Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bainimaramas coup shows an intellectual bankruptcy

I could not agree more with the analysis in this piece. It thoroughly explains why the illegal regime in Fiji led by those who take up a military career when they can't get into further higher education, has stumbled from crisis to crisis with no sign of an end to all the misery perpetrated on the people of Fiji.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just to the west of Suva last month three cars were pulled over by police. That's not uncommon in Fiji, where police routinely stop cars to extract bribes.

But this time it was different.

Eleven people were taken to the Delainavesi Police Post.

Witnesses remember another car, which delivered "civilians" to the station.

But this was Fiji the "civilians" were soldiers, one of them a sergeant in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) who had thumped me in the back last year.

Agnes Bulatiko, who had been in one of the cars with her partner, Ballu Khan, a Suva IT businessman, remembered how they singled him out, fists smashing into his face.

"Then the room filled with officers punching him. It was terrifying," she said.

At first the military were open about that.

"He was resisting arrest, that's why he got the beating," Lieutenant-Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said.

Mr Khan survived but, in other incidents Nimilote Verebasaga and Sakiusa Rabaka were beaten to death by members of the RFMF.

Behind Fiji's tourist bula-smile image lurks an explosive violence. I'd seen it up close during George Speight's 2000 coup when a group of rebel soldiers mercilessly pounded a man sitting beside me.

It's the irrationality of it that makes Fiji so dangerous.

My first experience of Fiji's self-declared leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama came when, during Speight's coup, he declared martial law.

A Melanesian from the chiefly island of Bau, he had, earlier that day, forced President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara - a rival Polynesian chief out of office.

A couple of weeks later he hand-picked banker Laisenia Qarase as premier.

The elected Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, then a hostage of Speight, was not allowed back.

Commodore Bainimarama has risen through the ranks from seaman in spite of his rather basic education.

His military career was modest, the high point his serving as a sub-lieutenant on the Chilean sailing ship Esmeralda, circumnavigating South America.

Unlike 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, Commodore Bainimarama never served under fire, until the day in 2000 when his own soldiers tried to kill him. Humiliatingly, he survived by jumping out a window and scrambling down a bank.

Eight soldiers died that day, five of them after they had surrendered to loyalists.

They were tortured to death.

In 2001 elections were held and Mr Qarase was sworn-in.

Commodore Bainimarama felt betrayed, believing Mr Qarase had promised not to become a politician.

It was the start of bitter personal animosity that was as much to do with the later coup as any declarations over corruption and clean-ups.

Just before elections in March 2006 the commodore was talking of "Qarase and his cronies" and saying indigenous politics was "dirty politics at its worst it is cannibalistic".

When Mr Qarase won again Commodore Bainimarama called a press conference to say democracy wasn't about numbers of votes on Election Day.

He was so angry when I questioned his view that I feared he might hit me.

Commodore Bainimarama seldom takes questions now, feeling threatened by the insubordination of the lower castes.

Tensions grew, in part over a couple of parliamentary bills that would have given indigenous villages control over the seabed and foreshore and another that would have given amnesty to those behind Speight's coup.

Toward the end of last year he flew to Wellington for a reunion with part of his family serving with the New Zealand Army. At Auckland airport, acting as though he was still in Fiji, he gave Mr Qarase two weeks to quit, or else.

He was good to his word and, citing rampant corruption and the "doctrine of necessity", he took over, announcing a "cleanup" of government.

Two days before, late at night, soldiers had driven through Suva residential streets to fire mortars into the harbour in a surreal operation to fend off Australian warships and Special Forces soldiers they believed threatened them.

The coup came on a brilliantly mellow morning; suddenly the green, flak-jacketed soldiers were everywhere downtown.

Oddly though, few had magazines in their weapons.

A year on, Commodore Bainimarama is yet to bring any corruption prosecutions and his doctrine has yet to be tested in court.

Fiji's economy has dived, the court system plunged into disarray, people have been detained and beaten and media freedoms curtailed.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the coup was illustrated at the recent Pacific Forum in Tonga where Commodore Bainimarama, under pressure from Australia and New Zealand, agreed to elections by March 2009.

He then told Fiji media that he would not let Mr Qarase's people stand.

Commodore Bainimarama's single riskiest move since his coup has been to send his soldiers to close the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), crushing traditional leadership.

Suva is an intimate town: Commodore Bainimarama lives right next to the official residence of the New Zealand high commissioner.

But the relationship is not neighbourly and on June 14 high commissioner Michael Green was expelled.

At an All Blacks versus Fiji game a couple of weeks earlier the military strongman had been outraged when Mr Green was given guest of honour status.

"The rugby union has done this country a disservice. Out of 800,000 people in Fiji, they went and nominated the enemy of the day in a Kiwi to be chief guest."

I flew to Nadi to cover the expulsion, only to be detained for the night in what they called the "black room" at the immigration detention centre.

Immigration director Viliame Naupoto told local media I "wanted to resist", something Mr Khan was supposed to have done.

Previous Fiji governments had banned me.

Several sources have said this ban followed a story outlining how Commodore Bainimarama's coup had been a Muslim coup.

Those who have done the best out of the regime overthrow all belong to a small Suva Muslim group, and the key intellectuals behind it include one advocating the removal of indigenous land protection.

Former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi warned that among the indigenous there was "a sense of festering resentment" building.

Though the coup was multi-ethnic in character, it looked like a counter-coup staged by Mr Chaudhry. "The government is unfortunately perceived by many in the Fijian heartland as the hand-maiden of Mr Chaudhry.

"Many Fijians are convinced this was an Indo-Fijian coup.

"Still others think it was a Muslim coup because of the association with a few prominent Muslims.

"These perceptions, even if mistaken, pass for reality from which conclusions are drawn," Ratu Joni said. Mr Khan is Muslim and, as the coup has worn on, it has become clear that the minority groups who at first prospered are discovering revolutions, even Fijian ones, tend to eat their own.

The indigenous majority has been alienated by the coup.

The RFMF is almost completely indigenous but it has always claimed its training removed the vanua or clan from soldier.

Ratu Joni says Fijians have realised that the best place for the military in future is in the barracks.

"There being no external security threats as such, the military is now a law unto itself.

"Any meaningful attempt to prevent any further coups must deal with this issue.

"If not we are destined to travel this weary path repeatedly in the future, periodic hostages to the messianic ambitions of one military officer after another."

Fiji is afflicted with a sense that more is to come.

Everything seems incomplete and many a scenario is offered; very little is optimistic

Military has role to play in State

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Comment: This piece eminently demonstrate the above point!!!!

THE military will always have a role to play in any government because it deals with law and order and national security, said spokesman Colonel Mohammed Aziz.

He made the comments in support interim Prime Minister and military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's statement that the army would be the guardian of the People's Charter for Change and Progress.

Col Aziz said this role was particularly for safeguarding purposes.

On whether future governments would be required to follow the People's Charter, Col Aziz said: "At the moment, we're still working towards the (formulation of) Charter and we should be mindful of the fact that the Charter will bring out the next government as the PM had already stated that in his press releases."

Col Aziz said the Charter advocated reconciliation, good governance, harmonious living among all races.

"But unless a person or party advocates for racism and doesn't follow good governance then they will not want to follow the Charter. The Charter has good intentions but those not wanting what it advocates will not follow it."

He said the military would ensure no one stepped out of line.

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