damage to buildings, infrastructure and agriculture. Fiji received disaster assistance from Australia, New Zealand and China.
In April, the government introduced, through decrees, new comprehensive media laws to increase control over the country’s media. A media authority and a media court would be created. Under the new law, at least 90 percent of all media would be owned by local companies. In addition, the new laws regulate content, advertisements, ethics and more in the media. Media owners or journalists who do not comply with the new laws risk high fines or imprisonment for up to five years. Many considered the laws to be inhumane. The Minister of Justice, as well as the Chancellor of Justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced at the end of June that the media that was not owned by at least 90 percent of Fijians would have three months to “arrange” their ownership. The minister acknowledged that the decree was mainly aimed at the Australian-owned daily Fiji Times.
In September, it was reported that the media group that owned the Fiji Times had agreed to sell the magazine to a Fijian company.
In April, Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) revealed that a decree signed on March 22 gave immunity to all those involved in the 2006 Bainimarama coup. Amnesty also got those involved in the coup led by George Speight in 2000 that Bainimarama actively participated.
In July, the Fijian authorities expelled Australian top diplomat Sarah Roberts, who had criticized Bainimarama and demanded that he quit military rule and reinstate democracy. She was given 24 hours to leave the country with her family. In November 2009, Robert’s representatives had met the same fate. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith expressed dissatisfaction with Fiji’s actions. However, Australia chose not to take revenge by expelling Fiji’s diplomats from Australia, since Smith said it was important to continue having diplomatic contacts with Fiji.
Fiji’s relations with Australia, New Zealand, the US and the EU have deteriorated since Bainimarama took power. At the same time, Fiji has expanded its contacts with China, which, according to Bainimarama, “understands” his reforms. During a visit to China in July – August, Bainimarama said Fiji would develop its relations with China. He also said that Fiji should abandon its traditional contacts with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, in addition to pure trade relations. Bainimarama’s China visit aimed to seek financial assistance and investment for the kingdom. And the visit gave results. On December 31, the two countries signed an agreement promising the US $ 4.5 million in aid to Fiji.
The former prime minister and the country’s main opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, was indicted in July for money laundering, tax fraud and for not declaring his assets in foreign currency during the period 2000-10. Then he was released on bail. Chaudhry, who is the leader of the Labor Party (Fiji Labor Party) and who has severely criticized Bainimarama’s rule, was arrested again in early October. He was then accused of holding a public meeting, which is prohibited by the state of emergency. In November, a lawsuit was initiated against Chaudhry, which was later postponed until January 2011.
Three teenage boys, who had been driving around in a small boat in the Pacific for 50 days, were rescued by a fishing boat and taken dehydrated and taken to Fiji in late November. The boys, who come from the island of Atafu in the New Zealand island group Tokelau, had embarked on an aluminum boat on October 5. They would make a short boat trip, but the fuel ran out and they drifted out on the high seas. The teens survived on rainwater, some coconuts they had with them, small fish that jumped into the boat and a bird they managed to catch and eat raw. On November 25, they were found by a fishing boat near Fiji, about 130 land miles from Atafu. On the home island, relatives and friends had gathered for a funeral act as it was feared that the boys, two 15-year-olds and a 14-year-old, had drowned. The joy was very great when they were rescued after almost two months at sea.