Fiji Cabinet hides while nation laughs
By Bruce Hill
Authoritarian governments can easily overcome many challenges to their authority. Mocking laughter is altogether more difficult to combat.
The FijiFirst government of military coup leader Frank Bainimarama has just endured an entirely self-inflicted public relations disaster which has left them the target of derisive jokes on social media. This may ultimately prove corrosive to the government’s authority.
It began quite simply enough, with an attempt by opposition figures to serve an election petition on members of the government on Tuesday 12 December.
The opposition parties are unhappy with several aspects of the way this year’s election was run, and so National Federation Party (NFP) Leader Professor Biman Prasad and Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) member Adi Litia Qionibaravi attempted to serve papers on cabinet ministers holding a meeting at Suvavou House in central Suva.
At this point, shenanigans ensued.
Both men, accompanied by bailiffs, say they were denied access to the Attorney General’s conference room on the ninth floor. The building elevator was also disabled so it couldn’t reach level nine.
Opposition members and bailiffs then began a highly publicised siege of the building which attracted massive social media attention, very little of it positive.
As the siege dragged into the night (and the next day, and the next night) bedding was brought into the building so ministers could get some sleep, and the mockery on Twitter and Facebook began.
It included a Facebook meme of a roadside sign reading: ‘It’s after 10pm – do you know where your government is?’ And one tweet asked: ‘What’s the allowance for the Ministers staying two nights in Suvavou House?’
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum insisted the non-stop 48 hour meeting was an urgent strategic meeting, but didn’t answer further questions from the Fiji Times about its ‘peculiarities’.
That didn’t explain why several senior government figures were forced to …read more