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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Solomon Islands PM says that his country is way head of Fiji now

Please read an article taken from the Solomon Star News on what Solomon Islands Prime Minister said. Article can be found at http://solomonstarnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1390&change=103&changeown=87&Itemid=45.

The article provides good food for thought for the many of us that love our country - Fiji. There are many ways in which we can work to build this country to something we will all be proud of.

I am posting this article for the sake of generating discussions and thinking to help us build this country. It is not of personal spite or to lay blame on anyone's door. It is to help build a cohesion of ideas and strategies that will help drive this country forward. A land of our dreams and hopes and a place where we are proud to have our roots and links.


"WHAT a contrast.

Compare our prime minister, Dr Derek Sikua, with Fiji’s military dictator Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama.

You will see how well off we are in Solomon Islands these days in contrast to Fiji.

Fiji was once a regional leader in many things, a nation we often looked to for inspiration. Sadly, no more.

With four coups in just over 20 years Fiji is rapidly forfeiting its right to be a home to regional institutions. It definitely is no longer a regional leader of good.

Take the celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Honiara this week. It provides just one example of how much things have changed. But it’s a significant example.

This Saturday World Press Freedom Day is celebrated in Honiara by Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) with Dr Sikua giving the keynote address. He and his office are also supporting MASI’s efforts to mark the day with fundraising for further media development activities.

Why is World Press Freedom Day so important to everyone here? you might ask. Isn’t it just a day about the news media?
If you thought that you would be well off the mark. World Press Freedom Day is really about the rights of you and all Solomon Islanders to freedom of expression and information.

It is about your right to speak out and express your views. It is about robust public debate on matters on public interest. It is about your right to get all the information which enables you to make your own informed decisions.

These are important fundamental human rights essential for any democracy to flourish.

What World Press Freedom Day really celebrates is Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations.

This says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Compare the attitude of Dr Sikua and his Government to respecting that with how Mr Bainimarama’s unelected military regime ignores this.

The erratic Mr Bainimarama marked World Press Freedom Day in Fiji with another of his rants against the news media.
His goons meantime forcibly expelled from Fiji the publisher of The Fiji Times, Australian Evan Hannah. This just weeks after doing the same to Russell Hunter, the publisher of Fiji’s other main daily newspaper, The Fiji Sun.

Mr Bainimarama’s men showed their contempt for the rule of law by both times ignoring Fiji High Court orders not to expel the newspapermen.

What was the so-called crime of Mr Hunter and Mr Hannah, both vastly experienced and respected journalists who’ve spent many years in the Pacific Islands?

Their newspapers did what they should do. Despite constant military pressure, they tried to keep the people of Fiji informed. They defied the pressure and published information and opinions Mr Bainimarama and his collaborators wanted to suppress.

The Fiji Times and Fiji Sun also tried to allow all Fiji’s people to express their views. Not just those who support the regime. But also the many who oppose it.

So why do the Bainimarama regime fear newspapers and target them? Because newspapers are the most powerful form of news media. They publish the printed word. They provide the permanence and impact that only the print media can.

Dictators like Mr Bainimarama fear newspapers publishing the opinions of the people. They fear independent journalism. Such as The Fiji Times and Fiji Sun telling Fiji’s people of strange tax affairs and offshore bank accounts of Mr Bainimarama’s Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mr Bainimarama’s approach is similar to that of despots like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Mr Bainimarama’s military goons attack and intimidate and his so-called government expels people like Mr Hunter and Mr Hannah.

True democratic leaders like Dr Sikua respect and embrace the right of all people to freedom of expression and information.
Dr Sikua’s approach is much closer to that of the legendary French philosopher and writer Voltaire. Voltaire famously said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Be thankful everyone that you live in Solomon Islands under enlightened leadership and not in the sad Fiji of today. This week celebrate World Press Freedom Day and all it means to all our Solomon Islands people."

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