S ome 2000 years ago the world lay at the feet of the Roman dictator Augustus. That is of course, the world as it was known to Rome at the time. With the battle of Actium ended, his cruelties became more judicious and he turned down honours with modesty while dedicating himself to religion, public works and restoration of family values. He searched for equilibrium in life and focused on efficiency. In much the same way, Islands Business’ Pacific Person of the Year, Frank Bainimarama, stands with the world at his feet.
Last month he became the acknowledged Bainimar ama – IB’s Pacif ic Pers on of the Year •Ruler •Prime Minister •Diplomat regional leader “in vogue” with presidents and prime ministers travelling to Fiji to meet the Indian and Chinese heads of governments in Suva and Nadi. After eight years of military-backed rule, Bainimarama went to the polls and his Fiji First Party secured slightly less than 60 per cent of the vote. Most people who voted Fiji First voted for the former military strongman personally. Plaudits immediately rained down on Fiji’s leader from friends and there was grudging acknowledgement from his foes. Fiji’s return to democracy has not been easy and the eight years since December 2006 have been fraught with violence, death, allegations of torture, political ill-will, marginalisation and abuse.
Much, if not all, the pain and suffering was caused by the security forces, some argue with impunity. Indeed, when escapees were assaulted by plain clothes officers and one prisoner lost his leg, Bainimarama told the media he stood by the actions of his men. In April 2009 Bainimarama silenced his critics by introducing censorship followed by media regulations with punitive fines and prison sentences. He unashamedly attached rural development to support for his administration, vowing not to help provinces who failed to back him and the regime imposed by President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo on Good Friday, 2009.
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