Hypocritical to criticise coup now, Fiji Archbishop tells churches

Writing to a local newspaper, Suva Archbishop Petero Mataca says it is hypocritical for the island nation's Assembly of Christian Churches to criticise the latest coup after it failed to condemn the previous coup in 2000.

According to a Radio NZ International report, Archbishop Mataca says a statement issued by the Assembly last week should have condemned the illegal and unconstitutional removal of the Qarase government, and affirmed the necessity for democracy and the rule of law.

Representing Christian churches, which make up more than 80 percent of indigenous Fijians, the Assembly took out large newspaper advertisements on Friday to spell out their opposition to the coup, according to Reuters.

"We are deeply convinced that the move now taken by the commander and his advisors is the manifestation of darkness and evil," the statement said.

But in his letter to the Fiji Sun, Archbishop Mataca also criticised the Assembly for allegedly failing to consult the Catholic Church before issuing the statement which he said was politically biased and theologically wrong.

He said that the statement should have bound the churches to a position of compassion and justice, and recognised that what has happened has its roots in 2000.

Archbishop Mataca added that it was hypocritical of the churches to label the commander and his advisors as "manifestations of darkness and evil" when they did not say the same of those in the May 2000 coup to remove an ethnic Indian Prime Minister.

He said it is time to acknowledge that Fiji failed to learn the lessons of the 2000 coup by ensuring that its young democracy and the rule of law were not abused and misused in the last six years.

The coup - Fiji's fourth in nearly two decades - was the culmination of a long impasse between Bainimarama and the deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase over bills offering pardons to conspirators in a 2000 coup and handing lucrative coastal land ownership to indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama says the bills are racist.

Bainimarama on Tuesday announced he had assumed presidential powers and dismissed the government.

He declared a state of emergency, dissolved Parliament, and threw up a security cordon around Suva. He warned he will use force to quickly put down any dissent.

Fiji's Roman Catholic Church condemns statement by Assembly Christian Churches (Radio New Zealand International, 9/12/06)
Fijian coup leader advertises Cabinet posts in newspapers (Mainichi Daily News, 9/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Petero Mataca (Wikipedia)
Suva Archdiocese (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Fiji Coup (Wikipedia)

Fiji Archbishop calls on Catholics to fast and pray (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Catholic Church condemns coup (CathNews, 29/5/00)

11 Dec 2006