Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Military’s role in politics

Military’s role in politics
www.sun.com.fj - 6/17/2008

On thing that really shines out after the December 5, 2006 military coup is that the military plays a major role in the day to day running of the interim government.
The military council advises the interim government.
I must admit the involvement of the military council has raised different interpretations.
Ousted Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes said, “The current role they have engaged in, is one that they have decided on for themselves and as we have a military backed regime in place, they are perhaps exercising whatever authority they can to influence the interim
administration, which I find odd, because they picked the government so their confidence should be in their own government surely.”
Former Prime Minister Sitveni Rabuka said “The interim government is a military junta. We must accept it as that. This differs from the IG of 1987, because the post December 87 government was a truly civilian interim government, appointed by the military - appointed Pesident in Decree No. 25 which removed all national executive powers from Rabuka as commander and head of the interim military government of Fiji. Only after the surrender of national executive authority was Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau able to appoint Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as IG PM. As long as the President is unable to exercise his authority in his own deliberate judgement, we are under a military junta and the military council will continue to have a role as advisers to the interim government PM.”
Fijian academic and University of the South Pacific lecturer Dr Steven Ratuva said
“Many militaries in the world have military councils under different names, whether boards or councils. They play more or less the same sort of roles. In UK they have the army council formed in 1904 and in the US some states even have their own military councils under the state governor. Many post-colonial states have established military councils. In Fiji the military council existed even during non-coup times but only plays a more public and more political role during times of coups. In normal circumstances, the senior officers would provide advise on administrative, security and strategic matters for the Commander. After the coup the military has been in a position of power, propping up the interim government and inevitably its role becomes public. The commander whom they normally provide advise for is now interim PM and inevitably the military council has taken up a more public and political role.”
It is a fact the military now plays a major role in reshaping Fiji’s political culture.
Interim Prime Minister and military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama now wants to chart a new way forward for the nation with the full support of the military.
The vehicle to the new way forward is the People’s Charter and t s fully backed by the military.
The objective of the Peoples Charter initiative is to rebuild Fiji into a non-racial, culturally vibrant, united, well-governed, and truly democratic nation; a nation that will seek progress and prosperity, through merit-based equality of opportunity, and peace.
It is a fact that militarism has penetrated into Fiji’s politics.
The charter, I must admit is the military’s version of the new political culture for the country.
Should the military be involved in shaping Fiji’s political culture?
Now the promoters of the charter are saying with the charter in place, there will be no more coups in Fiji.
Local academic and Australian based- Dr Brij Lal said “There is an odd thinking among some that putting the military in charge will end the coup culture. Well, the military is not of one mind on all things. A parliament is answerable to the people, but who is the military answerable to? Do the people of Fiji really want to live in a militarised political culture? As long as there is a well-armed standing army out of the barracks, there will be no peace. The lesson of history is that once the army gets out of the barracks, it hardly goes back.”
He adds- “So, as a matter of priority, what the people of Fiji should discuss is whether Fiji needs such a large military, with all the resource implications it has. What the military itself has to decide is whether it wants an enlarged political role for itself, getting embroiled in issues which lie beyond the range of its professional experience. The military assuming the role of the guardian of a flawed charter, rejected by half of the population because it has no hand in its formulation, because its conception is flawed, by assuming that role, the military is opening itself to public controversy. Its motives and modus operandi will be questioned. What happens if a political party comes to power whose mandate is different to that envisioned by the charter? Do the people of Fiji want the military to constantly monitor their affairs? The charter is a prescription for political paralysis.”
On the penetration of militarism into politics Dr Lal said “The intrusion of the military into the civil sector is a very worrying trend for Fiji. The military is convinced that it is better at doing things than politicians, but running a disciplined force is very different from ruling a civilian population. The intrusion corrodes the morale of the civil service, blurs boundaries and effectively undermines public accountability. Many officers in the civil service have their loyalty to the commander, not to the public service commission. Who monitors their performance? The presence of military officers in the civil service spurs suspicion about motive and loyalty and disheartens career civil servants.”
Former Vice President and Turaga na Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi told the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress last Friday (June 13) since December 5, 2006, the extent to which the military officers had entered the public service was a concern.
“It has blurred the boundaries between the former as a disciplined service and the latter as a civilian organisation. In practical terms, this is just as critical as the drafting of the Charter. It is in the military that the ever present threats of coups will lie. The commitment of the present military leadership to abiding by the Charter when it is completed will only lose their tenure in control. Their successors may have other ideas. So it is envisaged that these issues will require sensitive handling. We need now to begin discussions on the role of the military. The military has come to see itself as having a part to play in national affairs. Its complete return to barracks may have to be gradual. A generation of military officers has grown to maturity in the shadows of four coups. They will not be easily weaned off their appetite for more. “ Mr Beddoes said he knew of many military officers who are engaged in the private sector and government that are very polished and professional achievers. There are also he adds, a number of military officers who have stood for elections, won and performed very well in parliament and my good friend the late Ratu Savenaca Draunidalo comes to mind.
“My own uncle, Major Bill Sorby served the military with distinction and since leaving the military, has done well in the private sector and is now enjoying retirement, but still very much involved in the Return Servicemen,” Mr Beddoes said..
So as a rule, he had no problems about military service men or women, entering the private or public sector following the conclusion of their contracts with the military establishment.
But when it comes taking advantage of act or treason conducted by the military to enforce a strategic plan to militarise key government positions with military officers in an effort to maintain ‘control’ of key government institutions, he says, “that’s when I draw the line.”
“That is not to say that some of the officers being placed in key positions are not up to the ‘task? Certainly not, and off the top of my hat, I can think of two officers, who, I would gladly place under normal circumstances and based on merit in the top positions they current hold, because they appear to be quite good at it and seem to be energising their respective departments, and that is Prisons Commissioner Naivularua and Immigration Director Viliame Naupoto.” Now he said, he had no doubt both gentlemen would not only be qualified, but possibly most suitable for these posts under normal circumstances, but the fact that the military had posted them into these positions as part of its militarising of government, means they would likely be relieved of their positions when things returned to normal.
According to Mr Beddoes using coups as a means of placing military personnel in key positions, that only a few of them are likely to be qualified for or entitled to be considered for is a very expensive way of securing post military employment for key officers, because most people who get jobs or positions they never earned the right to hold, ultimately fail. He has urged any military person, wishing to alter the way politics is done in Fiji, to resign and stand for the next elections and test the popularity on their policies and actions of the last two years with the people and let them tell you through the ballot box, how they really feel about it. Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had already said the military had no role in Fiji politics.
With the current trend, it is a fact that militarism has penetrated into Fiji politics.

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