Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fiji Water: The Earth-Friendly Choice for Military Juntas Everywhere

by David Friedlander

fiji water.jpg
Image from Beverage World

A recent exposé in Mother Jones called "Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle" confirmed my common sense notion that drinking bottled water shipped from the South Pacific is a silly and wasteful idea. It also added myriad other reasons to not to drink Fiji Water.

Fiji has had 4 military coups in the last 25 years. The government du jour is lead by Commander (and now prime minister) Frank Bainimarama and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Because of a ruling last spring declaring the current government illegitimate, Iloilo suspended their constitution, appointed himself president and declared there wouldn't be elections until 2014. This totalitarian approach to government recently earned Fiji an expulsion from the Pacific Island Forum, an inter-governmental organization that represents the many independent island nations in the Pacific.

The author of the article Anna Lenzer was in the country when martial law was declared and was the subject of police intimidation. Amnesty International reports of Fijian freedoms, "there is a very strong military and police presence….[and there] is a constant and intimidating reminder that the new military regime will not tolerate dissent and will follow through on the warnings it has issued to critics."

In a response to Lenzer's article, the Fiji Water website claims of their relation to the recent political turmoil:

We bought FIJI Water in November 2004, when Fiji was governed by a democratically elected government. We cannot and will not speak for the government, but we will not back down from our commitment to the people, development, and communities of Fiji.

Besides conveniently sidestepping the specious circumstances that this "democratically elected government" came into power (i.e. through a 2000 coup), the company not speaking out about recent activity by Iloili et al appears like a self-preservationist strategy for a company that enjoys tax-free status.

In a rebuttal to the response to her article, Lenzer notes the contradiction between the company's touts of being a socially progressive company and its "no comment" policy on the junta's recent crackdown. She makes a good point saying:

It's worth remembering that there aren't very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.

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