Thursday, August 07, 2008

Army and the coup culture

Army and the coup culture
KAMAL IYERThursday, August 07, 2008

"The complete breakdown of law and order following the coup in 2000, which was instigated by indigenous Fijian nationalists, signifies the importance of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to ensure lasting peace and stability for Fiji. The NCBBF (National Council for Building a Better Fiji) accepts that Fiji needs a strong and capable military force that remains engaged with the community and has a more active role in our national development. A redefined role for the RFMF that incorporates the concept of human security for all must also include a future obligation on all RFMF personnel to at all times defend the Constitution of Fiji." NCBBF Communiqu on Draft People's Charter, August 5, 2008.
"This is the third time the Fiji army has instigated a coup in Fiji making it the most serious threat to democracy and to any elected government that does not enjoy its support and favour." Fiji Labour Party statement, September 26, 2002 on FLP website
These are two contrasting views, like the banks of a river that never meet or come together.
Ironically, the leader of the Labour Party, its president and other FLP supporters have been active players in the NCBBF, that is proposing a draft People's Charter for a better Fiji.
And among the plans to build a better Fiji is the claim that the People's Charter will permanently end the coup culture.
Of course the members of the NCBBF believe this convoluted theory.
But how can the Labour Party and its leader be so nave, not only to be part of a group to concoct this theory but preach it to the people as well?
This is purely based on the FLP's statement of September 26, 2002 on the party website titled 'Army fabricated documents to discredit Chaudhry Government'.
The statement is based on revelations made at the court martial hearing against those who attempted to overthrow army commander Frank Bainimarama in the mutiny of November, 2000.
According to the FLP statement, soldiers charged with the mutiny gave evidence naming three senior army officers "of having prior knowledge of the coup of 19th May, 2000, and also ordering weapons from the army armoury to be made available to the terrorists in Parliament".
The statement quotes one Sergeant Jone Naisara as saying he had audio and video evidence that the "army had fabricated a document known as Little India to discredit the Mahendra Chaudhry government, the document created by RFMF members was then disseminated mainly among political parties aimed at creating fear and anger among the people".
According to the FLP statement, the 'Little India' document had apparently outlined the "Chaudhry Government's intention of increasing the influence of India in Fiji to the extent that it would become a little India".
The Labour Party statement of September 26, 2002 states, "It is shocking that the army would play so active a role in the overthrow of a government. It is absolutely shocking to be told that the army colluded with George Speight's group in fabricating the Little India document to discredit Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and to incite the anger of the indigenous people against him.
"In light of these disclosures the FLP re-iterates its call for the government to institute a full and independent inquiry into the 19 May 2000 takeover of Parliament. It also calls on all civil society institutions that value the principles of democracy and peace to support this call.
"How much more damning can evidence of the army's involvement in the coup be? It is the army that abrogated the 1997 Constitution and removed President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara from office. Ratu Mara in a TV interview had accused both the army commander (Bainimarama) and the police commissioner (Isikia Savua) of getting rid of him."
"The governments of Australia, Britain and the United States who have on-going military co-operation programs with the RFMF should take cognisance of the vast array of information that has surfaced making the army complicit in the coup.
"They can no longer be oblivious to the fact that they are helping give greater sophistication and training to forces of terrorism and destabilisation in Fiji.
"What we see here now is the emergence of a power bloc or troika comprising the army, politicians and certain corrupt elements from the private sector similar to those operating in certain countries of South East Asia.
"To nip such dangerous developments, one needs to get to the bottom of all those who planned, financed and executed the 2000 coup and to punish them. For this, it is imperative that a full public inquiry be instituted to establish the truth."
The Labour Party statement concludes, "We must act now to unmask the real elements behind the coup. If we do not, this coup culture will continue and Fiji will simply become another Africa.
"The real victims of continuing political turmoil will be the common people as poverty, unemployment and the breakdown of law and order become endemic to our society."
If what has been stated above is the firm and unequivocal belief of the Fiji Labour Party, then what has its leader and two others been doing in the interim regime led by army commander Frank Bainimarama, who led his troops to execute the 4th coup of December 5, 2006?
Therefore, how can a People's Charter formulated by the NCBBF whose co-chair is the army commander be a guarantee against any coups in future or throttling democracy, parliamentary rule and constitutional governance at the barrel of the gun?
And most importantly, as the Fiji Labour Party statement of September 26, 2002 states; Who or which parties have formed a power bloc or troika, just as in May 2000 comprising of "the army, politicians and corrupt elements from the private sector", to overthrow the SDL/FLP Multi-Party government on December 5, 2006?
These are questions that require answers so that as the FLP statement concluded "the real elements behind the 4th coup are unmasked".
- Kamal Iyer is a former journalist and former administrative officer of the National Federation Party.

Document plans to solve land issues
Thursday, August 07, 2008
THE charter will allow for the enactment of a Code of Conduct for public servants, public and independent constitutional office holders, municipal councils, Members of Parliament and all in statutory appointments.
This will develop a leadership model and vision which clarifies the legitimate roles of elected and non-elected leaders in the country according to the draft People's Charter for Change and Progress.
Ethno-nationalists and those politicians who seek power on the basis of divisive, race-based politics have tended to make land a highly emotive issue.
The principal issue regarding land in Fiji is not one of ownership, it is about access, its productive use and ensuring an equitable sharing of benefits. The NCBBF says vast amounts of land in Fiji currently lie idle or are greatly under-utilised.
The sharp growth in the numbers of people living in squatter settlements in Fiji is alarming and troublesome.
It is estimated that close to 13 per cent of Fiji's population live in over 200 squatter settlements around the country.
A major national challenge is not only to increase the supply of land, under acceptable leasing arrangements, for agricultural, commercial or social purposes but also to transform the capital inherent into capital that can be used for development.
The charter says there is a need to create a market for leased land, through sustainable lease arrangements, to improve accessibility to all users.
It states land must be made available for housing as well as infrastructure development in both rural and urban areas with government playing a key facilitating role.
The charter says there is a need to formalise vakavanua or informal settlement on all types of land.
Ensure security of tenure and equitable returns to both landowners and tenants through a market-based framework for utilisation of land.

Council confident of positive response
Thursday, August 07, 2008
The National Council for Building a Better Fiji is optimistic that two thirds of the voting population will agree to the charter.
This was expressed by members of the NCBBF at a press conference in Nasova on Tuesday.
The NCBBF communiqu says they had received feedbacks from over 1000 villages and settlements.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said even though the international communities have called for elections next March they have not rejected the NCBBF and in fact neighboring countries supported the process.
He said the Methodist Church and the SDL party that had rejected the setting up of the NCBBF because everything was already in the 1997 Constitution were continuously invited to support the process. "They have their name tags in the room even though they are not here and we hope they will be part of the electoral reform forum under the UN and Commonwealth office," said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum
He said the political forum was where the parties that were not part of the NCBBF could be involved in.
The budget for the next phase for the consultation process has not been decided yet.
Council member Dewan Chand Maharaj said they had to find the money from somewhere.
This may include funding it from taxpayers' money or business houses.
Mr Maharaj said even if Australia and New Zealand did not support the NCBBF there was always India or China to look to for financial assistance.

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