Fiji's military has drawn criticism for
alleged human-rights abuses [Al Jazeera]

On the surface Fiji is emerging from its fourth coup in reasonably good shape.

 

The interim government chosen by coup leader Frank Bainimarama is winning public support and he has a clear plan on how to fix the ailing economy.

 

But democracy still seems a long way off and the military government continues to silence anybody who criticises them.

 

There are also claims of human-rights abuses, the most serious involving the death of a man in military custody.

 

Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan travelled to Fiji to conduct an exclusive interview with the island's military ruler.

 

Al Jazeera: In the past two months you have gone from military commander to president and now prime minister. Which role sits most comfortably with you?


Frank Bainimarama: I forgot I was president at some stage. No, I feel comfortable with being
commander.


How are you settling into the role as prime minister though?


It's been challenging, there's definitely a lot of work that needs to be done but I'm getting a lot of assistance from the interim government ministers and of course the many people that come in to advise me on what to do.


What guarantees do you give? Are there guarantees that there will be a return to democracy?


Oh yes, There's no two ways about it, but then what is democracy?


I do not know what do you define democracy as?


The word democracy is a misnomer right now. There's a lot of misunderstanding about the word democracy. So, yes we are going to work our way back to having an election.


One of Australia and New Zealand's biggest concerns is regarding allegations of human rights abuses which stemmed from military interrogations. Can you tell me what the purpose of those interrogations are?


A lot of people seem to forget that 5th December was a takeover of a government and it was done by the military, and the military needs to put in place scenarios that would stop any threat from being thrown in our direction.

We had to take in some people and stop them from coming up with these threats, and they've now been termed as abuse of our powers. And that's where human-rights issues are coming in.

 

But, really, they've been taken to the camp and explained in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is not good.


Do you think that it will be difficult for the international community to accept the interim government while there is no democratically elected government and also the limits that are placed on free speech?

 

There's no limit on free speech, people are allowed to say whatever they want to say. There's nothing to stop them from saying what they want to say.


But they would probably be brought into the barracks?

 

It depends on what they're going to say. If I stand up and said that I am going to get a lot of people to start burning and inciting the people against the norm then of course there would be limitations; you know there's a state of emergency on.


So I guess in that sense we would have some misunderstanding with the international community, especially Australia and New Zealand, if they want us to stop doing that.


If you could get one message out to the international community, what would it be?


A lot of nations did not condone what we did on the 5th of December - the overturning of a democratically elected government - but we got to be left to look after our own affairs. I'm sure we can do alright by just being left alone.


So I ask for the understanding of the international community to see it the way we see things in Fiji.

Source: Al Jazeera