Jun 14, 2011

Time to think Ethical Tourism and Fiji

I have thought long and hard about this, but 5 years on, is now time to actively discourage tourists from visiting our islands in Fiji, as the great majority of the tourist dollar goes straight into the Dictator's military coffers propping up Bainimarama's soldiers, paying for his bribes to keep their loyalties, expending tax-payer funds for their guns and boot-polish & encouraging his oppressive and corrupt regime. And in the process liquidating Fiji.

Just last week , a couple of vocal human rights activists were taken to the military barracks and slapped around. Their identities cannot be made known at this time as threats have been made against their person and their families if they are suspected to have talked about their interrogation.

Whilst there, the activists saw soldiers dressed as if they were going into battle. Ordinary soldiers were also driving through the barracks in rental vehicles and other's in brand new vehicles.

Who provides the funding for these excesses ?

By coming to Fiji , tourists are not only funding these profligacies, but also continuing to prolong ordinary citizens' pain and suffering.

We need tourists to stop supporting this regime.

Frank has actually made that decision easier for heaps of tourists by even putting up the departure tax from Fiji to $100 each person. And it doesn't help that price-gouging at the resorts has seen a can of soft drink fly to $12, and a dinner bowl of soup to $22. Air-fares for 4 may be cheaper than the cost of one's actual holiday.

Enough is enough.

Tourist operators and business folk - it's time to get tough.

Quite a few Tourism Operators I have talked to in the past month have not even realised that the Fijian Junta have passed yet another illegal decree forcing a Capital Gain Tax of 10% on our people, which has sounded the death warrant for Operators who have been wanting to sell their properties, and for would-be-investors that have 'seen-the-light"
just in time.

Enough of the solimaka and the tabetabe - you owe it to yourselves and future generation's of Fijians to demand this country get OFF it's knees, and you are the only one's that can force change .

Franksta's paradise hides a dark side

Fiji aerial

With more than 333 islands Fiji is an amazing tropical island paradise.

WHEN it's this cold many of us think of escaping to a warm island paradise, but when it comes to Fiji the postcard images of warm water lapping pristine beaches mask an uglier picture.

Many travellers have been able to ignore the fact that Fiji is under a military dictatorship, but when the government is using their absolute power to stifle free speech and attack the rights of the workers who are serving you, it’s time to ask some serious questions.

The problem is what do we do? Making calls on how we treat developing nations, especially our neighbours, is always tough. Tourism keeps the Fiji economy afloat and is vital to the living standards of all its people. Fiji is far from being North Korea with palm trees – there is still some civil society and freedom left.

But the military regime that has been in power since 2006 is steadily eroding basic freedoms and crushing any democratic opposition, in particular journalists and unions.

Military strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama heads a government that has no democratic legitimacy. At a time where people across the globe are embracing democracy, most recently seen in the uprisings in the Arab world, it is tragic that a nation like Fiji is sinking into this type of dictatorship.

Fiji is not the worst dictatorship in the world, but it is in our neighbourhood and the one where Australia and Australians have the most influence.

Bainimarama may sound like an 80s all-girl band but he is guilty of human rights violations in the first degree. In May this year proposals surfaced for new laws which would effectively outlaw unions and neuter any effective representation of Fijian workers.

A report released last week by the International Trade Union Confederation has found that repression of unions in Fiji is worsening.

The regime had already adopted tactics to intimidate union leaders. Earlier this year the head of Fiji’s trade unions was detained twice and assaulted once by the military. Senior union members in Fiji have been harassed, arrested or threatened with the sack if they maintain involvement in their union. Other critics of the military regime have been detained and beaten.

The regime has implemented a set of Public Emergency Regulations that limit freedom of speech, expand police powers and curb media freedom. Interim administration personnel accompanied by police have been placed in all major news outlets, which may be shut down if they publish stories deemed ‘negative’.

Courts are increasingly biased and cowed by the military regime and many judges owe the positions to the military.

Military personnel have the power to use arms to break up gatherings and have detained individuals without charge.

Many Fijians with the ability to leave have chosen to emigrate, taking their skills and money with them.

The victims of all this are ordinary Fijians, 40 per cent of whom live on less than $1.25 a day - and for them the role of trade unions has never been more important.

Stopping unions from representing ordinary Fijians will only make their situation worse, while the wealth of the country goes to cronies of the regime.

The Australian Government has introduced high-level sanctions against members of the military regime in Fiji, stopping them from travelling to Australia. We have also suspended defence co-operation with Fiji.

And this is where it gets tough: should we call for a tourism boycott? While I know it would cause pain to the regime, further sanctions would also hurt ordinary Fijians who rely on tourism or sugar exports as their main source of income.

Instead I want Australia to renew diplomatic and political pressure on the Fijian Government and hold it up to the scrutiny of the world. In particular I want Australian companies that do business in Fiji to demand respect for human rights.

But we must keep the idea of a tourism boycott in our back pocket if all else fails.

And if you are still tempted to travel to a resort in Fiji this winter, talk to the locals working there, find out what they are going through – and know that although the smiles are real there is pain in this island paradise.


Keep The Faith said...

Totally D-Bu!

Jone Vadei said...

Me thinks many of the Tourism personell were responsible for encouraging Bainmarama to break the law in the first place. Now that their bottom lines are being threatening we are seeing the first signs of a quivering lip.

The culture in our industry as to be nice to the authorities as they make the rules, but I can tell you that the rules being made are solely for Bainimarama's benefit and not the country's or for our stafff's well-being , so I support this call for a ban on tourists to Fiji, because as an industry we need to start fighting for our lives, and this will not happen so long as toursits in their blissful ignorance are still comeing to our isles.

Our isles are no longer the isles of smiles, they are instead the isles of lies.

Tom said...

Thats a huge call Bubu but there is merit in the programme. Perhaps this will be the anti-apathy treatment sorely needed.